Bargains at Waitrose

Waitrose sherry bottles 2023

For supermarket value, avoid the most expensive wines. Some of the best bargains currently are pictured above. A version of this article is published by the Financial Times. See also Waitrose summer 2023.

Among the supermarkets that dominate wine retailing in the UK, Waitrose is widely credited with having the best selection. Twice a year it invites wine media to taste a substantial proportion of the wines on offer. I went along last month and came away rather surprised to find that I had tasted 96 of the 148 wines on show, even though I deliberately avoided most of its own-label bottlings on the basis that they are available only in the UK.

As a campaigner against unnecessarily heavy bottles, I was delighted that they included bottle weights in their copious notes on each wine. There seems to be global progress in reducing bottle weights, with many bottles on the Waitrose tables weighing less than 400 g when empty.

The sinners in terms of bottle weight included several producers who loudly espouse sustainability such as Ch Maris, whose Les Planels Minervois weighed in at 600 g. In view of the additional carbon emissions involved in making and transporting such heavy bottles, this is a bit rich. Waitrose’s Savennières comes in a bottle that weighs 785 g and that of Bersano’s San Pietro Realto 2021 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato is 750 g.

But you are almost certainly much more interested in the best and best-value wines. My average score was just over 15.5 out of 20 but I gave two 17.5s and nine 17s. What is perhaps remarkable is that of this total of 11 high-scorers, three were champagnes, five were sherries and one was a port – leaving just two of them table wines, each of which I scored 17. About Simmonet-Febvre’s Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2020 at £35 a bottle, from Waitrose Cellar online only, I wrote, ‘Proper Chablis without too much ripeness and real cut and juiciness though it’s arguably no cheaper than at the independents. Quite long. Well selected!’ Millésima UK seems to be the only merchant offering it in the UK and is charging the equivalent of £33.33 a bottle for a case of six. So if you seek a single bottle of premier-cru Chablis, one of the few sorts of white burgundy that offer real value and ageing potential, this would be a wine to head for – particularly when Waitrose run one of their regular promotions offering 25% off any six mixed bottles.

The other table wine I scored 17 was a stalwart of the Waitrose range: Leitz, Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Kabinett 2021 Rheingau. I gave it the same score when I tasted it last October. It is delightfully low alcohol (9.3%), juicy and fresh and, at just £13.99 a bottle, it really is a steal. But it would arguably be even more attractive in summer weather – a wonderfully refreshing aperitif with pure fruit and such great balance that it by no means tastes sweet. Kabinett is the German wine insider’s current favourite style of Riesling. 

One of my 17.5s was given to the stunningly complex, bone-dry Bollinger Rosé champagne (£59.99 and available in 283 stores), which really deserves to be served at the table rather than without food. The other went to a dark, bone-dry Oloroso sherry from Lustau, from a single barrel untouched for the last eight years and aged in the darkest, most humid corner of Lustau’s La Emperatriz bodega. It’s so tense that it almost gives the taster an electric shock and could be a real appetite-whetter, or would be stunning with a fine hard cheese such as Comté or a well-aged cheddar. Waitrose Cellar will offer it at £19.99 for a half-litre from mid July; it’s much more exciting than the unusually mature, pale Fino version at the same price. 

The four sherries I thought justified a score of 17 included both the dry Oloroso and the Amontillado bottlings of a range called Pedro's Almacenista Selection, almost laughably inexpensive at £9.99 for a full, attractively labelled 75-cl bottle – though I see that Amontillado appears in smaller type than the unwarrantedly bland term Medium Dry. Even more creatively labelled, and £15.99 for a half-bottle, are fellow 17-pointers Sánchez Romate Oloroso Encontrado and Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado, both bone-dry sherries and hugely appetising. Clearly, if you appreciate dry Oloroso, Waitrose is the place to head for. (The Wine Society, rarely beaten on price, charge £17 for a half-bottle of the Oloroso Encontrado.) Stock up now before the world wakes up to the bargain nature of mature sherry.

