There is always something quite daunting about a Waitrose tasting. Not only are there more than 200 wines lined up for tasting, but the hit rate of delicious, well-made wines, at the right price is always high, so careful attention is needed all the way round.
Bearing in mind that last week I tasted through Aldi’s range where they are trying to reach up to the Waitrose customer, it was interesting to see that Waitrose has launched a new range of nine own-label wines, all priced at £4.99 for the still wines and £5.99 for the fizz. I suspect that this new addition to the Waitrose shelves will be enough to deter their customers from shopping around.
Like most of their extensive range, the Waitrose own-label wines have been chosen with care and provide great flavour for money across a wide range of styles. With simple descriptive labels such as “mellow and fruity” for a warm, fruity, easy-quaffing Campo de Borja Spanish Red (£4.99) and “fruity and refreshing” for a lively Chardonnay Colombard blend from South East Australia (also £4.99), this range hits the spot on flavour and value.
My favourite was the Italian Sparkling Wine, described as “bright and fruity” which is made from Glera, the same grapes as Prosecco but it comes from an area just outside the delimited zone. This is a zippy, floral-edged wine with frothy creamy fruit and a crisp finish and at £5.99, just £1 more than the still wines in this range; it is a great value fizz.
A step up from this descriptive range is the range of classics, all bearing the Waitrose name, each providing a straightforward choice if you are looking for wine from a particular area. All of them have been given new labels to give clear signposts to the flavours inside the bottles. These wines represent a first rung on the quality ladder from each region at very reasonable prices.
I particularly liked the Waitrose Chianti 2011 (£5.99) which gathers enough truffle-tinged raspberry fruit to partner a Thursday or Friday bowl of pasta. A new addition to the range is Waitrose White Burgundy 2011 (£7.99) which comes from 40-year-old vines giving concentrated lime-edged fruit and a creamy texture from just a touch of oak. This is certainly good enough to pour alongside fish in a creamy sauce or with salads and starters.
Waitrose Southern French Grenache 2011 (£7.99) was a surprise for its power-packed warm, chunky, robust, dark berry fruit. Despite being at the top end of the price range for this group of wines, I decided that it offered great value, even at its full price and could be enjoyed any night of the week especially when temperatures drop.
One of the main problems with Waitrose is that they are spread quite thinly across our region but their reach is spreading and the whole range is available on-line. Customers can select a mixed case which will be delivered free of charge. With that in mind here are my top dozen wines from the recent tasting.
Araldica La Luciana 2011 Gavi, Piedmont, Italy, £6.99: Clean, fresh with greengage and peach notes topped with light herbal complexity. A real food wine.
The Ned Pinot Grigio, 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand £9.99 (down to £7.49 until October 30): The very palest pink colour wine with baked apple and yellow pear fruit, ending clean on the palate.
Laurent Desvignes 2010 Chablis, France £13.99: Go and snap this up at its offer price of £8.99 until October 30: Precise, stylish, clean, minerally with a heart of clear citrusy fruit. A dinner party wine.
Domaine Masson-Blondelet 2010 Pouilly-Fumé, Loire, France, £14.99: In the face of so much great Sauvignon from around the world, Pouilly-Fumé has had to work hard to compete. This wine shows that terroir really does count with clean citrus notes backed by pure minerally complexity. Fabulous.
Domaine Paul Blanck Gewürztraminer 2011, Alsace, France, £14.99: This is outstanding, with pure intensity of floral, ginger and lychee spice and zesty, crunchy freshness. Stir fry some seafood in sesame oil and try this alongside.
Moncaro 2011 Rosso Piceno, Marche, Italy £5.29: Stuffed full with dark, earthy, plummy flavours and gently wrapped in silky soft tannins this is a wine good enough for a weekend but cheap enough for a wet Monday. Enjoy with pasta, pizza or grilled lamb.
Waitrose Beaujolais 2011, £6.99: A new addition offering clear, cherry-filled Gamay fruit and a fresh, lively style. Beaujolais is a great food wine, particularly fish bakes and vegetarian lentil dishes.
Arco de Esporão 2010, Alentejo, Portugal £9.39 (down to £6.99 until October 30): A blend of Old World Aragónez and Touriga Nacional with a big splash of Syrah adding New World robust – perfect with game.
Tabalí Encantado Reserva Shiraz 2010 Limarí Valley, Chile, £11.49: From cool vineyards close to the Pacific Ocean, this Shiraz has a clear, fresh intensity of flavour with a touch of spice on the finish.
Muga Seleccion Especial 2006 Reserva, Rioja, Spain, £22.49: Push the boat out and try this delectable Rioja from one of the best producers. Elegant with sweet berry fruit in harmony with gentle, understated oak, this has real balance and refinement.
Fizz and Fortified
Ayala Brut Majeur NV Champagne, France £28.99: This champagne house stands next to Bollinger on the same sweep of hillside in Ay. The quality is terrific.
Williams and Humbert ‘As you like it’ Amontillado Sherry 37.5cl, £23.99: Just 27 butts of this 30-year-old sherry were found at the back of the cellar. It is fabulously complex and tastes like sherry should do. A taste of history.