Of the 36 boxes I've just tasted (ones their retailers claimed to be proud of), only five were total rejects. My favourites among the whites were **Stowells Gisborne Sauvigon Blanc (about pounds 15.99 Tesco, Sainsbury, Safeway, Gateway, Somerfield, William Low and Thresher, Wine Rack and Bottoms Up), attractive and easy-drinking with crisp acidity and grassy, gooseberry fruit; and **Domaine des Fontaines Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc ( pounds 9.99 for two litres Tesco), very respectable unoaked Chardonnay, soft but fresh and crisp and very appealing. Also good is the richer *Stowells Semillon Chardonnay, Riverina (about pounds 14.99 Victoria Wine, Unwins, Tesco, Gateway, Somerfield, Morrisons, Thresher, Wine Rack and Bottoms Up), a full Australian white with toasty, greengagey fruit and some peachy flavour from the Chardonnay. *McWilliams Hillside Colombard Chardonnay, Riverina (about pounds 8.49 for two litres Asda, Waitrose, Gateway, Somerfield, Oddbins, J T Davies, Budgen, Quinnsworth and Blaney Wines in Northern Ireland, William Morton in Scotland) is not quite as good, but agreeably crisp and lemony, with some peachy Chardonnay flavour and a hint of oak. The *St Michael Italian Chardonnay, Vino da Tavola del Piemonte ( pounds 12.99 Marks & Spencer) is attractively soft, appley, and slightly buttery, but with crisp acidity and *Victoria Wine La Mancha Dry White ( pounds 10.79) is a very good basic white, fresh, modern and peardroppy.
The best reds are from Australia, with top of my list the **Stowells Shiraz-Cabernet, McClaren Vale (about pounds 15 Tesco, Gateway, Somerfield, Morrisons, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up and Victoria Wine), deliciously plum-fruity Cabernet spiked with a bright, peppery character from the Shiraz, and just a touch of tannin; and **McWilliams Hillside Riverina Shiraz-Cabernet (about pounds 8.50 for two litres, stockists as for the white McWilliams above), which is also ripely fruity and flavourful, with hints of toffee and mint. *Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Pays d'Oc ( pounds 11.99 Unwins) is almost as good, richly blackcurranty and grassy, with a touch of tannin. *Sainsbury's Corbieres ( pounds 10.95) is a very light style for Corbieres, but meaty and slightly plummy.
Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon is usually a safe buy in bag-in-box. My favourite is *Sainsbury's Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon, Suhindol ( pounds 10.95), almost worth two stars, agreeably light and strawberry-blackcurrant-fruity. More rustic in style but still a good drink are the *Stowells Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon, Plovdiv (about pounds 11.50 Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Thresher, Wine Rack and Bottoms Up) and the *Co-op Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon ( pounds 10.69).
(All contain 3 litres unless otherwise stated.)
Star ratings: **very good *goodReuse content