I AM often asked which is the best place on the high street to buy wines. This is an almost impossible question to answer, as it depends on not just the enquirer’s palate, but also his or her purse. But one way of answering has recently arrived on my desk: the results of the Decanter World Wine Awards 2015.
One of the largest competitions, it drew 15,929 entries this year. The judges are experts from around the world, and all wines are tasted blind and against the peers in region, grape variety, style, and price. This means that value for money is taken into consideration as well as quality.
Lists are given of 15 of the main retailers, and the marks that have been given to the wines that they stock. Of course, it is difficult to make direct comparisons, as we are not told how many wines each company submitted.
In these straitened times, I have limited my choice to wines that retail at less than £10, from a broad range of countries. If we begin with fortified wines, I am pleased that a wine I have recommended won an International Trophy. The wine is Williams and Humbert Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 12-year-old Pedro Ximenez (Sainsbury’s, £8). Among other sherries on the podium are Morrison’s Signature Oloroso (£5.99), and Williams & Humbert Extra Dry and Light Manzanilla (M&S, £7.50).
Among the white wines, Moldova is represented by Albastrele Pinot Grigio 2014 (Laithwaites, £7.99); Austria with the Signature Grüner Veltliner 2014 (Morrison’s, £6.99); Italy with the Wine Atlas Grillo Terre Siciliane 2014 (ASDA, £4.97); Chile, with another wine I have long enjoyed, the Viña Leyda Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Great Western Wines, £8.95); Australia with the Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling 2014 (Aldi, £6.99); and South Africa with the Coastal Region Extra Special Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (ASDA, £7).
New Zealand creeps in with Peter Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Co-op, £9.99). From Spain, I would choose the Pazo de Villarei Rías Baixas 2014, made from the Albariño grape (the Wine Society, £8.50); from Portugal, the Casal de Ventozela Loureiro Vinho Verde 2014 (Majestic, £9.99). France’s representative would be Majestic’s Château de Cléray Muscadet Sur Lie 2014 (£9.99).
In the red wines, price seems to be less of a factor in the awards. Lidl’s bronze-medal Chianti 2014 is a paltry £4.79; ASDA’s gold-medal Extra Special Malbec 2014 from Mendoza, in Argentina, is just £5. The Co-op won a gold for Truly Irresistible Malbec Bio Bio Valley, from Chile (£6.99); and so did Waitrose with its South African Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014 (£7.99). What appears to be the only Fairtrade wine in the medals is Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Leap Point Pinotage 2014, also from South Africa, at £8.
For lovers of sparkling wine, there are Aldi’s Philippe Michel’s Crémant du Jura 2012 (£7.29), and the Co-op’s Special Cuvée Prosecco (£9.99). You don’t have to dig deep to drink well.