Tesco 20 Oct 09

(by peter)

There was a moment during the Tesco autumn tasting when a bottle of Champagne (Bollinger Grande Année, if you must know) exploded and showered all those in the vicinity with pretty expensive bubbles. For a brief moment, vintage Champagne was dripping from the roof of the Royal Festival Hall.

Tesco tasting 2That was about as exciting as things got.

This is not to say the wines were dull. Far from it – there was decent variety on show, something for everyone, just the kind of solid performance for which Tesco is known. But hardly thrilling (note the profusion of similar scores).

Given the economic circumstances, this is hardly unexpected, and it’s probably the kind of performance you’d expect of Britain’s biggest grocer. But gone are the heady days when Tesco tried to be innovative and ground-breaking with its wine range. Now it’s more about value and reliability (and, in this context, it’s fair to say that the own-label and Finest ranges perform particularly well).

Can we argue with that..? Caveat emptor.

Below are brief highlights


Tesco Finest Gavi DOCG 2008, 12.5% – £7.49

Stoney, herby nose. Good citrus waxy tang. Very good. 6.5/10

Tesco Finest Fiano IGT 2008, 13.5% – £6.49

Not the most obvious style but good citrus and waxy palate profile. Spicy edge to it. Fine. 6.5/10

Paul Mas La Forge Marsanne VdP 2008, 13.5% – £7.99

Inviting apple and honeysuckle aromas. Crisp but rounded, user-friendly, persistent. 6.5/10

The Reach Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, 12.5% – £8.04

This brand, which is owned and sourced by Tesco, caused a bit of a storm when they launched it recently and it went straight into the top 5 selling New Zealand SBs in the UK. Such is the power of Tesco’s distribution…and it’s tough to argue against it given the polished nature of this tangy, green peppery white with crisp, juicy palate and good persistence. It’s made by Vavasour, after all. 6.5/10

Peter Lehmann Semillon 2005, Barossa, 11.5% – £5.99

Classic petrol lime and honeycomb aromas. Rounded, smooth, herby and with a good citric tang underneath. Light richness to it. Not the longest or most complex but very drinkable. 6/10

Tesco Finest Denman Semillon 2006, 10.5% – £7.99

Another long-time Tesco favourite, this glazed citrus-infused white is soft and tangy but with an elegant richness that really lends itself to food. 6.5/10

Tesco AC Chablis 2008, 12.5% – £7.48

Light mineral and blanched nut nose. Crisp tangy green apple palate, persistent. Good. Quite a bit of grippy extract to it. 6.5/10

Tesco Mâcon-Villages AC 2008, 12.5% – £5.98

Creamy honeyed nose. Soft, quite lush palate. Some might think this is a bit sickly but if you’re eating creamy/buttery food, this could work well. And it’s a very acceptable price. 5.5/10

Tesco Finest Denman Chardonnay 2007, 13% – £7.99

Smoky limey fruit. Creamy palate but not sickly or sweet (surprising given there’s about 5g/l of residual sugar – but then the acidity is pretty crisp too so the balance works well). Works well. 6/10

Tesco Finest Gaston d’Orleans Vouvray Demi-Sec 2008, 12% – £6.95

I’d say this was a bargain. Fairly typical CHenin Blanc nose of honeyed peas – but none of that dirty edge that can often come through. Acidity is fresh but you don’t notice it too much because of the well-balanced sweetness, which leads into an off-dry finish. Structured, glazed and versatile for food. 7/10


Marchesini Pinot Noir IGT 2008, 11.8% – £3.49

Note the price. You can’t really argue with it, can you? Especially when the wine shows fresh red berry fruit on the nose, and a crisp, light-bodied palate that’s balanced and easy-going. Good value. 3

Tesco Finest Nuits St Georges 2006, 13% – £18.99

Creamy hedgerow fruit. Young. But a delicious, crunchy, juicy and moreish palate. Complex and elegant. Delightful. 7.5/10

Cono Sur Reserva Pinot Noir 2008, Colchagua, 14% – £8.09

This wine hasn’t performed particularly well for me in the past, but on this occasion it did, showing lots of minty jammy black and red berry fruit, with smoke and ginger hints. ON the palate it’s fresh, juicy and rounded, with a savoury twang. Great at the price. 6.5/10

Tesco Finest Pinot Noir 2008, Marlborough, 13.5% – £8.98

This is the one I recommended on Saturday Kitchen last weekend (17/10/09) and it went down a treat with Michel Roux Jr’s veal blanquette. It’s not the punchiest style, but it’s good for it: floral plump red berry fruits, scented. Palate is spicy and with good crunchy red fruit. Seems a tad more concentrated than the previous 2007 vintage. 6.5/10

Villa Maria “Reserve” Pinot Noir Marlborough 2007, 14% – £16.99

One of Susie’s favourites. This shows elegant brambly leaf fruit on the nose. Rounded, silky dense palate. Very friendly. For me it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi – call it integration, or real elegance – but there’s no denying this is a delicious, crowd-pleasing style in a classic Marlborough Pinot Noir fashion. 7.5/10

