At this time of year, a wine writer's fancy turns to thoughts of ... spring-cleaning, actually.
At this time of year, a wine writer's fancy turns to thoughts of ... spring-cleaning, actually. Between taking empties to the bottle bank and binning out- of-date wine merchants' lists, I came across a yellowing pile of decade-old articles which reminded me how much has changed, and not all for the better, for us wine drinkers. Names such as Kwik Save, Gateway, Augustus Barnett, Bottoms Up and Victoria Wine used to crop up regularly, but are now pushing up daisies. The Safeway wine range is the latest to be destined for the great cellar in the sky as Morrisons wields the hatchet. Expect some bargains as Safeway clears out its rejects.
Amid the imploding wine ranges, I found consolation on what's left of the high street, as two of the better remaining retailers, Majestic and Marks & Spencer, dust down their spring and summer collections.
I was cheered, too, by reminders of other trends of the past decade. More than half our wine comes in the form of easy-on-the palate, fruit-driven styles of Australia, California, Chile, South Africa and Argentina. And however expensive wine appears to be, everyday wine prices have been kept reasonable by cut-throat competition and the influx of New World brands.
Majestic's summer price list - with a raft of reductions and offers including at least 20 per cent off champagne and sparkling wine when you buy six bottles - is a case in point. The sparkling offers range from the sublime (25 per cent off two bottles of the superbly complex, biscuity 1996 Bollinger Grande Année) to the ridiculous (£5.99 a bottle for Yellowglen Pinot Noir Chardonnay, list price £8.99, when you buy three bottles). Three free tasting weeks kick off soon, focusing on three different countries' wines. First, from this Friday, it's Chile, followed by Italy on the 11 June and Loire whites and rosés on the 2 July. A reduction of 15 per cent offered on Chilean (when you buy two) brings the 2003 Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon down to £3.99, and Chardonnay and Carmenère, both down to £4.24 - bargain buys, everyday and party fare. Another great new deal to look out for is Griffin Vineyards from Australia. Buy two of the tropically fruity 2003 Chardonnay, the gluggy Merlot or spicy, blackberryish Shiraz and the bottle price drops from £4.99 to £3.99.
If Marks & Spencer's results were measured by the improvements in its wine range rather than their garments, I'd be looking for a stockbroker. As things are, I'll stick to the wines, especially since M&S has introduced more than 300 wine advisors to its stores across the UK and Republic of Ireland. More to the point, it continues to expand with a raft of individual wines (and still 15 per cent off all Italian wines until tomorrow). Taking advantage of the introductory offer on new wines, which lasts until the 6 June, the zippy, refreshingly crisp Corsican 2003 Chardonnay Vermentino, Vin de Pays des Portes de la Méditerranée, is reduced from £4.99 to £3.99, while the exceptionally rich yet crisply grapefruity 2003 Zefiros Assyrtiko Sauvignon Blanc from Kavala in Greece is down from £9.99 to £8.99. While you're warming to the Mediterranean theme, you might also give a whirl to the 2000 Bandol from Domaine Bunan, a pound off at £11.99, a warming, sweetly spiced, raspberryish Provençal red. E
Anthony Rose is shortlisted for the Lanson Wine Writer of the Year and Champagne Writer of the Year awards for his articles in 'The Independent Magazine'Reuse content