On a purely personal note it is becoming increasingly difficult, nay impossible, to find those award winning bargains at or around the five pound a bottle mark, those gold medal winning bargain bottles are now I’m afraid a thing of the past, only when a genuine offer comes up on a more expensive wine (and I don’t mean those half price from a full price that never was offers) can you indulge in a wine that offers a bit above your normal slurping juice.
There is no doubt that the weak pound has contributed to a portion of the rise and the rest is rising labour costs and transport costs – it is still amazing that a wine can come halfway round the world and still be so affordable.
In some ways this is helping Australia at a time it was starting to lose some of its market share to other “new world” countries and it has indeed got a lot more competition for that share than it had even less than ten years ago, so your Jacobs Creek and Oxford Landings are competitive again.
Chile has to be the big winner at the moment all the big wineries produce a range of wines unequaled for quality at the entry level of wine buying and the choice of grape variety keeps growing in both red and white, Concha y Toro has to be the best across-the-board producer of entry level wines in the world just now and if there is a better one I haven’t come across it – their more expensive wines sold under different names from the vineyards they own are equally as good.
But there is a potential catch as I wrote in my wine series – Chile got greedy with it’s early success and the prices have risen so although the wines are worth the money they are no longer the bargains compared with other countries’ offerings that they were a couple of years ago.
The country that has exploded onto the shelves in the last twelve months above all others is Argentina. The fourth largest wine producer in the world lay dormant for years as far as the rest of the world was concerned but is having no trouble supplying an ever increasing market, still a bit of a one trick pony with Malbec being the totally dominant grape but the few Cabernets on sale that I have tried are very good and the white Torontes that up till now has been pretty anonymous is improving. Like all indigenous grape varieties, properly handled, they offer something a bit different and no one else grows Torontes.
I have worked my way through a good number of different Malbecs in the last year – though I don’t consider it work !
The one thing that struck me is the variety of style from the different producers. At the entry level, a couple stood out for me – the Co-Op’s own label Mendoza Malbec and one from Finca Las Moras also available at some Co-Ops and elsewhere plus another good cheapie from El Portillo, some of the others at the entry level were a bit to tart for my liking as I always think of Malbec as a sumptuous grape.
Further up the price scale there really are some great buys – anybody buying from the likes of Catena Zapata, Mendel, Benegas, Ben Marco,La Posta, Santa Ana, would be unlucky to be disappointed. The Catena in particular is a benchmark wine but I also liked the La Posta and the Lunta from Mendel that had a European slant to it in the way it was made.
All the big supermarkets are stocking ever more of these wines, with Sainsbury being the exception with a limited offering, the best range at the moment has to be at Majestic.
The other highlight of the year (or it should have been) was a conscious effort to try as many of the NZ Pinot Noirs that are appearing ever more readily and coming with a lot of backing from some critics and wine writers.
I stuck to cheap end of the spectrum – I have had a couple of very good dearer ones but they, like Burgundy, are not really affordable unless you have very deep pockets. Having said that, the cheaper ones are not that cheap £9 – £14 is going upmarket for most people and I have to say they didn’t do a lot for me. I found them all of a type – well made as you would expect from NZ – but lacking the one thing Pinot Noir demands if it is to be any good – ripe fruit. All that I tried were lacking in that area.
And I have to say from my tastings if you want a cheap or cheaper Pinot Noir, that has the character of Burgundy and ripe fruit and a bit of style, then some of the ones from Chile I tried were a better bet. The cheaper ones I liked were from Leyda (single vineyard) Errazuriz wild ferment and the Co- Op’s again own label Chilean Pinot Noir, strange place the Co – Op for wine as in this area we have the East of England version and they seem to have an independent buying strategy so you never know what you will find in any given store.
In my series of articles I mentioned the Sainsburys’ Champagne debacle of a few years back where the producer ran out because of demand of the good stuff and substituted a lesser wine despite all of which, the store kept its award winning stamp on the lesser bottles.
Over Christmas I popped over to my neighbors for a birthday celebration and they opened the Champagne to be less than happy they had two bottles the same this time. Tescos award wining version was acidic to the point of mouth puckering and was basically rubbish
I have no knowledge of why that should be but it looks like a repeat of the Sainsburys debacle, if these two bottles were typical.