Wine Club: Destination supermarket

Remember your Tuscan holiday with a glass of Tuscan wine.
Remember your Tuscan holiday with a glass of Tuscan wine.
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Prices might start not at a euro, but head down the aisle and you will soon be transported back to the gite or villa, writes Christine Austin.

It happens every year. Friends just back from their holidays delight in telling me about the wines they have enjoyed, which are usually the best wines they have ever tasted, costing just one euro a bottle.

When they get home they always ask why isn’t this wine on the shelves of their local supermarket, and can I help the producer get his wine into a local shop so they can continue to buy it?

Apart from the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to help a whole range of small French, Italian and Spanish producers open up an export market, there are probably lots of reasons why these wines are not available locally.

To start with, the main attraction of holiday drinking is precisely that. Anything bought in the sunshine, at a local market or direct from the producer always tastes better than something that you take from a supermarket shelf in the UK. This applies to all kinds of produce, from peaches to lettuces, and especially wine.

The real test of holiday drinking is to bring some home, which is difficult by plane, but easy if you just load a few bottles into the car at the end of the trip. Allow the wine to settle for a couple of weeks and then taste it. If it still conjures up the scents of the hills in Provence, Chiantishire or the Languedoc then you may have discovered a gem. If on a wet weekend in Barnsley, York or Leeds, it seems to have lost its charm, then perhaps the holiday added an extra layer of magic to the flavours.

Then think about cost. A bottle sold direct from the grower has no marketing costs, no agents, transport and no UK duty and VAT. These can add £4 or more to that one euro bottle of wine, making it a lot less attractive to the household budget. And then there is always the chance that your favourite grower doesn’t have enough wine to interest a UK retailer. If 
he sells all he can make in his local market, especially during the holiday season, then why would he want the hassle of dealing with the notoriously difficult UK market?

So bring your bottles home and enjoy them, possibly while looking at your holiday photos and if you can’t carry them home then there are plenty of good wines that might just act as holiday souvenirs.

Provence

I love the stark beauty of Provence and the breeze that moderates the summer heat as you head to the hills. To capture that holiday mood again head to Majestic for a couple of bottles of M de Minuty Rosé 2013, normally £14.99, now down to £9.99 on multi-buy.

This wine comes in the traditional curvy bottle which fits the hand so easily, making it a crime not to share it with friends. Its flavours are traditional too with delicate wild strawberry fruit and a clean, fresh finish. Go buy some olives, anchovies and salad then sit out in the garden and you will be transported back to Aix-en-Provence, even if you have to sit under a brolly.

Alternatively, try the fresh, zippy, ripe red summer fruits of Domaine de la Navarre Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013 (£8.99 Marks & Spencer).

Languedoc

If you have been cruising the Canal du Midi, visiting historic Carcassonne or just enjoying the sea and sunshine along the glorious southern French coastline then head for the wines of Jean-Claude Mas. He works with growers across the whole swathe of the Languedoc, creating good value, well-made wines that capture the scents of southern France. He gently sends himself up by calling one set of wines “Elegant Frog” which pretty much describes him. Sainsbury’s has Elegant Frog Viognier 2013 (currently down to £6.56) with light apricot fruit and a juicy, citrus finish.

As you cruised the western part of the Canal du Midi you may have seen the impressive sight of Château de Pennautier, built in the 17th century in the style of Versailles. The owners, whose family has owned the property since it was built, are gradually restoring this vast palace and now offer bed and breakfast, as well as an on-site restaurant and a nearby campsite. They also have extensive vineyards and the wines are available from Majestic. Try the chunky, mulberry and spice flavours of Ch de Pennautier 2012, Cabardès (£8.49, Majestic Wine on multi-buy).

Tuscany

With its hilltop villages, historic cities and delicious food, Tuscany makes a fabulous holiday destination, and there is plenty of wine to choose to remind you of it. Waitrose has revitalised its Italian range and now offers great wines from all corners of this lovely region. Try the crisp, citrus and green apple flavours of Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2013, from Teruzzi and Puthod Rondolino (£8.99) or the lovely black cherry and clove spice notes of Villa Cafaggio 2011, Chianti Classico (£14.99). For sheer value you really can’t beat Asda’s savoury, cherry-soaked Wine Selection Chianti (£4.50) but it might be worth stepping up to Asda’s Extra Special Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 (£9) for its depth of flavour and smooth silky tannins.

Spain

Any Spanish holiday usually involves plenty of sea, sun and sangria and you can make your own sangria with the lively, bramble fruits in Tesco’s Simply Garnacha (£4.79) with a splash of orange juice topped up with lemonade. Make sure the jug is packed with ice to make your sangria even more refreshing and garnish in a restrained but flavourful style with slices of orange, not a whole fruit salad.

As a memento of your time in Spain the wines of Rioja are always a firm favourite and Tesco’s Viña Mara range keeps winning prizes. Try a glass of Rioja Rosado 2013 for its thirst-quenching, lively red fruit flavours (currently on offer at £5.49) and then move on to Viña Mara Rioja Reserva 2008 for its classy, elegant style. Normally priced at £9.99 it is reduced to £8.49 at present, but if you buy any four Tesco Finest wines then it comes down to a bargain £6.79 until August 12.