Wine column: Explore outside of the box

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Neil Courtier asks: Is it possible to find wines that offer great value for money in 2013?

With another Budget looming as I write, it’s becoming a little bit more of a challenge.

However, if you’re prepared to search and drink across the wine-producing world, there’s plenty on offer to reward the savvy wine buyer.

Look out for wine merchants holding bin end sales – a great time to snap up a bargain or two. Genuine bin ends include wines that have moved on to a new, or the latest vintage and space is required on the shelf. Often, these wines can offer immediate enjoyment. You may find wines that are less well known, providing an opportunity to try something a bit different.

Wine consumers live in a time when the gap in quality, between premium wines and reasonably priced bottles is arguably narrower than at any time before. Good news indeed! Personally, I taste a lot of wine that falls into this bracket. There are stacks of delicious wine priced under £10 per bottle.

Supermarket own label wines, such as Sainsbury’s taste the difference, Asda’s extra special and Tesco’s finest, are mostly made by reputable names and sometimes top producers, and look out for wines bottled in the UK too, from, for instance, New Zealand, which helps to drive down costs for the consumer.

Consider which wine regions are delivering a good quality to price ratio right now – Chile, for instance, where Carmènere’s a grape variety that’s really found its feet, either in a solo role, or in blends. South African wines are currently providing real interest and individuality. Portugal – a treasure trove of unusual grape varieties and food-friendly wines – is worth exploring. Spain can come up with some staggering value from often old vine Garnacha (Grenache) and the-like, and Australia, outside of the big brands, has a plethora of regional gems, that sometimes are only a pound or two more a bottle to buy. The South of France and South West France still continue to impress, with wines that often ‘punch well above their weight’ and Romania’s making a splash with well-made and great-value Pinot Noir.

Talk to your local wine merchant, who will often stock wines that are exclusive to their list and don’t be afraid to ask for advice, or ‘explore outside of the box’. Good luck!

Neil is a freelance wine educator and writer. He runs wine courses and tutored tastings for groups and 
individuals, in Bury and Cambridge. More details: 01359 270318/ /