Stockman’s Station Pinot Noir Central Otago 2006, 14% – £13.99

A contrast to the Villa Maria style, this one is definitely for the devotees of Pinot Noir’s more feral side, with an earthy, savoury character and a spicy, juicy palate. Very good. 7.5/10

Tesco Finest Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2005, 13% – £7.20

Floral soupy red and black fruit nose. Quite modern, quite inviting. Palate is juicy, not as firm as might be expected but that’s no bad thing in Chianti – so it’s pretty drinkable. Pleasant. 6.5/10

Tesco Finest Barbera d’Asti 2006, 13.5% – £6.99

Floral plum and cherry nose. Crunchy, juicy, very good indeed. Crisp acidity and firmish tannin means it needs the right food. 6/10

Monte Nobile Squinzano Riserva 2005, 13% – £8.99

Scented cherry nose. Smooth attack, rounded and juicy palate, with a touch of spice and heat. But mainly just a smooth cherried presence that’s pretty versatile. 6/10

La Différence Carignan VdP 2008, 13.5% – £5.48

I’ve been impressed by this brand’s reliability recently, and this is a high point of the portfolio. Stalky red berry aromas with hints of white pepper and leather. Crisp, juicy, lively but rounded. Fine. Needs light food. Nip of tannin. Good value. 5/10

Paul Mas La Forge Malbec VdP 2008, 13.5% – £7.99

Good inky graphite aromas with floral and damson hints. IN the mouth it’s juicy, linear and long, with firm tannin but not at all tough or astringent. Very well made and impressive. 6.5-7/10

Tesco Finest Crozes-Hermitage 2006, 12.5% – £7.99

Classic black olive and fresh meat nose, though with a slightly funky stewed fruit hint. Good mid-weight, elegant palate. Could have a bit more concentration – but at this price you can’t really argue. Savoury and very drinkable. 6.5-7/10

Tesco Finest Hermitage 2005, 13% – £19.99

The real deal. Elegant dried cassis, baked cream and grilled meat nose. Palate is rounded, silky and full of refined, savoury flavour. Delicious. 8/10

Tesco Chilean Merlot 2008, 12.5% – £3.28

I don’t think Susie appreciated this one as much as I did. But I thought it made an instructive counterpoint to the similarly priced Aussie Red, which was far more sugary and floppy. This is full of red pepper and pure cassis, with a silky, juicy palate that’s simple but very acceptable. 4/10

Fairhills Malbec Syrah Tempranillo 2008 Fairtrade, 13.5% – £5.99

Floral cherry nose. Quite crunchy fruit, simple but fresh and lifted. Touch of spice on the finish too. This is fine at the level. And good for your conscience too. 4.5/10

Tesco Finest Malbec 2008, 13.5% – £6.99

Originally I thought this was an absolute bargain at just over £4 – then they told me the price had been printed wrongly…No matter. This is still a fine example of what Malbec can and should be. Made by the seasoned hands at Catena, this exudes floral, cream and damson aromas, with a hint of black pepper. The palate is juicy and rounded, with just a nip of tannin – though all quite smooth and silky. Very user-friendly. 5.5/10

Angove Nine Vines Tempranillo Shiraz 2006, 13.5% – £6.24

Lots of creamy aromas. Roasted coffee, stalky red berries. Touch of mint. Palate is juicy and creamy, with firm tannin but not too aggressive. It’s a grown-up style. And a bit different. Works well. 6/10

Botham-Merrill-Willis Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, McLaren Vale & Coonawarra, 14.5% – £9.49

If you like a bit of cricketing heritage behind your wine, this one’s for you. Ian Botham and Bob Willis apparently met Ozzie wine legend Geoff Merrill during England’s tour down under in 1978; their friendship has led to this wine. In contrast to many such celebrity offerings, it’s pretty decent stuff. Creamy plum, prune aromas and some pleasant bottle age. Palate is full but lifted and juicy, with a pleasantly rounded finish. Serious stuff! 7/10

Tesco Finest Howcroft Estate Shiraz Limestone Coast 2008, 14% – £7.99

Spicy black pepper nose with fresh cassis and spearmint notes. Crunchy, juicy, peppery fruit on the palate, with firmish but svelte tannins. Savoury. Serious. Very good. 7/10

La Motte Shiraz 2007, 14% – £9.99

Smells like freshly grilled lamb steak with rosemary. Black pepper. Toasty notes. Palate is spicy, savoury and full. Bit hot on the finish but it works. 6.5/10

Vergelegen Red 2003, 14.5% – £24.99

An ambitious wine that almost hits its mark. Nose is very bordelais – green pepper, graphite, tobacco and sweated plums. The palate is firm and needs food. Has tons of lovely savoury flavours – roasted pepper, tobacco leaf – but it’s altogether richer, more warming than Bordeaux. Ultimately, that’s its failing: too much alcohol and tannin (as if it’s trying just a bit too hard) when great Bordeaux tends to be more mid-weight and subtle in style. But if that’s your thing…7.5/10


Taylor’s Quinta da Vargellas Vintage Port 1998, 20% – £24.99

Beautifully crafted vintage port. Super elegant black pepper and baked damson nose, with a succulent palate full of fire and spice. Very good indeed. 8/10