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Tasting the Difference this Winter

Our review of Sainsbury’s Winter List pinpoints stars from £6.50 upwards while other parts of the post speak about a major “25% off when you buy six” promotion and recommended purchases from online retailers.

Here is the penultimate review of major retailers’ Winter Lists all of which you can “bookmark” as a guide to what looks good in your local supermarket and use its recommendations right through to the spring.

Today, I have earmarked half a dozen stars from the list at Sainsbury’s that start, currently, at £7.50 (but, of course, are often on a promotion of one sort or another); next week it will be the turn of Morrisons.

Also today are some of the usual features that, this time, include Best of the Rest and Sunset Corner – alerting you to a major “25% off when you buy six” promotion.

Take a look too at the Top Tip which highlights good options at a handful of online wine retailers.  

Remember that many featured wines now have a hyperlink to the retailer’s website for all the reasons I set out down the page in a recent Top Tip.

As ever, use any available pictures to help you find the wine on a crowded shelf – which is not always as easy as it seems.

Cross the border for extra depth

Cross the Minho river into Portugal from the albarino specialists of Rias Baixas and you find the same grape (admittedly spelled slightly differently) producing similar wine but, in my view, often with a little extra depth.

Soft and nicely rounded 2018 Taste the Difference Portuguese Alvarinho (£6.50 – instead of £7.50 until 19 November – and 12.5% abv) has herbal greengage and quince fruit with good acidity and attractive grassy touches.

Rehabilitation complete

Now chardonnay is no longer the variety the snooty love to hate, we can start to appreciate versions like this where oak plays little or no part and cooler coastal locations have slowed down the ripening process (and, hence, conversion of acidity into sugar).

Savour then the smooth apple and peach fruit in 2019 Taste the Difference Chilean Chardonnay (£8 and 13.5%) with its accompanying buzzy acidity, leafy freshness but appreciable concentration and weight.

The master at work again

Google the “King of Chenin Blanc” and your screen will fill with references to Ken Forrester – justified homage to a man who started out a quarter of a century ago to “make chenin blanc to rival versions from the Loire” and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

With a rich and almost savoury background, 2018 Ken Forrester All Weather Chenin Blanc (£8.50 – instead of £9 until 19 November and 12.5%) delivers soft yet fresh red apple fruit, good acidity that little touch of honey by which classy chenin announces its presence.

Now for a red

Vineyards within spitting distance of Lisbon are, at last, beginning to live up to their potential (and white wines from Lisboa could be the “next big thing”) but this red – led by tempranillo, called tinto roriz thereabouts, is a decent bottle indeed and at a great price.

2017 Porta 6 Lisboa Red (£7.50 and 13.5%) has soft cherry and loganberry fruit with good acidity, chocolate and cinnamon depth but only limited tannin.

Step up the price points – but it’s worth it

Southern Rhone’s Ventoux is a large appellation much of which is higher and cooler that other parts of the area but this red is from vineyards quite close to Avignon and uses mainly syrah and grenache to make stylish wine that is well worth its (relatively) premium price.

New to Sainsbury’s 2018 Taste the Difference Chartreuse de Bonpas (£15 and 14%) brings us mocha edged plum and blackberry fruit with vibrant acidity, hints of cinnamon, mineral depth and firm tannin.

Now for a sweetie

Those top level, deliciously sweet wines from Tokaj use a process that involves separating out the shrivelled aszu grapes so that luxurious sweetness can be added to base wine later in the production system.

At a slightly lower level, Late Harvest versions (with their much more affordable prices) are – as the name implies – simply made from grapes gathered once the botrytis fungus has set in and are not given the same lengthy maturation.

Nevertheless, there is delightfully elegant and stylish honey-based sweetness in 2018 Taste the Difference Royal Tokaji Late Harvest (£10 for 50cl – instead of £12 until 19 November – and 12%)  that adds contrasting acidity to a mix that already contains red apple fruit and orange depth.  

 Staying on the sweeter side

Sweeter styles of champagne may not be fashionable but there is definitely a place for demi-sec versions as anytime drinking especially when they are (a) only just beyond the “sec” limit – 35g/l as against a sec maximum of 32 – and (b) as good as this!

Putting that in context, the Royal Tokaji Late Harvest wine mentioned above has about three times the residual sugar of this demi-sec champagne.  

