Budgens is something of a Chimera on the high-street as far as supermarkets go… independently owned, varying wildly in what you can expect from store to store, with pieces of other high-street stores bolted on for good measure.
The store I worked in for time as a teenager was on the lower end of their scale at the time, closer to a corner shop Spar than anything else, but there were other stores out there that had been pimped out with rotisseries and shinny new counters and lights… but not mine. Time has certainly changed things at that particular store and now it reminds me of a cross between a newer Sainsbury’s and a smaller M&S, hence the Chimera analogy.
Their wine selection on the other hand is another matter entirely and less of a Chimera and more of a Frankenstein’s Monster… a patchwork of bottles seemingly pulled from different supermarkets and stitched back together around a core of their own. You’ll recognise mid-priced bottles from Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and even the odd one from the Mighty Co-op. However, it’s the wines around this mid-priced core, where things get more individual.
There is a small range of higher priced wines available along side a full third (if not half) of their shelf space dedicated to wines that are inexpensive (if not alarming cheap) and reminded me most of Aldi’s range or one of those duty free shops on a ferry that try selling you Hardy’s and J.P. Chenet on your way back into the UK… *shiver*
I realise I’m not exactly painting a flattering picture Budgens, but what it does have going for it is diversity. It might not be diverse in the price range you’re looking for but it is diverse… and why shouldn’t someone looking for a cheap bottle of wine have as much choice as possible? I’m certainly not going to criticise that (and appologise if it sounds like I am). However, their focus on the budget end of the scale does come across as out of sync with the rest of the store, which has made great strides upping its game.
Yalumba ‘Y Series’ Shiraz/Viognier 2012 – South Australia (£9.99 Full Price, £7 on offer)
I’ve tried a few of the Yalumba wines over the years, usually on offer and I’ve at least been pleasantly surprised by what I received for my money each time. The blending of a small amount of Viognier (a white grape) with the big hearty beast that is Shiraz was first established in the Cote-Roti (Northern Rhone, France) where is serves to add subtlety, elegance and a perfumed lift to the wine… here not so much!
Shiraz in Australia is a powerhouse of a grape compared to the more understated variety grown in France and more importantly grown in a much hotter climate, leading to more ripe, intense, concentrated fruit. So adding a dash or two of Viognier helps to reign in some of the density and headache inducing properties Australian Shiraz so often possess.
This wine is a deep purple black with a purple rim and aromas of ripe black fruit (Blackberry & Blackcurrant) and white pepper spice. On the palate there’s more of the same with warming pepper and a soft edge of vanilla winding through. Good clean acidity and an integrated backbone of tannin cut through a vibrant intensity of juicy black fruit, that has a lighter lifted quality to it than a standalone Shiraz would possess.
It’s a decent entry level Shiraz to go for if you know anyone who normally finds them too much. At its sale price it’s surprisingly good value… but I wouldn’t pay full price for it. Above par for £7, bellow par for £10 and also available from Tesco’s.
Yalumba ‘Y Series’ Riesling 2012 – Barossa Valley, Australia (£9.99 Full Price, £7 on offer)
Next up we have another wine from Yalumba’s ‘Y Series’… except this time all the fruit has been sourced from within the Barossa Valley and at no extra cost.
This pale lemon coloured wine has a fresh aroma of waxy lemon peel and pineapple juice, good mouth cleansing acidity and a clean fruit forward finish. In fact this wine is almost too balanced… if there can be such a thing! There are layers of complexity here but you may need to let this warm up a bit to tease them out. What does stand out from the start is the trademark waxy characteristic of Australian Riesling; it is subtle as far as such things go, but its clearly there and even carries through faintly to the palate.
As with the Shiraz/Viognier above, this is surprisingly good for it’s sale price of £7 but I wouldn’t pony up the full £9.99 for it. If you’re looking for a good Australian Riesling around the £10 mark then I recommend the ‘Lodge Hill’ Riesling by Jim Barry reviewed ‘here’ in the Supermarket Roulette article on ‘The Mighty Co-op’.
Santa Carolina Carmenère 2012 – Valle Del Cachapol, Chile (£9.99 Full Price, £7 on offer)
I’ve extolled the virtues of Carmenère elsewhere on the Blog so I won’t repeat myself too much here… needless to say if you either love your Merlot or don’t because you find it too shapeless, then Carmenère is the grape for you… it’s got everything good about Merlot with none of the downside and it’s taken to the vineyards of Chile like it was born there.
It has a deep ruby colour with aroma of rich red & black cherries, redcurrant and soft sweet vanilla/white chocolate hovering above. On the palate there are dense layers of baked red fruits with an earthy minerality lying at its heart. The vanilla makes itself known here as well, this time with a subtle cedar character woven through. This is a rich weighty wine and though it has enough acidity to cut through and keep things fresh, there isn’t a lot left to spare so I wouldn’t want to age this any more… that said, the huge finish on this wine will keep you coming back for more long before foolish notions such as ‘ageing’ come to mind.
This won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of big vanilla laden reds like the ‘Montes’ range of wines, then this is one for you.
Portico Da Ria Albarino 2012 – Rias Baixas, Spain (£10.99 Full Price)
This should be a great food wine for all you fish lovers and one that could handle a bit more in the way of creamy sauces due to the richness showing through.
There’s a pale gold colour with green and stone fruit (apple, apricot & peach) aromas with (again!) a hint of wax to it. Juicy acidity and a rich but clean attack of stone fruit and pineapple on the palate, leaving an ultra clean mouth-feel and a hint cream behind.
This is not as concentrated as some Albarino that I’ve tried, but what it lacks in fruit concentration it makes up for in balance and dare I say it, elegance. If you’re a fan of Albarino already then it’s worth the full asking price… but you’ve yet to give it a crack then I’d say wait for it to be on offer before picking one up.
That’s all folks! Thanks for reading and as ever please let me know your thoughts and feedback, all of which will be gratefully received! Next up, something in the realm of Aldi/Lidl/Asda or Morrison’s… haven’t made up my mind yet (or found a way to get to one of them!)