The Morrisons' annual press tasting is normally a dreary affair with an insipid selection of brands that is nothing to write home about and an own-label range even less worth the second-class stamp. But the Leeds-based national supermarket chain, with its 479 stores, is up to something.
After a 2,000-strong survey determined that only one in four of us is confident we will enjoy the wine we buy, Morrisons has devised – ta-da – The Taste Test to accompany the bright and shiny new Morrisons Cellar.
Answer three simple questions and you'll find out if your preference is for 'sweet', 'fresh', 'smooth' or 'intense'. Armed with your flavour profile, you will then 'confidently and easily' find the wine you're most likely to enjoy. Normally, I am immune to such surveys as so much marketing hogwash. I wasn't encouraged when I took The Taste Test to find my preference to be for 'smooth'. 'Intense', or at the very least 'fresh', I had hoped, but perhaps I'm in denial. 'Smooth', says Morrisons (harrumph), is what most women go for.
So it was on a cold spring morning that I entered an Alice-in-Wonderland world of flavour signposts, plant sculptures, finger foods and other atmospheric props aimed at nailing my preferences. Of course the real proof of the pudding is in the glass. I was amazed to find that these were not the Morrisons wines of yesteryear, but a sea-change in quality from anything that had gone before. The penny dropped. Could this be a way of staunching the flow of customers from the Morrisons' wine range, an 'undertrade' in the jargon?
In 'Fresh', I found myself enjoying a smoky, refreshingly citrusy 2011 Loimer Kamptal Grüner Veltliner, £14.99, a pungently passion-fruit infused 2011 Jackson Stich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, £12.49, and a peachy, stonefruit-rich 2011 Mara Martin Godello, £10.99. Astonished, I sashayed into 'Smooth' and found a characterful lemon-fresh 2011 Planeta Grecanico, £12.99, and a superbly perfumed, strawberryish 2010 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir, £7.49. On into 'Intense' and a complex, Burgundian 2011 Wirra Wirra 12th man Chardonnay, £16.99 and a vivid Cuatra Pasos Bierzo, £9.99.
If you're thinking abnormal Morrisons' wines at abnormal Morrisons' prices, that's what I was thinking, too, until I came across a steal of a succulent Vaucluse Syrah Grenache at £3.99 and a spicy, cherryish 2011 Terroir du Midi Fitou at £4.99. It turns out that Morrisons Cellar is just the first stage of an overhaul with the once-dreary own-label range to be re-launched in the autumn. So far so good then, a promising work-in-progress. Of course, the $64,000 question is whether Morrisons' customers will bite. If they do, Morrisons' bold experiment will have succeeded. As it deserves to.
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