Sainsbury’s 15 Oct 09

Sainsburys tasting(by peter)

It was Thursday. The big white room at the back of the Delfina gallery was filled with Sainsbury’s wines, beers and spirits. As well as a few strategically placed Kentia palms. (See photo, right, complete with Susie looking very serious and professional.)

Susie and I both agreed afterwards that the showing was good – not great, but definitely an improvement on recent performances that Sainsbury’s wines have put in. (Over the last few years, the showing has all too often been lacklustre if not terrible – as if the grocer was treading water and reacting to competitors rather than taking the initiative itself, as well as shifting its buying team around all too often).

Anyway, there were tentative signs of improvements at hand – a particular case in point of which was the outstanding new range of white Burgundies, Sainsbury’s having made the bold decision to switch its main Burgundian suppliers.

Highlights as below.


Viñalba Selección Torrontés 2009, 12.5% – £7.99

Good white pepper and grape-scented nose. Exotic. Palate is juicy and grapey, with spicy hints. Rounded and quite succulent in a modest way. Could be more complex for the price but this is a good option for moderately spiced Thai and Indian dishes. 5/10

Waipara Hills “Soul of the South” Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, 12.5% – £8.99

Fresh peas and tomato leaf nose. Good crunchy peas and citrus fruit on the palate – clean, fresh, zingy and pleasant. Good. 6.5/10

Maycas del Limarí Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2007, 13% – £8.99

Not the most immediately expressive on the nose – chalky gooseberry notes. But the palate is much more engaging: vibrant pea pod and ripe lemon flavours, tangy and moreish. Lovely structure, very good, with mineral hints. 7/10

Sainsbury’s White Burgundy 2008, 12.5% – £5.69

Nothing special. Just a fresh, drinkable Chardonnay at a great price. Rare to find this in Burgundy…tastes of fresh green apples, with a lightly creamy texture. Simple but persistent. Very good at the price. 4.5/10

Taste the difference Mâcon-Villages 2008, 12.5% – £5.99

Bright aromatics but not majoring on fruit: blanched nuts, mineral tones, apple peel. Crisp, appley palate, with a depth of flavour that’s not from oak but from lees ageing. Succulent, subtle, persistent. Lovely stuff at this price. 5.5/10

Taste the difference Petit Chablis 2008, 12.5% – £7.51

The star of this gem of a range of white Burgundies: it’s classic (woolly saline aromatics) and wholly enjoyable, with its crisp acidity, refreshing style and lingering mineral flavours. Excellent stuff. 6.5/10

Chablis 2008, La Chablisienne 2008, 12% – £8.99

Good layered flavours here: citrus fruit, green apples, light nuts and woolly notes. More structured and complex than the Petit Chablis but not as good value, either. 6.5/10

Taste the difference Chablis 2007, 12% – £8.96

Another step up. Elegant, classic and with notable concentration. Rounded, subtle and very toothsome indeed. 7/10

Taste the difference Albariño 2008, 12.5% – £6.80

Apricot, peach nose. Crunchy, rounded style with a touch of spice. Hint of exotic fruit. Very good indeed, and great value. 6.5/10

Première Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2008, 12.5% – £5.79

Sweaty, nettle aromas. Good gooseberry flavours, light minerality and spice. Fine at the price. Tangy. 5.5/10

Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre 2008, 12.5% – £11.99

Elegant, complex, classic style with aromas of minerals, gooseberries and herbs. Layered palate, juicy and tangy with elegant spice. 7.5/10

Springfield Estate Special Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2009, 13% – £8.99

As ever, this wine doesn’t disappoint. The Bruwers are brilliant producers and they consistently manage to coax delightfully mineral pear and green pepper flavours from their Sauvignons. 7/10

Vouvray la Couronnes des Plantagenets 2008, 12% – £5.79

Peachy woolly nose. Not very engaging. Palate is lightly off-dry with restrained, quite neutral flavours. IT’s a wine you might dismiss at first sight because it’s a bit bland. But it’s also the kind of style that is really versatile when it comes to food matching, especially with hot dishes that already have a lot of flavour in themselves, and that touch of sugar will soften the heat. 6/10

Tahbilk Marsanne 2007, 12.5% – £9.99

Delightfully aromatic nose of apple rind and honeysuckle. Reminiscent of South Australian Riesling too – lime cordial and toasty hints. Crisp, limey palate with crunchy citrus fruit. Very good. 7/10

Villa Maria Private Bin Gewürztraminer 2008, 12.5% – £9.20

Honey and lychee nose, some musk. Quite an Alsatian style. Touch of residual sugar richness, deliberate full and lush style, pretty well done. Would like it to be a pound or two cheaper though. 6/10


Passo delle Mule Nero d’Avola 2007, 13.5% – £7.99

Scented, leathery, some dried fruit. Quite a grown up style. Juicy, leathery palate, with sweet and sour fruit style. Very appealing! Food friendly and firm without being overly rustic. Creamy finish. 6.5/10

Waipara Hills “Southern Cross” Pinot Noir 2007, Central Otago – £12.99

Leafy raspberry aromas. Good bittersweet fruit palate – quite layered, classic middle-of-the-road Otago style, beefy and earthy. Good. 7/10

