Wines of the Week

(by peter & susie)

Finest-DouroI had a fascinating chat with Tesco’s wine chief Laura Jewell MW the other day.

It was at a female-focused dinner (I snuck in under the radar by pretending to be Susie) to celebrate Jewell winning DB’s Woman of the Year award, as well as a clutch of other gongs including Decanter’s prestigious Supermarket of the Year.

Tesco are pretty bullish on the wine front at the moment so it was intriguing to get an insight into their strategy and current situation. The following:

  • Tesco’s top-selling Finest wine by volume is its Bisol-produced Prosecco (around 1.5 million bottles per year). Another big earner is the 1er Cru Champagne, albeit at a lesser 600,000 bottles or so, and the VdP Gascogne white also does well.
  • The next big thing in Finest? Might be an Italian white. Their Finest Fiano has had a huge upsurge in sales lately as a result of including it in their meal-deal – people gave it a try and then stuck with it. This looks like an encouraging new marketing strategy. Although it’s still essentially a discount dynamic, it encourages wine to be drunk with food and can help people trade up and into less well known styles. And the new ‘premium’ meal-deal at £20 rather than £10 also allows for more interesting wines to be included.
  • There are now 133 Finest wines in Tesco’s range: the biggest premium own-label range on the market. Own label now accounts for just under a quarter of the range and Jewell said she’s happy at around this level.
  • The new Groceries Supply Code of Practice, adjudicated by Christine Tacon CBE, should ensure fairer dealings between retailers and suppliers. Though what exactly is meant by ‘fair’ is a moot point.
  • There is concern about how many younger drinkers are being lured away from wine by flavoured ciders and other drinks. The solution? Flavoured wines. Tesco will be unveiling these soon and Jewell mentioned both tropical as well as fresher flavours, stressing the importance of having ‘natural’ rather than ‘confected’ flavour profiles.
  • Among the drinks products with highest purchase loyalty are the Portuguese rosé and Lambrini.

On the subject of wines, we tasted various Finest bottles at the dinner, the standout being Finest Douro 2012, 13% (£6.00). I then tasted this again with Susie at home when doing some recipe & wine testing for Saturday Kitchen. It’s delightfully juicy and peppery, full-flavoured without being overblown, very food friendly and with a lovely floral/gently bittersweet fruit character.

Not only is this a very worthy wine of the week, it’s also discombobulatingly good value. Especially since Tesco has 20% off when you buy four or more bottles of Finest wines from 26th Feb to 18th March, which takes the price down to £4.80. (Or, if you want to mix and match with another red, go for the Finest Cotes Catalanes Grenache 2012, currently down to £5.99 from £7.49, and £4.79 with the 20% offer.)

On a final note, M&S also has a 25% offer (when you buy six) running until 9th March. Try the delightful Organic Chablis 2011 (£11.24 down from £14.99) or, by way of a bargain, the zippy Gers 2012 (down to £3.74 from £4.99).