Austerity might be hitting your wallet, but that’s no reason to miss out on some of the finer things in life. David Williams sifts through the shelves to find the best on offer at Bargain Booze
Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California 2012 (£9.99, Bargain Booze) From the name on the door to the stuff on the shelves, the frills at Bargain Booze are kept to an absolute minimum. “Lidl Shmidl” says the publicity material, reminding customers that the chain is all about mass-market brands at prices that match the German discounter’s range of never-before-seen lagers and gins. It’s not the sort of place you’d go looking for a natural wine from a tiny producer, just as you wouldn’t go to a chain of butcher’s calling itself Cheap Chicken to pick up an organic free-range bird. But if you have a brand you’re fond of, it’s worth at least checking in at one of BB’s 618 stores – the price of Ravenswood’s consistently sumptuous red, for example, stacks up very well against retailing rivals great and small.
Otra Vida Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2014 (£4.99, Bargain Booze) Having tasted a small sample of wines on offer at a recent tasting put on by Bargain Booze’s owners, Conviviality Retail, and then nosed around the BB website, I’ve found you have to do a fair bit of digging through some very ordinary stuff to get to the odd gem. The BB range leans heavily on the noxiously sweet and industrial, inexplicably bestselling stuff like Yellowtail, Barefoot and Apothic, or lesser-known names such as the aptly named Crimes Red, Australia 2014 (£7.99), the jarring jammy sweetness of which left my palate feeling violated. The hunt is worthwhile, though: the fragrant, juicy raspberry and cherry of Otra Vida Malbec, from the Argentine operation of Chilean producer Concha y Toro, is, at less than a fiver, a superb barbecue bottle.
Kosi Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa 2014 (£5.99, Bargain Booze) A quid more than the Malbec, but equally good value, is this terrific Cape Sauvignon, which has all the leafy verve, passion fruit and lime I look for in this grape variety in a dry, racy style: highly recommended if you’re having a party over the summer. Even better in terms of quality is the wonderfully relaxed mature Baron de Ley Rioja Gran Reserva 2008. At £19.99, I wouldn’t rush out to buy it, however. Especially when the decidedly more upmarket London merchant Roberson is offering the silkily smooth and savoury joys of Bodegas Las Orcas Decenio Rioja Reserva 2002 at just £12.95. Now that really is some bargain booze.
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