According to some reports, since we have all been staying at home, not eating out and certainly not flying off to distant sunshine, we have saved lots of money during the last 18 months. I have checked my bank account and I am really not sure that has actually happened, and so once again I have been on the hunt for bargains.
Asda has always managed to find great flavours at reasonable prices, so I decided to taste through a chunk of its range to find the best flavours for money.
These are the ones to head for...
Feteasca Regala 2020, Romania, £5: An unknown grape, difficult to pronounce and it comes from Romania. Can it be any good? The answer is yes. This is part of the Wine Atlas range that Asda launched several buyers ago, and it is still hitting the mark. Produced by a company called Cramele Recas, based on the outskirts of Timisoara, close to the Hungarian border, where it revitalised the vineyards, employed an Australian winemaker, all overseen by a chap from Bristol who runs the place. Aromatic honeysuckle notes with peach, crunchy apples and a sprinkle of spice. Try it with salads and cold roast chicken.
Extra Special Pinot Grigio Trentino 2020, Italy, £6.50: Pinot Grigio can range in taste from frankly nothing to one where there are ripe pears, crisp apples and even a hint of orange zest. It all depends on where you plant your grapes and how much you expect the vine to produce. This PG comes from the mountainous region of Trentino, where cool air rolls down the hills, keeping all those flavours in the grapes.
Picpoul de Pinet 2020, France, £7: Depending on how long Asda’s marketing people decide to keep rollbacks in place, this may cost you £6.50 but even at its full price it is a bargain. Picpoul translates as “lip stinger” because when you pick these grapes too early, the acidity is fearsome. But once ripe and made into wine, it softens and the wine has crunchy granny smith flavours, and a breezy, sea-salt finish. Perfect for sunny days.
Extra Special Albariño 2020, Rías Baixas, Spain, £8: Albariño has become the must-have grape for summer, but it is good in autumn too. Its floral aromas with peach, tangerine and apricot flavours bring sunshine to your glass, whatever the weather, and it goes well with grilled fish, fishcakes and herby salads.
Not Your Grandma’s Riesling 2019, Eden Valley, Australia, £9.50: This is a strange name for a wine, but many people won’t buy Riesling because they think it will be sweet, so it is not a bad idea to be absolutely clear on the label. This comes from the Eden Valley in South Australia where Riesling does particularly well in cool, high-altitude vineyards. It is dry with a light floral aroma, lime and lemon across the palate with a crunchy finish. Try it.
Extra Special Sancerre 2020, £14: Not only can Asda provide bargains, it can climb the quality scale too. This Sancerre is good enough for a special lunch or dinner party with crunchy citrus and herby asparagus notes rounded off with a chalky, minerally finish.
Extra Special Old Vine Garnacha 2020, Cariñena, Spain, £6: Full of raspberry and juicy cherry fruit with an easy-drinking style, this is a wine you can chill for an hour and serve with lunch or wait until the sun goes down and it is perfect with lamb chops straight off the grill or a pizza.
Douro 2019, Portugal £6.50: Made from the same deep-flavoured grapes that go into Port, this is packed with plum, blackberry and raspberry flavours with a chunky, savoury style that makes it perfect for a late-night sausage supper.
Extra Special Marques del Norte Rioja Crianza 2018, Spain, £6.50: Despite having spent a whole year ageing in oak barrels, the real feature of this wine is the fruit. Fresh-tasting blackberry, cherry and plum flavours are supported by hints of clove and chocolate. The oak really doesn’t show through, apart from lending weight and style.
Extra Special Pinot Noir, Leyda, Chile, £6.50: Now that Burgundy and New Zealand Pinots are out of reach of normal budgets, Chile is becoming a reliable source of quality Pinot at an affordable price. This comes from the cool region of Leyda, near the coast with breezes wafting in from the Pacific. It has soft, rounded red and black cherry fruit, a supple backbone and enough weight to take on grilled duck breast or a rare steak.
Extra Special Bordeaux Superieur, France, £7: Bordeaux has spent so many years giving an image of top-quality serious wines that must be aged for years, that it is easy to forget that the bulk is ready to drink in a year and is full of fruit. This is a fine example with ripe plum fruit, a gentle grip of tannin and a lift of sheer friendly flavours. Save it for the Sunday roast if you must, but it goes well with a Thursday night shepherd’s pie.
D’Arry’s Original Grenache Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, £12: I love most of the wines from d’Arenberg for their vivacity, true-to-type flavours and silly names. Wacky winemaker Chester Osborn has built a range where there is a Dead Arm, a Footbolt and an Athazagoraphobic Cat, so d’Arry’s Original is fairly tame. But the wine is good. Most d’Arenberg wines are sold through independent merchants so it is terrific to be able to pick this up with your weekly shop. The flavours are bright, like plump raspberries, blueberries and damsons, sprinkled with spice.
Crémant de Loire Rosé Brut, £8: If you are finding Prosecco a bit too sweet, switch to this crisp, dry, strawberry-infused fizz from the Loire. With a pale pink colour and a frothy foam, it works really well as an aperitif with fishy canapés.
Henri Cachet Champagne, France, £13.50: This is an astonishingly good champagne with toasty brioche aromas, a good, rounded weight of flavour and a gentle, creamy fizz. Tremendous value and the label is sufficiently stylish for your guests to be impressed.