Join Terry Kirby on his Supermarket Sweep-style dash down the aisles for some affordable celebratory bottles
Are you one of those people: it’s the last few days before Christmas and you still haven’t stocked up on wine for your festive celebrations? Well, it’s certainly too late to get your favourite online retailer to deliver by Christmas Eve. Depending on where you live, you might have access to a good local wine dealer, but many of us may have to rely upon our supermarkets, lobbing the wine into the trolley alongside the sprouts and mince pies.
Of course, supermarkets are actually excellent places to shop – the nation buys most of its wine in them – but their selections can be vast, vary between branches and you might not be able to find anyone able to give informed advice.
So, please join me on a trolley dash down your local high street as we seek out some last-minute seasonal choices as well as a few bargains… and do check out my recent columns on sherry, madeira, red wines and my 12 Wines of Christmas for other recommendations you might find on the shelves in front of you.
First then to Waitrose for a classy, zingy white for roast fish dishes or smoked salmon: the Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc, (£14.99; normally £19.99 until 1 January, waitrose,com) is helpfully reduced right now: packed with exotic flavours of passion fruits, lime and nettles. While you are in Waitrose, you can pick up a really excellent, good-value claret, the Chateau Cantin St Emilion Grand Cru Waitrose (£25.99, waitrose.com) with restrained but plump red berry fruits, a whiff of cedar and tobacco; a well-balanced wine, ideal with roast turkey, beef or pork. And if you are looking for a bottle of port to round off your meal with the cheese and pudding, Waitrose currently has a good discount on one of the legendary ports, Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas (£24.99, normally £29.99, until 1 January, waitrose.com), made with grapes only from the Vargellas estate vineyards and a rich and satisfying mouthful.
Claret not for you? Take your trolley to Marks and Spencer and check out the Rocca Pagliara Vino Passito 2017 (£10, marksandspencer.com) a lip-smacking blend of negroamaro, merlot and primitivo from Puglia, with a portion of the grapes sun-dried in the appassimento style, which gives a deep richness and, remarkably, the raisiny, dark fruit flavours work well with all types of festive foods, from roast poultry and meats to cheeses and even mince pies and chocolate dishes. M&S also have a classic Rioja reserva for your turkey, the Contino Reserva 2014 (£25, marksandspencer.com) with plenty of relatively youthful ripe black fruits, backed by vanilla and pepper from just enough oak.
If you are lucky enough to live close to a Majestic branch, their range of wines is generally very good, with some excellent seasonal discounts, including this lovely zesty, citric white, which would serve really well for gatherings and aperitifs: the Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet 2017 Coteaux du Languedoc (£9.99 or £7.49 if bought as part of a mixed six bottle purchase).
Budget a bit tight or if you are just looking for a good bargain (and aren’t we all)? Then there are some great little wines to be found if you look carefully among the endless branded labels on the high street. At branches of Spar, you need to seek out two terrific wines made by southern French expert Jean Paul Mas: the previously recommended Languedoc Blanc (£7, Spar stores) is an intriguing blend of 45 per cent grenache blanc, with some vermentino, marsanne and viognier making up the rest; it’s more a dinner table food wine than a party glugger and would be great with roast white meats, pork and chicken; the companion Languedoc Rouge (£7, Spar stores) is a very typical blend of grenache noir, with spicy backing from syrah and carignan, making it ideal with all Mediterranean foods. You will find Mas wines elsewhere – they almost always represent authenticity and good value for money.
In Asda, you will find the Extra Special New Zealand Pinot Noir (£8.98 asda.com) from the Marlborough region and which is a recent International Wine Challenge Gold Award winner for its velvety, silky, raspberry fruit, making it ideal with duck or goose. Although you won’t find a vast selection in every store, the Co-op has one of the best wine ranges at the budget end of the high street and you can find some real gems there this season, including the Vandenburg Adelaide Hills Chardonny 2018 (£10, Co-op stores) a Burgundian style, full-bodied white, which punches way above its price point, packed with creamy fruit flavours or the all-purpose red from the Douro, Vila Real Rabelo Red 2017 (£6, Co-op stores).
Take your trolley now to Tesco, for another juicy little guzzler is the Tesco Finest Argentinian Malbec (£6.50, normally £7.50, tesco.com) and while you are there, pick up a half-bottle of the Tesco Finest Pedro Ximenez Sherry (£6 for 37.5cl, tesco.com), a fabulous alternative to port to round off a meal – very sweet, luscious, concentrated dried fruit flavours; for blue cheese, puddings, anything chocolate and pouring over vanilla ice cream.
Aldi of course has a reputation for uncovering excellent bargain wines, none more so than the zippy, refreshing, citrus and tropical fruit-loaded Leaf Plucker Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (£6.99, aldi.co.uk), an excellent party wine from the Western Cape of South Africa; while you are there, pick up a bottle of Maynards White Port (£7.99 for 50cl, aldi.co.uk) which is a very different festive aperitif – mix with tonic, ice and mint, as they do in the Douro.
If it is a sparkler you are looking for, then all the high street names have a range of decent discounts on the big familiar brands like Moet, Lanson, Tattinger, etc, but look to own brands for real bargain buys. As recommended before, the Co-op’s Les Pionniers Champagne (£17.99, normally £18.99, until 3 January, Co-op stores) took the top Best Buy award again in the Which! magazine tasting and it is a genuinely top quality champagne, a fullish-bodied blend of the classic varieties of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. For discounts on good value, crowd-pleasing party fizz, there are also plenty to choose from such as the Tesco Finest Blanquette de Limoux (£8, normally £9, until 1 January, tesco.com) or Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano (£7.50, normally £10, until 25 December).
So that fills up our trolley, and after all that dashing about I’m off for a drink... but I will be returning next weekend with more recommendations for New Year celebration sparklers. Until then, enjoy your Christmas festivities and particularly your wines…