I have always had a deep suspicion about discounted supermarket wines.
Either they tend to be the rotters that the wine markets and merchants are desperate to clear from their cellars to make way for some half decent stuff, or the wines are on ‘discount’ where some imaginary figure has been knocked off the price, simply to bring it back to its real value.
I am similarly suspicious of Waitrose’s wines, where the selection seems too random and the price points too ambitious to give it really serious consideration. But with the pound plummeting and claret prices rising to levels that would make even a Russian gangster gulp, this is what I am reduced to; trailing along the wine shelves at Waitrose on a Saturday afternoon, trying to spot something half decent.
In that quest I have recently come up with a couple of Italian wines that are worth serious consideration. The first was a decent Chianti Classico, the Villa Cafaggio 2013. I have always had a soft spot for Chianti, dating back to my time writing the Italian section of the Time Out Restaurant guide. This was a nicely approachable number with soft tannins and a rounded plummy finish. It was an attractive £10.99 when I found it last month – sadly it has reverted to its ‘usual’ price of £13.49 but is worth keeping an eye on since there’s every chance it will come down again if they need to shift some before Christmas. At the lower price it’s worth stocking up.
More recently I tried the 2014 Canaro Barbaresco. For the uninitiated, Barbaresco is essentially Barolo Lite. It is made from the same grape – the noble black Nebbiolo – in the next door region of Piedmont, but is harvested earlier and so doesn’t have the same powerful tannins, which means it can be drunk earlier.
This Barbaresco is no classic – it is made by one of the region’s big producers and knocked out in volume. But it has all the hallmarks of its kind – a light almost strawberry colour and a strong floral nose, followed by a taste of plums and pencil shavings. At £11.99, or 20 per cent off this month, it is probably around half the price you might expect to pay for a rival.
Barbaresco is the perfect autumn red. Not only are its vineyards wreathed in mist during harvest around now but it has the combination of lightness and strength to go with autumn foods. Try it with a roast partridge.
Canaro Barbaresco 2014 (Waitrose, £11.99 until 31 October)