Co-operative wine: Nine top wine picks from my exclusive summer tasting

Cinsaut Co-op wine

I make an annual trip which I enjoy very much, akin to the old Wakes’ Weeks in Lancashire (my roots people, my roots) when once a year half the population of the old mill towns would pack up and disappear to the seaside at Blackpool and paddle and flirt.

My annual trip is an exclusive visit to the people at Co-operative wine when they share some of their latest wines with me. It doesn’t involve paddling or flirting, but I look forward to it just the same.

Here’s a selection of wines which floated my boat,  even though I wasn’t in the sea at Blackpool.

Kumala Fairtrade Pinotage Shiraz (£6.99, 12.5% abv) Hot off the press, the Co-op has worked with Kumala to create this new fairtrade pinotage and shiraz blend. The Co-op is the world’s biggest Fairtrade wine retailer and sales of the wine will support investment into farming communities in the Western Cape.

Kumala Fairtrade Pinotage Shiraz Co-operative wine
Kumala Fairtrade Pinotage Shiraz

What of the wine? Well I need a bit of persuasion with South African pinotage. It’s a grape created by humans (a cross between pinot noir and hermitage) and sometimes it can smell like paint. But you know, this blend is nice; the wine is ruby red, has ripe red fruits and strawberries on the nose, with pepper spice tingling away.

Muriel Tempranillo Rioja Co-operative wine
Muriel Tempranillo Rioja

Muriel Tempranillo Rioja 2014 (£8.49, 13.5% abv) is a red I loved, with its sweet woody nose, tumbling cherry and strawberry aromas and a good balance of weight, fruit and acidity. It hums of sweet spice and vanilla and is a wine which is confident in itself. It would be proud to look in the mirror and say hey, I’m very elegant. (Look – I write these notes when I’m in the moment. Stick with me.)

Vanita Grillo 2016 Co-operative wine
Vanita Grillo 2016

Vanita Grillo 2016 (£6.99, 13% abv) was my favourite white wine of the afternoon – and also that of my guide, wine buyer Ben Cahill. It hails from Sicily and has a tremendous rush of grapefruit and lemon and lime aromas. In the mouth there’s a thrill of citrus and acidity from start to finish – the wine has weight, it’s not a fly-by-night white which your tastebuds will forget in an instant.  

Escudo Vinho Verde Co-operative wine
Escudo Vinho Verde and Kleine Kapelle Pinot Grigio

Escudo Vinho Verde 2016 (£5.99, 9.5% abv) This is a gentle spritzy little thing and as vinho verde goes, it is spritzier than most. These young wines from Portugal aren’t made as traditional fizzy wines, but the carbon dioxide created in the fermentation can still be present, causing a wibble of a wobble of a bubble. I won’t bore you with any more geekiness but I’ll simply say I’d love to sip this gently sparkling fresh white wine in the garden and enjoy it’s pretty citrus vibe. 

Kleine Kapelle Pinot Grigio (£5.99, 12% abv) Now my friends will laugh at me for including a pinot grigio here as I’m always telling them to AVOID this common grape. But there’s always a wine that comes along to buck the trend. This wine is from the Pfalz region in Germany and I’ve featured it before  when it was chosen as one of Wine of Germany’s Top 50 wines.  It has good acidity and pretty tropical notes which lift it above some of the flabby pinot grigio you often find at this price.

Other lovelies to look out for are Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne 2008 (£25.99,  12% abv) which is made exclusively for the Co-op by top champers’ producer Piper Heidsieck; The Black Shiraz (£7.99, 14.5% abv)  from Berton Vineyards which is deep and dark but elegantly fruity and has 10% of the durif grape in the blend; Chateau Beaumont (£13.99, 13.5% abv) a classic Bordeaux blend from the Haut-Medoc showcasing cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot.

KWV Cinsaut Co-operative wine
KWV Cinsaut

I’ll leave my favourite to last.  I  was bowled over by the South African KWV Cinsaut (£7.99, 13.5% abv) It has had 10 months in French oak and was light-bodied like a pinot noir and was dappled with cherries, strawberries and flashes of spice. It isn’t available in all of Co-op’s stores but I was as giddy as a kipper  when I went a-hunting in the aisles in my local shop and spotted this red delight. Oh my, how I loved it.

Ben did too – in fact we both selected the same favourites from our little tasting  – the grillo and the cinsaut, and they’re both under £8 which is a very High Five.

