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Budget Wines

After the inevitable extravagances of Christmas, comes the reckoning – often in the form of the January Visa bill. That, however, need not mean embracing an austere, bleak life-style that forswears wine for ever. Take a look instead at the “financial emergency” six pack I have assembled here. All are decent wines, cost less than £6, are widely available and – with one exception – are at ongoing prices rather than only made affordable by transient discounts

So, let’s begin with sauvignon blanc – where New Zealand’s determination to keep yields down has successfully stopped sauvignon prices world-wide going the same way. Good value options can, however, still be unearthed – such as 2012 Ulmen Sauvignon Blanc (£5.99 at M&S). This Chilean version has a more up-front style than, say, those from the Loire yet is still less “in your face” than examples from Marlborough. It has all the trademark sauvignon freshness but combines it with a veritable fruit salad of flavours. These range from the acidity of tangerine and pink grapefruit to the ripeness and substance of pear and kiwi fruit.

France, however, does have answers – possibly with help from the new Vin de France classification which relaxes the strictest of its geographic rules. One good example, 2011 Esprit Soleil Sauvignon Blanc (£5.49 at Majestic where minimum purchase rules apply) certainly sources grapes from several different growers. Perhaps that is what makes its clean, crisp citrus acidity combine so well with the soft and ripe orange flavours that provide the wine’s excellent substance and texture.

Stray beyond sauvignon and a whole range of inexpensive options come onto the radar. A perpetual favourite of mine is 2012 Wine Selection French Marsanne (£4.50 at Asda) from Languedoc. This takes a surprisingly temperature-sensitive grape that plays a large part in, for example, White Hermitage and gently encourages it to beget a savoury and slightly spicy wine with a fruit range than runs from apple and lemon to white peach.

Moving on from white wine I shall begin with the cheapest red in today’s selection, not least because it comes from a less than obvious source – Waitrose. No one need be in any doubt what they find in Waitrose Chilean Red Soft and Juicy (£4.99). Just as it claims, this is a straight forward, light and gentle red you can drink anytime. It draws warm, ripe, red plum flavours from the merlot and cabernet sauvignon used in its creation but seasons them with pleasant suggestions of mint (the cabernet at work, presumably) and lifts the overall package with shrewdly judged levels of acidity.

Another nicely made red can be found in 2012 Winemakers’ Selection South African Merlot (£5.99 at Sainsbury’s) which also delivers lively acidity but has both depth and substance behind its mellow, ripe bramble and red cherry fruit. That probably owes something to the ruby cabernet that forms part of the blend.

Finally, we encounter the one wine that is on promotion – 2012 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir (£5.99 – instead of £6.99 until 14 January – at the Co-op). Nevertheless, it is exactly how inexpensive, unpretentious pinot noir should be. It strikes a text-book balance between ripe and bright red cherry fruit and perky raspberry centred acidity and, because it has only limited tannin, rightly, trades longevity for accessibility. Seldom do large scale producers like Concha Y Toro get it as right as they have done here.


 Best Buys

 2012 Kuhlmann-Platz Pinot Gris Cuvée Prestige: Alsace, France: 13 per cent: An appealing clean yet mellow white from the terrific co-operative at Hunawihr with lime and mango flavours, a delicate prickle and touches of mint along with something slightly off-dry.  (£8.49, instead of £9.99 until 3 February, at Majestic where minimum purchase rules apply).

2009 Castillo Colina Mencia Roble: Bierzo, Spain: 13 per cent: I love this juicy and bright red from the aromatic mencia grape with its vibrant black cherry fruit, raspberry influenced acidity, menthol and vanilla finish – courtesy of its three months in oak – but with the chewier tannins now nicely worked through. (£5.99, instead of £6.99 for the rest of the month, at the Co-op)


[su_heading size=”10″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Image courtesy of Batega[/su_heading]

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