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Nothing is more disappointing than popping the cork, only to find you don’t like the wine you’ve bought. Such is the case when buying wine on a budget – but it doesn’t have to be! Avoid any let-downs and check out my top tips when shopping for great-tasting, great-value wine.
Tip 1: Choose what you know
The best place to start is with wines you know you like. If you really enjoy a fresh, zesty Sauvignon Blanc, it may not be wise to experiment with a heavily-oaked white Rioja, for example. However, if you’re looking for a great Sauvignon without the price tag, pick up a bottle from a lesser-known wine region (try Chile or South Africa) – you may well discover a great-tasting wine for a fraction of the price.
Tip 2: Trust in own-label wines
Retailer-branded wines, such as Co-op’s own wine range, can offer fantastic value for money. They’re often sourced from top producers and the wine buyers will put huge amounts of effort into the blending process for each bottle – many of which are award-winning.
Don’t forget to read the label, too! Look out for descriptions that detail the fruity notes in a wine – such as citrus, summer berries, tropical or bramble fruits – as it will help indicate the style inside. If you prefer a full-bodied, ripe red wine, for example, find a label that says so!
Tip 3: Look out for organic wines
For a wine to be certified organic, farmers must adhere to strict standards which typically excludes the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Incorporating these stringent practices should ensure better quality of fruit. The better the quality of fruit, the better the resulting wine will be.
Tip 4: Check the vintage
If you prefer to drink white and rosé wines, check the vintage. This tells you the year the grapes were picked. It’s especially relevant if you enjoy fresher, fruitier wines as fruitiness tends to fade over time. Look for the most recent vintage on the shelf if you like a fresher wine – no more than three to four years old.
Tip 5: Temperature is key
The temperature you serve wine at is very important if you want to get the best out of a bottle. White, rosé and sparkling need to be cold – but not too cold! If it is freezing, it will lose flavour; too warm and the freshness is lost. The case is the same for red wine. Don’t let it get too warm or you’ll end up with a drink that’s sickly sweet! In the summer, I tend to put red in the fridge for half an hour before I drink them (call me strange!).
Tip 6: Sharing is caring
My final tip: share the cost of a few different bottles with friends and family – it’ll work out cheaper than buying a whole bottle for yourself that you may not even like! Not only does wine taste better with company, it can become a fantastic, social way to expand your wine repertoire.
Myth buster: It’s commonly thought that the deeper the dimple in the bottom of a wine bottle, the better the wine. However, a deeper dimple actually means the bottle itself is more expensive and therefore can be an indicator of quality. Take note, though – it doesn’t always mean you will like the wine inside!
5 best budget-friendly wines to try
Co-op South African White, £4.60
Is a fiver your limit? This crisp and fruity white wine from South Africa’s Western Cape is bursting with citrusy notes and zesty acidity – and comes in well under £5. It’s a brilliant all-rounder for a very modest price tag.
This is one of my personal favourites: an organic, unfiltered wine from Sicily with all the flavour locked in – as nature intended! It’s the sort of wine that will make you feel like you’re on holiday when you drink it (see Spanish and Italian-inspired food pairings below). It can be a little cloudy as it’s unfiltered, but don’t let that put off!
Co-op Spanish Garnacha, £5.35
A wonderful red wine to serve with comforting winter fare. This great value bottle from northern Spain is priced at just over a fiver and makes a crowd-pleasing option. Plus, it’s cultivated from sustainable vines, which are much less water intensive and better suited to climate change and disease.
Pair it with: roast dinners or tomato-based curries. This sweet potato curry only uses four ingredients!
Romanian Pinot Noir, £5.50
A notoriously difficult variety to grow, this Romanian Pinot Noir ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a Burgundy-style wine without the price tag.
A light, Provence-style rosé grown in the Carcassonne region of France, which is known for its great-tasting (and great value) wines. A beautifully refreshing drink that’s delicious on its own or with food.
Pair it with: Salmon dishes or salade niçoise. Serve it on date night with this salmon linguine or use this oily fish in a lighter meal with our salmon salade niçoise.
Thinking about quitting the booze all together? Check out the Sober Curious episode of the In It Together podcast, brought to you by Co-op, to discover top tips for anyone thinking about changing the way they drink.
Trading manager, Co-op beer, wine & spirits