Best value bottle of the year?

All sorts of things motivate wine drinkers – quality, rarity, price and, let’s be straightforward about it, palatable alcohol.  If you can combine at least three of these, you are on to a winner.  I haven’t done a proper search on the best relationship of quality to price for the wines I have tasted or drunk in 2010, but I doubt there would be many contenders to challenge the wine featured in this post.  In fact it’s interesting that this key relationship is far less prominent in the UK wine trade than in Italy.  Decanter magazine tends to lead on quality or even rarity.  Until very recently in its large tasting articles, in addition to featuring all the 5, 4 and sometimes 3 star wines, it had a little box for best value with one wine in it.  For those of us on limited budgets that was a really helpful feature – particularly if the article was about pricey Bordeaux, Burgundy or Barolo.  But I notice that in the new look magazine, launched for January 2011, they have dropped this! – even if they have retained the tiny little £-sign for good value wines.  By contrast, a magazine such as Il mio vino takes il rapporto qualità-prezzo extremely seriously.  If British supermarkets did as well on the quality-price ratio as as they do on discounting, we would have a much more interesting set of bottles to choose from on an everyday basis.

Of course that is why the consumer should visit an ‘independent’.   We in the UK do have a problem of language and perception here.  Consumers tend to associate the term ‘wine merchant’ with expensive bottles and snobbery; ‘wine shop’ doesn’t really exist in spoken English; and ‘off-licence’ means lager, cider, spirits and an awful selection of wines.    Into the linguistic void come the independents.

So top marks to my local independent, Andover’s recently established Grape Expectations for providing real competition for even the best of supermarkets.  Tim Pearce has had many years in the trade and knows his market perfectly – interesting wines of quality at an everyday price, with a decent range of more expensive bottles for special occasions or those with deeper pockets.  Yesterday I bought a few Spanish bottles and one was outstanding at its price:  a small drum roll for Castillo de Manzanares, Tempranillo, DO La Mancha, Reserva 2003.

This wine is typical of what is going on in Spain at the moment.  Although Tempranillo is grown all over Spain, the famous and more expensive wines come from Rioja and Priorat or Ribera del Duero.  By contrast this comes from the vast, inland, central plateau of La Mancha, more ‘famous’ for its brandy industry than its table wine.  But, alongside the planting of international grape varieties around Spain, there is real value to be had in its own varieties planted in less famous areas.  This wine is now in its best middle years (like, I hope, the author of this post). With its seven years of ageing it shows a mid garnet colour. The nose has a great combination of fruit, more dark cherry and plum than the expected strawberry (it was a very very hot year) and leather, smoke and even roses, from ageing in barriques.  The palate is excellent too, with some additional strawberry notes.  It’s a genuinely interesting, properly aged wine, only moderately persistent but … you get all this for £6.20.   In terms of quality to price, have you bought a better bottle this year?

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One Response to “Best value bottle of the year?”

  • Carol:

    What a wonderful service you provide for us! Thankyou so much for this article – you’ve more than tempted me – and am off down to Grape Expectations to try this wine myself. Am thinking it would be a gd little present too – especially for Spanish-loving friends.

    See you on the 13th. Gd wishes,

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