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How to buy wine at the supermarket that’s not disgusting


Picture the scene: its 20 minutes before the dinner party starts. The wine merchants are shut. And a dusty bottle of Jacobs Creek simply won’t do. Luckily, there are some good wines available from the supermarket, but spotting them requires a little savvy. Time to rope in author of Wine & Food and BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen Lives’ wine expert, Jane Parkinson, for some advice.

Use the best wine apps

You won’t find too many sophisticated wine apps on Play Store or iTunes just yet, but there are a few worth trying. Supermarket Wine collates newspaper reviews, profiling each wine clearly so you can see the grape, region and price as well as the newspaper name, the date of the review and the name of the reviewer.60secondreviews Wine posts one-minute video reviews of supermarket wines. Also try the Vivino wine app which allows you to use your phone’s camera to scan in and recognise different types (and see whether it’s good value for money).

Go online to find the best supermarket wines

Most supermarkets have their own dedicated website page. This might sound a bit biased, but most customers are free to post their own reviews. Tesco’s website is the most interactive: features forums, reviews and wines of the week, which can come in handy. There’s, which is a useful price comparison site that’s relatively new and covers wines, beer and spirits on the high street. You can look up a certain wine, see where the cheapest bottle is stocked and then click through to that retailer’s website. For expert reviews check out which is a subscription-based site (with a free trial option) that reviews 200 wines every month. The reviews aren’t exclusively supermarket wines but they’re still covered comprehensively. The reviews are honest to the point of being brutal.

Don’t be a supermarket wine snob

Aldi and Lidl have been seriously busy in the last couple of years revamping their wine range, and the hard work is starting to pay off so give them a go, you’ll be pleasantly surprised (most of the time). The supermarket’s Exquisite Collection, alongside other more mainstream own-brands like Tesco’s Finest, can be a wellspring of good drops. The best are a real win-win because they come from renowned winemakers in a certain region but you’re not paying to have that revered name splashed across the label. Not sure what to get? Consult our guide to wine grapes.

Read the label in the supermarket’s aisle

Most people don’t take advantage of the help supermarkets provide in the wine aisle itself, so instead of doing a smash and grab, take an extra minute or two to look around. Look at the Co-op for instance. Next to each wine name on its shelves are little bars with a scale on it. Every white wine is measured on a dry to sweet scale and every red wine on a light to heavy scale – pretty useful if you don’t know the wine. Meanwhile, at Waitrose, as well as having their own in-store wine experts to hand, they feature little shelf barkers highlighting their wine buyers’ current favourite, which in my experience are always worth a try.

In Morrisons, they’ve categorized nearly all their wines under one of the four style groups to help us choose – fresh, smooth, rich and sweet. Again, our wine guide is also worth a look.

Dodge dead-in-the-water discounts

There are masses of tempting discounts screaming at us from the aisles, and although some are genuine bargains the ones to ignore are the bottles you recognise for being on discount all the time, because it probably means they wouldn’t have been worth the full price tag in the first place.

Be savvy about bling

Foil stickers on bottles usually denote a competition medal and this can be a really useful guide if you want a quick bit of reassurance. Be careful: they don’t always specify the year of the award, so you could be picking up a bottle that won a gong six years ago for the wine it made six years ago, while the newer version of the wine might have gone seriously downhill in quality – a difficult vintage weather-wise, for example, or a change of ownership.

Broaden your wine regions

In the UK we have some of the best wine choice in the world, so make the most of it. If you’re used to a country or region, stick to that but just try a different grape or region. For example, if you like red Rioja, try a red from Navarra (Rioja’s neighboring region), or just any other red from a Spanish region to start branching out. Not sure what’s what? Read our grape guide here.

Spend more to avoid the torture of tax

The punitive alcohol tax we endure in this country applies more to supermarket wine than most other places we buy wine from because typically this is where the cheapest bottles can be found. The less you pay for wine, proportionally the more you pay in tax. In other words, you get more wine for your money if you spend even a tiny bit more. Tax on wine is currently £2.04 a bottle so if you spend £4 a bottle, that extra £2 has to be shared out on everything from transport to packaging, without leaving much room for the wine.

And if all else fails, chill the cheap stuff

If all they’ve got left is something really wallet-friendly, then the best way to mask the flavours is to serve it really really cold. It’ll numb some of the more industrial notes. This is also pretty useful if you happen to be a host and don’t like a wine a friend’s brought over and they want you to open it in front of them.


Follow Jane Parkinson on Twitter: @jane_parkinson

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