It was great to have the chance to attend the Co-op supermarket’s press tasting, where they showed the below 62 wines and a handful of spirits. All too often, wine people live in a fine wine world, which is a comparatively tiny part of the wine that actually gets sold, bought and drunk in the UK.
Tasting a supermarket’s offerings is important to remember what goes on in the real world, and to assess the wines that most people drink, most of the time – even if this tasting had a disproportionate number of wines on limited release at less than 1,000 of the Co-op’s over 2,500 stores (not including the recent Nisa acquisition).
It’s also a very good reminder of how hard the task is for supermarket buyers to source wines in the £5-8 core price bracket and actually deliver good value. With Duty rates meaning only 40-50p is available for the wine itself in a £5 bottle of wine, and only around £1.50 at £7, buyers have a job on their hands.
That’s what made Co-op’s sourcing of Caldirola’s Il Sarmento Nero di Troia 2017 particularly impressive, as it delivered very well for just £5.50 (15 / 20 or 87 / 100). There were a few others that demonstrated good value for money in the £6-8 range too.
Of course there were misses. Early on, the Co-op Irresistible Viognier was very much resistible. If you’re going to let your marketing guys label it as such – you can’t really let that happen. Especially immediately before the textbook Semillon-heavy, barrel fermented Clos Floridène Graves Blanc 2016. Generally the Irresistible range didn’t do it for me, other than the Mount Benson Shiraz.
That said, the Really Awesome Wine white, vegan Spanish blend had decent enough Verdejo character to pull off the RAW branding.
With money no object, there were definite highlights on an absolute quality scale, my top 5 (well, 6 because of mathematics) being:
- Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2004 (17+ / 20; 94+ / 100)
- Clos Floridène Graves Blanc 2016 (16.5 / 20; 92 / 100)
- Château de la Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet 2016 (16.5 / 20; 92 / 100)
- Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve Champagne Brut NV (16 / 20; 91 / 100)
- Trapiche Medalla Malbec Mendoza 2015 (16 / 20; 91 / 100)
- Château Roumieu Sauternes 2014 (16 / 20; 91 / 100)
I also decided for the first time to score / 100 as well as the / 20 that I’ve used so far, just to see what happens. It seemed to work OK. For me, the translation from one to the other is:
Exceptional to great: 20 = 100, 19.5 = 99, 19 = 98, 18.5 = 97, 18 = 96, 17.5 = 95, 17 = 94
Very good to solid: 16.5 = 92-93, 16 = 90-91, 15.5 = 88-89, 15 = 86-87
Basic to poor: 14.5 = 84-85, 14 = 82-83, 13.5 = 80-81, 13 = 78-79
The wines are listed in the order of the tasting book, although I actually tasted all the whites first, then went back to reds, before finishing with fortified and sweet wines.
Co-op Irresistible Prosecco Brut NV (14.5 / 20; 85 / 100)
Made by Zonin. 100% Glera. 11% ABV. £8 / bottle.
A: Very pale lemon with a bright mousse
N: Floral apple & pear. Simple but clean, bright and with some character. Correct
P: Sweet then dry entry. Bright apple and floral. Moderate length, but with some more character than many
Les Pionniers Champagne Brut NV (15.5 / 20; 89 / 100)
Made by Piper Heidsieck. 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay. 12% ABV. £18.99 / bottle.
