Wine Club: Asda’s brave new world

New vines and fresh enthusiasm in Romania's vineyards
New vines and fresh enthusiasm in Romania's vineyards
  • Christine Austin explores the Yorkshire store giant’s new Wine Atlas range and likes where it takes her.
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With fairly unknown grape varieties such as Grillo, Catarratto, Feteasca Neagra and Marzemino, the new Wine Atlas range at Asda may not instantly appeal, but having tasted through all 17 of these new additions, they are wines that should not be missed.

“We felt that the time was right to inspire out customers to try new grapes and wine regions they may not have heard of before,” said Asda’s wine buying manager, Philippa Carr. “And we have uncovered some fantastic new wines.” There is no chance that you will miss these wines on the shelves. The labels have the feel of a 1930s travel brochure with bright colours, clear graphics, and a message ‘A Passport to Wine Discovery’.

Priced at between £4.97 and £7, the Wine Atlas range does exactly what it sets out to do – bring new flavours from less well-known regions and grapes, at great value prices. Among the whites, head for Wine Atlas Côtes de Thau 2014, for its crisp, citrussy blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino. Perfect to line up against a plate of mixed seafood, it is good value at £4.97. From the Languedoc comes Wine Atlas Marsanne 2014 (£5.47) with a floral nose and chalky palate of lemon and lightly spiced apricot flavours. From Sicily comes Wine Atlas Grillo 2014 (£4.97), which hits all the right notes with citrus, tropical fruit and a sprinkling of herbs. Try this with any grilled fish.

The reds are equally good, with Marzemino 2013 (£5.97) from Trentino providing lively cherry fruit and soft, juicy tannins. Frapatto 2014 (£4.97) from Sicily brings great value black cherries and soft, rounded red fruits while Bobal 2014 (£4.97) from Utiel-Requena in Spain is one of my favourites for its summer pudding red fruits and touch of spice.

Also well worth a try is Feteasca Neagra 2014 (£4.97) from the Cramele Recas winery in Romania. Feteasca Neagra is an old grape variety, used in the past for heavy, chunky wines but now delivering deep, rich fruit with a savoury twist and a touch of pepper.

All the Wine Atlas wines are well-priced but I get the feeling that they have been put together with quality and flavour first, and price second. Each one has all the right character and really does give a taste of a region and a grape, rather than just wriggling under a price point.

In addition to this new range, there were over 130 other wines on show at the Asda tasting including two others from the Cramele Recas winery in the far west of Romania, a Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (£4.37) and a Merlot 2014 (£5). Both are worth a try for their clean, straightforward fruit. I visited the Cramele Recas winery a few years ago and was really impressed by the way it has gathered up a lot of EU funding to replant its 600 hectares of vineyards. In the early days they were making terrific wines, but had no UK sales. Now I am delighted that they have an outlet through Asda. Everyone should try these wines, if only to get some value from all that EU funding.

While you are in Asda it is also worth picking up two wines for summer sunshine drinking. Cserszegi Fuszeres NV from Hungary (£7) has light, spicy flavours, heading towards a Gewürztraminer in taste but lighter, cleaner and fresher in style while Irsai Oliver 2014 (£7) has floral and white pepper notes. Try it with prawns with a lightly spiced dip.

While Asda has been going down the regional and varietal route for its wines, our other Yorkshire-based supermarket, Morrisons, has stuck firmly to its “Taste Test” way of working. Wines are arranged on the shelves by taste rather than by region which is obviously doing no harm at all to sales. Last year Morrisons sold over 72 million bottles, enough to fill over 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The great thing about arranging wines by taste is that it is easy to move from a tried and tested wine to one that is similar in style, but comes from somewhere else. So if you like the fresh-tasting, crisp, clean flavours of Morrisons Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (£4.49) from South Africa there are plenty of other wines within that taste category to work through.

Trade up to the more concentrated, lemon-fresh flavours of Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from Chile (£9.99) or head for New Zealand and the green, grassy notes in M Signature Marlborough Sauvignon 2014 (£8.49).

Under the ‘smooth’ heading I was impressed by Kalendar White 2014 (£7.99), a Chenin Chardonnay blend from Adi Badenhorst in South Africa. It has lemon and honeysuckle notes with the roundness of melon fruit holding the finish together. Tasted alongside a zesty, minerally M Signature Chablis 2014 (£9.99) and the soft, stone fruit flavours in Cono Sur Viognier 2014 (£7.49) from Chile, it was good to see how these flavours are just elements within a spectrum of taste.

‘Smooth’ also includes reds and I enjoyed I Crinali Nero di Troia 2013 from Puglia in Italy (£7.49) for its dark plummy fruit and soft, plush tannins. Close by on the shelves you will find Gérard Bértrand’s cassis-rich Réserve Spécial Merlot 2013 from the Languedoc in France (£8.99). With an eye on value it was good to see that a number of Morrisons’ wines could limbo under the £5 barrier. For summer drinking try Morrisons Chenin Blanc (£4.49) from South Africa for its clean, fresh, lemon flavours. The light, peach and nutty style of Orvieto Classico (£4.99) is a terrific sunny lunchtime wine, while Morrisons Chianti 2014 (£4.49) has light cherry fruit and a touch of truffly complexity to be worthy of a bowl of pasta. Do not miss La Bodega de los Altos Andes Malbec 2013 (£4.99) which is extraordinarily robust and full of dark plummy fruit and a soft, spice-edged finish.