The good, the bad and the criminal.

Finding value on the bottom shelf.


The bottom shelves of the supermarkets have become akin to the dark back alleys in an unsavoury part of town.  A few upstanding, honest wines find themselves lost there, but in general it is full of crooks and conmen masquerading as something they are not; good value, good quality, everyday wine.  This is the Holy Grail for the majority of us, decent wines that you can kick back with after a long day at work, that taste good and don’t break the bank.  The majority of us take the wines on the shelves at face value, letting the conmen seduce their way into our shopping trollies with enticing lines such as ‘fruity’, ‘smooth’ or even more tempting ‘on promotion’.At best many of these wines don’t taste of anything, just slightly acidic water, at worst it can be a rather alarming combination of sucking on a boiled sweet and chewing unripe leaves while being hit over the head with an oak stave.  We keep being told how these sweet, confected wines are perfect for those new to the wine category but in all honesty, as we were retching the wines back into the spittoon, we were failing to see how this could possibly appeal to anyone.  These humdingers also tend to be the ones that we permanently find on a cynical ‘half price’ promotion.  I can categorically say they are not worth the promoted price, let alone the full price and seem to us the quickest way to encourage people to flee to the cider aisles.

The reason that we took quite such offence to these wines is that they are not actually all that cheap anymore, they taste nothing like wine, and they are forced under our noses by being in all the supermarkets.  There are some damn good wines at very reasonable prices out there which too often get overlooked as they don’t have the screaming shelf talkers.  These genuine little gems often have a lovely soft juicy fruit that would appeal to those trying wine for the first time or people who want something going.  They also have lovely ripe fruit sweetness rather than artificial confected notes which do a poor job at trying to cover up bad quality fruit.

So here is our pick of really good, down to earth, well made quaffing wines sold at good, down to earth prices:

First up in the whites is the Lidl Orvieto Classico 2014 from Umbria in Italy.  This is a cracking little wine with lovely pithy grapefruit, chalky minerality, a creamy honeyed mid palate and a nice bite of raw almond and chamomile on the finish.  If your taste tends towards Pinot Grigio but you fancy taking it up a gear, than this is definitely one to try.  We would be happy to pay £7 for it, but were delighted to find it is only £4.99.  Available in store only.

Another lip smacking white is the Wairau Cove Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from New Zealand.  It has all the grassy, tropical zingy character that we have come to expect from Kiwi Sav Blanc, but none of the over inflated prices we have also become used to.  We thought it would be a good bargain at £7, but Tesco have made it an even better bargain at £5.49. Click here to buy with your groceries Click here to buy by the case.
The final white in our selection is the La Sablette Muscadet 2013 from the Loire available at Morrison’s.  It is a delicious fresh peachy wine with a nice salty tang reminiscent of its seaside birth place and perfect with some summer fish.  We thought it was worth £6.50 but Morrison’s have provided excellent value by putting it at £4.99.  Click here to buy.
Among the reds, one to look out for is the Asda Extra Special Malbec 2014 from Argentina.  This is a lovely easy going crowd pleaser with juicy dark berry fruit and mocha but nothing too heavy.   We thought this tasty number would hit the spot at £7.50, but Asda have done a great job bringing it to you at just £5.  Click here to buy.
For a more summery red that is light and bright with delicious crunchy red berries and a lovely twist of herbs there is the Exquisite Collection Pierre Bonnet Chinon 2014 from the Loire in France.  This is exactly how Cabernet Franc from the Loire should taste, and provides much better value as a summer red than most of the Beaujolais we have tasted. We felt it was worth £9 so it is a steal at the £5.99 price tag from Aldi. Available in store only.
The final wine is the Asda Extra Special Old Vine Garnacha 2013 from Spain, a deliciously soft and round wine, juicy yet silky smooth with crushed strawberries and plum.  Again this is a really genuine wine, open and friendly and it just needs a comfy chair and a big glass for complete enjoyment. We thought it would be great value at £6 but were delighted that it was just £5. Click here to buy.