While there are still sweet spice elements and other off-dry touches in Taste the Difference Demi-Sec Champagne (£19 at Sainsbury’s and 12%), there is also counterbalancing freshness, red apple fruit and a good texture that incorporates peach components too.


Great value from the Rhone

Here comes another tasty and well-priced everyday Southern Rhone red – from the south western corner of the region this time, heading towards Languedoc (and the great value that wine from there often represents).

Behind its medium bodied plum and cherry fruit 2017 Venturer Costières de Nîmes (£5.99 at Aldi and 13%) contains appealing savoury touches that include coffee, white pepper, herbs and baking spices along with good acidity but quite firm tannin.  

Award winning white

Spar are especially pleased that this tasty chenin won gold in the International Wine & Spirit Competition and even a cursory examination of what it tastes like tells us why it was so successful.

Flavoursome pear, melon and tropical fruit components form the backbone of 2017 Breedekloof Chenin Blanc (£6.50 at Spar and 13.5%) but they are well supported by lemon-based acidity, savoury suggestion of herbs and marzipan yet genuine textual delicacy as well.


This feature is designed to give you about a week’s notice of promotions that are approaching their expiry date but, today, it highlights a promotion that only lasts seven days.

From yesterday, Waitrose are offering the, by now familiar, price mechanic of 25% off when you buy six – but only until 12 November; their website contains more details including the inevitable “T’s and C’s”.

Mosey down to their store (or go online) to see what’s available or pop “Waitrose” into the search facility on this site to see wine I have recommended in the past that this promotion brings onto your radar.


One need look no further than the empty space in most High Streets and the flurry of retailers’ profit warnings to know that the transition from bricks to clicks is pretty well advanced.

Aspects like Majestic’s Tasting Bar or hand selling by independents (coupled with their excellent advice) can – and do – offer useful points of difference but, nevertheless, on-line wine sales are still on the increase.

In case that is road you have travelled, here a few online wines that I think are well worth seeking out – my “Pick of the Clicks” if you like. 

No. Not too far south!

South West France is currently one of Europe’s most enterprising wine regions with some great value options but, surely, Côtes de Gascogne is too far south for zippy sauvignon blanc? This bottle tells us otherwise!

2018 Grandiose Sauvignon Blanc(£8.95 at www.davywine.co.uk) has attractive gooseberry and apple fruit and (confounding my overly simplistic assumptions) is enlivened by vibrant citrus acidity that is well supported by pleasing sweet pea aromas and herbal, grassy depth too.

And another one

Here we have another sauvignon from a warm region that (again) illustrates how skilled winemaking can make the variety sing even at unpromising latitudes.

This one is from that smart web-based operation offered by Virgin Wines who, remember, were named Online Drink Retailer of the Year in both 2017 and 2018.

Note, however, how 2018 Champ de Baies Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (£9.99 at www.virginwines.co.uk) does not major on “Marlborough style” piercing acidity and assertive gooseberry flavours but, instead, offers pear, lime and unfolding orange fruit, pithy grapefruit acidity, savoury herbs and hints of allspice.

Staying in the area but being more traditional

As I said in my press column (which they kindly put on their website), Corney & Barrow has a nice range of wines.

Here, they reflect that growing trend towards savoury whites from Southern France by showcasing a rather more traditional grape variety from the area than the couple of sauvignons already mentioned.

Languedoc’s 2018 Hommage a Colette Grenache Blanc (£8.60 at www.corneyandbarrow.com) is a blend led by white grenache that has classic pear and quince fruit built into a creamy texture but neatly supplemented by floral touches, a hint of honey and lively lime acidity.

Moving to the reds

Unusually, this is a blend of wine from more than one country – France and Spain (as its name implies) – and successfully combines French malbec and cabernet with syrah from Spain; it is available at this keen price on a multi-buy at Laithwaites.

Smooth and herbal, 2018 Bullfrog (from £7.99 at www.laithwaites.co.uk) delivers  loganberry and black cherry fruit with good acidity supported by allspice, chocolate and toffee elements but with only limited tannin.

Now a southern hemisphere red

With shops in Edinburgh, Inverness and Bridge of Allan (and a string of awards) as well as its online facility, WoodWinters is often regarded as Scotland’s top independent wine merchant.

Here they offer a great value, floral South African red – 2018 Percheron Old Vine Cinsault (£7.75 at www.woodwinters.com) that brings us mineral influenced but medium bodied loganberry and red cherry fruit with firm acidity, soft tannin and touches of herbs, cloves and white pepper.  

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