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Journey to Great Value, Tasty Stars

What delights you can get by paying a couple of pounds more, and why you should

Major retailers’ Holy Trinity of branding levels (Budget, Standard and Premium) are well established right across the grocery sector.

That structuring of the inevitable trade-offs between quality and price seems successful at shaping everyone’s expectations (customers, vendors and producers).

Today’s post takes a further look at that hierarchy with particular emphasis on one retailer’s own label wines.

However, with wine there can be more to it than simply helping you (potentially permanently) position yourself and your budget within a product range.

Because the first couple of pounds on any bottle of wine is duty and tax, quality can ascend quickly as you go up the retail price ladder.

With an £8 bottle three times as much goes on the wine-related content as it does with one at £4 (£8 – £2 = £6 but £4 – £2 = £2).

So, trying out linked wines at different price levels yields more rewards than are on offer with those orthodox retail rankings alone.

That is why MidWeek Wines includes, for instance, its Sunday Best feature – a tacit invitation for you to experience what awaits a rung or so up that ladder.

Similarly, Mark Jarman (Head of Wine Operations at Morrisons) has made parts of their range into more than simply an “Economy, Standard and Premium” hierarchy.

In suitable cases, it is also a carefully a mapped “journey” upwards from entry point fare.

Today, we take two of those “journeys” and, I rather hope, you might be motivated to do something similar.

In bigger families or groups, why not try a couple of bottles side by side and make your own comparisons?

As usual, hyperlinks and images appear where possible to help you pinpoint the specific wine on a crowded display or busy website.

First up is malbec

With Argentinian versions of the variety currently so popular, this seems a logical place to start.

The first wine is from San Juan – north of Mendoza city – where the dry and hot conditions and (relatively) low terrain allow large volumes of sound, dependable and inexpensive wines to be produced.

True to expectations, 2020 Morrisons Malbec (£5 and 13% abv) brings us ripe raspberry and red cherry flavours with a contrasting savoury backdrop, lively acidity (but limited tannin) and, in the background, cinnamon elements too.

Taking our first step up

Moving up from that great value option, we start to see wine with more depth, flavours that “darken up” towards plums and loganberries, greater oak influence and touches of malbec’s trademark cocoa influences.

Rich and smooth, 2020 Best Gran Montana Malbec (£8 and 14%) features plum and loganberry flavours coupled with modest tannin, firm acidity and, within a slightly floral depth, suggestions of allspice and milk chocolate.

Going up in the world – literally.

The rising star of the malbec scene is undoubtedly the Uco Valley where vineyards can be at 2000m elevations and cooler nights help give flavours extra clarity and most wines’ acidity more bite.

With a neatly contrasting fusion of floral aromas and mineral savouriness, 2019 The Best Uco Valley Malbec (£8.50 – instead of £10 until 21 September – and 14%) delivers intense and especially attractive blackberry and prune flavours.

They are partnered in this great value version by soft tannin and sharp acidity along with a smoky slate depth encompassing mint, sage and clove elements

While the current promotion temporarily distorts this trio’s pricing structure, their £10: £8: £5 list prices reflect the ladder I had in mind.

Now for the whites

Comparisons are less straightforward with these white wines because there is a clear difference in style between pinot grigio from warmer parts of, say, Central Italy and those from cooler areas further north.

So, let’s start with a nicely configured example of pinot grigio from Terre Di Chieto (an eastern wine region in Central Italy).

This seems exactly the sort of floral, tropical fruit imbued pinot grigio that commentators love to call “crowd pleasers”.  

Soft and gently perfumed, 2020 Sorso Pinot Grigio (£7 and 12.5%) has white peach and red apple flavours accompanied by mild tangerine acidity but only limited texture.

For sure, this is uncomplicated wine but, equally, its style is immensely popular.

Then heading north

Trentino is a sizeable wine region in North Eastern Italy adhering pretty closely to the valley (and major traffic route) leading into the Alps.

Here the combined effect of altitude and latitude reduce any grape’s ripening potential, leaving them with more acidity to delight those who feel that more southerly examples can be insufficiently sharp.

Smoother than the previous option but still attractively soft, 2020 The Best Trentino Pinot Grigio (also £7 and with 12.5%) exhibits pear and cooked apple flavours supported by increased acidity with a trace of mace built into the greater depth this wine contains.

In short, stay north for acidity and orchard fruit flavours but head south for more aromatic, ripe and tropical fruit elements.

