Each month the supermarkets send the press a list of their forthcoming promotions. The wine deals involve discounts from anything between 25 and 50 per cent. Holding the keys to the bargain basement treasure chest is an alluring prospect.
We could simply tell you that at Tesco you can get £10 off Bollinger, Lanson Rosé and Veuve Clicquot Rosé until Tuesday, that Terrefort Madiran is half price and you can save 33 per cent on Croix Milhas Rivesaltes Ambré. Or why not take up M&S on its £16 half-price Oudinot champagne?
The problem is, a big discount doesn't always mean a big bargain. If anything, the opposite is the case. There is a depressing familiarity about the names in most of these supermarket promotions. Eyes glaze over as the same old brands appear: Black Tower, Blossom Hill, Cono Sur, Hardy's Stamp, Hardy's Crest, JP Chenet, Jacob's Creek, McGuigan, Echo Falls, Yellow Tail, Calvet, La Châsse, Banrock, Gallo and a host of other wines promoted because they "encourage" the supermarkets to promote them.
These names vary in quality and generally speaking I think twice before recommending them – even champagnes. My aim as a wine writer is to communicate genuine value not to pass along the artifice of the marketing man to you.
Tesco and Sainsbury's make a considerable effort with the wines they choose to discount. They are very good at offering discounts on some of their better own-label ranges, such as Tesco's finest* Sancerre or Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Languedoc White.
Waitrose, however, is the best at this. It has the most coherent promotional list of all the supermarkets. It features good buys from smaller growers – especially names like the Feiler-Artinger Blaufränkisch, Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir, and Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner.
There is another way, though; one which doesn't breed a nation of deal junkies. Once more, Aldi and Lidl are ahead of the market because they offer not just weekly discounts but fair pricing on wines all year round. Now that is what I call good value. µ
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