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My Autumn Pick of the Clicks selection

What links - vivid picpoul, chardonnay from somewhere unexpected and grapes that laboured under mistaken identity for years? All are available at online retailers and all are warmly commended in today’s post.

Although the Covid-led surge in overall online retail sales has abated, their proportion of total sales (26% in August 2021) remain substantially higher than they were just two years ago (18.4%).

Many see a similar upward trend in the wine trade and the potential price rises we discussed last week could see online operations boosted further by folk buying in bulk.

Online purchasing does, however, mean you are unable to inspect wine labels and use their content to aid buying decisions.

Fear not, though. My Pick of the Clicks feature aims to provide some of that missing background and, better still, offers an independent assessment of the wine itself.

Here then are a half a dozen or so wines from reputable online suppliers that I currently rate.

Deliberately, supermarkets are excluded as this site gives them masses of exposure most other weeks.

As before, pictures appear next to commendations where possible as this helps to ensure that you are ordering the correct wine.

Perfect shellfish wine

Probably because it is from prime oyster country, Languedoc’s picpoul de pinet is a perfect seafood wine and, with two excellent harvests behind it, there are good reasons to seek out impressive examples like this guy.

Smooth yet nicely rounded, 2020 Bain de Soleil Picpoul de Pinet (£9.95 at Slurp) exhibits vivid greengage and ripe melon flavours enlivened by sharp lemon and lime acidity yet engagingly supplemented by saline elements and just the merest touch of spice.

Moving to the West

Gascogne in South West France often wows us with colombard and ugni blanc based wines but it is not the most obvious place to look for chardonnay.

Nevertheless, this example is hugely successful, striking just the right balance between acidity, fruitiness and texture.

Floral and smooth, 2020 Hornhead Chardonnay (£8.99 at House of Townend) provides juicy melon and red apple flavours with pithy citrus acidity and supporting coriander, oregano and pie crust elements.

And a Southern Hemisphere version

Admittedly, being from the (relatively) cool state of Victoria helps, but the winemaker has still worked hard here to create wine that contrasts sharply with some Australian chardonnays of yesteryear.

The least attractive of those were excessively ripe and alcohol charged with a heavy reliance on oak but, here, you have light, bright, unoaked and fresh white wine.

2020 The Listening Station Chardonnay (£8.25 at www.woodwinters.com) delivers clear-cut apple and subtle apricot flavours built into a slightly pithy depth and energised by lime centred acidity.

Now for some reds

Much of Southern France and Spain once regarded grenache as merely a “power additive” to bolster blends, rather than as a solo performer.

That has changed significantly because we now know better – as this excellent example from Languedoc reminds us.

Smooth but deceptively light in colour, 2020 La Loupe Grenache Noir (£9 at Wickham) brings us aromatic cherry, red currant and all-round summer fruit flavours that are accompanied by chocolate and allspice elements with mild tannin, good acidity and a long finish.

Moving on to Italy

Once again the heel of Italy triumphs with well-made but great value red wine. 

Here, the local negroamaro grape is at work in an unblended version that is actually soft enough not to need the partners often introduced to curb the variety’s legendary sturdiness.

Soft and ripe, 2018 Salice Salentino Riserva Vallone (£7.95 at The Wine Society) delivers loganberry and prune flavours embellished by fresh acidity (but minimal tannin) and appealing suggestions of nutmeg, mocha and mace.

Heading to South America now

Famously, when carmenere arrived in Chile from Bordeaux it was often mistaken for merlot.

That confusion is fully resolved now to the extent that the grape has become Chile’s signature red, providing tasty, distinctive wines like this.

Dark and smooth, 2019 Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Carmenere (from £7.49 at Majestic) brings us rich plum and fig flavours complemented by gentle acidity and limited tannin along with hints of green pepper, star anise and caramel, all built into a vaguely mineral texture.

And on to Australia

Steve Grimley is not just a capable winemaker, but he also owns a few (you guessed it) black pigs which are the inspiration for this label and, indeed, the similarly named range of other South East Australian wines Virgin sell.

Dark with minty aromas, 2020 16 Little Black Pigs Cabernet Sauvignon (£9.99 at Virgin Wines) provides us with full, damson and mulberry flavours partnered by good acidity, balanced tannin and attractive suggestions of clove, toffee and red pepper.

So there you have it. Seven wines under £10 that are unlikely to disappoint and from seven different online suppliers.

See you again on Monday with my usual look at current promotions in major retailers and an outline of the latest Top Tips.

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9 Responses

  1. Nice selection there Brian, I’ve tasted the ‘La Loupe’ Grenache Noir and I endorse your recommendation it’s lovely, sweetish red fruits along with muted tannins and a nice savouriness, with a kick of white pepper on the finish, very pleasant.

  2. At recent “Meet the Winemaker” online tastings, I rediscovered Carmenere., and learnt that Cabernet Franc is one of its parents. The green pepper you describe I certainly get, but more restrained than in many Cab Franc wines. The wines I tasted were around the £10 mark, and thought great value “special occasion” bottles – although like Nebbiolo are possibly not to everyone’s taste. I am starting to look out for lower priced versions. Anyone tried the Morrison’s The Best example?

    1. Yes it is a gloriously different variety (so, too, is cabernet franc as you suggest). Morrisons Best and their Root 1 are pretty reliable options (and the former is currently on offer I believe)

  3. Hi Richard, I’m partial to Carmenere and I’ve tasted the Morrisons the Best, it’s certainly quite rich, lots of dark plummy fruit, smoke and chocolate, there is a raw green pepper thing going on as well, for £8 it’s great value, I liked it.

  4. Midweek Wines are not alone with this issue however I do think it worth mentioning. It is slightly misleading when online suppliers are highlighted as there is usually a significant cost outlay to gain advantage of the prices quoted in reviews. For example the first supplier mentioned, House of Townend, requires a delivery price of £9.95 on orders less than £100. This puts any advantage way out of the range for a lot of buyers!

  5. Fair point James. It would make a significant difference on single bottle purchases. I will give thought about how reflect that in the the text of future pieces.

  6. The Majestic carmenere is outstanding value, Brian. I enjoy a bottle of that every few weeks and it never disappoints.

    I have to say that Majestic have upped their game quite significantly since escaping from Naked Wines.

    Thanks for your continued excellence each week.

  7. Those green pepper style flavours that carmenere bring to the party really add to its appeal, I always think. Agreed about the current Majestic line-up, they have some excellent wines. Their £9.99 deals end on Monday night though.

  8. Thank you Dave. Whether as grenache or as garnacha, the variety is certainly on the march – and wine drinkers will be better off for it.

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