One of the questions I get asked regularly is: what do you need to spend on a wine to ensure you are getting a decent bottle? And, like so many questions, the answer is: it depends – on where you shop (supermarkets or indies), what the occasion is and your personal taste. If you are into natural wine, for example, you would be lucky to find a good bottle for less than £10, but if you are looking for everyday drinking and live near an Aldi or a Lidl, you are laughing.
That said, wine pricing is a shifting scene. The bottle I recommend today from Lidl is expensive for that store, but still good value for verdicchio, an Italian white I love for its versatility with food. You would normally be looking for something around the £5.49 to £6.99 mark in Lidl’s aisles, but these days the likes of Asda, Morrisons and Co-op can often match that.
If you shop at Marks & Spencer, Waitrose or Booths, on the other hand, the sweet spot is more likely to be £7.49 to £8.99, but, as I mentioned a couple of months ago, M&S recently introduced its classics range with a £7 claret. Although the average price for a bottle of wine in Waitrose is £8.19, it does a lot of deals, including 25% off across the board. As at Majestic, it doesn’t make sense to pay full price.
It also depends on your attitude to spending money on wine. Are you proud of your ability to bag a bargain, and happy to boast about it, or worried about being considered ungenerous? This doesn’t necessarily correlate to disposable income, either. I was talking to a well-heeled restaurateur the other day who was boasting of the bargain pinot grigio he had snapped up at Sainsbury’s for £5.99, while I have had taxi drivers tell me they spend £10 to £12 a bottle. (Driving for a living, they no doubt drink less than restaurateurs.) What constitutes a “decent” wine also means different things to different people: it might mean organic and sustainable; it might mean wanting to support a small/local business, in which case you may be prepared to spend the couple of quid more that your local indie will tend to charge.
Finally, a gentle reminder: the more you pay for a wine, the more goes on the liquid in the bottle. There is 31p-worth of wine in a £5 bottle, compared with £1.43-worth in a £7.50 one. Just sayin’.
Five good-value supermarket buys
Extra Special Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2019 £5.50 Asda, 13%. A hearty, rustic, brambly, southern Italian red. Not subtle, but satisfying, especially for the price. Perfect for spag bol.
Castillo de Olite Colección Tinto 2015 £6.99 (on offer) Waitrose, 13.5%. There is 25% off this big, boisterous, rioja-style red, which makes it a proper bargain. Borderline posh.
Laurana Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2019 £7.49 Lidl, 13.5%. Among Lidl’s pricier bottles, but still good value for a very attractive crisp, fresh, seafood-friendly white (and cheaper than chablis or albariño).
Pierre Jaurant Alsace Pinot Blanc 2018 £5.99 Aldi, 12.5%. Smooth, creamy Alsace pinot blanc is massively underrated. Perfect if you find whites such as sauvignon too sharp.
Irresistible Bio Bio Valley Malbec 2017 7 Co-op, 13% Big, lush belter of a Chilean malbec that could even stand up to a curry. A lot of wine for the money.