Another fortified wine earned 17 points from me, the Quinta do Noval LBV port, which I deemed VGV for very good value. As I noted when comparing this beautifully made wine to a young vintage port, ‘like a second wine in Bordeaux, this would only be put in the shade by serving the grand vin alongside’.

Then there were two champagnes that were almost as outstanding as the Bollinger Rosé. Louis Roederer’s newish version of a non-vintage blend changes every year and the most recent is Collection 243 (£57.99). It is based on the 2017 crop but is given real depth by the inclusion of 44% of even older wine, some of it aged in oak, the blend being aged on lees in the bottle for three years, much longer than most NV champagnes. Waitrose are asking £59.99 for it but it’s available for much less than this from many an independent retailer. Winetime of Liverpool are offering it at £39.99, for instance, according to

Le Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV Champagne is a gutsy, slightly rustic, all-Chardonnay blend from the co-op in the grand-cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Only one other UK retailer, Marlo Wine, is listed by Wine-Searcher, and at £4 less than Waitrose’s price of £39.99. The wine has benefited from all of five years’ ageing on lees in bottle and is quite a bargain at either price. This was one of a total of 17 wines I marked GV for good value. 

I marked two wines VVGV for very, very good value and another 10 I marked VGV. All 12 are listed below. (As usual, South Africa and Spain are notable for their bargain bottles.) So 30% of all the wines I tasted I reckoned were at least GV, good value – about the same proportion of what I tasted as during my most recent examination of The Wine Society’s range.

One of the more unusual VGV wines, new to Waitrose, is Chateau Oumsiyat’s Mijana 2019 from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. It’s a blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 20% Carignan and 20% Cinsault. Its chewy tannins bear witness to a climate too dry to result in particularly juicy grapes, but it’s chock-full of spicy personality and is a great price, £8.99. ‘Serve this with a well-laden table and magic yourself to the eastern Mediterrean’, I wrote. Unfortunately it’s available in only 100 Waitrose stores so may not be in your local branch, but it seems to be available online, like many of these recommendations, from Waitrose Cellar.

But mass-market retailers such as Waitrose rarely offer great value above about £12 a bottle where they’re unable to buy in vast quantities and economies of scale are difficult to apply. For more expensive wines, you’re probably better off going to an independent wine merchant who can offer advice and a much more personal service, and will typically confirm the availability of a specific vintage (whereas Waitrose Cellar cautions that the vintage supplied may vary’).

Best value from Waitrose

An asterisk denotes wines I marked very, very good value.


A A Badenhorst, The Curator 2022 Coastal Region 13%
South Africa £8.99

Morandé, Terrarum Patrimonial Semillón 2022 Maule 12.5% 
Chile £9.99

Pedro's Almacenista Selection Fino Sherry 15%
Spain £9.99

*Pedro's Almacenista Selection Oloroso Sherry 20%
Spain £9.99

Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner 2022 Traisental 12.5%
Austria £10.99

Zacharias Assyrtiko 2022 Peloponnese 14% 
Greece £11.99


The Sardine Submarine 2021 Tejo 12.5%
Portugal £7.99 (£6.99 until 4 July)

Los Tontos Sabios 2021 Castilla 13.5% 
Spain £8.99 (just £6.99 until 4 July)

Chateau Oumsiyat, Mijana 2019 Bekaa Valley 13%
Lebanon £8.99

*Stellenrust Cinsault 2021 Western Cape 13.5%
South Africa £9.99

Thymiopoulos, Atma Xinomavro 2021 Macedonia 13%
Greece £11.99

Quinta do Noval Unfiltered Single Vineyard LBV 2017 Port 19.5%
Portugal £22.99 (£17.99 until 4 July)

For tasting notes, scores and suggested drink dates, see Waitrose summer 2023. For other stockists see