We can’t condone oenophilia in all its red-nosed, slurring indulgence if only because talk of tannins, legs and delicate flowery bouquets is so dull it could be used to extract information at Guantanamo bay. Still, wine is proof that if a God exists, he or she wants us to be happy —so it's worth buying the right stuff.
The approach here is simple: what do I like? what tastes good? what’s worth the price of admission? what’s still terrible after a bottle?
All these wines cost less than £6 and none are mind blowing or especially complex but all represent excellent value and decent plonk for the money —it’s fine to spend little on wine, it just takes work to find something drinkable. It’s been a tough week (!) but I managed to try them all…
Suggestions? Comments? Drop me a wine-sodden scrawl at [email protected]
Toro Loco Temranillo 2011 12.5% Spain, Aldi £3.59
What I think… Well, I can guess what you’re thinking… ‘£3.59..! No way would I put that anywhere near my precious mouth!’ Yes it’s cheap but it’s far from horrible… with a friend, I polished this off over a pizza without too much trouble. It’s a simple table wine; fairly light, jolly, refreshing. Bagged itself a few awards too.
What the critics think… Victoria Moore, the Telegraph, ‘a tip-top buy. Bright, cheery and uncomplicated. Good for washing down pork or lamb chops.’
Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche Gamay 2011 12% France, Marks and Spencer £4.99
What I think… Gamay is used for the ever popular Beaujolais and this bargain could be from there; it’s a light, juicy red. A couple of glasses went extremely well with a chilled lunch of cold red meat and cheese. Following the advice of Suzy Atkins, I popped the bottle in the fridge for a bit before drinking… I don’t usually chill many reds but this was delicious. Decidedly summery rather than autumnal but what the hell.
What the critics think… Susy Atkins, The Sunday Times, ‘One for fans of elegant, light, succulent reds… A refreshing raspberry tang and twist of pepper.’ Olly Smith goes as far as 'joyous.' Well, that told you.
Chat-en-oeuf 2011 14% France, Waitrose £5.99
What I think… this is a wine I drink all the time. In fact, I’m drinking it right now. Everything about it seems wrong; the name is a pun (on Chateauneuf), the label is a cartoon and it has a screw top. But actually, left to air a little, it’s extremely quaffable. Dangerously quaffable. Hefty without being Mike Tyson, full of flavour and punch, it’s the right wine to have around the house in case of an impromptu drinking session (the best kind). If you want a fairly rich wine at a fairly cheap price, it’s hard to top. Plus, it’s always fun to ask someone to pass the ‘Cat on Egg.’
What the critics think…Well, the entire range has won plenty of awards but the real recommendation comes from Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine, who recommends this as a great buy and sums it up succinctly; ‘these wines taste as if they should cost at least 50% more.’ Did someone say 'value for money'?
Mâcon Blanc Villages 2011 12.5% France, Tesco £4.99
What I think… I'd had a terrible trip to an overcrowded Tesco, got home with my expectations low and still enjoyed it, which says enough for me. Crisp and clean and delicious. Could be swilled at a party without horrendous facial expressions following every sip.
What the critics say… Victoria Moore, The Daily Telegraph, ‘Simple white burgundy priced at a fiver has absolutely no right to taste as genteel, neat, clean, tidy and well put together as this one does. Really lovely crisp, gentle chardonnay with a lemon tilt and trace of limestone.’ Yum, limestone.
Le Froglet Sauvignon Blanc 2011 11.5% France, Marks & Spencer £4.99
What I think… another silly name. Folks, people are going to assume you’re drinking something horrid, which is no bad thing –you won’t be marked out as the wine snob. Get a few friends over, cook up the world’s largest chilli and pair with a glass of this refreshing stuff. The froglet line isn’t foolproof… I tried a chardonnay where the flavour seemed to have been left back in France but this sauvignon blanc is tasty enough.
What the critics say… Susy Atkins, The Telegraph, ‘Lime, melon and crunchy green apple mark out this simple but refreshing French sauvignon.’
Offer of the week
Caves St Pierre Cotes Du Rhone 13.5% France, Tesco £7.49 down to £5.49
Find it here.
£2 isn’t the all-time greatest deal. True. But this wine seriously delivers for £5.49. It's more crammed with flavour than the tube is with commuters… if you’re someone who thinks all wine tastes the same, have a glass of this after the Toro Loco (above) and you’ll see the difference. This Rhone wine is a mix of Grenache and Syrah, which is typical of the region, and Carignan and Mourvedrel, which balance the wine out nicely (it’s useful to remember the grapes you like so you can pick something to your taste next time you’re out). This wine is full bodied though no beast and is perfect either with a big autumnal meal or sat around with friends on a cold evening. It's warming, like an indoor heater for your palette. Drink and be merry!
Student Money Saver reminds you to always drink responsibly. Check yourself before you wreck yourself: know your limits.