According to a survey in 2015 of over 6000 people each of us in the UK ,over 15 years old, drinks enough alcohol in a year that is equivalent of 115 bottles of wine. From having a drink with our evening meal, unwinding on a Friday night with friends in the pub or making the most of a bank holiday weekend we often find ourselves in the alcohol aisle trying to figure out what will go down well.
With the summer season approaching meaning bank holidays, long breaks for university students, an influx of weddings to attend and BBQ galore our alcohol intake is expected to increase from recent months. With that we want to make sure we are drinking stuff we enjoy, that works well with our food and snacks and that people will be pleased to receive as a gift in return for inviting you along.
And thanks to Co-operative Food it is now easier than ever to find a good bottle of wine or fizz that hits all the notes with the food and goes down with the crowds taste-buds smoothly. Alongside old favourites staying on the shelves the wine team have searched the world to find some new outstanding choices at affordable prices to keep the good times going.
I recently got invited to a wine tasting event with the Co-operative at their offices in Central London (just around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral resulting in incredible views from the floor of the building we were on) and found 70 different types of wine prepared on an incredibly long stretch of tables. Before we were let loose on their entire summer collection we discussed pairing certain types of wine with specific flavours and how to match or contrast acidity/sweetness to bring the most out of all the flavours as well as cleansing your palette for the next course during a meal.
The first mind-blowing moment for me, in terms of actual wine, was when we paired a red wine with chicken; I am so used to the idea of putting a white wine with poultry that I was a little nervous but it worked very well. But I had already been wowed by having to try a flavoured jelly bean by holding my nose and then releasing it and it was not until the nose was released and able to smell that there was any taste; suddenly it makes sense as to why when we have a cold food tastes incredibly bland (if you do not believe me get something you know has flavour, hold your nose and then pop it in your mouth and start to eat before releasing. Wow).
After also discovering that a sweet dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert itself, whilst having it with a healthy dose of cake, we grabbed a new glass and were free to work our way around the range. There were so many types, sorted out into country of origin rather than colour or type of wine, and it meant that I hopped around in no particular order.
Out of the bubbly bottles on offer, and after trying them all, I would have to recommend one that is available nationwide and whilst it does come with a slightly higher price point of £25.99 it is well worth it. The Les Pionniers Champagne Vintage 2008, which comes with high expectations based on the results of the 2004 vintage success, comes out of one of the best years for wine in recent history and this shows in the sweet but gently bubbly fizz that would go well alongside a salmon starter or appetiser whilst waiting for the main meal to start. The producer, Piper Heidsieck, also has a standard vintage available for a slightly lower price point which is acceptable to the palette but lacks the divine punch of the 2008 vintage. If you are looking for something to pop at the start of a party or special occasion then then is well worth it. In fact it is so delightful I am almost tempted to bulk buy this and store it in a cool dark environment until our, not yet set, wedding as the drink to welcome people into the reception.
After wandering around I found myself attracted to another 2008 vintage but this time a red wine. As mentioned in a previous wine review I usually am not a massive fan of red wine but knowing these were all hand selected for various qualities I decided to give a few a try. I was attracted to one that spent 24 months in American and French oak barrels before ageing for 36 months in the bottle. Despite being aged in oak for such a long time the Marques de Vaildo Gran Reserva Rioja did not come across as being too woody and instead had a gentle aroma and taste of spices with both combining to help it not feel too dark and instead kept it enjoyably smooth. The spices and red berry notes really make this a red wine that could be drank alone but it is also one I would consider purchasing to put with a lamb and redcurrant sauce dish. It is pretty hard to get hold of though with less than 100 Co-operative stores being lucky enough to stock it and sell it at the RRP of £12.99.
Eventually I braved a very traditional looking red wine and I was slightly scared that a horrible face would end up being pulled and a quick retreat would be made but luckily the results were much more pleasing. The Black Shiraz certainly is very intense but it is intense with all the flavours and aromas that I find enjoyable (vanilla, plum and blackberry) and the high alcohol level of 14.5% percent was not noticeable as the smoothness went down the throat and the flavours continued to develop in the mouth. This South East Australian 2016 vintage is certainly something that I would consider spending £7.99 on, if spotted in one of 1000 stores to stock it, but I would want to ensure it was paired with food rather than drinking it alone.
It was a South African wine, from the Western cape, that was my real red wine winner and I later discovered that it would be perfect with something like a tuna steak that made it an even bigger winner than it was before. The KWV Cinsaut, made from 100% cinsaut grape, has been oaked for ten months in French oak barrels helping it to reach 13.5%. The label mentioned dark cherry and ripe strawberry and there is a real hint of fruitiness in this vibrant wine even though those two ingredients are not directly present. This £7.99 bottle is an absolute delight and comes from over 100 years of wine making from KWV, a co-operative producer, that is still going as strong as the wine with this 2016 vintage.
Finish your evening meal, or tuck into a sweet treat, whilst enjoying a glass of a very sweet french wine from 2014 that comes in at the affordable and very moreish price of £6.99 a bottle. The Domaine Laserre Jurançon is a mixture of two different grapes and can handle quite a sweet dessert but would go perfectly with a fruit cake or a sweet chocolate dessert such as a gateau but ensuring it is not too sweet a food as a birthday cake with buttercream may prove too much of an overload. This is not a wine you would be able to drink alone but paired well it is more than worth putting your hand into your pocket and having to carry change from your £10 note around afterwards.
Over recent years I have found myself avoiding white wine as my taste-buds have left me finding a lot of it to be too sharp, citrusy and acidic for me to be able to enjoy it even with food but having attended the Co-operative event I think it is much more just that I have not been selecting the right wines.
The first that screamed a summer wine, sitting outside on a weekend trying to get a tan with a BBQ going and friends laughing away or with somebody preparing a paella to enjoy, was a Portuguese offering that has a much lower percentage of 9.5% but it was very light and fresh to make it a good alternative to a spritzer. I often find that during summer I just want something very light and simple that will not go straight to my head and instead can add to the flavours of the food on offer and this really ticks that box. It is something I would suggest if you want to enjoy a drink and open a bottle in the sunshine but do not want to risk waking up with a sore head or it being an overwhelming flavour punch that you struggle to handle with the warm weather around you.
My stand out white wine choice, that I would happily purchase and drink alone on a Friday evening whilst watching a film or chatting with friends, would have to be the German Kleine Kapelle Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio is an absolute classic white wine but this is by far the best one I have ever tasted and on discovered the tiny £5.99 price tag it is one that I will be hoping is stocked in my local reasonable sized store when I go explore the shelves soon. If you want to try any of the wines I have mentioned today but only feel you can go out and purchased one then this has to be the one that you opt for.
The event was absolutely incredible and it was great to open my eyes to a wider variety of options instead of sticking to my usual White Zinfandel because of bad experiences with other types before. Knowing how to balance certain foods with certain wines will also make it a lot easier to know what to select when heading around a party, BBQ or having a picnic instead of just getting something with a nice looking label and decent price (come on I am not the only one that does that am I?!)
I would love to hear what your favourite type of wine is and if your preferences vary depending on the seasons in the comments below.