Wine: Supermarket sweep

Thanks to the speeding up of the bottling of wine at source, and to the UK joining the then Common Market in 1973, supermarkets were given the necessary boost to start putting their own name on wine labels. If this gave credence to the notion that the supermarkets' own-label wine was now respectable enough to plonk on the dinner table, some would say that it was no more than plonk. As Simon Loftus wrote in 1985, "a good many wine lovers see the supermarket own-label range as offering the dull decency of wines blended for general acceptability". As a pioneering wine merchant, Loftus had a vested interest in the more adventurous. But he was right to predict that supermarket own-label selections would become more extensive and better value as and when supermarkets started to go direct to the vineyard to source their wines, to invest in design and marketing, and to improve their brand by going upmarket.

In a generation, we've become familiar with the Tesco, Sainsbury's or M&S own-label with its implication of good value. With own-label and exclusively imported wines representing more than 40 per cent of sales for supermarket and high-street chains, it's helped turn wine into a mass-market business. Most supermarkets today have a basic own label and at least a higher quality tier, for instance Tesco Finest, Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, Asda Extra Special and so on. Over time, own-label has become more than respectable and purged once and for all the image of wine as the élite province of the rich and stuffy.

By the mid-1980s, own-label may have been in danger of extinction but it was rescued by the advent of Australian, Californian, Chilean, Argentinian and South African wines, and the idea, dear to the supermarket ethos, that wine, as a drink, is a product like any other on the shelf.

But how do you tell your Tesco chablis from your M&S chablis, your Waitrose champagne from your Asda, or your Tesco Finest from your Asda Extra Special? Enter one Caspar Auchterlonie, a suitably ruddy-faced former tastings co-ordinator for the now defunct Wine International competition. It was Caspar's long-cherished ambition to set up the own-label Championship "to inform the consumer of the best value wines and other alcoholic beverages on the shelf". With that object in mind, a panel of judges assembled over three days in February at Planet of the Grapes in New Oxford Street, first to do a pre-sorting and then to proceed to a final judging of under £5 and over £5 own-label wines available in the supermarkets, major multiples and department stores throughout the UK. Well, most, anyway. For reasons of their own, Sainsbury's and Majestic didn't enter, the Co-op and Somerfield missed the deadline, while none of Spar, Booth's and Morrison's few entries made the final.

There were 427 products, beers and spirits included, entered, with 82 finalists and 31 category trophy winners; awards were given to the overall best white, the 2007 Waitrose Sancerre, £10.49, from Joseph Mellot (right), and best red wine, the 2006 Marks & Spencer Barossa Shiraz from St Hallett, £7.99. The standard was generally high with seven category winners from Tesco, six from M&S and surprisingly only two from Waitrose, while humble Aldi managed three in the under £5 category. Only six of the 27 white and eight of the 27 red wine categories were under £5 with no sparkling, sweet, fortified or rosé wines under a fiver. Which shows that even at own-label level, you're having to pay more for quality, particularly since the Chancellor's budget has all but eliminated quality at under the £5 bar.

For a snapshot preview of the winners and finalists, check out ownlabelawards.com/index_files/results.htm

Suggested Topics
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own