Ben is expertly modelling our top choices below. Chin Chin.

Ben Cahill Co-operative wine buyer
Ben Cahill with the Cinsaut and the Grillo
*A version of this piece was first published IN OVER 30 TRINITY MIRROR REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS INCLUDING:

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Christmas white wine to chink as you open the pressies (or just because you neeeeed)

Limestone Rise English Christmas white wine

I can’t wait for Christmas Day and my first glass of white! Here’s a Christmas white wine selection to suit all pockets which you can pour as the family arrives, right through to Dad sneaking the last roast potato onto his plate.

Extra Special French Chardonnay (13.5% abv, £5, ASDA) This Languedoc  chardonnay is lightly oaked which brings some creaminess to the apple and citrus flavours, but don’t worry it’s not one of those in-your-face oaky assaults. It’s easy drinking but has enough personality to sit happily next to a plate of turkey and sprouts.
Christmas white wine factor: Pour a glass when you’ve finished the shopping

Limestone Rise (11% abv, £7.99 The Co-op) This is an English white from the Co-op, which 15 years ago was the first retailer to sell English wine before it became the “in thing”. This blend of bacchus and ortega grapes has sherbert, elderflower, a spring breeze and a really nice little bite of citrus and acidity.
Christmas white wine factor: Something different for the Christmas table

La Altelana Gavi di Gavi 2015 (11.5% abv, £7.99, Aldi) The label looks classy, take a bottle to a party and wow your hosts. Or save it for yourself and it’ll breeze through the prawns and be very happy with the turkey and crisp vegetables. It’s an Italian white with hints of green in the glass, with fresh lemon aromas and subtle minerality.
Christmas white wine factor: Refresh those taste buds after a long day eating

Fief des Pierres Blanches Quincy, 2015 (13.5 % abv, £8.99 Lidl) Mmmm … zesty! A great wine from the Loire Valley which is fresh and full of lemony aromas and tropical fruit flavours. If you’re a bit dulled from Santa’s Christmas Eve sherry this will really perk you up. Delicious.
Christmas white wine factor: Really fresh and great with seafood

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Chapel Down Bacchus (12% abv £9.99 from £12.99, Waitrose) Bacchus is the ancient Roman name for the classical god of wine. Who would have thought that my fascination with ancient history would have a nice link to my love of wine.  Bacchus is similar to sauvignon blanc – think grapefruit, elderflower and gooseberry with a zesty woosh alongside. The 2015 vintage won bronze at the Decanter awards.
Christmas white wine factor: How about English zing for the Boxing Day curry

Wm Morrison Chablis Premier Cru 2014 (13% abv, £15) Toast your Christmas Day guests with this terrific Chablis from Morrisons which has just won gold (again) at the latest International Wine Challenge awards. Chablis is perfect with a seafood starter as the vines grow on an ancient seabed. This wine has minerality, melon and grapefruit flavours, with a soft touch of vanilla.
Christmas white wine factor: An amazing white which always wins praise

Domaine de la Mandelière Robert Nicolle 2015 (12.5% abv,  £14.49 or £13.04 in a buy six deal at www.laithwaites.co.uk) This Chablis is from a small, family run estate on a ridge of limestone in the famous wine district. It is pale straw, with aromas of  crisp apple and a flash of citrus, which both appear on the palate with a signature wet stone minerality.
Christmas white wine factor: Poached salmon? Yes please

The Society’s Exhibition Pouilly-Fuissé 2014 (13% abv, £18, www.thewinesociety.com) Love, love, love! The Wine Society’s Exhibition wines aim to be the best examples of wine from a particular region – this one a classic Burgundian white.  This has bright citrus but with creaminess, cushioned by vanilla and an upright flash of minerality.
Christmas white wine factor:  Perfect with turkey and all the trimmings

Fess Parker, Santa Barbara County Chardonnay (14.2% abv, from £13.95 at The Wine Society and www.amathusdrinks.com) OMG. Which in this case stands for Orgasmic, Melony, Golden. This chardonnay is barrel-fermented, aged in French oak and it’s utter heaven. You could have it with your turkey. It’s full and rich enough to go with Christmas pud. But forget that. Sit. On your own. When the house is empty. And drink it with lashings of self-indulgence. Quality Street are made for sharing. This isn’t.
Christmas white wine factor:  It’s just a wow.

These wine reviews were first published in December 2016 in several regional UK newspapers including:

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express