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Supermarket Sweep

Do you need a guide to help you through the aisles and shelves? Never fear, Andrew Polmear’s here

So there you are. You’ve gone to the supermarket to buy some wine and   before3 nyou know where you are, you’re staring at hundreds of wines on the shelves, wondering which to buy.

How do you choose? Some time ago I wrote about an app called wot-wine, designed to give you information so fast you need not decide till you reach the store. You can scan the bar code on a bottle or enter the wine’s details manually. I thought I’d put it to the test, using two bottles from Tesco that I especially like. You don’t have to buy from a supermarket of course. There are independent wine merchants, like our own Seven Cellars at the Seven Dials, or online merchants like the superb Wine Society. But for now let’s imagine we are in Tesco’s.

My first test is a Merlot from the Valle de Colchagua in Chile (pictured), made by Luis Felipe Edwards, 2019. It’s a rich smooth mouthful of lush fruit tasting of dark cherry and plum. It’s extraordinary value at £8. Wotwine doesn’t have it. My second test is Wairau Cove Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand 2021. It’s a typical NZ  Sauvignon, tasting of cat’s pee and gooseberry, marvellous value at £7.50, or £6.50 with a Tesco Clubcard. Wotwine doesn’t have this either. I think I’ll delete Wotwine from my phone.

There’s another app that started with the same intention as wotwine, to be “the sommelier in your pocket”, but it does better.It’s called Vivino (and can be found at vivino.com or in your phone’s app store. Started by two Danes in 2010 it now has a “vivino com-munity” of 50 million users worldwide and a database of 12.5 million wines. It works as the largest wine market place in the world – you can buy wines through it – but you can also use it as a source of information. 

How did it do in Tesco? Yes, the Wairau Cove Sauvignon 2021 comes up in seconds. It scores 3.9 out of 5, having been rated by over 10,000 drinkers, costs £6.75 on average and is judged to be “best value NZ Sauvignon”. If you like you can read 1600 user reviews! The Merlot isn’t there (I guess because it’s in the Tesco Finest range so not available anywhere else) but they do review a Gran Reserva Merlot from the same vineyard. It scores 3.5, costs £5.73 on average and reviewers say it has a “splendid nose filled strawberry and plummy notes… Good structure.”  It sounds close to the Tesco version.

But my favourite way of approaching a supermarket wine department is by looking in Decanter magazine first. Obviously you have to subscribe to get this, and you pay extra for Decanter Premium, an online extra which updates the supermarket entries monthly. And, yes, they have both the test wines, scoring the Sauvignon at 91 (out of 100) and the Merlot 92. Their reviews capture the essence of both wines: “a classic Malborough Sauvignon with the tell-tale ‘cat pee’ and gooseberry nose on a back-ground of mango, passion-fruit and elderflower”. And “a gorgeous Chilean Merlot offers incredible value for money…fragrant and fleshy…richness of plummy fruit…” 

I find Decanter so reliable, so informative and so up-to-date with wines available in the UK that it saves me money every month despite the subscription fee.

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