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Get onto the Latest Trend

A respected data analysis company tells us that UK wine consumers gently traded up during lockdown. Here are seven tasty wines awaiting others prepared to follow that trend. Plus a call for next week’s Zoom Tasting

The excellent Drinks Business publication tells us that Nielsen – the respected global measurement and data analytics company – reported recently that UK wine consumers have been trading up.

Partly because of currency volatility, the average price of a bottle of wine was already rising steadily – from £5.73 two years ago to £5.93 last year according to the Wine and Spirits Trade Association.

However, during lockdown, Nielsen say that sales of wine between £5 and £7  showed an especially noticeable upward trend.

That was not at the expense of dearer wines because sales of £7 to £9 wines also rose – with a rate of increase a third higher than in the comparable period the previous year.

Even the miniscule “over £9” bracket (3% of all wines sold retail) also saw a small increase.

Furthermore, Nielsen saw no sign of this growth slowing noticeably despite the reopening of the on-trade and the UK officially entering recession.

So, what is the sort of thing people are likely to find when they join this “trading up” trend?

Well, I took a snapshot of wines around the £7 to £9 mark in Asda to see what took my fancy – and those that did appear below.

On the good news front, a number of those wines go on promotion today and the discounted price under that promotion is also included.

Even better, in areas where multi-buys are legal, they can be included in those “Buy six get 25% off” deals that Asda seem to be planning over the next few months.

As to those deals, note incidentally, that the one we expected to last all this month is now ending this week.

On another subject though, remember that tickets may still be available for our follow up Zoom Tasting to the one held last night. Scroll down for details.

First to Italy

Although North Western Italy means powerful reds to many minds, never overlook the crisp and elegant whites made from the cortese grape at Gavi, just north of Genoa.

Soft and delicate, 2019 ASDA Extra Special Gavi (£8 – but currently down to £7 in store and 12% abv) offers us light bodied but floral, red apple flavours with good acidity and a background of herbs and the sweeter spices.

Now let’s compare some sauvignons

New Zealand’s Marlborough region brings a distinctive style to sauvignon that is usually quite easy to recognise but the next three wines (all available in Asda) look at variations within the region.

Since strident acidity is a strong feature thereabouts, lets start with an example that puts that element front and centre.

It is lemon grass and pink grapefruit style acidity that gives 2019 ASDA Extra Special Sauvignon Blanc (£7.50 and 12.5%) its refreshing vibrancy which leads enticingly into mango, gooseberry and ripe melon flavours  and a long finish that also introduces hints of ginger.

Meanwhile though …..

The clay base and limited top-soil of the Southern Valleys area seem to produce a different style of sauvignon and the results achieved here by the acclaimed Brent Marris and Waihopai River vineyards produce remarkably sophisticated wine.

There is indeed laudable smoothness and subtlety in 2019 The Ned Sauvignon Blanc (£9.50 and 13%) which also yields up balanced but fleshy apple and tropical fruit flavours with lime centred zingyness and a long finish.

And ascending the ladder a bit

Finally, though, to the Brancott’s Terroir Series which tries to focus on the climatic and geological differences between the broad range of Marlborough’s sub-regions.

Awatere Valley’s complex soils and cooler weather seem to mean its wine’s primary flavours lean more towards grapefruit than the tropical fruit often found in other parts.

Soft and delightfully delicate, that sub-region’s 2019 Brancott Estate Terroir Series Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (£11 at Asda and 13.5%) has an extensive cocktail of fruit style flavours that include green apples, tangerine and gooseberry – with lime and grapefruit joining in when you try to describe its acidity.

Those elements are supported by a savoury bite containing herbal hints and a long finish that – taken together – fully justify its double figure price tag.

Now for some reds

Those extra years maturation that Rioja regulations prescribe for Reserva wines usual smooth the wine nicely and make it more complex but can sometimes rob the acidity of its initial freshness.

No such problem with the acidity in 2015 ASDA Extra Special Marques Del Norte Rioja Reserva (£8.50 but now down to £7 and 14%) where the backbone cherry, plum and blackberry flavours not only have spirited liveliness but are also ably supported by rich clove, mint and black pepper influences yet only limited tannin.

A slightly controversial choice.

To the horror of purists, a handful of red wines have been introduced that contain higher sugar levels than you find in mainstream reds (Apothic and The Duke are examples) but a number of MidWeekers really enjoy them – and those guys have at least one influential ally.

Chef James Martin chose this wine from the slightly sweeter end of the spectrum as a recommended companion to his brilliant Seafood Calzone and, at a more modest level, it worked brilliantly with our own (slow cooked in honey and mustard) ham with an orange sauce last weekend.

Dense with fairly obvious sweet edges, Tejo in Portugal’s 2018 Bodacious Red (£7 and 13.5%) delivers ripe plum and blackberry flavours with suggestions of mint and other herbs, modest acidity and carefully balanced tannin.

Finally to the Rhone

While never perhaps totally justifying the divine connection in its name, this is nevertheless a carefully created, typical Rhone blend (grenache, syrah and mourvedre) that nicely illustrates how “Villages” wines often are a cut above basic Cotes du Rhone.

Medium bodied and with only modest tannin, 2018 Plan de Dieu Cotes du Rhone Villages (£9 – but currently down to £7 and 14%) has cherry and loganberry flavours with good acidic freshness and background components of sage, chocolate and baking spice.

Sign up for next week’s Zoom Tasting

After last night’s inaugural event, we are running two similar tastings next week. As you can see from the web link, there will be a selection of Tesco wines (from under £5 to around £8) at both the 6.30 and 8pm events. So, head over to the site, sign up (for a mere £10), acquire some suitable wine and taste along with Diana and with me. 

Join us again on Monday when we look at the latest promotions and, of course, discover the current Top Tips.

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