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Waitrose – Best buys this summer

Waitrose’s latest press tasting revealed that the supermarket is well stocked with wines at all price points to see us through the summer season.

Waitrose holds two press tastings every year, one in the spring and one in the autumn, to showcase new lines, new vintages and new innovations. The spring 2024 tasting showcased 90 wines, which included 32 entirely new to the range and 43 new vintages of existing wines.

‘There’s a raft of newness, which we’re excited about,’ says Waitrose’s wine trading manager, Jamie Matthewson. The retailer’s buyers have sourced some fantastic new choices for the summer season, with five brand new rosés, a good selection from classic regions such as Bordeaux and Rhône, as well as a smattering of more esoteric examples, little-known regions or interesting grape varieties. Matthewson says that in general the most recent vintages have been more favourable than 2021 for example, meaning buyers have been able to spread their wings.

In Decanter’s 2023 Retailer Awards, Waitrose was once again runner-up in the Supermarket of the Year category, just pipped at the post by Marks & Spencer. It was also runner-up in the England & Wales Specialist Retailer of the Year category, reflecting the great work it does for English and Welsh wine by offering a diverse selection from these areas.

DWWA results out 19 June!
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Lighter styles for summer

As you’d expect, there are lots of fresh whites now in store, ready to fill your fridge shelves and perfect for that post-working day apéritif in the garden (or balcony, for the urban dwellers). The Zacharias Assyrtiko 2023, CVNE La Val Albariño 2023, Herència Altés Benufet Organic Garnatxa Blanca 2023 and AA Badenhorst The Curator White Blend 2023 all tick that box, showing various combinations of zesty citrus, stony minerality and mouthwatering freshness. Courgette salads, either grilled or raw, or any dish that heavily features the Middle Eastern seasoning Za’atar, spring to mind for pairing these wines with.

If you’re looking for slightly more full-bodied whites, try the Wolfberger Pinot Blanc 2020, the Domaine Gerard Thomas & Filles St-Aubin premier cru, or The Federalist Chardonnay 2022. They cover all price points and will please any mother-in-law at a family barbecue when the pressure is mounting because father-in-law has burnt the sausages. I’d pair any of these slightly richer whites with a gorgeous Burrata and grilled peach salad, a quiche, frittata or Spanish tortilla, or succulent grilled chicken.

With consumer trends showing a growing demand for lighter reds, it was somewhat surprising to see that some of the best reds of the tasting were the fuller-bodied styles, indicating that there’s still perhaps a little room for the retailer to expand into the lighter styles.

That being said, a few bright and juicy reds did stand out, notably the Lentsch Zweigelt 2021. I was really impressed with the brightness and energy of this gorgeous little Austrian red, not least considering it retails under £10.

Awesome Austria

In fact, Austria came up trumps at the press tasting in general, with three wines making my top picks: the Loved & Found Gelber Muskateller, the Blueprint Grüner Veltliner 2023 and the Lentsch Zweigelt 2021.

The Austrians were playing at the top of their game – a result of buyer Emma Penman’s crafty buying skills and a general upsurge in quality from the country.

‘Having really enjoyed spending some time in Austrian vineyards over the past year, I am so pleased to share some of this excitement with our customers,’ says Penman, who also buys wine from England, Wales, Eastern Europe and Germany.

She also highlights the Gelber Muskateller as a wine to seek out, ‘our latest addition to our popular Loved & Found range, it is a dry Muscat made with grapes mainly from the beautiful Weinviertel region. The wine is pretty, with aromatic notes of flower blossom and exotic fruit. An excellent example, it finishes with elegant zesty freshness,’ she says.

Don’t miss

Buyer for Italy and South Africa Daphne Teremetz highlights the Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage 2021 as a firm favourite and I can confirm it’s a winner. ‘It’s ‘made by the team at the historic Stellenbosch estate, Kanonkop, which has been ranked as a South African First Growth by Tim Atkin MW,’ she says.

Imogen Bowen-Davies, buyer for Bordeaux, Rhône, Loire and Alsace, says that the Château Saint-Hilaire Médoc Cru Bourgeois Supérieur 2019 is one of her favourites from the range, and it was certainly one of mine too. At just £15.99 this offers incredible complexity, and it’s hard to stop going back for more.

Look online at Waitrose Cellar

While the in-store range is extensive, the place to look for more esoteric wines, older vintages or something a bit more niche is Waitrose Cellar, which lists wines that are not available in any of the shops. Here you can pick up some really serious, high-class wines, which is great for gifting or buying for your cellar.

There were a few great examples at the press tasting from the 1,300-strong online range, and the Louis Guntrum Hipping Riesling 2017 really stood out, a new addition to Waitrose Cellar and a real treat to be able to buy a Riesling with a touch of bottle age that’s starting to evolve and do what Riesling does best.

Loved & Found and Blueprint ranges

Waitrose’s Loved & Found range remains a source of interesting and great value wines from lesser-known grape varieties and regions, well worth discovering. The two recent Italian rosé editions, Loved & Found Organic Aglianico Rosato 2023 and Loved & Found Organic Susumaniello Rosato 2023, are both worth seeking out, as is the Portuguese white Loved & Found Cerceal.

Waitrose had plans last year to expand its Blueprint and No 1 ranges, aiming to bring good quality, lighter alcohol wine from more unknown regions under the umbrella of these reliable ranges. The Blueprint Grüner Veltliner was the highlight for me.

The ethical consumer

Waitrose places great importance on sustainability and has a number of initiatives, as well as a dedicated sustainability trading manager, Barry Dick MW, to thoroughly assess the company’s impact, particularly throughout its supply chain.

The retailer has now completely scrapped half bottles, and instead has moved this smaller format to cans – which has seen massive growth, according to Matthewson – saving 320 tonnes of glass per year from its supply chain. Not only this, but the 250ml can chills down much quicker than a bottle, and is an extremely convenient size for enjoying one glass on a weekday evening, without having to open a whole bottle. What’s more, ‘it means two people can have two different wines of an evening’, says Matthewson.

Waitrose has also recently introduced capsule-less bottles, particularly to the Loved & Found range. It is the first UK supermarket to remove plastic and foil sleeves from the bottle necks, in a bid to cut unnecessary packaging, and it estimates that it will cut the amount of packaging used by half a tonne annually.

Waitrose is also invested in reducing the weight of its wine bottles and has committed to reduce the average bottle weight across the range for 75cl from 480g to 420g by the end of 2026. ‘We’re working with all of our producers to get the glass weight down,’ says Dick.

When it comes to the role of supermarkets and large companies in the fight to combat climate change, ‘we have some level of responsibility to lead the consumer, even when it’s harder,’ says Dick.

He says that knowing the scale of what has to be dealt with from a climate change perspective, knowing that their carbon footprint needs to be reduced and that they need to be considerate about how it affects the natural world, and knowing the industry and the materials well, puts Waitrose in a position to take some leadership.

The supermarket is also moving to do more bulk shipment in further efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the supply chain. ‘We want to move as much wine in bulk as possible and we’ve got to do that in a qualitative way,’ says Dick. ‘It’s almost 2.5 times more efficient to move wine in bulk instead of glass bottles, and the energy saving is massive.’

Waitrose & Partners: top buys this summer

The recommendations that follow were tasted by Natalie Earl in April 2024 at the Waitrose Spring/Summer 2024 press tasting in London. All bottle prices are correct at time of publication. Wines are grouped by style and ordered by score, in descending order. 

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