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Sainsbury's UK Trade Tasting

by Tom Cannavan, 08/01

This was a press tasting of many of the newest lines/vintages available in Sainsbury's Supermarket, one of the UK's biggest retailers of wine. Sainsbury's has branches across the UK, and also a new joint venture with Oddbins, called 'Taste for Wine'. Some of these wines are also available from other retailers in the UK and abroad. Not all of Sainsbury's 450 or so stores carry all lines, so an indication of availability is given by the number of stores that carry a particular wine.

white wines

Sainsbury's Classic Selection Sancerre (France) 2000 £7.99
Nice fresh gooseberry, grassy and crisp pear-fruited nose. The palate has more of that clean melon and pear fruit that just hints at tropicality. Quite rich and round, there's a sweetness of ripe fruit before freshening citrus acidity. Very good. 410 stores

Numéro Un (France) Bordeaux Blanc 2000 £4.99
Bravo - so much basic Bordeaux Blanc is dull stuff, but this has a fresh and tangy nose with notes of citrus and apple, some real tropical crunch. The palate has decent fruit, again pear and apple dominate and though rather more moderate than the Sancerre, a clean, well-balanced and tasty wine. Very good. 340 stores

Sainsbury's Chardonnay Vin de Pays d'Oc (France) 2000 £4.99
Organic. Quite aromatic, with lemon, apple and white peach nuances. Very clean and unoaked, there's a good quality of zippy fruit on the palate. Crisp and well made. Good/very good. 250 stores

Picpoul de Pinet (France) 'Les Flacons' 1999 £11.99
Hugely dramatic and expensive, thick, heavyweight bottle. Wonderfully sweet caramel notes over rich, ripe mango and guava. There's a nutty quality too, and aromatic nuances of orange peel and butterscotch. The palate is medium-bodied and throws some peachy weight of fruit behind herbal and white fruit notes. This is a stop-you-in-your-tracks wine, though the palate doesn't quite deliver the promise of the nose. 10 stores

Piave (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2000 £3.99
Organic. Lemon and faintly herbal nose. The palate has decent, sweet, even slightly confected fruit. Tasty and easy drinking. Good. 105 stores

Villa Bianchi (Italy) Verdicchio Classico dei Castelli di Jesi 2000 £4.99
Bright, sweet nose with confectionery hints and bright, citrussy fruit. Plate displays a gentle nuttiness that add some complexity to ripe fruit. Restrained and cool in style, but drinking well. Good. 250 stores

Sainsbury's Classic Selection Pinot Grigio (Italy) 2000 £5.99
The nose is fairly neutral at first, with a gentle herbal, lightly nutty nose. The palate is crisp, with tart citrus flavours, medium body and a slightly lanolin impression that adds weight in the finish. Good. 425 stores

Kendall Jackson (California) Vintners Reserve Chardonnay 1998 £8.99
Heavily-toasted oaky nose that is buttery, charry and rich with a density of sweet, rich peach fruit. The palate is fat and sweet, with plenty of nutty oak layered over ripe fruit. Big, mellow and attractive of its type. Very good. 130 stores

Vergelegen (South Africa) Chardonnay 2000 £6.49
This is mellow and subtle, with some toasty butteriness on the nose over luxurious peach fruit and some lovely citrus undertones. The palate has a weighty texture and is buttery again, but crammed with summery fruit; lots of slightly sour green apple acidity keeps it fresh and savoury, but the delightful, silky, crystal-clear fruit and tropical nuances persist through to the finish. Excellent. 140 stores

rosé wines

Big Frank's Deep Pink (France) 2000 £3.99
Big Frank's southern French wines are usually worth checking out - he's another Randall Grahm, Chester Osborne type character who's wines are quirky and always interesting. This is a pale salmon pink colour with a fresh, clean, appetising nose of sweet, light red fruit. The palate displays that lightness too, with delicate strawberry and tart raspberry fruit, which displays a hint of sweetness, but backed up by cleansing acidity. Good. 200 stores

Château Tassin (France) Bordeaux Clairet 2000 £4.99
Deeper, more zingy cherry colour. The nose is slightly more closed, aromatics are less fresh but there is rounded strawberry and cherry fruit. The palate is quite warming and full, with a hint of sweetness again. This seems quite serious in style, with a hint of baked, plummy depth. A wine that grows on you as you sip. Good/very good. 215 stores

