POSTIES have a hard time in January. After bringing smiles to millions with all those Christmas cards, they become harbingers of doom in the New Year by pushing credit card bills through letterboxes.
After the initial sharp intake of breath and sucking of teeth, economising becomes an instant New Year resolution. But cutting back does not mean cutting out – certainly as far as wine is concerned.
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This, then, is our annual guide to budget wines. The goal is to find a sextet of decent offerings with £6 or less on the standard price label – not just as part of “special offers”. Good white wine below that threshold is harder to find than red, but these first two bottles show that it can still be done.
Looking for the words “Vin de France” on a label can sometimes bring mixed blessings, but the Vignobles Roussellet Sauvignon Blanc (£4.69 at Aldi) reassures me that sound French everyday wine is still making its way across the Channel. This white is fresh and zesty, with lively and firm acidity accompanied by flavours of pink grapefruit, apple and a touch of pear to add depth.
Look out too for the fresh and zesty 2013 Cimarosa Pedro Jimenez (£3.99 at Lidl). Despite similar names, the Chilean grape variety used here is almost certainly not related to that very sweet sherry grape. Instead it delivers a delightfully dry and textured white with soft, white peach, pear and sweetish spice flavours and, of course, astonishingly good value.
Moving across to the reds – and to Italy in particular – 2013 Wine Selection Chianti (£4.88 at Asda) really caught my attention. Although full of those typical cherry and red plum flavours, this has less weight than some of the blockbuster Chiantis – a fact also reflected in its relatively light tannins. Any reduction in texture is, however, more than cancelled out by the appealing mineral edge on display here and the tasty flavours of mint and liquorice that accompany its lively acidity.
Staying with Italy, 2013 Venturer Nero D’Avola (£4.79 at Aldi) also offers outstanding value for money. Its fruity nose leads into ripe flavours of black cherries, damsons and mulberries, along with vanilla and beetroot-style earthy undertones. Despite some chewy tannins and a savoury twist to add richness and depth, the wine is deceptively soft.
Moving north-east to Hungary takes us to the lightness and fresh acidity of 2012 Hilltop Merlot Kekfrankos (£4.49 at the Co-op). Its flavours are bright and juicy with influences of red cherries, cloves and redcurrants and very little tannin to diminish their shine. Hilltop winemaker Akos Kamocsay’s blend of Pinot Grigio and Kiralyleanyka drew my attention last June and this example shows that the winery is just as good with its reds.
Finally to Spain, where the 2013 Pasico Old Vine Monastrell Shiraz (£6 at Sainsbury’s) brings together two South of France favourites – Mourvèdre and Syrah – to produce a Rhône-style blend with richness and substance. Firm tannins and sharp acidity are prominent on the mid palate, but the taste buds are then treated to a cascade of flavours from cherry, plum and raspberry through to beetroot, cinnamon and vanilla.
So, no matter which of this emergency pack of half-dozen wallet-friendly wines you pick, you can still enjoy a guilt-free glass while you sit down to consider the implications of that Christmas credit card bill. n
2012 Les Abeilles De Colombo Cotes du Rhone France, 14 per cent
Another smooth, warm and fresh mid-weight Colombo masterpiece. It combines floral cherry and cinnamon flavours with touches of white and black pepper, and a skilful balance between tannin and its exuberant raspberry acidity.
£8.99 – instead of £10.49 until Tuesday – at Fountainhall Wines in Aberdeen and Stonehaven
2013 Pecorino Terre di Chieti Central Italy, 13 per cent
There are some absolutely terrific Italian whites about currently, such as this fresh and long tour de force with an unusual degree of mellow depth. Enjoy in particular its herbal, greengage fruit with just a suggestion of peach in the background and the savoury edge that combines so well with its measured acidity.
£7.99 at Waitrose
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