Monday, 14 March 2011

Supermarket Sweep: Reds from the Co-Operative

Hello All!

Bit of a change of plan this week; I was due to review the Mystery Case from Laithwaites but our timetable has been a bit disjointed over the last week or two so we haven't got round to glugging them yet. However, a few friends have been recommending wines from the Co-Op recently so I decided to pop in and have look. Well, pop in and loiter in the wine section for an hour and a half... Twice.

Going back what feels like a few years ago, I used to regularly get wines form the Co-Op. That's when I was into the big brands. It's probably more than a few years by now; time goes so quick when you get older... Anyway, once I'd passed through my Blass, Hardys, Gallo et al phase, there really wasn't much else for them to offer (or so I may have thought back then) and didn't give them a second look until recently. Bloody hell, things have CHANGED! Oh, but they don't do online sales (yet?) so you'll have to do it "old-school" and get yourself down there.

Ok, so they still do the big brands; obviously, being the massive sellers they are, but there's so much more! And offers! Lots of them. At the front door I was greeted by a rack of £4 wines. I almost dismissed them in a "Pfft...four quid? Yeah right, what a load of boll...." but "Oh wait...St. Hallett Riesling? Hmmm...  2005 Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux, £7?  Prosecco, £4?  Cava Rosé, £4. I best get myself to the proper wine section, quick!". I basketted the Riesling and Bordeaux and moved swiftly on. And there I spent the next hour and a half, mesmerised.  So much so, that I had to return the following week to pick up more.

We did drink the Riesling (and it was great, 7/10, amazing for £4) but as this is a reds review, I'll keep that one for next time. Anyway, to the wines...No pictures this week I'm afraid, due to "logistics" shall we say. Some might say forgetfulness, like binning the bottles before taking pictures?

For those who like to drink with a clear conscience, the Fairtrade wines aren't too bad. The 2009 Malbec Reserva from Argentina was a decent fruity bottle with smoke, vanilla and dark berries (6.5/10). The 2009 Shiraz, also from Argentina just pipped it at 7/10 - a good value example of the grape with warming spicy berries. Both opened up with more fruitiness after an hour so give them time. Both also under £7.

The Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2008 (£8.99) I was surprised to see. I love VM wines and don't really see them as a "Mega-Brand" although I'm probably looking through rose-tinted specs when it comes to their wines. It was however, initially a slight let-down, not in the league of their Whites but was good nonetheless with summer berries and some black cherry. Very bright, almost harsh acidity straight from the bottle but did mellow to acceptable levels after a few hours and food. It developed into a lovely wine but remained sprightly acidic. (7/10). 

If bright acidity is your bag then the Piccini Sigillo Rosso Chianti Riserva 2006 (normally £8.99 but only £5.29 on the day - bargain). This was recommended by a good friend (Cheers Willmot!) and although mouth-puckeringly acidic to start, was delicious. Showing signs of bottle age with tawny and brick red tinges to the dark ruby core, it exuded cherry and oaky spice on the nose. Again, cherry flavours dominated the palate but with raspberry, vanilla and peppery spice. A bit too acidic for my palate, but good nonetheless and a good candidate for putting away for a few years for it to mellow. Have it with food. 7/10

After enjoying an immense Cab Sauv from Trio (D's favourite wine!)  I spotted the Concha Y Toro Trio Merlot/Shiraz/Cab 2009 (no price for this I'm afraid but it was sub-£8). This was almost black! Very intense for a Merlot blend. Ripe, sweetish red berries in abundance and enhanced by chocolate/toffee hints. Fresh acidity and a long finish which brought out the Cab Sauv. Lovely 7.5/10. Another Merlot was recommended by a friend (thanks Ailsa!) from Chile's Rapel Valley, the Anakena Merlot 2009 (£5.99). Very light, I literally thought it was a Rosé on pouring, it looked like a fairly robust Garnacha Rosé. Plenty of strawberry and caramel on the nose and followed up by bright red fruit, sweetness but with a fresh, balancing acidity. A slight bitterness on the finish let it down, but at this can't really complain? 6.5/10

