Tesco Finest Peumo Carmenère, Cachapoal, Chile 2019 (£8, Tesco) In the past few years, Tesco’s dominance of the UK grocery market has survived all kinds of threats both external (the rise of Aldi and Lidl) and internal (a damaging accountancy scandal and a UK record £6.4bn loss in 2015). Its sheer scale and ubiquity mean that most of us shop there some of the time, whether it’s to buy an underwhelming meal deal in a city centre, or to do a weekly trolley fill at the local Big Tesco. If you cast your eyes over a graph of fluctuating UK supermarket market share since 2017, you’ll see that Tesco’s portion only briefly dips below 27%, while the nearest challengers, Sainsbury’s and Asda, never have much more than 15% each. It’s also, almost by stealth, the UK’s biggest wine retailer. Of course, size isn’t everything, and Tesco is never going to match the excitement of a specialist merchant. But it does have its share of good to very good value wines, such as this subtly leafy, blackcurrant-juicy Chilean red.
Tesco Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy 2020 (£3.95, Tesco) The Peumo is a longstanding favourite of mine in the Tesco Finest range, one of a handful of stalwarts that always seem to stand out from vintage to vintage, such as the tangy dry French white Tesco Finest Saint-Mont (£6.50), and the limey dry Aussie white Tingleup Riesling (£9). After tasting about 150 wines in the Tesco range recently, the other Finest wines I’d pick out include an impeccable salty-peachy Spanish white, Tesco Finest Viñas del Rey Albariño 2020 (£9), a super-bright, bruised apple and tropical fruit-flavoured dry white South Africam Tesco Finest Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2021 (£7.50), a spicy, brambly, warming Rhône red, Tesco Finest Côtes du Rhône Villages Signargues 2020 (£8), and a soft and savoury Tesco Finest Viña del Cura Rioja Gran Reserva 2014 (£11.50). The retailer’s standard, not-Finest, Tesco own-label range isn’t quite as much fun, but it does have the odd better-than-it-needs-to-be cheapie, such as the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, a softly citrussy, fish-friendly dry Italian white.
Malamado Fortified Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina NV (£9, Tesco) Of course, the everyday reality of shopping for wine in Tesco suggests the retailer is every bit as reliant on the kind of less-than-scintillating big brands – the likes of Gallo Barefoot or Hardys Varietal Range – that you find in other, Heinz- or Kellog’s-dominated aisles. I’ve no particular axe to grind against these big-selling brands and their massive marketing budgets, but there’s generally more fun for your money in Tesco if you stick to the own-labels rather than wines with their maker’s mark on the front. Not that Tesco is entirely bereft of worthwhile, producer-labelled bottles. Its various Argentine malbecs, for example – whether conventionally dry, fleshy and fragrant such as DV Catena Malbec Tinto Historico 2018 and Finca Flichman Single Vineyard 2019 (both £12) or attractively, if unusually sweet and port-like (Zuccardi’s Malamado) – are very much worth a place in your weekend trolley.
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