Shopping for value wines at Waitrose is a tranquil experience. For a start, the choice is not too overwhelming, and the layout of the wine section is organic, not linear. The price cards on the shelves include a brief description of the wines, with food pairing ideas. These don’t always match my experience of the wine, but it is helpful to have something to go on. Like the book shops that pepper their shelves with staff recommendations, I saw other shoppers peering intently at the wine notes on Waitrose’s shelves.
I was looking for wines that could hold their own with barbecued chicken and vegetables: full bodied whites and silky smooth reds. All of these wines were perfectly suited to the task as you can see by the empty bottles.
Montgravet Chardonnay, France 2012 £5.29
This is a very pale wine that smells of peaches and lemons, and vaguely of elderflower. I served it to my guests blind, and they found it somewhat off-dry with notes of lychee, peaches, and pear. They guessed it was Pinot Gris or a Viognier blend. Although unanimously declared pleasant enough to drink, there were protestations when it was unveiled as a Chardonnay. Possibly because there was no discernible oak or yeasty flavours. The label claimed its predominant notes were grapefruit and vanilla, neither being flavours that we observed. Still, the bottle was empty while the evening was still young. Taste 5/10, value 6/10.
Luis Felipe Edwards– Chilean Chardonnay, Muscat, Viognier 2012 £5.99
Smells of pineapple, lime and jasmine. Off-dry on the palate, we tasted peaches, ripe green melon, guava, and kiwi as you would expect from Muscat and Viognier grapes in the blend. Although more complex and viscous than the previous wine, this was deemed a bit too sweet for casual drinking. It would be an excellent choice to accompany spicy Thai or Indian food. Taste 6/10, value 6/10.
McWilliams Hanwood Estate Shiraz 2009, SE Australia. £6.49
On the nose, this deep purple wine is rich and complex. We noted blackberry, allspice, scorched dark berry jam, ripe plums. Upon sipping, more earthy notes revealed themselves: prunes, bitter chocolate, pomegranate, leather and liquorice with a long lingering finish. Excellent with barbecued meats. This was very good value for a wine of this age and depth. Taste 8/10, value 10/10.
Nederburg Foundation Shiraz-Pinotage 2012, South Africa. £7.49
This had a distinctive nose of farmyard, black pepper, sage and cut grass upon un-screwing. On the palate, it had an immediate sweet jammy taste with black cherries, roses, charred oak and rubber. Despite the label calling it medium to full bodied, we found it on the lighter end of medium, possibly because of its smoothness. Figuring that the grapes were pendulous with potential on their vines scarcely a year ago, this has a very well developed flavour for so young a wine. Taste 7/10, value 9/10.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot that the last wine exceeds the original mandate of under £7, but at the time I bought them, Waitrose were offering 25% discount for purchases of 6 bottles or more. Snap them up!