Great Wines for Under £20

Having been spoilt last week with a visit to Robert Parkers Matter of Taste event in Covent Garden where I had the opportunity to taste many once in a lifetime wines way out of my budget I have been looking at everyday wines that we can all access for under £20. There are so many wine stores now, supermarkets, online, independent retailers, wine clubs etc….. too much choice. I have my own favourite wine shops in London but many of us buy wine as part of our weekly supermarket shop so to kick off I have selected one supermarket and 1 independent retailer but there are plenty more.

For me Waitrose probably has the best supermarket wine department and even the small stores carry some good bottles. Bigger stores offer a great selection and carry a fine wine section too.

Here are few recommendations under £20 currently available.

White Wines

Zind Humbrecht French White £17.99

Blended Alsace wine from one of the great houses.

Catena Chardonnay Argentina £12.99

Bold oak aged Chardonnay, they make great reds too

Cune Barrel fermented White Rioja £8.24

Traditional White Rioja always good

Red Wines

 

Michel Rolland Clos de Los Siete, Argentina £15.75

Malbec/Merlot Blend

1st Press Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, USA £17.99

Powerful California Cabernet

Guigal Cote de Rhone, France £10.99

One of the great producers in the Rhone Valley Syrah/Grenache

Valdivieso Merlot, Chile £12.49

Solid fruit driven Merlot from this very reliable new world producer

 

One of my favourite stand alone wine shops is Last Drop Wines on the Kings Rd. Andrea selects all the wines personally, cares about every aspect of her business and has some great wines under £20.

She also holds regular Tuesday evening tutored tastings.

 

White Wines

Graham Beck Brut NV South Africa £13.99

Exceptional value Sparkling Wine

Gentil 2012, Hugel Alsace £14.99

A timeless blend of regional varieties great with food or without

Vouvray, Marc Bredif 2012 £15.99

Often overlooked old master of Chenin Blanc

Red Wines

Colonial Estate Old Vine Shiraz, 2011 Australia £13.99

Rich fruit driven old vine Shiraz

Chateau Barde-Haut, 2006 St Emilion, France £19.99

Good quality claret with some decent bottle age at an affordable price

This is just a taster, there are plenty more and most wine shops are very helpful these days with well trained staff on hand to offer advice and guidance. Some have online chat facilities on their website (Oddbins) to help you choose depending on style of wine, budget etc.

Prices correct at the time of publishing

Corks Photo by Elisha Terada 

 

 

My Favourite Wine Shops

wine rackSupermarkets have totally changed the way we buy alcohol. The booze section in my local Sainsbury takes up 3 aisles, is located near the entrance and the choice is MASSIVE. It is so easy to pick up a bottle of wine (Gin or beer) with your other shopping and there are always deals and bargains. BUT as a discerning drinker, without a huge budget, I rarely find anything I fancy. Waitrose probably have the most interesting supermarket wine shelf.

There are plenty of independent wine shops offering great products at sensible prices. They do not provide the convenience of supermarkets, unless you happen to live next door, but have more interesting wines (beers & spirits) knowledgeable staff and a more enjoyable shopping experience. Here are a few of my favourites in London.

The Samplersampler

This has to be top of my list. there are 2 shops, South Ken & Islington, but the Kensington branch is by far the best. They operate a sampling system where you buy wine credits on a card and can then taste wines. There are usually about 80 to choose from and some of them are once in a lifetime opportunities. Today they have Chateau Margaux 1924 & 1959, Haut Brion 1989 and Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2002. These are not cheap as you can imagine and there are plenty of more affordable samples too but it is difficult not to try one when you are browsing other wines. Sampler’s strength is independent growers and there is lots on the shelf you will never have heard of. Staff are very knowledgeable, not pushy and let you browse at your own pace. The range of growers Champagne is exceptional.

I bought some 4 Kilos and Domaine of the Bee on my last visit. They also stock Zalto glasses (simply the best) and have a cafe/bar down stairs. The only problem with this shop is that I always end up spending more than I planned.

35 Thurloe Place SW7 2HP

266 Upper Street N1 2UQ

 

last dropLast Drop Wines

This stand alone, owner run, old style wine shop is the perfect antidote to supermarket shopping. Andrea knows her wines and her customers, picks all the wines personally and cares about every aspect of her business. The wines are very well displayed and easy to navigate. She always has some older vintages (claret especially) and a good choice of magnums and stickies.IMG_1952

Prices are very good.There are regular informal wine tastings and events, usually with some delicious canapés. I wish I lived nearer!

492 Kings Road  SW10 0LE

 

 

PhilglasPhilglas & Swiggot

Another great owner run wine shop with more than one branch. Phil & Swig is where I buy most of my wine as it is quite close to home. They have a good choice from all over the world, South Africa is particularly strong with some great wines from Argentina and Italy too. Good selection of spirits, single malts, micro-beers etc. Last visit I bought some Pulenta Gran Corte,(delicious and very good value) and some old school Gewurztraminer from Rolly Gassman.

They have spent a lot of time and money on the website that is excellent, easy to navigate with good photos of the wines. Also stock Reidel & Zalto glasses with some great decanters and wine accessories.

22 New Quebec Street, W1H 7SB

64 Hill Rise ,Richmond, TW10 6UB

21 Northcote Road, SW11 1NG

Others worth a visit

berry brosBerry Brothers & Rudd. An institution and still fabulous with some good value case discounts if you are buying in bulk.

 

 

 

dvineDVine Wines. Boutique wine shop with a nice little wine bar too. Tasting system in place so you can try before you buy.

 

 

 

bottle apostleBottle Apostle. Several branches, lots of choice, excellent website with tasting notes etc + regular events & pop ups.

 

 

 

vagaboindVagabond. Award-winning wine bar and shop, always something interesting, lovely staff.

