For Brits only – fine wine arrives at Tesco

Britain's number one supermarket is beefing up its online presence and has bought a few parcels of fine wine to catch the attention of jaded palates such as mine.

I tasted my way through all 79 wines they had selected for their autumn wine writers' tasting yesterday and found an awful lot of formulaic, just-too-sweet or just-too-oaked wines, both red and white. My favourites from the tasting are listed below (which is not to say that there aren't other respectable wines on their shelves but not included in the tasting).

What really caught my eye though was that Tesco are selling a wine from Michel Coutoux, Michel Niellon's son-in-law whose Meursault Genevrières 1999 I recommended as wine of the week back in March. From 1 October you can buy six bottles of his Meursault Narvaux 1999 for £159 from (click on the Wine Warehouse icon, but note that you will need to register before you can access the Tesco site). It's not as nervy as the Genevrières but it is serious white burgundy and a giant leap in the right direction for Tesco as far as wine quality goes – even if fine wine merchant Robert Rolls of London, EC1 (020 7606 1166) would charge you less than £106 for the same six bottles. (Another seven fine wines are available from in cases of six from 1 October, including Ch Gruaud Larose 1998, a solid, longterm bet at £190 for six, and Antinori's very charming Pian della Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 1995 at £113 for six.)

Tesco can also offer Xanadu's admirably lively Margaret River Chardonnay 2000 as part of their (International Wine Challenge) Gold Medal Winners case, but I couldn't work up as much enthusiasm for the other five bottles, all Australian.

The strength of the supermarkets however is generally more evident at the cheaper end. These were my favourites yesterday:



Reka Valley Pinot Grigio 2000 Hungary £2.79 – 330 stores from 8 October  

It's as though someone has said, if they're going to pay this little for a bottle, we're jolly well going to make sure they hate the label. This offering from Hilltop Neszmely could hardly look less appetising but for the money, it does manage to deliver genuine Magyar fire and spice (nothing to do with Italy's Pinot Grigio) if little subtlety. Drink immediately – or not at all if you require white wine to be bone dry.

Thelema Chardonnay 1999 Stellenbosch, South Africa £9.99 – top (Wine Advisor) stores only

Always a pleasure to get one's hands on a wine from this irreproachable estate. Delicate, not savoury in a Burgundian way but extremely appetising. A fair price.

Hugel Riesling Tradition 1998 Alsace £9.99 – 30 stores from 8 October

This classic already has a little bottle age and would make a great partner for spicy food. Many an independent could match the value though.



Domaine Herbouze Organic 2000 Côtes du Rhone £4.99 – in store now -


This is already ready to gulp and is exclusive to Tesco who are buying the domaine's entire 2000 and 2001 crop. No one from the supermarket has yet visited the domaine but imagine what sort of reception they would get if they did! Grapes roughly Syrah 40%, Grenache 40% and Mourvèdre/Cinsault 20%. Useful, easy wine for those who want to drink organic. And the name could hardly be better, could it?

Minervois Reserve 2000 £4.99 – 400 stores from 8 October

This wine comes under the Tesco Finest banner. It's far from the finest Minervois I have tasted but Australians Nerida Abbott (of Abbotts Cumulus fame) and Nigel Sneyd (who once made wine for Hardys La Baume) have fashioned a very correct southern red that should disappoint no one.

Castello di Fonterutoli 1998 is a fine wine, but you can find better value Chianti than this at £22.99 a bottle – top (Wine Advisor) stores only.

Château Matras St Emilion 1998 is delicious and thoroughly recommended (30 stores now) but it is £21.99 a bottle.

Many would find two bottles of Berry Bros & Rudd's Château Dalem 1997 Fronsac, fully mature at £10.95 each, a better buy.