Wine Press: Great Value Awards celebrate great wines at great prices

Taste the Difference Côtes du Rhônes Villages 2013 review

WE all love a good deal; and when it comes to wine we love great wine at great value prices.

I make no apologies for once again telling you about some newly-announced award-winning wines from the International Wine Challenge.

In the last few days the IWC has announced 15 Great Value Awards; and 12 of them have been given to supermarket brands. So yours truly has been checking out prices (and availability) to share some of the joy with you.

To qualify, still wines must have at least 100,000 bottles available, while sparkling needs 60,000 bottles; fortified and sweet must have 6,000 bottles in circulation. On that basis, here’s hoping you should be able to find a great value wine near you.

The Wine Selection Asti Asda review
The Wine Selection Asti, Asda

Let’s tickle the tastebuds with some fantastic fizz. The Great Value Sparkling Wine award for under £12 went to Asda Asti NV, which is just £4 in store at the moment; a pretty amazing price.

Sainsbury’s collected the prize for best mid-range value sparkler with its Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, (£20) and Tesco won the under-£25 category with its finest* Vintage Grand Cru Champagne 2007 (£24.99).

Russian Jack Sauvignon Blanc 2014 review
Russian Jack Sauvignon Blanc 2014

If white is your choice, then head to Aldi, Majestic or Tesco. Aldi’s The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling 2014 (£6.99), picked up the IWC Great Value White under £7 award; Russian Jack Sauvignon Blanc 2014 scooped the Great Value award for white wine between £7-£12. (It is £11.99 at Majestic, or £8.99 each when you buy two.) Tesco finest* Chablis 2013 (now to be found at £9.99) won the Great Value under £15 award.

Are you keeping up? Let’s look at reds.

Sainsbury scored a double top with two of its wines; Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Côtes du Rhônes Villages 2013 (£7) picked up the award for Great Value Red under £7 and its Taste the Difference Châteauneuf-Du-Pape (£14) received the IWC Great Value Red under £15.

Asda Extra Special El Mesón Rioja Gran Reserva review
Asda Extra Special El Mesón Rioja Gran Reserva

Asda won the IWC Great Value Red between £7-12 for its Extra Special El Mesón Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 (£9.97).

Tesco picked up its third Great Value award – IWC Great Value Rosé under £12 – for its finest* Sancerre Rosé 2014 (£9.99).

Tesco tells me most stores are still stocking the 2013 vintage.

Tesco Dessert semillon review
Tesco Dessert semillon

Tesco notched up its fourth gong with the IWC Great Value Sweet under £10 award for its consistently-good Tesco finest* Dessert Semillon 2009 (£6.79. If you’ve never tried a dessert wine, step into the future with this one). The award for Great Value Sweet under £15 went to Marks & Spencer Paul Cluver Late Harvest Riesling 2013 (£14.99).

Staying with M&S, and its Dry Old Palo Cortado NV (£7.49 per half-bottle) collected the IWC Great Value Fortified under £10.

There, that should keep you going for a while.

In my glass …
Cordillera Sauvignon Blanc review
Cordillera Sauvignon Blanc

Here are a couple of Chilean whites from Torres I’ve really enjoyed. Cordillera Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 (£13.49, has typical green pepper notes of Chilean sauvignon blanc and is sliced and diced with citrus. But there’s a little bit extra, and even now the memory is making my mouth water.

The wine has been on the lees for six months (that’s the sediment after the yeast has fermented) so it has a very slight creaminess too.

Days of Summer Torres wine review
Days of Summer Torres wine

Days of Summer 2014 (£7.99, Co-Op, Majestic) is prettily floral, with a tempting tropical taste from the muscat grape. As summer eases into view, you won’t go far wrong if you have this in a glass in your garden.

Published in the saturday extra magazine May 30, 2015

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

Four things about natural wines to start you thinking

Natural wines, credit RAW artisan wine fair

I spoke to That Crazy French Woman  Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron about natural wines before I visited her brainchild, the RAW wine fair.

Isabelle told me about wine additives (read here) – but she shared more facts to make you think a little bit more about natural wines:

Isabelle Legeron, and the RAW wine fair team Credit Tom Moggach
Isabelle Legeron, and the RAW wine fair team Credit Tom Moggach

Think About It

If a wine label says grapes are organically grown, it doesn’t necessarily mean grapes are treated organically once they’re picked.

Isabelle: In 2012 the EU now has declared what is an organic wine, but the legislation is so lax.

Says Isabelle … It’s really meant for the big wineries to be able to call themselves organic but you can still add loads of sulphites, yeasts and dozens of additives.

The term organic wine really protects you in terms of the production of the grapes, but it doesn’t really mean much in terms of how the wine is made once it enters the winery.

Think About It

Biodynamic wine covers the entire  production of wine … from the farming to the winery. It is stricter than organic in terms of what winemakers can use.  It is based on a series of beliefs outlined by philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s.

Isabelle: Biodynamic winemakers  use the moon’s influence over a body of water.

Says Isabelle … The tide is influenced by the moon. The vines, the grapes, are mostly water, so the moon will have the same influence on the water inside the vines. It’s the same in a glass of wine.

Everything around you, even your body is being influenced by where the moon is.  So it’s just about using this knowledge to your best advantage.

Here’s a  simple example with a barrel of wine. When the moon is in a certain position the deposits are all tight and quiet and nothing is happening. If the moon is in a different position the sediments might all be floating because of gravity. So you would only want to bottle really when everything is settling down quietly, so you don’t have all this stuff floating around.

Biodynamics is also abut spraying with tea preparations; it’s about promoting the life in the soil; it’s about trying to be more sustainable; having your own cows for manure and so on.

Think About It

Do sulphites in wines give people headaches?

Isabelle: Much of this is anecdotal. There is research that shows that wine with elevated levels of sulphites means that you don’t digest the alcohol so well, it stays in your body for longer, it imbibes your body more.

Says Isabelle … Loads of people have come to me and said “I can’t drink wine” then they have tried to drink completely sulphite free wine and natural wine and actually they find they can drink it.

They’re not getting their symptoms; most complain about skin rashes so when they drink loads of sulphites they get red patches and perhaps palputations.

Think About It

We can’t keep on farming like this.

Isabelle: It’s one of the things which keeps me going. We have to do something  and stop having so many casualties.

Says Isabelle … The countryside in France and Italy is full of people who have got really sick from working in the vineyards. It’s a quite toxic industry. There’s loads of pollution … and there are even pesticide residues in your bottle.

There’s been lots of studies on it where random bottles have been selected from supermarkets and checked.

Pesticides are in the grapes, so of course it will be in the wine.

A final word

Isabelle: We need to get people to drink a bit less but maybe spend a bit more per bottle, its really worth it. I only ever drink natural wine; I only ever work with natural wine.
I won’t even taste anything else.