Domaine de Sours (France) Bordeaux Rosé 2000 £5.49
Little brother of the stunning Château de Sours Rosé, that was a Wine of the Week a few months ago. This has a light, bright, herbal nose with leafy raspberry fruit that lacks the aromatic intensity of the senior wine. The palate has a good deal of concentrate raspberry fruit, lovely purity and a moderate finish. Good/very good.. 280 stores

Fetzer Valley Oaks (California) Syrah Rosé 2000 £5.99
Dark, vibrant, very zingy crimson colour. The nose is rich and ripe with cherry and juicy red fruits. The palate is quite full-bodied and thick-textured, with dense raspberry fruit that is powerful and sweet. Much chunkier than the other rosés, but with a real kick of jammy sweetness against good acids and a hint of tannin on the finish. Good/very good.300 stores

sparkling wine

Sainsbury's Premier Cru Champagne Extra Dry £13.99
Lots of tiny bubbles. Nice apple pastry nose with nettly hints. Quite a rich mousse, if rather short-lived. Soft and full on the palate, with nutty peach and peach kernel flavours. Quite long and well made. Good. All stores

red wines

Sainsbury's Classic Selection Brouilly (France) 1999 £6.99
Made by Beaujolais maestro Duboeuf, this Cru Beaujolais has a gorgeous nose, loaded with sweet plum and fragrant rose-hip fruit. The palate is quite full, with a nice charry minerality over ripe, rich red fruit. Good length and very fresh. Very good indeed. 410 stores

Rodet (France, Burgundy) Gevrey Chambertin 1998 £15.99
Tight, mineral nose; hints of pleasant earthiness and leafy, bracken quality. There is some berry fruit, but this is a restrained style. The palate is rather metallic and dull. with some softer strawberry fruit beneath, but not very convincing stuff at the price. 140 stores

Sainsbury's Classic Selection (France) St Emilion 1998 £8.99
Heavy overlay of charry, coffee-ground oak. Sweet, slightly baked plum fruit aromas. On the palate medium to full-bodied with good, sweet, plummy fruit. Perhaps lacks a little freshness, but decent balance with savoury length. Good. All stores

Château la Vieille Cure (France) 1997 Fronsac £10.99
Sainsbury's introduced me to this wine back with the 1990 vintage and I have followed it since. Succulent nose, with a cedary quality suggesting older, reserved oak-ageing. There is blackcurrant and black plum fruit. On the palate this has a good deal of fresh, ripe fruit that's quite bright and modern in style. Finishes with some stylish, fine tannins and good balance. Very good indeed. 385 stores

Château la Tour Carnet (France) 1998 Haut-Médoc £19.99
This is a fourth growth claret with a dark, vibrant crimson colour. Sweet and ripe on the nose, there's a minty edge to blackcurrant fruit and subtle vanillin oak. The palate is quite full-bodied and has a silky texture, with a good quality of fruit and classy tannins. Good length too. An under-achieving estate in the past, looks like this property is investing in lower-yields and more new oak - a formula some might object to as "Parkerisation", but which has made a very attractive wine. Very good. 138 stores

Devereux (France) Portan/Carignan 2000 £2.99
Sweet, clean, summer berry nose that is perfumed, bright and attractive. The palate has the peppery red fruit quality of more expensive southern reds and this is absolutely perfect glugging stuff. Very good. 350 stores

Le Midi (France) Merlot 2000 £3.99
Plummier, slightly baked quality with warm redcurrant fruit. The palate has drying tannins with modest but savoury plum fruit and good, clean acidity. Another fine easy-drinking red. Very good. 200 stores

Le Midi (France) Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 £3.99
Dark, damsony fruit with hints of sweet blackberry and slightly leafy blackcurrant. On the palate there's a creamy-textured roundness and the character is firm and dry, with a hint of over-extracted inkiness in the finish. Moderate/good. 270 stores

Le Catalan (France) Old Vine Grenache 2000 £5.99
Maybe just a little reductive note at first; dumbish, then overripe fruit that is plummy and sweet, almost jammy. The palate is full and rich with lots of zippy cherry fruit and good acidity. Decent finish and balance. Good. 100 stores

Domaine Ellul-Ferrières (France) Vieilles Vignes 1998 £6.49
Big 14% alcohol bruiser from the south of France with a sweetly toffeed nose, thick, dark fruit character and lots of minty ripeness and mulberry. The palate is suffused with soft, ripe blackcurrant and strawberry before some grippy tannins seize and lengthen the flavour. Some charry oak is noticeable and the finish is long and fresh. Concentrated and impressive stuff. Very good indeed. 30 stores

