Wine for a fiver

So, there I was, buying a couple of those buckets of mini cakes in M&S for my colleagues and I spied a ‘Two for a tenner’ Spanish wine promotion by the checkout. Intrigued, the labels informed me that both the Las Falleras Blanco y Tinto were made from local Spanish grape varieties, and on a whim, proceeded to buy them.

I can quickly surmise that this is one promotion perhaps best steered clear of. The red smelt and tasted like Sangria and the white, being made of the Macabeo grape used in a Cava blend, I was expecting it to taste like flat Cava. The latter however proved much more palatable than the red, drunk extremely cold, this wine had pleasant  floral undertones and a pear drop finish. I won’t be buying any more but I haven’t immediately confined this to ‘cooks wine corner’ and perhaps might have a glass or 2 over the weekend, we’ll see though.

Although this experience will serve me right for falling for product placement and impulse buying cheap wine, I would hate to tarnish all £5 bottles of wine with the same brush.  Realistically, my budget  can’t stretch to drinking fine wine that often and  I am therefore on the never ending quest for that perfect every day drinking wine, for around a fiver, and here are some that I tasted earlier.

So, where to start? I’ll start with my lovely mum, the expert at buying wine for no more than a fiver. She wouldn’t have fallen for the M&S ‘Two for a tenner’ farce though because my mum knows that she likes 14% Shiraz from Australia and a Spanish wine generally wouldn’t get a look in (although I am training her slowly). This is a perfect example of the common misconception that the new world offers greater value when it comes to cheap plonk. I beg to differ and will start my championing of every day drinking wine in the Languedoc.

On a night like tonight, the clocks have just gone back, it’s raining, the fire’s lit and something red and satisfying is called for, a wine such as a Costieres de Nimes is perfect. Tesco do a cracking one by French Connection for around a fiver on half price special offer (i.e. the ‘real’ price, more fool me if I was ever to buy it for the over-inflated ‘full price’). For a weekday tipple with my spaghetti bolognese, at the right price, it certainly ticks the box.

Spain also, despite my previous example, offers some excellent every day drinking reds at very reasonable prices, particularly if they are produced outside of the main DOCs. One example, that has been enjoyed on more than one occasion in our house when it’s been on offer for £5.99 (and only then), is the award winning Carta Roja Gran Reserva from Sainsbury’s. Despite its brazen attempts at pretending to be a Rioja (what’s an ‘i’ between friends, oh, and it comes in a wire cage like a wine might from Rioja) it’s not actually a Tempranillo but  made from the Monastrell or Mourdevre grape, which isn’t a problem but I wonder if trading standards have noticed.

Some days, some might argue every day, call for a little fizz, and if it’s not the real stuff, I feel that you can’t go wrong with a cheeky bottle of brut Cava. In our house, Cava is served in some splendidly camp Babycham saucers only adding to the delight of adding a little sparkle to a weeknight and knowing that it has to be one of cheapest bottles of drinkable wine out there. I find bog-standard Tesco Cava Brut at £4.99 or The Co-op Cava at £5.29 do the job nicely but if you want to splash out on something a little more refined and fruity, Ocado are selling Freixenet Vintage Especial Brut Cava half price at £6.99.

Note; never try to ruin the fun of Cava by pretending that it is Champagne. If it’s fizzy, unless it’s from The AOC that is Champagne, even if it is the finest Camel Valley English sparkler, it is not Champagne. Champagne is sacred and as you can tell from my angst, will undoubtedly have a blog all of its own – as will rosé….

Rosé…pause for nostalgic sigh of pub gardens in the sunshine… the queen of the summer wine. Mr R and I like to think (the trendsetters that we are) that it was us that started the recent fashion for drinking rosé in the UK after a splendid few days in Provence drinking the very cheap but oh-so-delicious local pink plonk back in 2003. I won’t rant on about my own personal preferences when it comes to rosé (not today anyway), but despite my efforts to date, and I have tried believe me, I am sadly yet to find the perfect every day rosé.

Although I’m a big fan of South African Chenin Blanc, it’s often tricky to find one at a decent price and I find myself back in the Languedoc to reveal my favourite every day white. Picpoul de Pinet is dry, fresh and minerally, fabulous with seafood, particularly oysters (or crisps of course) and superb value. The wine is pretty consistent between producers as far as I can tell and if you take it to a party, because it’s in a funny pointy bottle, not unlike a Riesling, people generally steer clear of it – what’s there not to like? Tesco are currently selling their Finest Picpoul de Pinet, my main tipple over the summer of 2012, at a steal for the equivalent of £4.50 when bought as a 6 bottle case!!!

So now I’ve come full circle, I thought I’d end with one for all you ‘new world’ wine lovers, and it’s not from Australia (sorry Mum). Chile right now is producing some fantastic well-priced wines, my favourite reds being the medium bodied and spicy Carmenere. There are some less-expensive examples out there for the taking, but the leggy red I have beside me, a Casa Silva in the Colchagua Valley is very agreeable indeed. This 2011 Cabarnet Sauvignon-Carmenere blend has blackberries on the nose and a well rounded spicy palate with a hint of acidity and long soft tannin. At £6.99, a little more than a fiver I know, I will be revisiting Palmers Wine Store, Bridport (who are also online), to stock up in time for Christmas, and I can trust there won’t be a dodgy ‘2 for tenner’ deal insight!

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