Waitrose: Still the best supermarket for wine

This year Waitrose have won all four major drinks awards for ‘Supermarket of the Year’ (International Wine Challenge, International Wine & Spirit Competition, Decanter World Wine Awards and Drinks Retailing Awards) and it’s not hard to see why. Their recent range tasting was not without its ups and downs, but the diamond bottles outweighed the underperformers. They have been at the top of their game for a number of years now (with an honourable mention to the excellent EH Booth who have 26 stores around the North of England).

It’s a shame that they continue to list some of the less interesting, big brand wines from the likes of Blossom Hill and Yellow Tail; as long as that is the case, it’s hard to recommend them unreservedly – it is still possible to pick up something dull if you don’t know what to avoid. But largely the wines on show at the tasting at least were of a high quality. While we are seeing more and more good quality independent wine merchants crop up at the moment, they are still a relatively rare sight. In the meantime, Waitrose offer one of the few high street shops in England (well, the South of England at least) offering a reliable, good value wine selection over multiple sites.

One great new initiative that they are looking into is reducing the weight of glass bottles in their wines and spirits. Many winemakers see a big heavy bottle as an important signifier of quality, so insist on putting their wines, especially their top bottlings, in thumping great lumps of glass before shipping them off around the world. This seems to be a particularly common practice in North America, and especially South America. A bottle of wine is a heavy enough thing to have to cart around as it is without pumping it up like a steroid-addicted body builder. This will not only help to reduce carbon emissions, but it will also mean that less money is spent on packaging, so more can be invested into what goes inside it. Keep up the good work.



Some highlights:




Henri Fessy Brouilly 2010
100% Gamay grape from Beaujolais, France
£10.99 available at most Waitrose stores

Dry, but with silky, juicy sweet fruit. Medium bodied with flavours of small red berries and a nice tannic grip. Good length and interest. 89 points, good value.

Tino da Ânfora 2008
A blend of 50% Aragónez, 30% Tinta Nacional, 10% Trincadeira, 5% Alfrochiero and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Alentejo, Portugal
£7.99 available at most Waitrose stores

Intense dark sweet fruit, well balanced with admirable length. Good quaffing stuff. 88 points, good value.

Villa Antinori Rosso 2008
55% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah grapes from Tuscany, Italy
£14.99 available at most Waitrose stores

Deep, inviting, earthy nose with a some herbal aromas. Medium to full bodied, juicy and modern. Approachable and enjoyable with a pleasingly long finish. A crowd pleaser. 88 points, fair value.



Simonnet-Febvre Sauvignon de Saint Bris 2010
100% Sauvignon Blanc grape from Burgundy, France
£9.49 available at most Waitrose stores

Appealing gooseberry and fennel nose, not too in-your-face. Medium bodied and balanced with noticeable acidity and a softness to the impression on the palate. Appetising, would work well with food. 89 points, good value.

Catena Chardonnay 2010
100% Chardonnay grape from Mendoza, Argentina
£11.99 available at most Waitrose stores

Full bodied Chardonnay with a smooth, silky mouthfeel. Tropical fruit and peach balanced with good acidity with a long spicy finish. Irresistible at this price. 89 points, good to very good value.

Domaine Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer 2010
100% Gewurztraminer grape from Alsace, France
£13.99 (down to £10.99 from 19/10/11 to 08/11/11) available at most Waitrose stores

I’m a sucker for Gewurz, the sluttiest of white grapes. This one has a relatively restrained nose of lychees, with that tendency to soapiness that it can have sometimes. Fat and full bodied with a hint of sweetness, but shot through with zingy acidity. 90 points, good value, very good value on offer.


The following are less widely available but worth seeking out:


Palacio de Fefiñanes Albariño 2010
100% Albariño grape from Rías Baixas, Spain
£15.99 available at Waitrose Wine Direct and 6 branches

One of the oldest producers of Albariño in Spain, Fefiñanes make one of the best, and this new vintage is no exception. Floral (jasmine) nose with a medium-bodied but intense peach and apricot palate. Buzzing acidity right into the long, mineral, almost saline finish. A really vibrant and refreshing wine. 91 points, good value.

Domaine des Escaravailles ‘La Galopine’ Rasteau Blanc 2010
A blend of 45% Roussanne, 45% Marsanne and 10% Viognier grapes from Côtes du Rhône, France
£18.99 available at Waitrose Wine Direct and at John Lewis, Oxford Street, London

Enticing pineapple, peach and apricot fruit on the nose and the palate, with a pleasing full bodied, almost oily mouthfeel, shot through with piercing acidity. Good length, with a hint of aniseed and dill, and a toasty finish thanks for fermentation in oak barrels (25% new oak). Real complexity and lovely balance. 91 points, good value.


One to avoid?

All in all the wines on show were to a high standard. Although I do have reservations about a few of their English wines. And:

Williams and Humbert 12-Year Old Collection Oloroso Sherry NV
Palomino grapes from Jerez, Spain
£7.99 for a half bottle available in some Waitrose stores

Lacks intensity and depth of flavour for an oloroso. A lightweight amongst what is otherwise a good range of fortified wines. 82 points, not great value.