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Where a few extra pennies turbo-charges enjoyment

Six examples where spending just a little more pays off handsomely.

Wine drinking embraces a large and diverse range of folk.

Some seek out options significantly above the average spend – and the extra complexity and other aspects of quality they often provide.

Others choose to focus on budget level options for everyday drinking while deriving real satisfaction in finding one such wine that punches miles above its price point.

Still more are on a journey cautiously moving from the second of those groups towards the first.  

While only seldom featuring seriously expensive wines, I do try to cater for people in all three of the quoted categories.   

As the website name implies, though, the “core business” tends to be centred around wines under £10 – where the vast majority of wine purchases are made.

Today, though, involves a look beyond the High Street and at prices that straddle the £10 market rather than sit beneath it.

Some of the retailers are “Indies” – with the extra service many of them offer – but also with an online presence.

One other is a brewer that also sells wine, and another is a sizeable online only operation.

So, without more ado, let’s look at the selected wines.

The images and hyperlinks provided should help you to find them in crowded displays.

Starting with the whites

Viognier and marsanne were once largely Northern Rhone features producing white wines there and sometimes joining red wine blends.

Nowadays they appear far and wide, but few new places do them as well as Languedoc (as this example testifies).

Rich but not overly viscous, its centre-piece is ripe red apple and mango flavours.

These are supplemented by good acidity and an evolving minerality – yet with touches of clove and honey too.

Click here for the hyperlink …https://www.houseoftownend.com/wines/type/white-wine/marsanne-viognier-les-deux-grives

Staying thereabouts

2022 La Lisse Soie d’Ivoire Chenin Blanc (£10.50 at WoodWinters and 13%):   

French chenin blanc usually means the Loire Valley but this is from further south (Aude) and has one unexpected feature.

Beneath the usual flavours there is a contrasting mineral layer. This adds appealing flint and river pebble influences to its familiar foundation.

That foundation itself displays bright and herbal quince, apple and ripe melon components.

All that is wrapped in lively lemon acidity in what is a tasty, gold coloured wine with a whisper of peach.

Click here for the hyperlink …https://woodwinters.com/product/la-lisse-soie-divoire-pays-de-la-haute-vallee-de-laude-2018/

Heading far, far away

2022 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (£11.99 at Adnams and 11%):   

This is a good illustration of the WSM (Why Spend More) theme this site often features.

It carefully blends constituents from two dissimilar sauvignon blanc sub-regions of New Zealand’s Marlborough winelands.

Its zippy acidity is typical, for instance, of Awatere Valley grapes but those influences are combined here by a Wairau Valley contribution.

That is where tropical fruit and green pepper components so often develop.

The result is a skilfully crafted wine above entry-point level with controlled alcohol and floral aromas that enticingly displays ripe melon, lemon and peach flavours.

To add complexity, that base is embedded in an attractive grassy and bell pepper texture given a flourish by sharp tangerine acidity.

Click here for the hyperlink …https://adnams.co.uk/collections/adnams-selection/products/adnams-marlborough-sauvignon-blanc-new-zealand

Switching to reds

2023 Bodegas Arloren “Vegacanada” Monastrell (£9.95 at St Andrews Wine Company and 14%):   

Jumilla in Spain’s Murcia region was once the source of what Americans, slightly dismissively, call “jug wine”.

However, the wine industry there has substantially re-invented itself, helped by the rocketing recognition internationally of the monastrell grape that does well there.

See why that reputation has soared with this generously textured and sweet-edged example.

Its bramble and raspberry flavours mingle harmoniously with raisin and mocha influences, minty aromas, good acidity and mild tannin.

Click here for the hyperlink …https://www.standrewswine.co.uk/products/vegacanada

Then to France

2022 Connoisseur Le Gardien de Cieux: (from £10.35 at Wickham Wine and 13.5%):  

As often discussed on this site, South West France does brilliantly with wine made from local grape varieties.

This, however, is a cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend.

Those used to classic versions of that duo from Bordeaux, not that far away, will be surprised by the lightness of this example.

Medium-bodied with appealing floral aromas, it brings us aniseed imbued plum, eucalyptus and cherry liqueur flavours.

Support for those flavours come in the shape of invigorating acidity, mild tannin and suggestions of violet, cedar and cocoa.

