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.
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.
Although recently retired Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate self appointed wine guru lives on and had a showcase tasting at London Saatchi Gallery on Saturday. With over 600 wines and 900 visitors this was a major tasting event the entry qualifications were simple, all wines boasted a minimum of 90 Parker points.
Quite a show. The entire catalogue was available online so before visiting I shortlisted a selection of wines to taste. On arrival registration was all very quick , quite how the cloakroom attendant managed is a mystery, but navigating the catalogue and tables not so simple. Finding wines in the list when you were at a table or the location specific wines from the list proved quite difficult. This made it more and more complicated to create your own tasting notes on wines and after a while I left the catalogue, browsed wines freely and kept my own notes. This did result in me missing wines I had preselected for tasting notably the excellent Gonzales Byass range from Spain and the whole of Alsace!!!
All the wines were of an exceptional standard though the allocation of Parker points became a major subject for discussion. I tasted a Viognier from Australia (93) that was fresh, full of fruit, clearly Viognier but rather 2 dimensional with no subtleties or prospect to evolve followed by Jaboulet Condrieu 2012 (91) that was rich, complex, oaky, seductive and magnificent, I know which I prefer.
In general the old world exhibitors were showing older vintages, Gassin 2005, La Fleur de Petrus 2009, La Lagune 2004 and the New World the current release, nearly all the Aussie reds were 2012. The effect of bottle age was very clear. Having said that the best part of the day for me was definitely the Penfold table. 11 wines, some older vintages and a very knowledgeable team. Not having tasted Grange before they took me through a tutored introduction to Penfolds tasting 5 wines from the table starting with Bin 28, through Bin 389 and RWT and finishing with Grange 2009 (97). Thank you to Rohan Anderson for your time and attention especially with 900 other people queuing up for a slurp.
Next-door was Wynns Riddock also a strong table with Messenger 2010 (92)the clear winner. Other Aussie that showed well were Torbreck Descendant 2010 (96) and Run Rig (100)…Where do you go after that?
Other wines I really enjoyed were Elio Grasso Barolo (95), Harlan Estate Red (98+), Kistler Pinot Noir (90) and Shafer Stags Leap 2002 (100). From France La Lagune 2004 (90) in Jereboam, La Fleur Petrus 2009 (97), Jaboulet Pape de Terre 2010 (94), Remoissenet Mersault Blagny 2012 (91), were all excellent, some stunning Tokay Essencia 2007 (99) just released and still without a label and my personal favourite from the day Nicolas Catena Zapata 2004 (98+).
There were disappointments too, wines I had enjoyed in years past that I was keen to catch up with. Quinta de la Rosa 2012 (92) was one….. it just seemed flat and dull. I am sure if I was enjoying supper with friends this wine would have been delicious, Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante Allouette 2013 (93) and Pichon Longueville 2005 (94) also had a bad day.
Maybe these wines were just overshadowed by the sheer weight of quality on offer…. who knows …..we were certainly by-passing so many outstanding wines …..but there just wasn’t time to taste everything.
Another major plus was the ambience. 900 people all swirling, sniffing and spitting out on 3 floors can be quite intimidating and previous experience of large trade tastings has not always been positive, they can be over crowded, quite aggressive, making the wines difficult to enjoy. This wasn’t like that at all ….a good mix of people, all interested in wine, yes a few big names from the trade were there of course but there seemed to be plenty of time to talk to growers and other tasters. I was lucky enough to spend time with Laura Catena, Emma Cullen, Elio Grasso and others ..thank you all for your time.
Retail merchants were also on duty notable Yapp Brothers, Farr Vintners, Liberty and Justerini & Brooks. In addition to the fantastic selection of wines there were also tutored master classes available covering Consummate Chardonnay, Dominus Estate, Chapoutier and Penfolds plus others but these were all extra…and we didn’t really need them……there was so much choice.
All in all a fabulous day with outstanding wines and the opportunity to talk to growers and listen to them describing their work and wines with such passion.
Finally a massive thank you to brother Matthew for getting me a ticket…