A: Pale lemon with a fairly fine bead
N: Fresh, bright, clean lemon sherbet. Ripe citrus. Hints of brioche lees
P: Loose mousse. Apple, some citrus and background lees. Drier than many bruts. Medium-long. Good value
Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve Champagne Brut NV (16 / 20; 91 / 100)
34% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, 33% Pinot Meunier. 12.5% ABV. £40 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale lemon; light bead
N: Dusty, spice lees with some toast – notable density of lees. Some citrus fruit beneath
P: Fine mousse – some finesse here. Creamy mid-palate and ripe citrus. Medium-long
Bollinger Special Cuvée Champagne Brut NV gift pack (16 / 20; 90 / 100)
60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier. 5-15% of primary fermentation in old oak barrels. 12% ABV. £44.99 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale-medium gold, with a medium intensity, lazy bead
N: Pronounced coffee and biscuit lees. Some flinty mineral. Rounded oxidative tone to dense apple fruit
P: Fairly fine, prickly bead. Full body. Rich. Some tannic grip, surprisingly. Long. Dry and brisk
Domaine Les Chaumes Pouilly-Fumé 2017 (15.5 / 20; 88 / 100)
12.5% ABV. £13.75 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale lemon
N: Marked cucumber, asparagus and flinty stone. Green citrus fruit beneath
P: Dry, with powerful pea-pod and capsicum pyrazine mid-palate. Quite aggressive flinty-smoky character. Lots of extract. Medium-long
Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Les Princes Abbés 2016 (15.5 / 20; 89 / 100)
70% Pinot Blanc, 30% Auxerrois. 13% ABV. £11 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale gold
N: Sweet, rich, flesh white peach. Chalky mineral. Scented. Characterful
P: Brisk acidity gives life. Chalky texture and minerality. Dry – no RS here. Medium-full body. Not that long though
Co-op Irresistible Viognier St Gabriel Vineyard Pays d’Oc 2017 (13.5 / 20; 80 / 100)
13.5% ABV. 100% Viognier. 15% oak aged for 3 months. Screwcapped. £8 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale lemon-green
N: Peanut-soil character before white flower and apricot. Industrial oil tones
P: Bitter. Rich oiliness but oil flavour not apricot. No
Clos Floridène Graves Blanc 2016 (16.5 / 20; 92 / 100)
Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu. 51% Sémillon, 47% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscadelle. 8 months in oak on lees. 13% ABV. £19 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Nutty, lanolin-laced lemongrass and hints of vanilla. Rich and dense. Perfumed citrus and wax
P: Aromatic grapefruit peel, lanolin and lemongrass. Brisk, terpene-link bitterness. Medium-long to long. Would like just a little more mid-palate weight, but classic style of Graves Blanc
Domaines des Valanges Saint-Véran 2017 (15.5 / 20; 88 / 100)
9 months in French oak. 13% ABV. £12 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale gold
N: Honeyed, apple-crumble oak over peachy fruit. Dusty
P: Bright acidity. Rounded yellow peach. Some oak toast. Moderate length with some pleasant bitterness
Château de la Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet 2016 (16.5 / 20; 92 / 100)
10 months in French oak. 13% ABV. £39.99 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale-medium gold
N: Hint of struck match. Spiced, toasted hazelnuts. Rich citrus
P: Integral, brisk acidity. Some bacon fat and hazelnut. Rich mineral. Spicy oak and a creamy finish. Good length
Château de Pizay Réserve de Pizay Beaujolais Villages 2017 (15.5 / 20; 88 / 100)
13% ABV. £8 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale-medium purple
N: Floral, slightly jammy blackberry and black cherry fruit. Dusty, fudgy complexity
P: Juicy, jammy black cherry. Furry, fairly firm tannins. Not massively long, but more than moderate length. Good value
René Lamy Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 2015 (15.5+ / 20; 89+ / 100)
12-14 months in oak. 13% ABV. £24.99 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Pale ruby-garnet
N: Roasted, spicy fruit. Mocha oak. Stem touch? Baked earth
P: Rich, dense, spicy, dried red cherry. Herbal. Chewy, fairly firm tannins. Medium-long, with a creamy-toasty finish. A bit clumsy, perhaps? Big, robust style rather than with finesse
Tour d’Autan Corbières 2017 (13.5 / 20; 81 / 100)
40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 30% Carignan. 13% ABV. £7 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Mid ruby
N: Horsey – brett here? Baked blackberry beneath
P: Leathery black fruit. Gentle spice. Chunky, wild, firm tannins. Moderate length. Not enough fruit for the structure
Cave de Roquebrun Les Hauts de Saint Martin Saint-Chinian 2017 (15.5 / 20; 88 / 100)
45% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 15% Carignan, 10% Mourvèdre. 13.5% ABV. £7.50 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Deep purple
N: Smoky reduction. Grilled bacon meatiness. Dense, spicy, jammy black fruit with a liquorice lift
P: Smoky, spicy and savoury. Just a bit of astringent bitterness to the tannins. Medium length
Domaine Agly Bio Réserve Rousillon Villages 2017 (15.5 / 20; 88 / 100)
Vignerons Catalanes. 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache. 14% ABV. £10 / bottle. Available in less than 1,000 stores.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Slightly wild, funky-gamey notes. Juicy red cherry. Savoury, dried thyme lift
P: Red and black cherry. Smoky and spiced. Firm, slightly wild tannins. Bacon fat and pepper finish
Château l’Esparrou Languedoc 2016 (15 / 20; 87 / 100)
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. Syrah aged in French oak for 8 months.