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Morrisons enter the Workshop

Morrisons have some nice reds in their Workshop range (from £6 -£10) so here are details of which to buy – and what else is hot there and elsewhere – along with a Top Tip about opening champagne

Morrisons recently supplemented their own label range with a series of wines described as from the “Workshop Wine Company”.

These are Australian wines where the company’s buyers have worked directly with producers to create blends designed to appeal to the UK market.

Most cost around £6-£7 but a couple – “Mastercraft” options – stray into double figure price points.

At the moment, several of the whites are changing vintages – or are works in progress – so today’s look at the Workshop range is heavily skewed towards reds.

Other favourite features are in this post too with Best of the Rest selections and a Top Tip about opening sparkling wine bottles.

As usual, you just need to click on the bottle shot for an enlarged image to help you find the wine in store.

Magic Bullet Selection

Outside Bordeaux and selected Californian producers, much modern merlot is modest in both acidity and tannin and not built to last.

However, that is not all bad as the delightful freshness and youth of this excellent example illustrates.

Relish if you will the bold cherry and plum fruit in the medium bodied 2016 The Workshop Wine Company Merlot (£6.50 at Morrisons – or two for £10 where such promotions are allowed – and 13.5% abv) with its good acidity, soft tannin and suggestions of thyme, mocha and aniseed.

For those unfamiliar with this section, I have stolen the term “Magic Bullet” from the medical profession where, apparently, it refers to a remedy that delivers its benefits without side effects. In our context “Magic Bullet Wine” also has important benefits (it tastes good and makes anyone buying it look knowledgeable and surefooted) yet avoids the side effect of a big hole in the pocket.

… And an inexpensive pinot too

Although more pinot noir than merlot is designed for a long life, there is an increasing fashion for quick turn-around versions of that variety too – and these are designed as unashamedly fruit forward options even if that means sacrificing texture and length to achieve it.

Nevertheless, there are pleasantly attractive peony and menthol elements to 2017 Workshop Bench Blend Pinot Noir (£6.50 – with, again, the two for £10 option where possible – and 13%) that work well with its raspberry and red cherry fruit and are well supported by a twist of tannin and blood orange acidity that all compensate for the (aforesaid) lack of depth.

Climbing the price ladder.

As the preamble says, the range contains a couple of more expensive wines – from McLaren Vale (rather than describing itself as from the “catch-(almost)-all” South Eastern Australia region – and this one blends old vine grenache with fruit from (slightly less) old shiraz vines.

The result is the impressive nutty and sweet edged 2017 Workshop Mastercraft Grenache Shiraz (£10 and 15%) with plum, bramble and blackberry fruit, firm acidity and chocolate, cinnamon and black pepper depth.

.. And when shiraz goes it alone

From the same McLaren Vale producer comes a 100% shiraz version which – since it is from a cooler part of that region – brings us aromatic intense fare with, in this case, a monster whack of alcohol.

Like the grenache blend, there is fresh plum and blackberry fruit to 2016 Workshop Mastercraft Shiraz (£10 and 16%) although here the tannin is a little firmer and the supporting cast leans more towards cloves and herbal depth.

Spread the net wider for a white

As I implied earlier, I have strayed from the Workshop range for a white and the whites I commended a month or so back are well worth considering here.

Equally, though there is an excellent white rioja from the ever reliable Baron de Ley operation which gains considerably by adding equal proportions of white grenache and malvasia to its 70% viura.

Note in particular the depth to 2014 Morrisons The Best Rioja Blanco Reserva (£12 and 13%) as well as the grapefruit acidity that enlivens its apple and peach fruit and the concluding suggestions of nuts and vanilla.

Here’s a little known grape 

Verdeca has traditionally been used for vermouth or as a minor component of white blends but it receives star billing in this example from Puglia – and justifiably so in my view.

I was hugely impressed by the rounded and savoury edged 2017 Masseria Pietrosa Verdeca (£8 and 13%) with its textured apricot and lemon fruit and the suggestions of (more usually) red wine elements such as chocolate, vanilla and spice that it contains.


The magic of Field Blends

Field blends are always a bit intriguing as they date from the days when dead vines were often replaced by whatever was handy – regardless of grape variety.