The Cru Bourgeois was the Chateau Dasvin-Bel-Air 2005 (£7 on offer) and was a plummy-purple, showing some age with a brick-red rim. Blackcurrant, cherry, cedar, blackberry, graphite and oak on the complex nose and tasted very similar. Very bright acidity, plenty of tannin yet to shed and abundant fruit. I wish I'd picked up a few of these to put away for a year or two. A medicinal/menthol finish added to the complexity - delicious 7.5/10.

The Cline Californian Syrah 2005 was immense, a deep opaque purple and a lipstick rim. Immediately meaty, with loads of blackberry and pepper. Great taste, akin to a NZ Syrah, or even the Northern Rhone with pepper, spice, dark berries, full and lush. 8/10.

The Yering Station Little Yering Pinot Noir 2006 comes from a famous stable. The oldest winery in Victoria, Yering Station's top Pinots and Shiraz-Viogniers go for upwards of £50 a bottle. This "little brother" was £9.99. A nice bit of age showing although this was a young-pup. Initially, meaty forest floor odours gave way to red berries and caramel. Cherry and a cinnamon-like spice were evident. Similarly on the palate, lots of strawberry, cherry and cinnamon lead to a long finish of bright red fruit. Very bright and acidic although not in the least bit overpowering. This will last for a good few years yet and will improve well-past its 7.5/10 mark, tasting better the second day (screwcap put back on for 24hrs).

Finally, the St. Hallett Faith Shiraz 2008 from the revered Barossa Valley was a gem. £9.99 and well worth it. An intense inky-black-purple, was a bit shy at first but then fumed with blackberry, violet, caramel, toasty oak and pepper smells. On the palate it was super-concentrated; a small sip explodes in the mouth. Intense, very ripe black fruit combined with plenty of fresh acidity, some tannin and a long, warming, fruit-driven finish. Chocolate and smoothness developed after a while and was even fresh the following day (again with the cap on for 24hrs). Maybe not everybody's cup of tea; it's big, bold, powerful, intensely fruity, maybe even a much-maligned "fruit bomb" but has the complexity and quality to shed that moniker, in my humble opinion of course. 8/10.

So, there you have a small summary of some of the Reds available from Co-Op. I will return. I need to try the Whites, Rosés and Sparklers and there were still a few Reds I wanted to get but my wallet disagreed, groaning already under the strain of the bulk-buy. Of the remaining reds that showed promise were the Steakhouse Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from Oregon USA,  EOS Petit Sirah 2006 from Paso Robles I believe, Chateauneuf du Papes 2007, 2003 Bordeaux, Montes Alpha Malbec, Barbera di Asti, more Chilean stuff; Carmen, Santa Rita 120 etc. Loads more, and that's only the reds.

I highly recommend you take a look. But don't spend an hour and a half there (twice) unless you can put up with whispers from other customers (and staff) along the lines of "Wino!", "Alky!" and "Is he nuts?". LOL.

As always,

Speak to you soon.




  1. Interesting comments on the Villa Maria Pinot Noir, WBFTF.

    I reviewed a 2009 a while ago and was a little more impressed than you seem to be.

    I found it had a typically mushroomy Pinot nose, with a soft-yet-mouthfilling texture, some spice and a rich, balanced savouryness on the palate and tannic buzz from aging in barriques and great length.

    If you want to check out the full review, see here:

  2. Hi Tom, thanks for the comment. It was by no means a bad wine, 7/10 is a very good score. However, I was literally blown away by some of the other VM wines (Search for Private Bin Riesling or Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc on here) so felt a little let-down at first. The acidity did fade with time which would suggest that cellaring would certainly be beneficial. Indeed, decanted for 2hrs prior, this would be a great food wine.