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SPAR own-label wines

by Tom Cannavan, 06/10

There's a SPAR on most UK high streets, and the grocery chain has recently beefed up its wine offering thanks to new wine buying supremo, Master of Wine Laura Jewell, who has added 100 wines to the range. The business is now made up of six wholesale members servicing more than 2,600 stores, and employing over 50,000 people in the UK.

My findings in this tasting of a baker's dozen wines from their own-label range were mixed: there are some terrific little bargains here, like the perky, vibrant South African White at just £3.99, and the excellent Cape Chenin Blanc Reserve at £5.99, whilst a wine like the Southeast Australian Shiraz-Cabernet is solid stuff at less than a fiver. On the other hand there were a couple of very disappointing wines including a cloyingly sweet Californian red and a frankly unpalatable Portuguese Rosé. In all, it is going to be interesting to watch the progress Jewell can make with the range here. For now, buying at this price level can produce very pleasant results, but only if planned carefully.

white wines

Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009, Chile
13%, Central Valley, Screwcap. Pleasantly passionfruit and lightly tropical nose, with a peachy juiciness on the palate and a tangy finish showing lemon and grapefruit zip. 85/100. £5.99

Garganega Pinot Grigio NV, Italy
11.5%, Veneto, Screwcap. A non-vintage blend of the ubiquitous PG with Garganega, the main grape of Soave. There's a nice, delicate nuttiness on the nose, with some apple fruit. On the palate this is straightforward and juicy, with no great length but a pleasantly dry finish. 84/100. £4.79

Chardonnay Semillon NV, Australia
13.5%, South-East Australia, Screwcap. Pleasantly buttery and creamy nose, a touch of nutty Cox's pippin fruit. The palate has a touch of sweetness, but flavour drops away quickly into a slightly watery finish. 81/100. £4.49

South African White NV, South Africa
12.5%, Western Cape, Screwcap. Grapes are unspecified, but some Chenin I'd guess, with a green apple nose and slightly pear-droppy character. The palate has a nice punch and vibrancy, quite a Sauvignon-like burst of green-tinged, citrussy fruit and a decent finish. 85/100 and good value at £3.99

Chenin Blanc Reserve 2009, South Africa
13.5%, Western Cape, Screwcap. Elegant, authentic Chenin nose with some leafiness, a hint of lemon rind and apple fruit. On the palate the direct, no nonsense clarity of the sweet, ripe pear fruit and hint of pineapple tropicality. Concentrated and really quite long too. 87/100. £5.99

rosé wines

Portuguese Rosé NV, Portugal
10%, Vinho de Mesa, Screwcap. A semi-sweet table wine with only 10% alcohol, this has a slightly sherried character and nose that is curranty and a bit tired. On the palate a hint of strawberry, but really the softening hit of sugar is the only redeeming feature. 75/100. £4.49

Vin de Pays d'Oc Syrah Rosé NV, France
12.5%, Screwcap. Bright, pleasantly cherryish and raspberry nose, with small herbal touches. On the palate this is dry and nicely savoury, with modest fruit and a little raspberry and spice holding on to the finish. The pick of the rosés in this selection. 84/100. £4.99

White Zinfandel NV, California
11%, Central Valley, Screwcap. Bright colour and sweetie strawberry nose, with a touch of peach. On the palate really very sweet, with a strawberry pulp character and just enough acidity to give some balance. If you like this sort of thing, a hell of lot better than the Portuguese Rosé. 82/100. £4.49

South African Rosé NV, South Africa
12.5%, Western Cape, Screwcap. Bright, watercolour paint-boxy aromas from this unspecified blend, with some redcurrant fruit. On the palate pretty dry, with some red fruit if a rather harsh element to the finish. 82/100. £3.99

red wines

Côtes Du Rhône NV, France
12.5%, Synthetic cork. A Grenache and Syrah blend, with a nicely black-fruited nose showing some peppery spice and a touch of something floral. The palate is dry and savoury, with some berry fruit on the mid-palate, and a short but fairly well-balanced finish. 84/100. £4.69

California Red NV, California
12.5%, Central Valley, Screwcap. Deep colour and jammy, forward black berry fruit nose. A little touch of rubbery reduction. On the palate there's a fair dollop of residual sugar in this wine - too much for me I must say - with a raspberry jam character and abrupt finish. Pretty horrible stuff overall. 76/100. £4.49

Vin de Pays d'Oc Merlot NV, France
13%, Screwcap. Bold, dark colour, and blackberry fruit over a touch of earthy, slightly chocolaty character. The palate is rather lean and dry, with a lemony quality overtaking the modest fruit, but it is pleasant enough and would wash down a summer barbie quite nicely. 84/100. £4.99

Shiraz-Cabernet NV, Australia
14.0%, South-East Australia, Screwcap Smoky, spicy nose, with a slightly too developed character, but some black fruit is in there. On the palate this has soft fruit and more spice, and offers quite a decent mouthful of wine at the price, with a bit of length too. Don't hang around to drink it though. 85/100. £4.99