WATCHING BBC2’s Food & Drink, it is interesting to see that the chefs do not seem to have a limit on their ingredient spend – but when it comes to wine to match, it has to be under £10 per bottle.
Clearly the common perception is that we are willing to spend a lot more on our food than our wine.
The truth is that more than half of us in the UK refuse to spend more than £6 on a bottle of wine (the average spend per bottle on wine in the UK has just edged over £5.40).
Consumers are missing out on getting much “wine” for their money as a £5 bottle might contain less than £1 worth of wine (the rest is duty, shipping and packaging costs) – while with a £10 bottle you get more than £3-worth of wine.
However – for everyone feeling cash-strapped at this time of year, or those who are on constant look out for a £5 bargain – it is a good time to check what is actually available at a fiver or under. Are they quaffable, just inoffensive or downright horrible? There are certain areas of the wine world which can currently produce really good value at this price –in particular Sicily and Spain.
I randomly picked 12 wines in this price category to give you my honest verdict.
Central Valley, Chile SILVER GHOST SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014
(£4.99, Majestic Wine)
Perfectly quaffable with a hint of gooseberry; crisp, fresh. It is not a patch on a Kiwi sauvignon, but you cannot find anything from New Zealand under a fiver – you have to make do with this lookalike. My only complaint with this wine is its short finish.
South West France WINEMAKER’S SELECTION CôTE DE GASCOGNE BLANC 2013
With light, floral gooseberry notes, this is a great value, zippy, fresh aperitif white which was easily the most popular with our tasters. Well done Sainsbury’s. STAR BUY
Sicily, Italy VENTURER VERMENTINO 2013
I preferred this to the Silver Ghost. With crisp, slightly herby notes, and lemony flavours, it’s a well balanced well-made quaffer which hails from the renowned Casa Girelli in Italy who make great value wines. A fab party wine.
Central Valley, Chile LA MONEDA RESERVA CHARDONNAY 2014
(£5, reduced from £7, Asda until 12 Feb)
Cheap, decent chardonnay is hard to come by; this is acceptable but a bit too sweet, sickly and creamy for my palate. OK for washing down the chicken kiev, but I wouldn’t serve it at a party.
Stellenbosch, South Africa STELLENBOSCH DRIVE CHARDONNAY 2014
(£4.99, reduced from £6.99, Co-op until 3 Feb)
A touch of oak and creamy lees on the palate, very acceptable and good value at this price. I preferred this Cape chardonnay to Asda’s Chilean.
Southern RhÔne, France EXTRA SPECIAL Côtes du Rhône VILLAGES 2013
(£5, reduced from £6.75, Asda, until 12 Feb)
A very good blend made from 80 per cent grenache and 20 per cent syrah. I understand that this is on a knock down discount, but it is great value at this price. Thumbs up. STAR BUY
Emilia Romagna, Italy BRICHETTO SANGIOVESE 2013
(£4.99, Majestic Wine)
Emilia Romagna is the home of Lambrusco, but if you head a little further south-east of Bologna into the pretty hilly Romagna area, this is where the sangiovese grape holds sway. This tastes like a cheap chianti with cherry fruits; it’s quite soft, but rather light and limpid.
Sicily, Italy VENTURER NERO D’AVOLA 2013
(£4.79, reduced from £4.99, Aldi)
Another very good example from Aldi – plenty of ripe, soft, brambly fruits with a smoky edge. A bit too sweet for my palate, but it might please those who love rich zinfandel.
Spain EXTRA SPECIAL GARNACHA 2013
This is what Philippa Carr, Asda’s wine buyer, calls “a belter”. I can see what she means. There are plenty of gutsy ripe fruits, and it’s smooth, soft and quaffable. Garnacha is an ideal grape for this price point.
Valdepenas, Spain EL TORITO MERLOT 2013
(£4.99, Majestic Wine)
Spanish winery Felix Solis make this soft plummy merlot, but there is something lacking in character and flavour here. Disappointing. I think you can find better wines at this price. Thumbs down.
Spain SIMPLY GARNACHA 2013
This Spanish garnacha from the Campo de Borja region is very acceptable as a barbecue or pizza partner. There are soft, gluggable fruits, and it’s smooth, with a decent finish. Garnacha is the same grape as France’s grenache – and often used in Côtes du Rhône blends. Thumbs up.
Central Valley, Chile SIMPLY CHILEAN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013
(£4.49, Tesco) Yes – you get fleeting brambles, blackcurrants and a hint of spice – but just a bit ‘simple’ in terms of generous ripe fruits and a short abrupt finish.
• Join Rose’s Beginners wine tastings, 11, 18 and 25 February at 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh, from £36, www.rosemurraybrown.com