Click here for the hyperlink …https://wickhamwine.co.uk/connoisseur-le-gardien-des-cieux-gascony/

Finally Back to Spain

2022 La Novena Old Vine Selection Garnacha (£11.99 at Virgin WInes and 14.5%):   

In our (justified) love of Spanish tempranillo, we sometimes overlook how well that country does with garnacha.

This brilliant example from the Cariñena region will help to give it a merited day in the sun.

Dark with garrigue aromas, it features smooth, plum based flavours accompanied by lingering chocolate, marzipan and clove hints.

That bedrock is made more complex by a savoury juniper twist and the gentlest of tannins.

Click here for the hyperlink …https://www.virginwines.co.uk/wine/Z42991102647/La-Novena-Old-Vine-Selection-Garnacha

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20 responses

  1. Twelve months ago,Brian recommended a Vin de Loire ,Cabernet Franc ,Domaine Moulin Camus.So here I am ,as a welcome diversion from visiting the mother in law in Stirling,in WoodWinters wine and whisky shop in Bridge of Allan. Worth a visit.
    And there the bottle is,on the bottom shelf,at £10.50.Another stunning wine find by Brian.At it’s best after a 20 minute chill in the fridge or just leave it outside in this unseasonably cold June weather.Coke,pepper,pebbles,cherry with a bit more crunch than say a Gamay.
    If ever there was an example of the virtue of spending a few pennies more for a great return,then this is one of them.

    1. Thanks for those kind words Paul and glad that the Cabernet Franc is still going strong. I am a great fan of Loire reds, but I feared they may be too niche – your experience suggests otherwise and that is good news indeed.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with you Brian that local independents have a generally good selection of interesting wines – and fairly priced. However – unless I’m in the area – delivery charges normally add a hefty percentage to anything other than pretty large orders. That’s why, like many contributors to the last few posts, I normally restrict my web orders to the free-delivery offered by The Wine Society. (Whose driver, co-incidentally, I am expecting very soon with my latest order from Series 3 of their excellent 150th Anniversary releases.) I’d also recommend to Sue (see Monday’s post), that if she joins and is lucky enough to live in an area covered by Wine Society vans, she restricts delivery to those as I have found the courier service far more cavalier in just dumping cases on the doorstep!

    1. Hi David,
      Agree about the high delivery charges made by some of our independent wine retailers.In many cases I can buy direct from Spain with delivery for less than they charge!
      May I suggest a look at the excellent Wickham Wines who deliver free if the order is above a reasonable £40.

      1. A lot to praise in respect of Wickhams where Dan has made massive progress in a surprisingly short space of time.

    2. Yes; Indies with a relaxed view to delivery charges do seem to score – and deserve to do so.

  3. Nice selection there Brian. Particularly like the look of the Aude Chenin. Lovely name Soie d’Ivoire! And not out of my price range for a weekend upgrade/treat except WoodWinters charge of £9.95 p&p for purchases under £150! It’s that delivery charge that kills it for me. Not a problem to call by one of their shops when I was back and forth to Scotland a dozen times a year back in the day. Not any longer unfortunately.

    My free delivery TWS box was just delivered by DHL. Prompt service … came a few minutes early, very polite guy, yes put it on the doorstep and waited for me to open up and the evidential photograph taken!!

    55 quid’s worth and quite excited about having a bottle of the excellent Baccolo Appasimento Rosso Veneto 2022 back on the shelf and trying for the first time a Mantier Zweigelt, and another white from the south west of France Duo Des Mers Sauvignon-Viognier 2023, a Sicilian Grillo too and another couple of bottles besides.

    Can report that the Aldi WOTW Lisboa Rosé, £7.99 down to £3.99, is cheap and cheerful and very drinkable. Would I buy it at full price? No I wouldn’t because there is too much else at £8 or a bit more that is a massive cut above including Aldi’s own Athlon Assyrtiko Syrah Rosé at £9.99.

    Also at £9.99 I see Aldi are also stocking an English still rosé Specially Selected English Pinot Noir & Précoce Rosé! Sounds very interesting and at that money I’ll likely try it… if my usual store has it, that is very often an issue with the Aldi range around here. Very few of my locals keep the full range of  Glen Marnoch malts.

