Found Weissburgunder, Pfalz, Germany 2021 (£9.50, Marks & Spencer) Among the UK’s big supermarket groups, the upmarket pair Marks & Sparks and Waitrose have always had the most interesting wine ranges. Of course, it’s somewhat easier to put together an eye-catching selection when you know you have customers that are willing to splash out, and traditionally much of the interest in both ranges has been at prices that haven’t really been a focus at other supermarkets. Tasting highlights from the two ranges recently, however, I was curious to see how the two are confronting what Andrew Shaw, the one-time Waitrose wine buyer who is now heading up M&S’s drinks team, sees as the increasing desire for “inexpensive bottles for all occasions” in these scarily inflationary times. One solution to the dilemma both have alighted on: finding good examples of lesser-known wine regions or grape varieties that perhaps come with less of a reputational price premium and making a virtue of their novelty. The softly peachy white burgundy-alike Found Weissburgunder, for example, punches way above its price tag.
Torres Digno País, Maule, Chile 2020 (£7.99, Waitrose) Other worthy central European newcomers to the expanding M&S Found range of affordable esoterica include the crunchy fresh berry fruit and peppery spice of the Found Zweigelt 2021 (£8.50), a kind of Austrian red alternative to beaujolais, and a rounded, red apple-tangy Hungarian white Found Furmint 2021 (£8). The own-label equivalent range at Waitrose, Loved & Found, meanwhile, has swelled with two Southern European standouts: a strawberry juicy, tomato pasta-friendly quaffer from Sicily, Loved & Found Frappato 2021 (£7.99) and the brisk, citrus-and-peach, seafood-friendly Loved & Found Treixadura 2021 (£8.99, in stores from July) from Galicia in far northwestern Spain. Curiously, Lost & Found País, a favourite from the original set of Loved & Found wines, which was launched in 2019, has been replaced with a similarly priced and deliciously, sappy spicy-cherry red wine from the same producers, Torres, bottled under their own, rather than Waitrose’s, label. A sign, perhaps, that this once-maligned, currently trendy Chilean red grape is now too popular to class as a discovery?
Le Sabbie dell’Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily, Italy 2019 (£12.99, Waitrose) On the strength of what I got to taste from the two ranges, I’d say M&S has a slight upper hand when it comes to the sheer number of fun bottles under a tenner – among them other red Found finds such as the deep darkly fruited Mazuelo 2019 from Rioja (£9) and the tangy, textured Found Xinomavro Mandilaria 2020 (£9.50). But Waitrose remains by some distance the better of the two places to go if you have the budget to stretch over that psychological barrier. Around £12.99 is where things start to get really interesting. That’s the price of each of the luxuriously fleshy but luminous juicy white peachiness of the Domaine Zafeirakis Malgousia 2021 from Northern Greece; the savoury, plummy subtly smoke-infused Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage 2019 from a fine historic estate in Stellenbosch in South Africa; and the fragrant swirl of cherry, blackberry, aniseed and fine, satisfying tannin of Le Sabbie dell’Etna Rosso.