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Screw-top versus box

07 March 2014


GIVEN the recent reports that suggested that wine had played too important a part in the social life of a certain Merseyside parish (News, 24 January), I have a certain hesitancy in writing about which wines to choose for church functions.

I know that, in my own benefice, the availability of a glass of wine has saved a number of events from making a loss. Perhaps surprisingly, we have been more successful when we have not charged for a glass of wine, but asked for donations.

To some extent, the nature of the event can dictate the wine that you buy. If it is needed for a parish supper, for example, the serving of the wine is a more leisurely affair, and it might be best to purchase a bag-in-box. If you are under pressure to get wine out rapidly in the interval, say, of the church pantomime, it is better to buy wine in bottles with screw caps. Struggling with a corkscrew can be very frustrating at such a time, as can the fiddly tap on a bag-in-box.

The question of price is an important one. Buying the cheapest possible wine does have its attractions, but it is scarcely likely to get the customer asking for a second glass. I also find that it is essential that red wines should not have many tannins, or whites too much acidity. Nevertheless, the nature of the event can make a difference: some tannins are more acceptable at a sausage-and-mash supper than as a stand-alone wine in an interval.

For those seeking the cheapest wine, the final demise of the three-bottles-for-£10 offer at ASDA must come as a blow. They now say, however, that they have more than "50 wines at £4 or less". Certainly, their range of low-priced wines appears to be the broadest.

Many churches might wish to serve Fairtrade wines at their events, but it is increasingly difficult to find these at reasonable prices. My local Co-op superstore seems to offer only a three-litre bag-in-box of South African Chenin-Semillon at £18.99, the equivalent of £4.75 a bottle. But their website suggests that they also have an Argentine Bonarda-Shiraz at £4.99, and Chilean three-litre BIB Merlot-Cabernet-Shiraz at £17.99 (£4.50 per bottle equivalent). Non-Fairtrade wines from the Co-op that seem of interest: Vanderburg Cape Shiraz-Pinotage (currently £2 off, at £4.49), the Spanish Toronegro, from Extremadura (£4), and French Claret and Côtes du Rhône, both at £4.75.

I am a fan of the Sainsbury's House Wines range, but some that I have enjoyed, such as the Muscadet, in white, and Tempranillo and Côtes du Rhône, in red, have risen to £4.75. Their bland but inoffensive white wine, Soave, is available in a number of formats: the most practical would seem to be the two-litre screw-cap bottle at £7.85.

ASDA seems strongest in its range of red wines: from Italy, try their Morano Sangiovese Rubicone (£4); Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (£4.25); and Chile, El Riquelme Malbec (£4). As a cheap-and-cheerful white, the Seven Hills Italian Vino da Tavola (£7.50, two litre) should be worth a punt.

I hope your social events run better as a result of these wines.

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