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A lovely Portuguese red Sunday Best and impressive Argentinian chardonnay Friday Night Treat to add class to eating at home.

Constraints imposed this decade by Covid and by inflation mean that more people than before now “eat in” rather than go out.

However, most of us do miss the fun, slight adventure and sheer sociability restaurant visits usually bring.

Equally, though, eating in the comfort of wherever you call home is less time consuming and certainly saves money.

But, I suggest, now is an ideal time to add a little of the luxury and adventure to eating and entertaining at home that we usually get from restaurants.

Specialist foods is one way to do that – and so is spending a little more on the wine being drunk.  

What you would pay for a restaurant house wine can get you a more than decent quality wine to drink at home.

“Ah!” I hear the doubters say, “but isn’t there a risk of disappointment by moving towards unfamiliar and more expensive wines?”.

Yes, there can be, but that is where posts like today’s come into their own. 

I pinpoint wine that represents a step up from “conventional MidWeek Wines” but ones I think you can buy with confidence.

My Sunday Best choices are well-made, special occasion wines that offer something distinctive but still represent value for money. 

As a sort of “Halfway House” my Friday Night Treats perform a similar service but at a slightly lower price point.

I hope that all today’s selections work well for you.

Also today, is news of a “bottle appearance” experiment at Waitrose.

As is normal here, pictures and hyperlinks are provided where possible to guide you straight to the right wine on shelf or web page.

Friday Night Treat

2021 Alamos Chardonnay (£9 at Sainsbury’s – remember their multi-buy promotion though – and 13.5% abv):

  • Attractive, great value Argentinian chardonnay.
  • Mendoza’s climate helps its components integrate nicely.
  • Apple, melon and apricot flavours abound.
  • Oak provides initial aromatics and creamy smoothness.
  • Meanwhile, lime-based acidity adds vibrancy.

While Argentina’s Mendoza region is linked in most minds with malbec, never overlook the quality chardonnay produced there.

Very warm days but low night-time temperatures allow the grapes to ripen fully yet retain perfect levels of acidic freshness.

That, coupled with the measured use of oak, create nicely balanced results often (as here) for surprisingly modest money. 

Brilliantly balanced with a smooth, creamy texture, its initial oaky aromas lead into nutty apricot, cox’s apple and ripe melon flavours.

Accompanying constituents include freshness inducing lime acidity, pie crust influences and an elegant savoury finish.

And a Sunday Best companion 

2021 Vinha do Fava Touriga Nacional (from £10.99 at Laithwaites and 14%):

  • Kindly priced red wine from a lesser-known region.
  • Dark in colour and rich in flavour.
  • Centred on plum, cherry and raspberry flavours.
  • Its tannin is gentle, but its acidity is firm.
  • Clove, cocoa and smoky hints complete the picture.

Investments in vineyards and winemaking in Portugal’s Setubal Peninsula – over the bridge from Lisbon – have significantly enhanced the wines made there.

Prices do not (yet) reflect that significant progress and this touriga nacional does indeed punch well above its £11 price tag.

Inky and indulgently rich, it is centred around explosive plum, cherry and raspberry flavours.

That foundation is ably supported by firm acidity (but gentle tannin) along with clove, mint and cocoa hints and a smoky savoury edge.

Keep Taking the Capsules?

Waitrose is experimenting with an initiative to remove the normal “capsules” – those plastic and foil sleeves around the neck and top – from four bottles in their Loved & Found range.

I can see why they are trialling this; capsules increase costs, are difficult to re-cycle and can be troublesome to remove.

In addition, their original purpose (protecting the cork from damage or contamination and reducing counterfeiting) has largely been superseded – especially with the FSC cork used for these specific bottles.

A bit of me has twinges of regret though.

Well-designed capsules can make the bottle look more elegant and attractive.

Despite the resulting “Bistro” appearance, a “naked” bottle top does look strange (and, possibly, cheap).

Capsules can also provide reassurance that no tampering has taken place.

Overall, then, it will be interesting to see what reaction this trial provokes.

Call in again on Monday when the spotlight falls on Top Tips that offer especially good value probably at a store near you.

