Christine Austin looks at cheapness versus value for money as she puts rival supermarket wines to the test
The sign of real value is when you can remember the quality long after the price. But with the rise of low-cost supermarket Aldi, the other store giants seem to be stepping up to the mark to compete. Trying as best as I could to match up wines across the ranges, I have compared my top ten of wine styles and decided whether it is best to go for the cheapest or the one with the best flavour for money. Prices are as correct as I can manage, although this is the time supermarkets roll out their very best offers so they may change.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Aldi – Freeman’s Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, £5.89. A bright, zippy style of wine with clean, gooseberry freshness and herbaceous notes. Great value. Top choice.
Asda – Wine Selection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, £6. Clear, bright and zesty, this is a well-made Kiwi Sauvignon. It falls down on the finish and could do with more concentration.
Morrisons – Signature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, £7.99. Crisp, lively and well balanced with green pea and pineapple notes. A good wine, but probably not worth an extra £2 over the Aldi version.
Waitrose – Les Armes de Chablis 2013, Petit Chablis £9.99. Only a Petit Chablis which means that it comes from a less important area, but the concentration, finesse and style are terrific. Top choice.
Aldi – Domaine Lecestre Chablis 2013, £8.99. Good, crisp, green apple fruit with a crunchy, minerally finish.
Morrisons – Signature Chablis 2012, £9.99. Firm, crisp style, but slightly hollow and lacking concentration on the finish.
Asda – Oscar Brilliant Sancerre 2013, £11. Made by one of the region’s top producers, Joseph Mellot, this has fresh, green-edged flavours with just a hint of pineapple fruit, and then it delivers a firm, zesty finish. Top choice.
Marks & Spencer – Sancerre Les Ruettes 2013, £14.50. If you want to impress then choose this one. The minerally crunch that defines this wine is almost like sucking on sea-salty pebbles, with a breath of freshly cut grass. Worth the extra.
Aldi – Henri de Lorgère Sancerre 2013, £9.99, from November 23. This starts well with good aromatics and lively herbaceous fruit, but then the acidity just goes over the edge.
Asda – Wine Selection Marques del Norte Rioja 2013, £4.28. Simple, straightforward red fruit with no oak but a touch of spice and a soft, easy finish. Top choice.
Sainsbury’s – Winemakers’ Selection Rioja Reciente NV, £5.25. Rounded, elegant and with a touch of spicy oak, this has more structure than the Asda wine, at £1 more.
Aldi – Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2008, £5.99. A reserve wine put against younger versions, but its gentle red berry fruit and soft oaky style are outperformed by the cheaper wines.
Old Vines Garnacha
Asda – Extra Special Old Vines Garnacha, Carineña, £5. Bursting with lively spice-sprinkled mulberry fruit. A real treat for the taste buds. Top choice.
Waitrose Mellow and Fruity Spanish Red 2013, Borja, £4.99. “Old Vines” are supposed to be at least 30 years old, but recording the age of a vineyard is fraught with difficulty, so Waitrose don’t try. Even so the flavours in this wine are rounded, lively and deep.
Aldi – The Venturer Series Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Carineña, £4.79. Simple, unexciting with a grippy, slightly tart palate.
Côtes du Rhône
Asda – Wine Selection Côtes du Rhône NV £4. An astonishing price for a wine so packed with deep, spice-laden red fruits. Good enough for a Friday night supper. Top choice.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Côtes du Rhône Villages 2013, £7. A step up in appellation to Villages level and a giant leap forward in quality. Positive spice-dusted, red-berry aromas with a rounded, full palate and a warm, tonsil-enveloping finish.
Morrisons Signature Côtes du Rhône Villages 2013, £5.99. A disappointing wine, rather lacking in flavour and concentration.
Waitrose – Soft and Juicy Chilean Red NV, £4.99. Thirty per cent of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend gives this wine more structure and depth. If there is any chance that you may have to drink this yourself, spend the extra. Top choice.
Aldi – Andara Merlot 2013, £3.99. Perfect for when your student offspring return home for the weekend, this has soft, easy drinking plush red fruit.
Asda – Wine Selection Merlot 2013, £4.20. Slightly more complexity in this wine compared with Aldi’s, but will the students notice?
Aldi – Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura, £7.29. This has been in the Aldi range for years and it is still one of the best-value sparkling wines on the shelves. Bright, good, clean and with a touch of toasty richness. Top choice.
Asda – Wine Selection Cava Rosada, £5. Fantastic value for money with soft strawberry fruit. Fun, frothy and dry in style.
Morrisons Signature Vintage Cava Brut, £6.99. A full-flavoured, rounded, biscuit style of cava. Delicious but outshone by the Aldi wine.
Aldi – Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut by Philizot, £11.99. Good, rounded, yeasty style of champagne. Great value. Top choice.
Tesco – Pol Aimé Champagne, £12.99. There will be a lot of champagne deals on the shelves this Christmas, but even at its full price, this one has good depth of flavour and style.
Morrisons Champagne £18.99. A well-made champagne, with clean, light, toasty fruit, but there is better value elsewhere.
Aldi – Maynard’s 10 Year old Tawny Port, £9.99. A mellow, raisiny port with nut, figs and a long, gentle finish. Top choice at this price.
Tesco Finest 10 year old Tawny Port, £13. Made by the Symington family, this wine shines out of the glass with nuts, raisins and toffee richness. If it goes on offer leading up to Christmas I’ll let you know.
Marks & Spencer – Finest Reserve Port, £11.99. A younger style of port and it shows with more lively fruit and a brisker style. The M&S 10 year Tawny is lovely, but at £16 it is beaten by Aldi’s version in flavour for money terms.