To find the real taste-makers in wine you need to look beyond the Instagrammers, TV shows and, indeed, newspaper wine columns, to the experts who choose the millions of bottles sold every year from supermarket shelves. By putting something on the shelf, they effectively put it on the national playlist, making it accessible to a huge audience. But which of their bottles do these under-the-radar influencers drink at home for pleasure?
Ben Cahill is the buyer for sparkling and French wine at Co-op, which never quite gets enough recognition for the brilliance of some of the wines it sells. ‘There’s always Provence rosé of some ilk in my fridge,’ he says. ‘My wife and I used to live in the south of France, on the Côte d’Azur, and are indoctrinated with the idea of drinking rosé all year round.
For me, just one sip is transporting and relaxing. The one I drink most often? Château La Négly La Natice Rosé 2021 [Languedoc, France; 12.5%; Co-op, £13]. I’m quite proud of it because they’re on the fine-wine lists of lots of beautiful restaurants and they don’t tend to sell to people like us. We found them at a small trade fair and I love the wine.’
Cahill is not alone in his love of rosé. Tesco’s Charlotte Lemoine is in Burgundy visiting suppliers when I catch up with her, and says she has two wines to get back home to at the weekend. The first is Domaine d’Arbousset Tavel Rosé 2021, Rhône, France (13.5%; Tesco, £12), a raspberry-coloured and scented, richer-flavoured pink. ‘I will be having it with some sort of Middle Eastern recipe with gentle spice, pomegranate, grilled vegetables and chicken.’ The second is Finest Premier Cru Brut Champagne NV, France (12.5%; Tesco, £23), for no particular occasion: ‘I just enjoy drinking Champagne, which I think is a good enough reason to open a bottle!’
Over at Lidl, I speak to Richard Bampfield MW. He’s not a buyer but he’s the consultant behind the tasting notes and scores shoppers look at when they navigate the store’s shelves and website. Asked which Lidl wines he most often drinks at home, he picks the bottle I like best in the range. ‘I am a big fan of the Chianti Riserva 2019 [Italy; 13%; Lidl, £6.49], because it has so much character. It just tastes as if it should be more expensive and it’s excellent with lamb chops or simple pasta dishes.’ He also drinks Mosel Riesling, Germany (10.5%; Lidl, £4.99), ‘which is really juicy, just on the sweet side of medium, perfect with roast pork’.
Waitrose buyer Daphne Teremetz sends me a list of five wines she loves, among them Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino 2016, Italy (14%; Waitrose, £29.99). ‘It has beautiful maturity with wild strawberry, fig, balsamic and espresso notes.’
Another is a chenin blanc from Anjou in the Loire, Domaine Cady Cheninsolite Organic 2021, France (14%; Waitrose, £14.99). ‘I was born just north of there so it reminds me of my French friends and family.’
Finally, Booths’ brilliant Victoria Anderson is on maternity leave so I ask CEO Edwin Booth, who began his career buying wine for the family company.
He says, ‘EH Booth & Co Soave Classico [Italy; 12.5%; £7.75] is always in our fridge at home and is an impromptu welcome glass for friends and family. And I’m particularly proud of the EH Booth & Co Saint-Julien 2019 [Bordeaux, France; 13%; £22]… a firm and juicy classic.’
(13.5%; The Wine Society, £8.75)
Among my current favourites, this is a firm red that works very well with food; open it with salami and sourdough.
(13.5%; Naked Wines, £10.99, Angel Price, £8.99)
It’s the wonderful 2016 vintage that makes this smooth claret a winner. It’s a good one for a Sunday roast.
(12.5%; Amazon, £8.44)
Part of Amazon’s new wine range, this tastes of elderflower sorbet and whitecurrants sprinkled with icing sugar.
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