Co-op Irresistible Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir, Casablanca, Chile 2021 (£7, The Co-op) A rule of supermarket thrift that many of us seem to follow: when the chips are down and the bills are rising, out go the brands and in come the own-labels. And data from market researchers Kantar, published in trade magazine The Drinks Business earlier this month, suggests this is exactly what’s been going on in the UK as purse strings have tightened in recent months, with own-label wines holding up much better in a wine market that has generally been in a bit of a slump. In many cases (from Corn Flakes to loo roll), filling our baskets with more Tesco’s or Aldi’s own than usual is one of the less onerous changes we might make to save a few quid here and there. And wine is very much included in that: many if not most of my highlights at supermarket tastings are own-labels, among them The Co-op’s brilliant herb-flecked, raspberry-scented pinot.
Tesco finest Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy 2019 (£7, Tesco) Own-label wines tend to do well at the big wine competitions, which is at least partly because the supermarkets like to flood them with entries. We also tend to hear about their victories more than their branded counterparts: the PR departments of both the supermarkets and the competitions love it when a cheap own-label wine beats brands sold at several times the price to take a top trophy. As indeed, do news editors, who always seem to be on the lookout for a down-page story that confirms their suspicions about the emperor’s-new-clothes silliness of paying too much for wine. There are times when I’ve tasted trophy-winning wines that, while perfectly serviceable, struggle to live up to the hype of being “the best red wine in the world” or whatever absurd title they’ve been anointed with. But Tesco’s Montepulciano, with its intense fleshy dark plum, deserves the recognition that comes from winning the Great Value Red Wine Trophy at London’s International Wine Challenge.
Morrisons The Best Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Muscadet, Loire, France 2020 (£8, Morrisons) In a field that doesn’t exactly want for false humility when it comes to naming (“I’ll take your finest and raise you an irresistible”), Morrisons’ upmarket own-label range The Best really takes the hubristic cake. But if the wines never quite live-up to their name (and I suppose “Morrisons A Bit Better Than Some of Our Other Products” wouldn’t exactly excite), many do score pretty highly on the bang-for-buck scale – and all the more so at the moment, when the supermarket is offering a 25% discount if you buy any three The Best wines. If I were going to take advantage of the offer, I’d be happy with the following trio: the textbook green apple and lemon snap of seafood-matching staple Morrisons The Best Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie; the dark cherry and savoury bite of Morrisons The Best Barbera d’Asti (£7.50); and the deep, rich, but tangy Morrisons The Best Oloroso Sherry (£6.50, 37.5cl), which was another of the IWC’s Great Value Trophy winners, this time for fortified wines.
Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach