50 Best Value Red Wines

50 best wines, £10 Specials Specials

Resolved to rein in your spend on 'everyday' bottles? Five of the UK's top critics each pick their top ten reds under £10 - all available from supermarkets or national chains. TIM ATKIN MW is your guide

This article is dedicated to the memory of Jdimytai Damour. Mr Damour was a Wal-Mart employee trampled to death by frenzied pre-Christmas shoppers at a Long Island superstore. As paramedics struggled to save him, clearing the premises to deal with the tragedy, one punter complained: 'I've been in line since yesterday morning.'

American consumers are not alone in their thirst for a bargain. Anyone who thinks that we Brits would have behaved with more restraint and compassion hasn't taken the rush-hour tube in London recently, or attended the opening minutes of the Harrods sale. It's rare when someone dies in such circumstances, but the credit crunch has not shown the human race in the most positive of lights.

These days, it's every man for himself. It might be hard to imagine a shelfstacker being knocked to the ground in a supermarket wine aisle, but the ongoing rash of offers and price cuts (three bottles for £10 here, a blanket 25% reduction there) is designed to induce an unseemly rush.

The major supermarkets are using wine, some of it sold at a loss, to entice people into their stores. Not so long ago, the UK prided itself on having the most diverse wine offering in the world. This is changing fast. We are rapidly turning into a second Germany, a retail market where price is king and quality is a bedraggled pauper. If you think I'm exaggerating, buy a bottle of one of the 'value' wines that Tesco introduced at £2.89 recently - that's £2.89 per litre, by the way.

Tesco is not alone in listing a new range of largely depressing cheap wines. Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrison's are all heading downmarket, although (somewhat bizarrely) the discounter Aldi is moving in the opposite direction, introducing wines at £4.99 and above.

Even Waitrose, a retailer whose average customer spend dwarfs that of its competitors, is at it. Too often, people confuse cheapness with value for money. The two coincide on occasion, but with wine, you generally get what you pay for. Yes, some regions can be overpriced.

Yes, some countries represent better value than others. Yes, hype and scarcity have an impact on price. But that doesn't alter my conviction that you should trade up to drink better wine. This is not an issue for most Decanter readers, who I'm sure spend more than the £10 limit imposed here on an average bottle, and may need convincing of the drinking pleasure to be found below that.

But in these financially embattled times, for newer readers, or for those seeking to convert bargain-basement friends, there is a statistical basis to my argument. Given that duty, which rose by 27p in 2008 for still wines, is a fixed sum, the more you spend, the smaller the percentage of the Treasury's take.

You get much more for your money at £5.99 than at £2.99. As more of us choose to eat and drink at home, there are signs that the top end of the market is growing, too. Somewhat counter intuitively, Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report provided further encouragement to lift our sights above £6. If you spend more than £6.70, the 2.5% VAT saving outweighs

the latest duty increase. Perhaps someone should tell the supermarkets.

TIM ATKIN MW

Bidoli Vini, Friuli Merlot, Italy 2006

Northern Italy is not the first place you'd go in search of drinkable Merlot, but this French-oak aged example is smooth and finely textured with seamless tannins and silky, blackcurrant and lead-pencil notes. £8.99; M&S

Boschendal, Shiraz Reserve, Coastal Region, South Africa 2006

This is a big, powerful wine, with 14.5% alcohol and lots of French oak, but it has the sweet tannins, rich blackberry fruit and clove spice to cope. £9.99; Coo

Cantina di Merlara, Valpolicella Ripasso, Veneto, Italy 2005

A bargain blend of 50% Corvina with lesser amounts of Rondinella and Molinara, this is a deeply coloured Valpol with plum and damson fruit, a touch of sweetness from the ripasso method and palate-tingling acidity. £4.99; Adi

Cave de St-Désirat, Beaumes de Venise, Rhône, France 2007

This Grenache-based red is scented, ripe and heady. Despite the 15% alcohol, it's well balanced. £7.99 (£6.99 each for two); Maj

Château d'Argadens, Bordeaux Supérieur, France 2004

Further proof that the 2004 vintage in Bordeaux has been underrated by some, this value-for-money claret is drinking very well now. The 55% Merlot may explain its supple, drink-me flavours; the 45% Cabernet Sauvignon its underlying structure. £7.49; Boo

Concha y Toro, Casillero del Diablo, Carmenere, Rapel Valley, Chile 2007 *2

To think that, not so long ago, Chile had to pretend that Carmenere was Merlot in order to sell it. Not any more. A rich, fleshy, green pepper and chocolate-like red with prominent but well-integrated oak. £6.98; Asd

Cuvée Balthazar, Syrah, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France 2007

This is the best Syrah I've had yet from the Pays d'Oc, made in a peppery, savoury, northern-Rhône style with lots of understated pepper spice, no oak and fine-grained tannins. £9.99; Wai

Masi, Passo Doble, Mendoza, Argentina 2007 *3

Another ripasso-style wine, but this time from Argentina: Malbec is aided and abetted by 30% Corvina. It's a stylish red with restrained alcohol, a nip of tannin and plummy fruit. £9.49; Odd

Monasterio de Santa Ana, Crianza, Jumilla, Spain 2004

Jumilla is one of Spain's least-celebrated red-wine regions, but its old-vine Monastrell can be superb. This one is blended with Tempranillo and Cabernet, and it's a humdinger: smoky, peppery and structured, with robust tannins. £6.99; Tes

Taste the Difference, Douro, Quinta do Crasto, Portugal 2007

A blend of four Douro grapes, Quinta do Crasto's red is as good as ever. Dark and spicy with notes of prune, liquorice and blackberry, but no oak to get in the way. £7.99; Sa

ANTHONY ROSE

Asda, Extra Special Beaujolais-Villages, France 2006

Beaujolais is for quaffing, and when its Gamay grape is as juicily nubile and as refreshingly cherryish as this, then it's not only doing what it says on the label but is also all you need for an everyday red for washing down pasta, pizzas or Sunday roasts. £4.98; Asd

Castillo La Paz, Tempranillo-Syrah, La Mancha, Spain 2007

The rain in Spain rarely falls on the windmill-strewn plain of La Mancha, one of Europe's biggest, driest, and most traditional patches of vineyard, but there's been a revival here that's seen wines like this new-wave blend of the native Tempranillo with France's Syrah.

This is bright, juicy and strawberryish. £5.99; Wai

The Co-operative, Barossa Valley Shiraz, South Australia 2006

New to the Co-op range, this is authentic Barossa Shiraz from Peter Lehmann, spicy

on the nose with undertones of mintiness. Full, rich and blackberryish with a smoky, tarry spiciness rounded out by oak. £7.99; Coo

Cordier, Bordeaux Grand Vin Prestige, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon, France 2005

While the names Prestige and Grand Vin and the broad-shouldered bottle should

be taken with a pinch of salt, this is a surprisingly approachable and affordable, modern, Merlot-based red Bordeaux from the excellent 2005 vintage. £9.99; Msn

Domaine Haut-Lirou, Pic Saint-Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc 2007 *1

A fine southern-French blend of four-fifths Syrah and one-fifth Grenache and Mourvèdre from Pic Saint Loup, this excellent red displays tapenade aromas with blackberry fruitiness and a spiceinfused quality on the palate that lends its savoury, black-olive and garrigue

undertones. £8.99 (£6.99 each for two); Maj

Ile La Forge, Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France 2007

From the far-sighted Jean-Claude Mas based in Languedoc-Roussillon, this is a

typically modern, young southern-French Merlot whose vibrant dark-cherry and blackcurrant fruitiness is framed by stylish smoky, vanilla-oak undertones

(French and American) to make this one of the best-value sub-£5 right-bank claret

lookalikes on the market. £4.99; Ald

Marks & Spencer, Grenache Noir, France 2007

Not just any Grenache. but Marks & Spencer's extremely well-sourced

southern-French Grenache from the evidently talented Herve Sabardeil (also responsible for the good-value White Grenache), who's produced a vivid, enticingly spicy mulberry and cherryish red whose bright juicy fruitiness is an everyday glugging delight. £5.99; M&S

Marques de Casa, Concha Merlot, Maipo Valley, Chile 2006

Concha y Toro really knows how to extract the most from its grapes as this vanilla-scented Merlot from Peumo in the Maipo Valley shows. Opulent blackberry and cassis richness and spicy notes in a framework of supple tannins and juicy acidity. £9.99; Sai

Rongopai, Gimblett Gravels Syrah, New Zealand 2007

Hawkes Bay's comparatively recent discovery that its cool, maritime climate and gravelly terraces are as suited to Syrah as the Bordeaux varieties that have made its name has resulted in a band of elegant northern Rhône-style wines, such as this peppery example, whose spicy blackberry fruit quality is tempered by an elegant, savoury acidity. £9.99; Odd

Waitrose, Douro Reserva, Quinta de la Rosa, Douro, Portugal 2006 *4

Take equal quantities of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz, destem, ferment and stir at Quinta de la Rosa, and what you have in this instance is not Port,

but a vivid, modern Douro blend with pristine mulberry succulence framed by a veneer of subtle oak and typical Douro power and bite. £9.99; Wai

JONATHAN RAYO

Asda, Extra Special New Zealand Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2007

This is corking value for lovers of Kiwi Pinot Noir. With buckets of juicy raspberry fruit and a spicy/savoury finish, it's no shrinking violet. £7.98; Asd

Cave des Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Les Mouchottes, Burgundy, France 2006

From the last co-operative in the Côte d'Or, now part of the Blason de Bourgogne group, this is great value: no-nonsense Pinot, mellow and earthy. £9.99 (£8.99 each for two); Maj

Caves St-Pierre, Préférence, Vieilles Vignes, Côtes du Rhône, France 2007

This old-vine Grenache/Syrah/Cinsault blend from the southern Rhône is ripe, fruity and peppery, with well-structured tannins. Quaff with pleasure now or keep for a few months. £5.99; Sai

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Valley, Chile 2007

Crammed with luscious blackcurrant fruit of freshness and purity, this is a cracker. £5.33 each for three; WRa

Co-op, Bin 99 Argentine Cabernet Franc Reserve, Argentina 2006

This barrel-aged 100% Cabernet Franc from San Juan has oodles of generous, ripe fruit and subtle tannins. £5.99; Coo

Dourthe, Terroirs d'Exception, Croix des Menuts, St-Emilion, Bordeaux, France 2006

Dourthe has a neat portfolio in Bordeaux and even if its basic wines don't always excite, this certainly does. This wine is concentrated and intense, with velvety tannins and supple fruit. £9.99; Boo

Fetzer, Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA 2006

I've always enjoyed Fetzer's wines and applaud its sustainable approach to

winemaking. Although Cabernetdominant, additional splashes of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot and Carignan give this an unexpected complexity. £7.63; Coo

Marqués de Calatrava, Seleccion Reservada Tempranillo, La Mancha, Spain 2004

There's more to Spain than Rioja, as this 100% Tempranillo from organically certified vineyards around Manzanares and Alhambra proves. With 12 months in oak, it is soft and spicy with lovely sweet fruit and hints of bitter chocolate. £5.99; Wai

Paul Cluver, Pinot Noir, Elgin, South Africa 2006

Cool-climate Elgin is producing some cracking stuff at the moment, and none better than Andries Burger at Paul Cluver Estate, whose Sauvignon Blancs and Gewurztraminers I've long admired. This is textbook Pinot: soft, silky and smooth. £9.99; Wai

Smith & Hooper, Hundred of Joanna, Wrattonbully, South Australia 2006

Wrattonbully is fast becoming a tip-top spot for Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia.

This example from the Yalumba stable, blended with Merlot and a touch of Shiraz, is rich, voluptuous and crammed with fruit. It'll get even better. £9.99; Odd

SARAH JANE EVANS MW

Asda, Extra Special Valpolicella Ripasso, Veneto, Italy 2006

A welcome contrast to the shelves of overripe, overly alcoholic crowd-pleasers. This Corvina blend with a dash of Rondinella and Molinara has a lively, savoury, smoky character. £6.12; Asd

Baglio Rosso, Nero d'Avola, Sicily, Italy 2007

M&S's Italians overdeliver, especially at lower price ranges. Sicily is the stalwart of good-value Italy, and this has succulent, jammy, black-plum fruit, leavened by notes of herbs and spices. £5.49; M&S

Cederberg, Sustainable Shiraz, Western Cape, South Africa 2007

A real cracker: Shiraz from South Africa's highest vineyards. It may have alcohol right up to the limit (15%), but the altitude gives the wine freshness. £7.49; Wai

Château Le Bruilleau, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France 2005

Aldi is a great place for traditional wines in the winter at low prices. Le Bruilleau is one of a line-up of well-priced Bordeaux, with its keynote violet and black fruit perfume, and firm texture. £6.99; Adi

Concha y Toro, Casillero del Diablo Merlot, Rapel Valley, Chile 2007

I wish this was still under £6, but even at this price, there's still plenty of value. This

Merlot has an opulent ripeness, without any green tinges. £6.99; Maj

Cono Sur, Pinot Noir, Central Valley, Chile 2007 *4

Every top 10 red list should have a Pinot in it, and Cono Sur's has to be the best value. Though the price creeps ever upward, the style is still clearly Chilean, clearly fresh young Pinot, with a refreshing crunch. £6.99; Wai

La Báscula, Turret Fields Monastrell Syrah, Jumilla, Spain 2005

The kind of big red the word 'gutsy' was designed for. Not for everyone, but it adds seasoning to bold, spicy foods. £7.49; Boo

Morandé, Carignan Edicción Limitada, Loncomilla Valley, Chile 2004

50-year-old, dry-farmed vines, 20 months in US oak, in a weighty bottle, this takes itself seriously. Bold, ripe cherry fruit with complex savoury notes. £9.99; M&S

St Hallett, Gamekeeper's Reserve, Barossa, South Australia 2007

Anything that has Touriga Nacional in it - even if only 4% - wins my vote, with its lifted violet aromas. Ripe blackberry fruit with an undertow of smoke and tar. £6.99; Boo, Tes, Wai

Tesco, Finest Ribera del Duero, Spain 2005 *3

A great price from one of Spain's more stratospherically priced regions. Intense, full of extract with firm tannins. Beats the competition hands down. £6.99; Tes

JOANNA SIMON

Ascheri, Fontanelle, Barbera d'Alba, Piedmont, Italy 2006

Deep, dry and pruney with a hint of truffle. This has had nine months in Slavonian oak, largely old, which has softened and filled out the wine nicely. £8.99; Sai

Asda, Extra Special Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Victoria, Australia 2005

Classic, nicely supple cassis fruit, fresh mint, dark chocolate and coffee flavours, by the impressive Katnook Estate. £6.98; Asd

D'Angelo, Sacravite Aglianico, Basilicata, Italy 2006

This has smoky graphite and spice flavours, with strawberry and plum fruit. £9.99 (£7.99 each for two); Maj

Domaine du Joncier, Le Classique, Lirac, Rhône, France 2006

Succulent spiced-cherry and soft-earth flavours and supple tannins. A classic southern Rhône blend. £8.99; Wai

Majella, The Musician Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, Coonawarra, Victoria, Australia 2007

There's an impressive purity to the mint, raspberry and velvety milk chocolate flavours of this juicy blend. £9.49; Odd

Montsant Old Vines Garnacha, Agricola Falset-Marca, Montsant, Spain 2005

Old vines and oak ageing have helped to produce a characterful, full-bodied red with perfumed black fruit, spice and mineral notes. £8.99; M&S

Ocean's Edge, Marlborough Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand 2006

Produced from young vines with low yields in Ara, this is textbook Pinot: pure and silky, with bright fruit. £7.99; Tes

Tesco Finest Beyers Truter Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa 2006

This is worth a go even if you're not a Pinotage fancier (and I'm not, normally). It's rich and ripe with chocolaty oak, sweet fruit and a hint of leather. £8.19; Tes

Waitrose, Douro Reserva, Quinta de la Rosa, Douro, Portugal 2006

A classy Douro red, this is full-bodied, with sweet red fruit and savoury spice, polished tannins and well-integrated French oak. £9.99; Wai

Willunga, 100 Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia 2006

At 14.5%, the ripe raspberry fruit could have tipped over into cloying jammy flavours. But instead, it's medium-full and supple, with a whiff of fresh herbs. £7.99; Sai