STEVEN SPURRIER, PETER MCCOMBIE MW and CHRISTELLE GUIBERT tasted a huge selection of wines, all widely asailable across the UK, and selected their top 50 reds and top 50 whites - all costing less than £10 and with £26 at less than £6.
THE 50 best reds under £10
The red wines ran up to 140 bottles, tasted over two days. Wines were grouped by grape variety and as far as possible by region and country. As a result, given the grape varieties and the countries as a guide, it was possible to taste in segments and arrive at an overall judgement.
Merlot is holding its own well against Chilean Carmenère. For Merlot-Cabernet blends, Australia and New Zealand showed better than wines from Bordeaux negociants, but individual châteaux from the region were good. Cabernet Sauvignon showed well on its own or partially blended, and the Shiraz-Cabernets from Australia showed even better – perhaps the best wines of the tasting.
Northern Rhône Syrahs were disappointing, Crozes-Hermitage in the main. Good vintages should have produced better wine than this.
On the second day we had a good start with the non-varietal wines of Portugal under £10, then worked our way through some dull French vins de pays and some very dull Beaujolais. By contrast, the Burgundian Pinot Noirs held up well against the rest of the world. South Africa’s Pinotage, with its vibrant fruit and deep colour, showed well. Once into the Grenache/Garnacha range, it was hard to find a poor wine. Rioja was a little predictable, whereas Valpolicella was exciting, better than some of the more expensive Chiantis.
Zinfandel was well represented from California and we finished with Malbec – some interesting wines, but the varietal still needs work if it is going to rival Merlot.
…And the 50 BEST WHITEs
Peter McCombie MW
I didn’t approach this tasting with huge anticipation but was pleasantly surprised to find a good standard of wines overall. Of the 121 wines tasted we found very few winemaking faults, though there were several wines lacking in character which were, frankly, just boring.
In a near repeat of last year’s result 29 New World wines and 21 Old World made the grade. France and Australia tied with 14 recommendations each, while New Zealand produced a respectable 10, including five four-star wines. Italy was disappointing, though two of the wines were the cheapest in the tasting. Germany managed two Rieslings, one a classic Mosel, the other from the Pfalz.
With another three from Australia and one from New Zealand, Riesling was the third most popular varietal. Sauvignon Blanc – with 13 examples, six from Marlborough – was most popular, while Chardonnay’s 12 examples from around the world earned it a close second.
The fact that just three of our recommended whites retail at under £4 confirms the adage that you get what you pay for, and yet with 82% at less than £8, you don’t have to break the bank to get quality.
Hats off to the high street wine buyers then; this year’s top 50 represents not only quality and value, but variety too.
Written by STEVEN SPURRIER and PETER MCCOMBIE MW