A Grand Day Out-Mash ‘N Secretts

Few large companies manage to stay in touch with their grass roots customer base. The bigger they become the more corporate the management and the less personal the service with little or no interaction with their most valuable asset……..their customers. Newsletters and  Nectar cards just don’t bridge the gap.

What a great surprise then to be invited to “A Grand Day Out” by Mash Purveyors.

This family run business that is now a household name in every professional kitchen in London has just moved to a new multimillion pound state of the art site near Wembley Stadium. Mash HQ

From humble beginnings peddling spuds in Spitalfields market in the early 1800’s

Early Mash

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mash is now one of the most respected suppliers to the restaurant trade in the capital working with the most demanding and difficult clientele…professional chefs……but they haven’t lost touch with their customers and continue to show just how important we are.

Monday morning then 9.00am and 60 chefs from all over London arrived at Mash HQ to be greeted with a Champagne breakfast, croissants, delicious cherries, smoked salmon sliders and much more. After breakfast (sorry no photos, haven’t mastered holding a champagne glass, smoked salmon and an iphone yet!!) we were ushered onto  luxury coaches and taken to another family run business with a special history Secretts Farm in Milford near Godalming.

Here we were welcomed by the family, refreshed with cold drinks and then treated to a brilliant tour of the farm. Secretts grow a huge range of products, both avant garde and heritage, for cooks and chefs throughout the south. Our tour guide was Greg Secrett, Greg Secrett4th generation,  enthusiastic, knowledgeable, entertaining and informative, he clearly wasn’t reading a script and lives and breaths the family business passing on his love of the land and produce to his audience. We saw salsify flowers, red mustard frills, land cress, heritage beetroot, rainbow chard, strawberries, red currants, composting, potting, pruning and of course some weeding too.

Nothing is held in stock and every item is picked to order, not an easy job as Mash send down a lorry to collect orders for London’s top restaurants everyday at noon. The same traditional family values are fundamental to both businesses which is probably why they work so well together. After the tour, more hospitality as we were treated to a wonderful hog roast, cold beers and  strawberries from the farm (too busy eating to take any photos). The day finishes with a return trip to London and a tour of the new Mash HQ. This huge state of the art facility has packing rooms, cold storage, ripening rooms, foraging tables, drying rooms (wild mushrooms), preparation tables etc. The size of the investment and attention to detail is staggering.

Needless to say all the lucky chefs who attended the day were blown away by the people they met, the good old fashioned hospitality, care and generosity of the invitation. We were all inspired by the passion for the land and farming and by the range of produce available for our kitchens. Every chef went away happy, feeling valued, and motivated……what a shame the banking industry can’t learn from this.

So thank you Mash and thank you Secretts and please put me down for next year!

 

 

Mash….Food of the Gods.

As Head Chef of one of London’s most fashionable fine dining restaurants in the early 1980’s I was a regular visitor to Covent Garden Market buying the best fruit and vegetables for my kitchen. In those days the most exotic veg on the market was Mangetout and the trending salad leaves Lollo Rosso. The market was a busy wholesale environment, loading, unloading, buying, selling, haggling, lots of swearing …………..and the market café ……always full.

Barrow BoyAll that has changed, the old buyers walk busy with boxes of produce and barrow boys is long gone. Supermarkets now account for a huge proportion of the fruit and veg sales in the country and have their own, packing and processing plants, lots of the produce, though pretty to look at, lacks flavour, supermarket fruit never ripens it just goes off!……

Lets do Supermarkets another time…..

Sounds a bit bleak ……but all is not lost and the lucky chefs cooking today have a fantastic choice of produce to use on their menus. New… Exotic …Heritage… Wild… .Foraged….Forced…Flown in…..that they can Vac Pac ….Dehydrate …..Gel …..Evaporate ….Slow Cook …..Compress and Ferment.

A new breed of supplier has had to evolve to cater for this.

MashStanding head and shoulders above the rest is Mash Purveyors a family business established by Joseph Mash in the 1820’s.

This is still a family business and the team at Mash have a tireless energy and passion for their trade. They are working closely with growers from all over the world to develop, import and promote this produce. They are a thoroughly modern company but with traditional core values, strong on customer service, emphatic about food provenance and so passionate about quality. From this, and not overnight, they have created their own unique niche market. Others will follow suit and copy for sure but Mash are now champions of every Michelin star kitchen in the capital and thoroughly deserved.

David SwainEarlier this week I was fortunate to spend a totally inspirational morning with one of the company directors David Swain tasting produce, learning about out how they source, stock and deliver the fantastic array of ingredients they now have on offer. David is so passionate and committed and knowledgeable it was a pleasure to just walk alongside him as we toured the storeroom.

Any chef short of ideas or inspiration should just spend 20 minutes here to be completely blown away. In the old days veg was an accompaniment to meat and usually shared the plate with a potato. Chefs today have out of this world produce to choose from. I saw Calcot onions from Tarragona, Butterfly Sorrel flowers, delicious Apple Blossom, Sea Fennel, 3 Cornered Wild Garlic, (60Kg foraged each week)

Fiddleback Ferns, Forced Sea Kale, Friseline, Oca Tubers, Skirret, Finger Limes from Australia, Sea Beet, the most delicious Muscatel Grapes, was like eating wine, new season Gariguette Strawberries, perfectly graded Leeks, Goldrush Apples, Olroyds Rhubarb (2 grades) Israeli Etrog and superb Black Truffles

The customer base at Mash includes all the top London restaurants, these chefs are at the peak of their careers, they are incredibly demanding, standards are exceptionally high and they do not tolerate second rate produce or sloppy service. Mash are delivering a unique product in this very challenging environment and raising the bar every day.

I was Gobsmacked…………….