    1. Hi Eddie, interested to see your comment regarding Aldi’s Lisboa Rose, to which I wholly concur. As you say, “very drinkable”, but no way is it worth anywhere near £8 a bottle. Not in the same league as their Castellore Pinot Grigio Rosato, which now retails at £4-99, (and appears to increase by around 50p on an almost weekly basis!). Much as I love Aldi’s wines, I think they have “previous” regarding some of their WOTW’s. I would be very surprised if that Portuguese Rose remains on their shelves at it’s “full price”.

      1. Thanks for the update on that rosé Steve and I have been relishing Aldi’s white equivalent pinot grigio (at £6.69) that also impresses.

      1. The Mantler Zweigelt from TWS is very nice if you want something red with a kick. I was undecided when opened but it softened and after 24 hours changed measurably. I like it as a stand alone but this one is heavier than that which Sainsbury’s had a year or two ago and less perfumed. I am bound to make a comparison and say something mid Rhone , a bigger cru Beaujolais maybe because there is some serious body with sweetness of black and red fruits in there but there’s more than that, Hermitage-Syrah possibly, with that kind of liquorice kick. The thing is in making a comparison , remember it’s from just north west of Vienna, it can’t be with a Dornfelder or Trollinger and certainly not a softer, elegant, lighter Spatburgunder. It’s its own thing. Actually better for it. It has individuality and well under £10 is terrific. The kind of bottle that when we make a TWS selection … just put one in … and keep it for something mid week, meaty like a steak or a strong meat tomato pasta.

        1. Thanks for such a detailed and helpful report Eddie. Perhaps because of its high yields and early ripening, many examples of Zweigelt are light and undemanding wines – so it is good to hear of one that is weightier and stands comparison with Beaujolais Crus and even Northern Rhone syrah. As you imply, steak and salad wine for summer evenings where its classic mulberry and cherry flavours will work well but without the heaviness of more robust grape varieties.

  4. Talking about independent wine merchants, and Eddie’s mention (in a previous thread) of Lay & Wheeler, stirred many memories.
    When I developed an interest in wine, L&W was “my” first local wine merchant. Headed by Richard Wheeler, and with the lovely John Thorogood as the head buyer, they had a marvellous wine list. I have kept a copy of a 1980 edition – the prices would make you weep! They also had a first rate programme of wine tastings and wine dinners, and we attended a large number of great events. John was a big fan of (even more unusual then) Cru Beaujolais and Alsace wines, as was I.
    Johnny Wheeler eventually took over the reins, and it was sold to Majestic in 2009 – to be their fine wine division. Majestic was in turn taken over by Naked Wines, and in 2019 they sold L&W to a private company. So L&W is now independent again and has a presence in East Anglia, but also offices in Mayfair. They look to be a seriously top end wine outfit!
    I think Johnny Wheeler was initially part of the L&W organisation when under Majestic. However, subsequently he has created ”Mr Wheeler Wines”, which has an outlet just off the A12 between Colchester and Ipswich.
    Both Mr Wheeler and L&W proudly claim their 1883 origins!
    Mr Wheeler is very much an excellent local wine merchant, in the style of the original L&W. I quite often buy from them, as I can pop down to pick them up, so avoiding delivery charges. I bought a ticket for their large customer tasting event in London, late last year, and was impressed with their range. Their staff are very friendly and knowledgeable, so would highly recommend them.

    1. Interesting to hear the history of independents in that corner of Essex and Suffolk. I can remember the local Wine Shop in my part of Sussex with its claret at 7/6d and the excitement when Augustus Barnett came to the nearest bigger town.

    2. Fascinating stuff Richard. Who’d have known ….

      I do think the top specialists in respect of most anything that engages and prompts us towards intense interest deserves our attention and enthusiasm for what they do. Acoustic guitar shops/specialists come into that category too!

      I mean, going into Lay and Wheeler for the first time say 40 years ago it was like landing in the best stocked sweetie shop anywhere even though my impecunious situation would only allow me to have the cheapest bottle in the place. But I loved owning one of their wine lists and reading the names. I feel certain I still have one somewhere. Getting my first TWS news-sheets the same.

      My local specialist here on Teesside albeit a very small one-man operation in a very small shop was fun to engage with while he lasted … not very long unfortunately. I would have to wait to find the kind of experience that could evoke real enthusiasm for wine shopping, across the Channel at first in Calais and Boulogne and then throughout France and most of the rest of southern Europe over the next 40 years as I both worked and holidayed there.