Maycas del Limarí Syrah Reserva 2007, 14.5% – £8.99

Creamy oaky and dark chocolate nose. Blue fruit and ripe plum. Firm round tannin on the palate, minty hints with touches of liquorice, sweet spice and dark chocolate. Warming, savoury. Good not great. 6/10

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007, 13% – £8.99

Ah, now that’s how it’s done. Elegant though quite expressive nose of red fruit and black pepper. Then the palate has a wonderful lightness of touch despite being fairly complex. Elegant flavours of peppery fruit. Grown up, drinkable and scented. 7/10

Chemin des Olivettes 2008, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc, 13% – £7.99

One for the Worzel Gummidge fans: this is a rustic, wonderfully gnarly style of wine with flavours of wild flowers, ripe cassis and sweaty horses. Like I say, not for everyone…but the meatiness makes it very food-friendly in a classic southern French way. 7/10

Saint-Joseph 2007 ,Cave Saint Désirat, 13.5% – £11.99

Not the cheapest but then this is fine wine: classic olive, fresh meat and floral aromas, with a delightfully bittersweet and elegant palate. 7.5/10

Taste the difference Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2008, 12% – £9.99

In general, the whites from the revamped Burgundian range at Sainsbury’s are far more impressive than the reds. This was the one exception. Scented hedgerow fruits on the nose, then with a notably light, zippy palate, this is engagingly fresh and lifted style. You’ll get more weight and enjoyable succulence from many other Pinots around the world, but this is fine (especially if it gets promoted down to about £7, which would be its more natural level). 5.5/10

Sainsbury’s Limited Release Dão 2006, 13% – £8.99

Portugal really is the place to seek out fantastic bargains in diverse and elegant styles. This blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro Preto is sourced mainly from Sogrape’s Quinta dos Carvalhais vineyard. On the nose it shows cracked black pepper, plum and floral aromas. On the palate it has firm tannin but is rounded in style. Juicy, peppery, leafy. Very good. Needs a good piece of rabbit or belly pork. 6.5/10

Hermitage Noble Rives 2004, Caves de Tain, 13% – £19.99

Pricey, but worth it. If I had to pick one wine to drink with Christmas lunch from this lot – this would be it. Scented creamy berries and baked plum. Firm, fine, mineral and rounded. Savoury. Not too hot. Delicious. 8/10

Sainsbury’s Côtes du Rhône 2008, 12.5% – £3.52

At the price, this is cracking stuff. Light jammy aromas lead into a fresh, light, lifted palate that’s juicy and friendly. Fine! 3.5/10

Taste the difference Douro 2007, 14%, £7.27

Lovely warming baked damsons and blue fruit nose with a hint of coffee. Good succulent palate, firm but rounded, juicy. Serious. Good value. 6.5/10

Taste the difference Rioja Reserva 2004, 13% – £8.98

Classic Rioja Reserva at a decent price. Cream, cinnamon and orange rind flavours, with good juicy fruit and elegant development. 6.5/10

Taste the difference Chianti Classico 2007, 13.5% – £7.20

The Italian red range at Sainsbury’s is looking in pretty fine form (if you’ve got some extra cash to spare, splash out on the Barolo 2005 or VIno Nobile di Montepulciano 2006). But if not try this one. Good black cherry aromas. Dried fruit hints. Palate is firm and grippy: needs food. But it’s a classic austerity typical of the region. Dark choc notes. Fresh acidity. Needs the right dish…roast lamb breast? Pheasant casserole? 6-6.5/10

Taste the difference Barossa Shiraz 2008, 14.5% – £7.99

Glossy minty dark fruit. Juicy, dark chocolate aromas. This one really delivers. Balanced, not too hot or alcoholic. Classic but self-contained. Very well done. 6.5/10


Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs Champagne NV, 12% – £15.98

Something of a classic in the Sainsbury’s line-up now, this juicy, palate-drenching fizz is made from 40% Pinot Noir and 60% Pinot Meunier by SCA des Producteurs des Grands Terroirs de la Champagne. Which is a mouthful in itself. The predominance of Meunier means this is never going to be a particularly complex or focused style, instead its broad frothiness and engaging red apple flavours are what make it so enjoyable. And at this price, that’s fair enough. 6/10

Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésime 1999, 12% – £39.99

Smoky, baked citrus rind aromas with hints of cream and brioche. Pleasant bottle evolution here. Crisp palate, with green apples and lime, but also rounded and smooth-textured. The purity and elegance indicate a Chardonnay-dominant style (though in fact it’s a nearly even split: 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir). But that’s also a house style thing with LP: elegance is all. Lots of smoky rounded depth. Classy, complex. 7.5/10


Taste the difference Dry Amontillado 50cl, 19% – £6.49

The sherry range at Sainsbury’s is cracking. Try this one for size: spicy, delicious flavours of muscovado sugar and roasted nuts. Very dry. Try it with aged cheddar and be amazed. (Susie says Dundee cake; I defer to her experience.) 7.5/10