Tesco – The Unkindest Cut

POSTED ON 14/11/2015

At first I thought the Better Value neck tags on the bottles at Tesco’s autumn tasting were just meaningless guff. Then I twigged. Some of the Tesco finest* range wines were significantly cheaper by £0.50 - £2. Cause for celebration? As I struggled though one lacklustre bottle after another, I couldn’t help feeling that wines like the *finest Douro and *finest Slovenian Sauvignon Furmint were pale shadows of their former selves.

Suspicions were aroused when it became clear that to achieve this otherwise welcome price cut, Tesco had cut the range by 27 per cent, in some cases changing supplier, in others apparently demanding a cheaper cut. I was surprised then when Tesco’s product development manager, Graham Nash, told me that Better Value meant ‘cheaper prices without compromising on quality’.

The new strategy was ‘more about everyday value than promotions’. Where had I heard Everyday Low Price before? Clearly traumatised by the growth of the discounters Aldi and Lidl, Tesco has slashed its range and gone downmarket to staunch the ebb tide. To his credit, Nash conceded that Tesco’s finest* Douro was not as good as before.

A ray or two of sunshine glinted in the gloaming. Wines such as the 2014 Côtes du Rhône Villages, Plan de Dieu, £6, maintained the quality with its juicy red fruit flavours. The 2013 finest* Marlborough Pinot Noir was as fragrant and full of appetising loganberry fruit as I remember. Rieslings were good, notably the refreshingly crisp and lime zesty 2013 Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling, £9.75. There was nothing wrong either with the caramel rich and nutty finest” Amontillado, £5.50, half-litre.

If Tesco has reduced prices on wines from such stalwarts as Tim Adams and Catena, that’s a bonus, because neither are the sort to compromise on quality. The 2012 Tim Adams Clare Valley Shiraz, £11, was mintily aromatic and rich in spicy blackberryish fruit, while Catena’s 2013 finest* Argentina The Trilogy Malbec, £13, displayed the requisite subtle oak toast, succulent black cherry richness and damson-fresh bite. Even the finest* Grand Cru Vintage Champagne Brut 2007, £24, was its expansively creamy self.

Something For The Weekend 14 November 2015

Night In

2014 Wine Atlas Marzemino, Trentino

The new vintage from this distinctive North Italian grape is bright in berry fruit aromas with a juicy cherryish flavour that starts out sweetly gluggy turning to damson plum sour and savoury on the aftertaste. £5.48, down from £5.97, Asda.

Dinner party

2013 Juliénas, Domaine du Clos Fief, Michel Tête.

Exuberant in its spicy cherry aromas, the succulently strawberryish fruit of this supple-textured gamay from the Beaujolais cru of Juliénas is satisfyingly opulent and etched with juicily clean and refreshing acidity. £11,70, down from £13.60, Tanners Wines.

Splash Out

2012 Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay

This fine California chardonnay from Pacific-cooled Carneros is on great form showing invitingly toasty, rich aromas and a creamy-textured fruit quality that clings to the tongue with ripe peachy flavours and a finely balanced white Burgundy-like nuttiness. £19.99, multibuy £14.99, Majestic.


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