Christine Austin's Wine Column: Putting Morrisons' 'Best' range to the test

Christine Austin delves into Morrisons’ wine cellars to put the store chain’s ‘Best’ range to the taste test.

Yorkshire Post wine columnist Christine Austin is examining Morrisons' range this week. Picture: James Hardisty

All supermarkets have their premium ranges with rather grand names. Tesco has “Finest”, Sainsbury’s “Taste the Difference” and Aldi has its “Specially Selected”. These descriptions mean that the wines are own blends, put together with a particular emphasis on quality, rather than price.

Flavour for money is always an overriding consideration for supermarket buyers, but these premium ranges usually offer some terrific tastes, capturing the nuances of grapes and regions, while still keeping prices at “weekend drinking” levels.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Morrisons has had its “The Best” range for years, and I do sometimes have to rearrange words on a page so that it is clear that “The Best” refers to the range, rather than my opinion. According to Mark Jarman, head of wine buying at the Bradford-based supermarket chain, sales of “The Best” have been very successful during lockdown as customers have spent a little more on home-drinking wines while they have not been able to go out.

This has encouraged the team to expand the range, moving towards even more specific regions, to really bring out their quality and flavours.

“We look on The Best range as stepping stones to encourage our customers to try different wines. They definitely trust the quality of this range and so we have expanded it to 95 wines, each one reflecting a different personality and regional character while still offering value for money,” said Mark.

Here is my selection of the best of “The Best”.

White

The Best Western Australian Chardonnay 2018, £8.25: Cool Western Australian breezes and the sunshine of the Frankland River region give this wine ripe peachy fruit, underpinned by clear fresh food-friendly acidity. Apparently some of this wine has spent time in oak, but it doesn’t show on the palate.

The Best Bush Vine Grenache Blanc 2020, Swartland, South Africa, £8.25: Swartland translates as Black Land, referring to the native plants which turn black after rain. But there isn’t a lot of rain in Swartland. This is a dry region, with rolling hills and lots of old bush vines. Bush training protects developing grapes from too much sun, and the fact that these vines are old means they have dug their roots down to get their water and nutrients. Grenache Blanc grows well here, producing a rounded, textured wine with apricot and peach notes, and hints of herbs and ginger. Big enough to accompany a sticky pork rib.

The Best Grüner Veltliner 2019, Austria, £8.25: Pronounce it Grooner-Velt-Leaner and you are halfway to enjoying this crisp, white pepper-dashed, lime and pink grapefruit wine. It comes from Markus Huber who is one of Austria’s top winemakers. Good with salmon, but also try it with asparagus or chicken in a light curry sauce.

The Best Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2020, Italy, available in July, £10: This comes from the co-operative in Tramin in the part of northern Italy that used to be Austria. The locals switch between Italian and German fluently. I know this village reasonably well as I got stuck in snow there one

springtime, expecting the roads to be clear, but Tramin is at altitude and snow melts slowly. Even in summer there is a cool freshness in the air despite long sunny days. That is what makes this Pinot Grigio so good. It actually has character – ripe pears, crunchy apples and a light, crisp, minerally finish.

The Best Chablis 2019, France, £13: From the bright, shiny, co-operative bang in the middle of Chablis, this is a classic, dry, gravelly, precise wine with notes of pears, green apples and citrus. Perfect with a roast chicken.

Reds

The Best Negroamaro, Puglia, Italy, £7.25: The name of the grape translates as Black Bitter which is probably how it tasted when the Greeks brought it over to Italy centuries ago. Now the Italians know how to make it soft and full of rich dark cherry fruit, plums and chocolate. Team this with a spicy pizza.

The Best Douro 2019, Portugal, £7.50: Not all the grapes that grow on the steep sides of the Douro River go into port. Some make fabulous, rich, deep-flavoured wines and this is one of them. There are a handful of quality Portuguese grapes in this wine, providing dark plum fruit, edged with liquorice and spice. Light the barbecue and pour yourself a glass.

The Best Pinot Noir, Aconcagua, Chile, £8.50: Burgundy Pinots are eye-wateringly expensive, New Zealand’s are terrific but serious and costly, while Chile makes Pinot Noirs that are cheerful, full of fruit and definitely affordable. Ripe, round, red cherry fruit, clear freshness and good at room temperature or slightly chilled.

The Best Fleurie 2019, France, £9.25: From one of my favourite villages in the Beaujolais Crus, this has soft cherry fruit, with enough depth and concentration to go alongside pink lamb or duck.

The Best Malbec Reserve Gran Montana, Uco Valley, Argentina, 2019, £10: High altitude with clear sunshine gives this wine deep flavours with a fresh style. Seriously good with bags of damson and mulberry fruit, backed by silky tannins and a long spice-sprinkled finish.

Fizz

The Best Prosecco Rosé 2020, Extra Dry, £9: Prosecco has been the success story of the last decade, with global sales of around 600 million bottles a year. And now there is pink Prosecco which could see us drinking even more. Fresh and lively fruit with strawberry flavours and just an edge of sweetness to make it particularly palatable perched on a bar stool on a Friday evening.

The Best English Sparkling Wine Brut, Grand Vintage 2010, £25: Made from the classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, this has spent at least eight years on its lees, gathering depth and flavour, with anther couple of years in bottle. This is how some of the best champagnes are made, slowly and carefully – and it has worked wonders for this English wine. With baked apples on the nose, and rounded, biscuit and toast on the palate, with a line of fresh citrus running through, this is a real bargain. Try it as an aperitif and then carry through to enjoy it with grilled Dover sole or a Friday night fish and chip supper.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.