This terrific list of wines represents the very best red and white wines that can be bought for less than £10 today. There are some real crackers, from a tingly and refreshing £6 white from Gascony to the new 2016 vintage of a seriously good syrah that is being shipped as I write.
I put the selection together by going through my notes for the thousands of wines I taste each year, choosing the very best, and trying them again in a huge taste-off. I also invited retailers and importers to send in bottles that I might have missed or overlooked. In all, I ended up with more than 300 bottles of wine in my flat from which to make the final choice.
This list represents the best wines available right now. Spring is a time when vintages of cheaper European whites tend to change over; some stores such as Aldi were unable to show me the fresh bottles that they will have later in the season, so look out for any goodies in my Summer Wines List, coming in June.
A quick word on price. I thought hard about whether to include bottles that only come in under the £10 mark if you are buying by the case or half case (in some instances this can be mixed, so you are spreading risk). I decided to put them in because I felt you would want to know how and where you could get the very best wine value for your £10.
Fruits of Spain, on-trend Australian and a serious syrah
1. 3C Cariñena 2016, Spain
A juicy red made from cariñena (carignan), in the village of Cariñena in the appellation of Cariñena in north-eastern Spain – hence the 3C name. Sumptuous as thick crimson velvet, yet also fresh. Think red cherries and fresh figs with cool stone.
(13.5%, The Wine Society, £5.75)
2. Exquisite Malbec 2017, Uco Valley, Argentina
This is just so drinkable: a fresher incarnation of malbec than many (there’s no oak here), it tastes of stewed damsons and roasted plums and has a lovely, fragrant violetty lift. Made for Aldi by Bodegas Salentein.
(13%, Aldi, £5.99)
3. Domaine Gayda Syrah 2016, France
A serious syrah for the price, but it needs time to open up so please decant it to enjoy the scent of gunflint, violets, black pepper and black cherries.
(13.5%, Cambridge Wine Merchants, £9.99/£8.40 by the case, arriving March; or call and ask for bottles with a different label; Haynes, Hanson & Clark from April)
4. Clos Montalbanie 2014 Pécharmant, France
Pécharmant is a relatively unknown wine region in the Dordogne making red wines that taste like rustic claret (Bordeaux is 60 miles to the west). This one is light, fresh and satisfying – made from cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec.
(13%, Co-op, £7.99)
5. Aldonia Vendimia 2015 Rioja, Spain
Bodegas Aldonia is unusual in Rioja in that its focus is not tempranillo but garnacha. Here, a 60-40 garnacha-tempranillo blend makes for a very fresh and sleek wine, scented like crimson berries, with gentle oak. Recogniszably from Rioja, but in a light contemporary style.
(14.5%, Tanners, £8.95)
6. Viña Eguía Rioja Crianza 2015
Spain Twelve months in American oak barrels has imbued this rioja with some warm vanilla and spice notes, but it’s still remarkably fresh and crisp, redolent of red cherries and cooked strawberries.
(13.5%, Majestic; £6.99 in a mixed six; £8.99 single bottle)
7. Palladino Biferno Rosso Riserva 2012 Italy
A smooth, richly fruity, oak-aged red from the region of Molise, between Abruzzo and Puglia. The main grapes are montepulciano and aglianico. Think amarena cherries, baked blueberries and brambles, and a touch of balsamic.
(13%, Great Western Wine, £8.50; Booths, £8; The Wine Society, £7.95)
8. Pas des Roches Côtes du Rhône 2016 France
A very evocative wine from a superlative vintage that takes you straight to the south of France with its whiff of dried lavender, pumice and dried thyme. Grenache with syrah, carignan, mourvèdre and cinsault. Just lovely.
9. Château de Caraguilhes Organic 2014 Corbières, France
You catch a whiff of wild boar salami, dried herbs, dried figs and white pepper on this southern French blend of syrah (60 per cent), carignan and grenache noir. Great food wine, and fresher/lighter than you might expect (a portion undergoes carbonic maceration, like beaujolais).
(13%, Waitrose, £9.99)
10. finest* GSM 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
A cosy cuddle of a red made by d’Arenberg among the gum trees and dry heat of Australia’s McLaren Vale. GSM stands for grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, and here the Rhône grapes have an inky, saturating depth of flavour you don’t find in France
(14.5%, Tesco, £8)
11. Taste the Difference Douro 2015, Portugal
From Quinta do Crasto, deep in port territory, and made using port varieties. Dark, intense and redolent of the hard rock in which the vines struggle. Has thump as well as structure. Sometimes on offer with £1 off, but it wins a place here even at full price.
(14%, Sainsbury’s, £9)
12. Ego Bodegas Talento 2015/16 Jumilla, Spain
The grape is monastrell, the region is Jumilla in south-eastern Spain, and the wine is immense: intense but classically structured, with a fragrant blueberry scent, lots of inky black fruit, and wood spice. The 2016 is preferred.
(14%, Lea & Sandeman, £9.50 in a mixed case/£10.50 single bottle)
13. Gumboot Fruit Shiraz 2016 Heathcote, Australia
Heathcote, Victoria, is currently one of Australia’s most talked-about wine regions. Shiraz grown in its ancient soils and cooler climate is less prizefighter punch; more generous, with earthy notes. This one also smells of petrichor and mulberries.
(14.5%, Morrisons, £6.75)
14. Corney & Barrow Rouge Vin de France 2016, France
This would be the perfect bistro house red: your nose starts twitching for bavette-frites at the first juicy, upbeat sip. Cabernet sauvignon brings gentle oomph and structure, while grenache and carignan carry a scent of the garrigue. Lovely.
