Everybody knows it’s a total swizz that the actual contents of a five-quid bottle of wine only account for about 40p – and that most of the rest is siphoned off by the Fat Controller. So a glass half-full of something genuinely good at that price – or below – always seems to taste even better for it, as if the F.C. hadn’t noticed that the truffles had somehow got mixed up with the bog-standard mushies.
Those truffles only account for – at most – one percent of supermarket wines and sniffing them out does take a little know-how, but thankfully you don’t need a special sort of pig. You have me instead.
Mostly, the bargains are to be had from rootling about down among the own brands and the “private brands” (they’re the same thing, only with made-up names so that people who think they’ll look cheap if they serve a bottle that shows the name of the supermarket where they buy their wine, don’t have to worry).
Other things to set the nostrils twitching are unloved (but lovely) grape varieties like Chenin Blanc, Marsanne, Grenache and Merlot and wine regions that are on the up, especially ones in Italy and Spain which have a lot of “previous” to make up for.
Remember that most wine-writing hounds tend to forage around the same spots on the wine-forest floor and it’s always worth checking out what they’ve dug up especially as the supermarkets don’t push most of the wines listed here very much (except to the hacks) because, in the nature of things, they’re not their most profitable. Most are in some way or other outliers – freaks even – and frequently they’re not around for very long – so check back here often.
Asda Beaujolais £4.37 The price of a pint up West, but 2009 may be the best ever year for Beaujolais and this is just cherrylicious.
Asda Marsanne Pays d’Oc £3.98. The wine hacks’ favourite: the best-value white wine in the UK? You’ve got to like Marsanne – strangely, not everybody does. I do.
Asda Australian Chardonnay £4.29. Made from bulk “juice” from anyoldwhere in SE Australia, imported in tanker and bottled in Norwich. Sounds good? It is. Honest.
Mas Miralda Cava Brut £4.28. Cava is no longer just acidic, burpy, best-for-spraying stuff – this is fun for foam-fuelled frolicaholics.
Fairtrade Argentine Organic Malbec £5.99. One of the best Fairtrade wines – a gushing gob-filler that’s made for a rare steak.
Les Crouzes Old Vines Carignan £5.19. Super-juicy but with some complexity that those old vines’ deep roots have guzzled up out of the good earth.
Morrisons “Italian” Chianti – is there another kind?£ 4.99. Chianti-Lite but sweetly ripe with all the requisite almonds and cherries.
Morrisons Merlot delle Venezie £4.49. Full-chipped with oak, but silken-robed a-tightly and a fine breakfast wine with fowls.
Cotes du Rhone La Calade £3.79. Crappy bottle, crappy label – but I’ve had worse Gigondas for three times the price.
Marks and Spencer
Cobborah Aussie Chardonnay £5.49. Not your old-style, blowsy, big-hair Aussie chardo – restrained, balanced … elegant, even.
M&S Spanish Garnacha/Shiraz. £4.29 Persuading Spanish growers to prune (i.e. cut yields) is the best thing ever to happen for cheap wine.
M&S “Coppiere” Chianti £5.49. Bitter chocolate rather than the usual almonds or sour cherries but still quintessential Chianti.
M&S Valdepomares Rioja 5.99. Is it Rioja? Not really. Not even Crianza. Is it any good? Yes – soft, silky, summery.
M&S “Soleado” Chilean Merlot Central Valley £4.99. A real juicy lucy – not your bog standard “fuckin’ merlO.”
Vin de Pays de l’Ardeche Gamay £4.99. A favourite with M&S staff – soft and silky (the wine, that is). Eat your heart out Monsieur Beaujolais.
Taste The Difference Trentino Pinot Grigio £5.99 Full of nougat and white fruits and rich and thick, like Jordan.
Longue Dog, Languedoc £4.99 Jokey names are a no-no but I’ll make an exception for smoky, black berry-fruits and smouldering spices.
Taste The Difference Cotes-du-Rhone Villages £5.99. Made by Chapoutier – chunky, ripe fruit, but depth, complexity even – a classy, mini-me Chateauneuf.
Taste The Difference Beaujolais-Villages £5.99. Made by Duboeuf and very merry cherry. 09 will be even better when it comes in.
Cesarini Sforza Riserva Brut Italy £6.00 (min 6 bottles from Tesco.com). I’m breaking my own BOGOF rule as this zesty pinot noir fizz seems to be more-or-less permanently “discounted” by 50%.
Canti Negroamaro-Zinfandel £4.46. In Italy’s heel, Negroamaro is “bitter-black” and makes brimstone wine as dry as a Belgian’s bathmat.
Fern Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 3-litre box. £4.50 per bottle-equivalent for good, grassy NZ kit is a deal if you ask me.
Reserve Australian Shiraz £4.16 Big oak, big black fruits and a big swig of black coffee for good measure.
Gran Tesoro Garnacha Rosado Spain £3.79 What amazing value the best of the real cheapies are! Jammy, with a twist of pepper. The red’s good too.
Sicilian Red NV £3.63. It’s red. It’s from Sicily. It’s good.
Eva’s Vineyard White Hungary £3.99 You’ve got to be up for it – it’s a bit OTT, but there’s an awful going on for the money
Cuvée Chasseur Vin de Pays de l’Hérault £4.19 Bright, spicy, ripe, sun-filled – all those southern French things.
Whale Caller Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon South Africa £4.29 Never mind the lame “private brand” name. Fresh – “lifted” is the winespeak buzzword.
Good Ordinary Claret £4.74 Does a bit more than it says on the tin. Doesn’t actually come in a tin though.
“Aventura” Chilean Cabernet/Merlot £5.49:. Label says “ignore me.” Wine says “drink me.”
Moncaro Rosso Piceno £4.99 Really bright and tight with a light Italian touch- everybody loves it.