Eliane's Single Vineyard Corbières (France) 'Gruissan' 2000
This has light, bright cherryish fruit on the nose of raspberry and cracked black-pepper. Some carbonic macerations bubblegum freshness. Nice summer berry nose, with hints of a leafy tea and tobacco character. Big and bold, this is fresh and well balanced. Very good/very good. £4.99 120 stores

Sainsbury's (France) Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc 2000 £4.99
Organic. Crunchy, quite vivid raspberry fruit tinged with tobacco and pepper on the nose, with a gravelly quality adding some complexity. Fruity and crisp on the palate, the fruit is pure and bold, with a decent tannic structure beneath and good balance. Very good. 250 stores

Jacques Frelin (France) Crozes-Hermitage 1999 £8.99
Organic. Warm, rich spice and grilled meat quality over some ripe, sweet raspberry fruit. The palate has more of that creamy raspberry fruit and a little menthol ripeness with hints of charcoal and minerals. Nice wine with a medium-body and flavourful finish. Rather fine and very good indeed. 80 stores

Domaine de Mas Blanc (France) Collioure 'Les Cosprons Levant' 1997 £17.99
It is well worth searching this wine out if you are a fan of huge, no-holds-barred reds, that are also highly distinctive. Pungently aromatic, this has a heavily smoked, joss-stick, church incense nose with outlandish aromas of overripe ogen melon, toffee and Caramac. The palate has deep, rich, sweet layers of leafy, herbal, rosemary and grilled aubergine, smoky bacon and toasty oak. This wine powers through into a long and sensationally pure and flavourful finish. Just terrific. 10 stores

Artadi (Italy) Albera Barbera d'Asti Superiore 1999 £4.99
I've yet to taste a really good supermarket Barbera at this price level, usually finding an extra pound or two a wise investment. This is a decent example at the price which has a slightly non-descript nose, with some red fruit and a hint of woodsmoke. Rather cloying fruit on the palate, some jammy red fruits becoming quite toasty in the finish. Moderate/good. 300 stores

Inycon (Italy) Syrah 2000 £4.99
Quite subdued on the nose, some black fruit depth lurking in there somewhere but a bit flat. Palate is surprisingly rich and sweet, with glossy blackberry and a spicy, concentration. There's just enough acidity and tannin to freshen the finish and a little hint of parma-violet sweetness. Good. 312 stores

Promessa (Italy) Rosso Salento 2000 £4.99
Rich nose of cherry, menthol and floral, rose-hip nuances. Palate shows a zippy bitter cherry character with smooth, juicy ripe fruit and a solid, fat mid-palate. Good length, and very nice drinking. Very good. 320 stores

Barking Mad (Italy) Primitivo 2000 £4.99
Storming in at a headache-inducing 15% alcohol (the same as a fino Sherry), this has firm, vaguely herbal fruit and a surprisingly restrained nose. The palate is of course rich and full, with a smooth texture and loaded with silky black fruit which is pleasantly earthy. Big powerhouse barbecue and pasta stuff, which nevertheless has good length. Good/very good. 310 stores

A Mano (Italy) Primitivo 2000 £5.99
Much more aromatic, with vibrant red fruit, deep berry aromas and a little vanilla quality. There is a gravelly edge to ripe red fruits on the palate which is full, warming and generous. Some decent tannic structure firms up a long sweet, yet savoury fruity finish. Very good. 410 stores

Barbera d'Alba Fontanelle 1999 (Italy) Ascheri £7.99
The quite modest nose has berryish fruit and a juicy blackberry quality as well as hints of a little damson darkness and smoky quality. Creamy and quite rich on the palate, there's a firm, bitter cherry edge and firm tannins. Perhaps could do with a little more tannic freshness, but acidity cuts through. Very good. 170 stores

Alessandra Barbera del Monferrato 1998 (Italy) Colonna £15.99
Now Barbera get serious with a fine, fragrant, smoky, briary quality hinting at cedar, chestnut and sweet, aromatic red fruit. Creamy and dense on the palate, this packs a lot of sweet yet muscular fruit with notes of plum, damson skins and cherry. Quite full-bodied, there are fine tannins and good acidity that really dominate the finish, suggesting this will benefit from a little more time. Excellent. 50 stores

Prahova Valley (Romania) Reserve Pinot Noir 1999 £3.99
Quite a leafy, vegetal edge to red fruit on the nose. A little bit jammy, but fruit is quite powerful. Nicely-judged palate with good Pinot character and good fruit. A little stalky note detracts slightly, but the finish is quite stylish and it is very good at the price. 245 stores

Four Vines (California) Paso Robles Zinfandel 1997 £9.99
Highly aromatic nose of cedarwood, burning embers, pepper and exotic spices with a bright, berry fruitiness. The palate is creamily-textured and ripe, filled with sweet, jammy blackcurrant fruit, still fragrant and exotic, with a deeper suggestion of sweet plums. The tannins and acidity brace the finish, but this stays focused on full, lush, sweet fruit right to the end. There's masses of quality here. 150 stores

Kendall Jackson (California) Vintners Reserve Pinot Noir 1998 £9.99
Sweet, compact, creamy oak on the nose. A slightly burnt, vegetal, earthy character. very sweet and silky fruit on the palate with good body and a cool, ripe core. Spicy oak tannins perk up the finish and meld with juicy, rich fruit very nicely. Good length, and quite classy stuff. Very good. 130 stores

Isla Negra (Chile) Syrah 2000 £5.49
Cool, charcoally, black fruit nose. Ripe fruit on the palate has a minty intensity and lots of glossy, crowd-pleasing black fruit flavour. Tight tannins, and decent concentration and length. Good/very good. 310 stores

Errazuriz (Chile) Merlot 2000 £6.49
Leafy blackcurrant notes, even some nettle with charry oak supporting some red fruit. The palate is quite svelte and sophisticated with solid raspberry fruit and a nice bittersweet plum skin edge. Fresh, with a raspberry acidity and decent tannins in to the finish. Good. 260 stores

Cono Sur (Chile) Merlot Reserva 1999 £6.49
A schisty, charcoally, blue/black depth of fruit on the nose with again a slightly leafy edge. Very sweet attack, the palate is juicy and fresh with plenty of crunchy black fruit and a nice plummy depth. Good concentration into a long, well-balanced finish. Very good indeed. 300 stores

Errazuriz (Chile) Pinot Noir Reserva 1999 £9.99
Slightly baked, plummy, rather reserved fruit on the nose at first, but with airing a sweet chocolaty and damp earth character emerges. The palate is quite rich and has a lovely silkiness of texture A jammy weight of fruit delivers with some power, but it is really quite elegant and long with nice tannins taming the full-on fruit. Very good indeed. 80 stores

Sainsbury's Moroccan Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 £3.99
Sainsbury's have gone quite big on North Africa this summer, and this cabernet has a pleasant nose of jammy, ripe red and black fruit and a little leafy hint. On the palate it is keen and zippy with bright blackcurrant fruit and an edge of raspberry sharpness. Quite creamy in texture, this is well-made in a forward, easy drinking style. Good/very good. 230 stores

Sainsbury's Moroccan Syrah 2000 £3.99
Similar nose, with sweet, straightforward jammy raspberry fruit - straight from the jam jar, lifted and sweet. The palate adds a little peppery edge to the fruit with a creamy mouthfeel and then even some drying tannins. Straightforward as I say, but rather nice. Good/very good. 230 stores

Baraka (Morocco) Private Reserve Cabernet Merlot 1999 £4.99
Sweet, heavy overlay of new oak on thick, creamy blackcurrant fruit. The palate is dense and full-bodied with grippy tannins adding an edge to cassis fruit and a tart, plummy edge with some chocolaty depth. Quite long, and beautifully defined into the finish, this is very good indeed. 200 stores

Accademia del Sole (Tunisia) Carignan 1999 £5.49
Rather subdued black cherry fruit on the nose, just hints of damson. Rather non-descript palate. Not giving much, with modest fruit and a simple character. Seems quite a lot of money for this. Moderate/good. 200 stores

Bellingham (South Africa) Pinotage 1999 £4.99
Leafy, slightly plasticene quality on the nose. Spice and a little exotic sandalwood character. The palate is quite ripe and sweet. A juicy wine, with a little tannin to freshen the finish. Quite good. 350 stores

Clos Malverne (South Africa) Cabernet Sauvignon Pinotage 1999 £6.99
Powerful, charry, toasty oak aromas layered over plum and blackcurrant fruit that is classy and tight. The palate is densely-textured and very powerful with a rich seam of glossy blackcurrant. Lots of stuffing here and spicy power into a long, focussed and fruit-driven finish. Excellent. 270 stores

Vergelegen (South Africa) Flagship Merlot 1998 £12.99
Lovely sweet, creamy, plummy depth here. Very rich spiced berry fruit. There's a tobacco note too. On the palate savoury and chewy with a muscular power and plenty of depth of fruit. Expansive and long, this finishes with more sweet oak and good acid balance. Excellent. 75 stores