(12.5%, C&B, £7.75)
15. Château de Lacarelle Beaujolais Villages 2016, France
Lacarelle has been in the hands of the same family since 1750 and is one of the oldest wine estates in Beaujolais. Cracking wine, too – light-bodied but sappy, vivid and energetic, reminiscent of the first signs of spring on a freezing day.
(12.5%, The Wine Society, £7.75)
16. Château Tour des Gendres 2016 Bergerac Rouge, France
Geographically, Bergerac lies between Bordeaux and Cahors, and taste-wise you could say this wine from a family-run château does the same. Half merlot, half malbec, it has structure, but also inkiness and grunt. Brilliant stuff.
(13.5%, The Wine Society, £8.75)
17. Château de Pitray 2012 Côtes de Bordeaux–Castillon, France
Think of this blend of merlot with cabernet franc as a mini-Pomerol. Beautifully fragranced, and showing some development. A great buy.
(13%, The Wine Society, £8.95; Majestic has the also-good 2014 but it’s over a tenner)
18. Taste the Difference Languedoc Red 2016 France
A well-judged blend of grenache, syrah and carignan. Love the generosity and gentle scent of dried herbs. Think of it as a cut price Rhône. A particularly good vintage of an always-good value wine from the Paul Mas stable.
(13.5%, Sainsbury’s, £7)
19. Domaine la Condamine L’Eveque 2016 Côtes de Thongue, France
From the Côtes de Thongue, an IGP in the Languedoc around Faugères, Pézenas and Béziers, a bouncy, joyful, brambly and oak-free blend of mostly syrah, with some deep, dark mourvèdre.
(12.5%, The Wine Society, £6.75)
20. Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenère 2016, Chile
Ripe mulberries and raspberry jelly, ruffled up with the astringency of cranberries and black tea, with hints of coffee and oak spice for depth.
(13,5%, Co-op, £6.49 down from £8.49 until March 6; Ocado £6.79 down from £8.49 until March 20; Tesco Wine by the Case only $48/6 equivalent to £8 a bottle)
Wine Club 10 June
Heaven help us, it’s barbecue season. You know, that ghastly time of year when testosterone-fuelled hunter-gatherers push the little lady aside and fire up the rusting, bird poo-covered grate in the garden and ask the neighbours over.
Never mind that these poor saps never darken the kitchen the other 11-and-a-half months of the year (and wouldn’t know what to do there if they did), nor that the little lady in question is a hugely capable Leiths-trained cook as well as a multi–tasking barrister/entrepreneur/CEO/novelist and mother of three, no doubt.
I’ve never ‘got’ barbecues. The food’s either scorched or raw. I mean, isn’t it to save us from such things that God invented kitchens? Be that as it may, here follow six wines perfect both for lovers of barbecues and for miserable gits like me who aren’t.
The 2015 Alto Los Romeros Gran Reserva (1), from the Colchagua Valley in Chile is made from Roussanne and Marsanne which always taste better when blended together than either does on its own. Originally from the Northern Rhône (where they are permitted in both white and red Hermitage), the grapes clearly thrive in Chile. I love this wine’s creaminess and its poached pear and fresh peach/apricot flavours. I love its price, too. £8.95 down from £9.95.
The 2015 Sauvignon de Touraine ‘Le Boulay’ (2) is made at Château de la Presle in the Loire Valley, HQ of Domaine Jean-Marie Penet. This 100 per cent Sauvignon Blanc is wonderfully fresh, zesty and full of ripe gooseberries and mangoes. It’s bone-dry on the finish and makes the perfect 6 p.m. kick-starter. £9.90 down from £10.90.
We’ve offered previous vintages of the 2015 Tanners White Burgundy (3) before and I’m delighted to do so again because it’s such a steal. A Chardonnay of real style from Cave de Viré, the highly regarded co-operative near Mâcon, it’s absolutely bang on with deliciously ripe, rounded fruit and just a faint whisper of butter thanks to the briefest spell in oak. £10.95 down from £11.95.
The 2015 Aldonia Vendimia Rioja (4) is a real charmer. A blend of 60 per cent Garnacha (aka Grenache) and 40 per cent Tempranillo, it’s made by the Santos brothers who used to flog all their grapes to the big Rioja houses until they realised their quality was so good they were worth vinifying themselves. They don’t bother with old Rioja terminology such as Crianza and Reserva, but I suspect this does have a touch of oak. It’s fresh, juicy, concentrated and full of ripe cherries and mulberries with a savoury finish. £7.95 down from £8.95.
The 2015 Le Pigeoulet (5) from Frédéric and Daniel Brunier of celebrated Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is right up my street and I hope yours, too. A fabulously complex blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault, it’s soft, smooth and dense with loganberries, plums, leather, liquorice and herbs. The vines lie just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, otherwise the ridiculously modest price would be way higher. £11.40 down from £12.90.
Finally, the 2014 Massaya ‘Le Colombier’ (6) from Lebanon, a huge favourite of mine and of everyone else who was at the Spectator Winemaker’s Lunch hosted by Massaya’s Sami Ghosn. The vineyards are at Tanail in the Bekaa Valley and at Faqra on Mount Lebanon where the climate is so benign —hot days, cool nights — that no irrigation is needed, nor pesticides, nor fertilisers. It’s where, Ghosn told us, the vines are neither too stressed nor too comfortable but just happy. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo, it’s another extremely barbecue-friendly wine. Don’t say I’m not doing my best. £12.50 down from £13.50.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.