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

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.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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