Consequently, vineyards often became a patchwork of grapes with massive annual variations depending what had ripened well that particular year.

This time, the cocktail in Castilla-La Mancha’s 2017 Mas Querido Field Blend (£6.99 when part of a mixed six in Majestic and 13%) has produced light, floral, white wine with gentle apple and lemon pith acidity to contrast with its peach centred ripeness and hints of allspice.

Good value red from M&S

No sooner do I suggest that M&S struggles at lower price points than they produce the sauvignon I praised a week or two back and this accomplished medium bodied red from France’s Herault region.

Smooth and soft with good acidity but limited tannin, 2017 Domaine de Brignac (£6 at M&S and 12%) is centred around floral plum, loganberry and cherry fruit with supplementary hints of cocoa and liquorice.


Tip: Here’s how to open sparkling wines to avoid waste and the danger of flying corks.

It seems like a potential extension of the so-called Nanny State when champagne labels carry a warning cautioning folk to open them cautiously – but, as ever, there is a right way to do it.

Getting it wrong wastes a good deal of the content and can be (indeed, has been) the cause of serious eye injuries.

For a good illustration of what not to do, refer to Lewis Hamilton – he may be five times world driving champion but he will not win prizes for champagne opening!

Doing it properly involves resisting the temptation to shake the bottle and, first, removing the foil around the cork but doing nothing yet to the wire cage.

Put your thumb or the palm of your hand over the top of that cage while (if you like) holding a cloth.

Do not release that pressure on the top until the process is complete.

Tilt the bottle to 45° away from you (towards somewhere safe) and rest the bottom of the bottle against your body.

Maintaining your continuous firm pressure on the cork, slowly untwist the key (or twisted tab) that forms part of the wire cage.

With your hold on the top remaining secure, pull out the bottom of the cage so it is free of the bottle – but do not take it off (that can’t be done without losing your grip).

Now – and this is the crucial part – slowly rotate the bottle but retain your firm hold on the cork – which should not be turned at all.

Slowly, the cork and the bottle will begin to separate but still keep holding the cage, with the cork inside it, until a gentle sigh tells you that your job is done.

The slower this extrication process is executed the better.

In case you think I am exaggerating about the potential dangers, remember that the pressure in these bottles is about the same as that in a bus tyre. Take a look at these “before and after” pictures of champagne corks to get a fix on what I mean.

If you want a practical demonstration (and have no aversion to bow tie bedecked Americans), this video is pretty comprehensive.

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10 Responses

  1. Hello Brian
    I have been unsuccessful in getting the Minervois La Liviniere 2016 that you recommended from a large Tesco Extra store. I wonder if others have had a similar difficulty.

  2. Minervois La Liviniere is not showing up on Tesco website. Looks like Brian’s recommendation did the trick!

  3. Hi all,
    Big shout out for the white Rioja (Marques de Los Rios), not tried the 2014 yet but if it’s anywhere near as good as the 2013 then whoever tries it is in for a treat. Rich and golden in colour with wonderful aromas of peaches, apricots, almonds, toast, vanilla and butter. Bright acidity, tropical fruits and some vanilla. The 2013 was one of the better white Riojas I’ve tasted in this price range for a while, well done Morrisons.
    Salud & drink well

  4. Tips on opening Champagne much appreciated. A few years ago I celebrated the opening of a friend’s home extension with a bottle of very nice Champagne. A few seconds later , I stood there with a cork in my hand and a smashed bottle on the floor that had hit the tiles like a exocet!

  5. Hi Piers ….. Others did indeed have this problem and I consequently had a grump at Tesco over it but they thought the problem was caused by updating the vintage (to the one I recommended). The wine does seem to be back on line at least now.

  6. Not sure I can claim the credit – a vintage change seems to have caused the hiccup – but it is back online (at least) now.

  7. As you say, Dave, this is a good example of a genre which can be decidedly variable in quality. Thanks for the detailed description.

  8. Hi Brian, discovered the fizzy tip a few months back and was shocked at how much easier it made opening a bottle. Have ruined a few prosecco, much to the wife’s disgust, over time from over twisting the cork

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