      Of course along the way we probably all had access to something a cut-above on the high street that wasn’t a supermarket, like Odbins, Threshers, Majestic and Brian came up with yet another name I’d forgotten, Augustus Barnett. Now I have a local farm shop selling a few interesting bottles and a couple of terrific independent retail food outlets with decent stock out in North Yorkshire, Campbells of Leyburn especially, but not close by me.

      Ironically my joy of joys is somewhere close on 900 miles from here in Le Bugue in the Perigord Noir near the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère rivers, and we can only ever access it when on holiday.

      Julian de Savignac has several outlets throughout France, including one in Paris, but the one I used to use is just like Lay and Wheeler; another sweetie shop! There’s a smell about it, all wooden board floors and stuff out the back sold en vrac priced according to alcohol content. This outfit have vineyards close by Le Bugue in Monbazilac and Bergerac. We can still have their own wines for around €5 to €7. So it’s hardly exclusive … except ….

      I know of no other place I can actually look at bottles of Pomerol and Pauillac, Petrus and Chateau Lafite, lined-up in order of vintage on the shelf. I’m assured they are not dummies and told Chinese businessmen appear out of nowhere with €3000 in hand to buy single bottles. That caves is in the middle of nowhere in the grande plan of retailing, obscure in the extreme, but sells some of the most expensive wine in all the World!. I find it both astonishing and magical. When I first found it, it was like stumbling on King Solomon’s Mine.

      But in their own way places as far apart as Colchester and Bridge of Allan are quite uplifting too when there are wine retail outlets located there, in their own unsuspecting way.

      1. Ah, Augustus Barnett! I guess one of the early “disruptors”. Apparently he used to drive down to the Hospice de Beaune auctions in a large brown Bentley and buy up cases of red Burgundies – and sell them off, with no great ceremony, in his shops. I used to hang around at the relevant times hoping to nab some. And I did, from time to time! It was rather stretching my youthful budget, but I knew they were super value.
        Continuing down memory lane, I also well remember Adnams of Southwold. Before they started all their chain of shops, Simon Loftus was the head of wine, and then Adnams Chairman. He was very articulate, incredibly knowledgeable about all aspects of wine, an acclaimed author – and wore an earring! No great shakes now, but then …
        The Adnams’ wine list was great – again, I have retained an early example. Adnams own 2 hotels in Southwold, The Swan (silver service) and The Crown (funky casual). If you stayed at either of these hotels (if you knew) you could pre-select any wines from their full wine merchant list, and have them served at dinner. I think the corkage was just £5. Whenever possible I tried to arrange business stays there! I also enjoyed their walk around tastings at the atmospheric Snape Maltings complex.
        I was lucky to hear him talk a couple of times, and I last saw him when he popped into the Woodbridge shop, as a guest, for an en Rama Sherry event. Adnams were never the same after he left, but I understand that he wanted to retire at 60, and do other things.
        So back then East Anglia, with Adnams and Lay and Wheeler, was a wine power house!

        1. Hi Richard,
          We are going to Southwold in July and staying at the Crown for a few nights, looking forward to it. Adnams wines in my opinion, are excellent (don’t think I’ve ever had a bottle I didn’t enjoy), the shop is a bit of an Aladdin’s cave as well.

          1. Hi Dave, Adnams do tours of their brewery, and their distillery. I’ve done both, and they are enjoyable. At the end of our distillery tour, the tasting expanded into an impromptu wine tasting! They do get booked up, so if interested get places secured asap. For some reason Adnams also organise tours of the famous Southwold Lighthouse. Also worth a visit to Southwold Harbour. Enjoy!

  5. Just had the pleasure of trying out a different Connoisseur 2022 Cotes de Gascogne 11% from £10.35 at Wickham Wines.
    A blend of Colombard and Ugni Blanc- I think 50/50%.
    Pale golden in the glass,bright acidity,shot through with grapefruit,lime and green apple flavours.Incredibiy fresh long finish.
    Achieved by night harvesting and nitrogen pressing of grapes-so minimising oxidation-which all costs money.Still good value for this quality.Lives up to the tag- L’ Eternelle Fidele which means eternal faith in the local terroir and local wine makers.

    1. Just been trying its sister Sauvignon Blanc – a candidate for a WSM (Why Spend More) post. It, too, is excellent -as is the cabernet merlot blend.

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