Grouping these two supermarkets together, I realise, could well be a controversial move for some of you. I know some families that are staunch Tesco lovers and others that are Sainsbury evangelists… what they both have in common; however, is a tendency to spit like lamas over the fence at each other.
So it is with a sense of trepidation and a fear of flying phlegm that I willingly and knowingly suggest that, when it comes to wine, these two bastions of the supermarket age are far more similar than either party would willingly admit.
As with my previous post on The Mighty Co-Op, these articles are based solely on my thoughts about the wines these supermarkets have available and ones I’d recommend you try from each chain, not about any other facet of their business enterprise.
With that in mind… why do I think their similar?
Well, both have a long-standing habit of mimicking each other on the one hand while trying (and failing) to distance themselves from each other at the same time, whether its building supermarkets next to each other for the sake of it or to match each other’s deals and marketing promotions. In terms of their wines they’re broadly the same. I don’t mean to say they stock the same wines, outside of the odd one or two, but rather the make up and variety of their ranges tend to be suspiciously similar.
They both have their own brand budget range (Tesco ‘simply’ & Sainsbury’s ‘House’) and both have their own brand above average range (Tesco ‘Finest’ & Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the difference’). In between (and just above those two) you find wines from other estates and producers that, on the whole, tend to be the mass market brand efforts like Wolf Blass and Hardy’s but there are others that get selected for a time and rotated through their stock that are all over the quality spectrum.
My advice is unless you’ve got a solid recommendation… stick to the ‘ Tesco’s Finest/Taste the difference’ ranges if you’re buying blind. They are slightly more expensive but supermarkets all play the ‘fake full-price’ game when it comes to their offers and these two play that game more than most! You can almost always guarantee though that they’ll have a few from these ranges on offer at any one time, so if you’re interested in trying something in particular be patient and it’ll come around on offer eventually, especially around Christmas time.
Tesco Finest Malbec 2012 – Mendoza, Argentina [£5.99 on offer; £7.98 full price]
When you’re buying wine on a budget and you’re not too sure what to go for, then you can do a lot worse than gamble on a bottle from South America. Wines from both Chile and Argentina offer great value for money more often than not.
On the whole Chile tends towards producing wines that seek to replicate the Old World European style… the French in particular. Whereas Argentina tends to embrace the New World spirit and produces wines that want to stand out and showcase Argentina in its own right.
In this regard wines made from the Malbec grape have been a huge success and have put Argentina on the world map; impressive when you realise that it’s not even an Argentinian grape, but a French one!
This dark brooding purple black wine has an aroma of prickly bramble fruits (blackberry and blackcurrant) and also an underpinning of toast from ageing in oak. Medium-Full bodied, this wine has well integrated tannins that are enveloped by the ripe vibrant fruit on the pallet. Blackberries, blueberries and faint hint of plum mix with vanilla and dark chocolate for a decent dry finish.
This wine practically begs for a juicy steak and I for one am inclined to oblige! It’s a good a solid Malbec, typical of the variety and great value, especially when it’s on offer.
Tesco Finest Torrontés 2013 – Salta, Argentina [£6.99 full price]
Torrontés is a grape variety that’s indigenous to Argentina and produces a wine similar to Gewürztraminer. However, where Gewürztraminer’s tends towards being off dry, Torrontés tends to be dry; So if you’ve ever found Gewürztraminer too sweet for your testes, then Torrontés could be the happy compromise for you.
It has many of the same exotic fruits signatures that work so well with Asian cooking and like Gewürztraminer handles hot spicy foods with ease.
Aromas of lychee, honey and the syrup from a can of fruit salad literally jump out of glass, giving the impression of a off-dry wine; taste it though and you’ll be surprised by the dryness of its finish. The promise of its aroma is delivered in full on your pallet with vibrant fruit and a rich honeyed weight to its body. The lychee and exotic tropical fruits linger on your pallet for a long lasting finish, leaving a clean fresh mouth feel.
Taste the Difference ‘Barbera D’Asti’ 2011 – Asti, Italy [£6.99 full price]
The Italians know their wines and have been in the game since Roman times; In spite of this I’m always slightly surprised by just how good they are.
I guess I’ve been subjected to a lot of sub-standard Italian wine over the years, probably through dodgy restaurants and pubs serving me undrinkable Chianti.
Well the good news, if you like me have ever been put off Italian wines, is that more and more of the good stuff is making it’s way over to UK… probably smuggled through France in cases marked: Bordeaux!
One of the real discoveries for me has been Barbera D’Asti (‘Barbera’ being the grape variety and ‘Asti’ the region).
Italian Wines often have the classic ‘sour cherry’ aroma and flavour characteristics (think Chianti), but with Barbera D’Asti this strays into deeper and richer territory with Morello Cherry and chocolate characteristics.
This dark black-cherry coloured wine has an aroma of Morello cherry and salted caramel; and that’s exactly what hits the pallet but with a vivid intensity that’s surprising in it’s concentration. The acidity is so well balanced with the concentrated fruit that it’s noticeable, mostly for it’s salivating effect. Rich, mouth coating and lingering in the best way possible.
Bellingham ‘Pear Tree White’ 2013 – Franschhoek, South Africa [£5.99 full price]
I must admit, I originally set out to provide recommendations for this article from the ‘finest’ & ‘Taste the Difference’ ranges… but then I saw this on the shelf and couldn’t resist.
Bellingham is one of my favourite South African wineries and it’s never let me down before… so when I saw a new wine by them and for the exorbitant price of £5.99, I couldn’t resist.
Honestly… who needs symmetry anyway? I do have my fair share of OCD issues, but I’m willing to push past them for the sake of discovering potential summer classic at a bargain price!
First up, I love the wood carved screen print label.
I realise it’s shallow and has nothing what so ever to do with the wine inside… but I think a good label really does speak to the ethos of the winery producing a given wine. When they care, it shows, and Bellingham is a winery that cares. I’ll be showcasing plenty more of their wines and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
However, there’s nothing to stop a third party putting a pretty label on a nasty bottle of wine and selling you a dud, so I do caution you strongly about buying your wine solely on the basis of artwork… though I’d be lying through my teeth if I claimed I don’t from time to time!
This wine is made from a blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier grapes and in the interests of full disclosure oak has been use in its creation. The label doesn’t tell you this and neither will Sainsbury’s website, but the Chenin Blanc was barrel fermented… and the last time I checked barrels were made of wood!
For those of you put off by oak I’d still recommended you try this; the oak is so well integrated that all you notice here is an abundance of yumminess… the ‘Nom Nom’ is strong with this one.
Aromas of pineapple and honeyed melon mix with a rich marmite yeastiness on the nose with an almost alternating frequency. The body of this wine is medium-full but with a vein of acidity winding though to keep things fresh. Clean and clear crystalline stone fruits (Peach and Nectarine) hover on the pallet with a creamy vanilla hiding just under the surface waiting to soften out the finish.
This wine is stupidly good for £5.99 and has more balance and complexity to it than many I’ve tried that were far more expensive. This is the kind of wine that can change minds about the role of oak in the wine making process… Bellingham has come through for me again!
Thank you for reading my thoughts on Tesco Vs. Sainsbury’s, I hope it’s been helpful.
Please let me know when you think.
Next up we’ve got M&S Vs. Waitrose.