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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London