As we have seen with the colour-coded ranges of everyday wine in Morrisons and the ‘house’ range from Sainsbury’s, it can be difficult to standardise quality across a large (numerical and geographical) range.
Tesco’s Simply range was launched about nine months ago to help customers intimidated by the huge selection of wine most supermarkets carry. There are around 25 products in all, at prices from £3.50 to £6.
As with other initiatives along these lines, hitting a consistent standard across the range has proved a major challenge. Nevertheless, there are some really nice wines available, and here are a few of the highlights.
Simply Chardonnay Reserve (£4.99) is a neatly made version from South Australia. Since it is only lightly oaked, it avoids the over-wooded complaints often directed at inexpensive Oz chardonnay and provides a mere whisper of vanilla to sit alongside the fruit. Nor does it suffer the flabbiness that accompanies excesses of ripe fruit, since its firm and zesty acidity draws in touches of apple and greengage to enliven the main clean, but substantial, orange-centred flavours.
A good illustration of the middle ground between sauvignon from New Zealand and that from the Loire can be found in the Chilean Simply Sauvignon Blanc (£4.79). The typical southern-hemisphere gooseberry flavours are softened by hints of tangerine but the whole thing is kept zingingly crisp with lively grapefruit-centred acidity – proving that, as with South Africa, sauvignon can also do well in Chile.
A European variation on the theme comes from garganega grape country, Verona, where Simply Soave Classico (£4.49) provides a pleasing example of that often underestimated genre. This version has a smooth, soft texture, with flavours that run from melon to more substantial but sharp touches of orange. Given the heat there at the 2011 harvest and the consequent reductions in quantity, it is encouraging to see how well this vintage is developing even at the inexpensive end of the market.
Turning to reds, Australia again comes up trumps, with Simply Shiraz Reserve (£5.79), assembled from parcels in several different growing regions. The result is a structured wine with a deep berry and slightly leafy nose that prepares the way for very well-balanced bramble fruit, rounded out with a touch of vanilla and finished off with a complex mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and other stars of the spice rack. At 13 per cent alcohol it is beefy enough but avoids the hot finish of wine that has crept too far up the alcohol levels.
Anyone seeking an introduction to pinot noir need look no further than Simply Pinot Noir from New Zealand (£5.99), which delivers the grape’s trademark characteristics at an affordable price. It is light in both texture and alcohol (11.5 per cent), with all the classic woody aromas but supplemented by smoothly soft cherry and raspberry fruit that leads into those textbook earthy concluding touches – enlivened with an attractive acidity that seems to arrive at the very last minute.
The range is certainly not restricted to single-varietal wines – demonstrated by Simply Côtes du Rhône 2011 (£3.79), with the uncomplicated pepper and plum flavours that underpin this soft, warm wine.
For everyday, inexpensive and (dare I say, simple) wine, those elements of this range are well worth exploring.
2010 Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé
East Coast, New Zealand, 13 per cent
Villa Maria has found the middle ground between too much residual sugar and the alternative of a savoury concluding twist that suits food better than casual drinking. Here, however, dry minty and fresh strawberry flavours mingle freely with ‘drink any time’ mellower touches of apricot and tropical fruit. £9.99, Tesco
2011 Côte Roannaise, Vieilles Vignes Domaine Sérol Loire Valley, France, 12 per cent.
This beautifully light, gamay-derived red from a seriously neglected outpost of the region combines vibrant raspberry and cherry flavours and a lingering fruity finish with a soft and juicy texture that makes it perfect summer drinking. £7.95, The Wine Society