But we can go a jot further north

The third rung on this pint grigio ladder takes Trentino versions an important stage further.

As we get ever closer to the Austrian border, so altitudes get higher and we see even more of that “cool climate” acidity – and detect the purity that height seems to induce (here or in Chile’s Uco Valley).

Complexity steps up a level too – while preserving that underlying softness – with 2020 The Best Pinot Grigio Alto Adige (£8 – instead of £10 until 21 September – and 13%) which offers us mouth-watering tangerine, pink grapefruit and fresh pineapple flavours combined with firm lime acidity and a creamy – slightly spicy – texture.     

This really is lovely wine – and great value with its current discount.

Two runged ladders

Since the three level “journey” does not yet work everywhere, here are a couple of comparisons within the Morrisons range that I think will repay investigation and which you might also like to consider.

Again starting with the reds.

Both of these pinot noirs are from Aconcagua – north of Santiago and beyond Casablanca – with conditions some liken to those in New Zealand’s Marlborough region.

While 2020 The Best Chilean Pinot Noir (£8.50 and 14%) has raspberry and plum flavours with nippy acidity, these lighten to cherry and red currant flavours and less intense acidity in 2019 The Best Pinot Noir Single Vineyard (£10 and 13%).

In addition, the single vineyard version has complex chocolate and cinnamon background notes instead of the floral influences in its partner – but both are attractive, nicely crafted wines.

And for the whites

We stay in South America for the whites but the Gran Montana option is from Argentina’s Uco Valley (mentioned with the malbecs) while its partner – like those pinot noirs – is from the Aconcagua wine region in Chile.

With 2020 The Best Chilean Chardonnay (£6.50 – instead of £7.25 until 21 September – and 13.5%) we get a creamy texture with peach and melon flavours to the fore.

However, in Argentina’s 2019 Best Gran Montana Chardonnay Reserve (£7 down from £9 until 21 September and also 13.5%) the dominant flavours are apple and grapefruit with butter and vanilla influenced smoothness more in evidence.

Again, two good wines with many things in their favour but slightly different appeals depending on personal preferences.   

See you again on Monday with my usual look at current promotions in major retailers that also outlines the latest Top Tips.

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6 Responses

  1. Hugely informative stuff there Brian. I don’t shop at Morrisons these days like I once used to and when I did years ago didn’t have much of their wine in those days although I did think their ”market street” mentality for food was very good. I called in a local branch Friday and as I’ve found before when I make the effort, that is off-putting, there are too many missing bottles on the shelves, especially promo stuff, that they seem to struggle to replace.
    However, although I could not find the Pinot Grigio I wanted I did get the £5 Malbec .. and the most expensive one too. The middle one again wasn’t there!
    Just to say, wow!, their own £5 bottle was terrific and without you mentioning it I would likely have passed on by. The Uco Valley Reserve awaits the corkscrew. Thank you as ever …

  2. Greetings Brian and I hope all is good with you and yours.
    As it happens, Morrisons is our nearest big store so your recent post was well timed. Also, as luck would have it, all four of the more expensive wines which you had featured have been in stock. So far we have tried the Uco Valley Malbec (with some superb rump steak obtained from a local ‘proper’ butcher). All worked very well, ten out of ten, I’d say – happy days.
    I’m not too good on the finer points wine-wise. I’m just an enthusiastic amateur who needs to like what’s in the bottle and, crucially, for it to go well with what I’m eating at the time. The other bottles are poised, ready to go!!
    Keep the posts coming, keep up the good work.
    Best regards,
    Chris Willis Ex LIF, all those years ago!!

  3. Ah happy days indeed – quality steak and high altitude malbec; a marriage made in heaven surely. I guess many (most) subscribers would empathise with your “I am not too good on the finer points wine-wise” comment. Nevertheless, the majority of folk actually know much more about wine than they think they do, and everyone can answer the key question that really matters – “do I like it?”. This site tries to point wine drinkers towards wines that punch above their weight in terms of price and that I think many people will enjoy. I am pleased to discover that seems to be working for you ….. Best…. Brian

  4. Thanks mate, really appreciate your kind words. It is difficult to try to find content that works for the majority of folk so it always good to know when something gets close to the bulls-eye.

  5. Frustrating when there are gaps on the shelves but I guess that especially likely to happen at the moment. Glad, however, that your perseverance was rewarded with that inexpensive but well-made first level malbec. I hope the Uco Valley proves equally impressive.

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