Six Italian wines from the Co-op (and one Trophy winner!)

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fiano 2014

THE Co-op white wine Truly Irresistible Fiano 2014 has picked up the Great Value White under £7 trophy from the International Wine Challenge.  I spent an afternoon with the man who brought the wine to the shelves,  the Co-op’s Italian wines buyer,  Ben Cahill.

First, I asked Ben what he would say to people who don’t buy Italian wines.

He said: “Italy is not renowned for its wines – people think cheap gluggable whites or chianti – but the quality has improved immeasurably. There’s been a renaissance; over the last 30 years Italy has enjoyed an absolute revolution.”

He said: “Now’s the time to try Italian wines if you haven’t already. If I had less than a tenner to spend on a bottle and I wanted something exciting then Italy is the first country I’d make a beeline for.

“The majority of reds  are  food friendly and the quality of whites has gone through the roof.”

Ben Cahill Co-op wine buyer
Ben Cahill

Italian wines: Here’s three whites and three reds from the Co-op’s range

The Co-operative Orvieto Classico (£5.49) This is definitely an alternative to pinot grigio as it’s just a bit more interesting (well, most things are). It is crisp, clean, revitalising, with more body, and  more rounded than pinot grigio, slightly  honeyed, almondy with a good balance between acidity and fruit.  If you like a PG and fancy a change, but not too much of a change, go for it.

Gavi La Luciani (£7.49)  This is very pretty and feminine, with a contrast between floral notes and stony minerality. A touch of lime lingers at the back of the mouth after you swallow, giving both an extra bite and a mouth-watering moreishness. It’s a wine to have in the fridge ready to chink chink on a sunny day.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fiano (£6.99) Golden in colour, quite rich, with aromas which hopscotch between citrus, herbs, and flowers. I’d recently cooked a risotto with this (I drank some too!) and it was interesting to see how the same vintage – 2014 – had developed. It has more weight than the gavi and the orvieto, and felt  comfortable in its soul.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Barbera d’Asti (£6.99)  This has a fair amount of tannin and structure but wasn’t mouth drying. It had a slight smokiness, with aromas of cherries, bramble fruit, wild blackberries, dried leaves and a hint of savoury. So much going on!

Bibbiano Chianti Classico (£9.99) Ben has brought this wine exclusively to the Co-op. Bibbiano supplies top-notch restaurants and he explored further and developed a partnership which has seen a slight tweak on the blend, but with the same winemaking expertise behind it.  It is a great  example of its type for less than £10. It would be fantastic with tomato-lashed spaghetti.

Villa Annaberta Amarone della Valpolicella (£17.99) I love the story of amarone wine. Time and skill is invested in making it, hence the price tag, but it’s worth it. Grapes are dried on racks before being fermented and the result is a wine that is very rich, almost a port, with  a slightly unctuous weight in the mouth. Enjoy with cheese instead of port – or simply sit in a comfy chair in front of a fire and wallow in selfish tranquility.

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First published in the saturday extra magazine February 2016

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

Barbecue wines: Four choices to enjoy come rain or shine

barbecue wines

SECOND guessing the British summer weather is a bit like a game of spin the bottle but without the kissing. But come rain or shine I bet many of you will be pouring some barbecue wines as you singe the sausages and panic about the burgers.

Here’s a pink, white, red and a sparkles – perfect barbecue wines, whether you’re hiding under an umbrella or dabbing on the suncream.

Barbecue wines:  Enjoy this pink with prawn kebabs. Treat them gently.

Aldi Cotes De Provence Rose
Aldi Cotes De Provence Rose

Aldi Exquisite Collection Cotes de Provence Rosé 2015 (12.5% abv, £5.99 or £35.94 for six from

It is the Law of Wine that you should enjoy Provence pinks in glinting sunshine. A few days ago this wine won the International Wine Challenge Great Value Rosé under £7 trophy.

It is a blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and mourvédre and aromas flirt with strawberries and quince;  when you sip, you’ll quickly want another sip of this refreshing mouthful of summer fruits with a touch of minerality and a slight creamy texture. The flavours last too. They don’t disappear in a watery wish-wash of so-whatishness.

Barbecue wines:  This white would be fab with  Thai-spice marinaded chicken

The Society’s Grüner Veltliner 2015, (12% abv, £7.50,

The Societys Grüner Veltliner
The Societys Grüner Veltliner

My Better Half arrived home after a 70-mile bike ride (I’d walked the dog to the park – that’s the fitness differential in our household) and I thrust a glass of this  in his hand.

He’s hard to please but he gave me these adjectives “tasty, moreish, drinkable, smooth”.  I couldn’t disagree.  You might not be able to pronounce it, but I bet you’ll love this grüner veltliner.

 A nose-dip reveals aromas of peach and pear, and a fleck of white pepper; then a sip bursts with more peach and pear flavours with a nudge of spice which fizzles with the acidity to make your palate stand to attention. A wine with lovely depth to savour.


Barbecue wines:  Red is perfect for sausages, especially with charcoal scrunch.

Asda Extra Special Barbera d’Asti 2013 barbecue wines
Asda Extra Special Barbera d’Asti 2013

Asda’s Extra Special Barbera d’Asti 2013 was named Best Value Red under £7 by the IWC.  I nipped into my local Asda and there it was, an astonishing £5, quite incognito, nestling amongst the other reds. Go fill your boots.

If you do, you’ll find an Italian red which does everything an Italian red does. It is chokka with cherries and  spangled with spice.

The acidity glints like a mirror in the sunshine and it is best paired with food. So I did – a steak with a crunchy coat  of black pepper and mustard seeds; then the next day the sun was shining, we brought out the barbie and burnt some sausages. Yum.

Barbecue wines: Just let this English sparkler fizz away, sit back and enjoy

Henners Brut 2010 (£27.99, 12% abv is a multi-award-winning English sparkling wine crafted in east Sussex ( and is a blend of two traditional Champagne grapes, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

Henners Brut 2010 English sparkling wine barbecue winesBubbles giggle into the glass and the mousse isn’t for leaving this world in a hurry; aromas of ripe pears, citrus and brioche tempt from afar, drawing you into the glass for another deep nose-dip.  It’s the kind of wine I forget to taste as I’m so entranced with the aromas. Ah but not quite  – taste I did – and mouth-cleansing juicy citrus is offset by almond richness. Delicious.

First published in Raise a Glass, Trinity Mirror regionals May 22, 2016

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

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