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11 Responses

  1. 25% off buy-6 continues to run in some way with the big 5 supermarkets for a few more days. We need to check details and small print. They don’t all operate exactly the same system nor run until the same date over this coming weekend.

    Sometimes though I forget another important national retail outlet that is the most widespread high-street specialist for wine, that is Majestic!
    Currently it is offering decent reductions too, on a buy-6 basis, and mixed cases are allowed as well.

    Given that Brian offers an insight every week to more expensive weekend bottles, this weekend especially might be the one where a 6 bottle case from Majestic might suit the occasion well. Spend over £75 and they’ll deliver free that can be useful to me saving fuel expense, otherwise I do need to make a round trip of nearly 40 miles that I did a couple of weeks ago to have some of the excellent Pringle Bay SA-Pinot Noir. This latest time I got a free delivery.

    I was drawn again to both their red and white versions of The Guv’nor, Spain, both very enjoyable, and the new VIP Guv’nor, with excellent reviews from customers and the experts alike. The Blanco especially I think is a class apart for quality and sophistication at £6.99 down from £8.99.

    But look at this when thinking about Brian’s premise today about what enjoyment might be had when we ”eat in”! https://www.majestic.co.uk/wines/le-volte-dell-ornellaia-13181 …. As an enthusiast for the south west coastal area of Tuscany, the Maremma, and specifically the surrounds of the village area of Bolgheri, driving around those leafy lanes in the late summer, this is the home of the original Super Tuscans of the early 1980s that feature Bordeaux style cuvées rather than the typical Sangiovese-Chianti styles from elsewhere in Tuscany. Majestic offer the third level of Ornellaia, Le Volte, with £6 off, selling for £22.99. I couldn’t resist. It’s predominantly Cabernet with some Merlot and Sangiovese. They have this producer’s second wine too…

    Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s first wine is way beyond anything I will ever be able to afford in my life. What particularly drew me originally to an interest, nothing else, with Ornellaia, is the domain adjoins the Tenuta San Guido estate of Sassicaia fame, it’s THAT close! The evocation is massive!!! Fingers crossed my purchase delivers as I wish.

  2. Hi Brian.
    Interested to read your comments on Vinha do Fava as I was drinking it last weekend. I won it in a raffle and had no idea of its cost – I would have put it at £20 +. Loved the roundness of the flavours – rich but nothing overpowering – and enjoyed the spicy but not tingly clove aftertaste. I must learn to enter more raffles.

  3. Fortunately many of us can still fly to Spain ,like I did last week to Madrid ,where eating out is still affordable and very pleasurable.
    In a taverna just off the main square ,I had dish of the day for lunch which had a chorizo/ pasta starter,hake,chips and salad mains ,panacotta and a decent half bottle of white Rueda for 14 euros.
    At other restaurants I had a good Albariño and a very good Grillo for 20 euros each.
    I got the impression that food and drink inflation in the U.K. was much higher than in Spain.

  4. Hi Eddie
    The Majestic SA Pringle Bay Chenin Blanc is also very good.
    A real treat though is the Chilean Morande Black series Chardonnay which is no longer available on line but may still be in local shops.Nearly £12 at mix price, but actually very good value.

  5. Big fan of SA Chenin Paul. Ive been getting the Stellenrust from Sainsbury’s for some time and even one of Lidl’s standard stock of Cape CB’s is very decent. So I’ll put the Pringle Bay version on the shopping list because Im pretty sure I’ll be back for the Pringle Bay Pinot Noir too. Majestic have got my attention right now. Cheers!

  6. Really helpful stuff Eddie, thank you, and good to see Majestic featured -they do have some excellent wines.

    1. Followed Eddie’s tips as was passing a Majestic and found 6 x guvnor hearty red & interesting white in my trolley. Both very good drinking and good wines for the price point – will repeat for this batch / year – recommended. Thanks

  7. As you say, Tim, terrific wine and great value. You did well in that raffle – the last prize I won was a bicycle tyre!

  8. Sounds like a great lunch Paul. All of Europe does seem to be suffering food price inflation but, as you sense, Spain (16.5% in March) is a little behind the UK (19.2%) and even further behind Germany (22.3%).

  9. Yes I have had (and enjoyed) that Pringle Bay Chenin but not the chardonnay you mention – and time seems to be running out to do so.

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