Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top 50 Affordable Wines of 2017

I have hosted over 30 pop up wine bars as Princess and the Pinot in my first year and I'm feeling pretty chuffed. The wines change each month so you can imagine we get through a lot of different wines, and we're always on the hunt for wines that are great tasting and good value for money to showcase at our events. Here are our Top 50 from the year listed by retailer, because this is how most people shop - makes it easier as a guide for where you actually do your shopping!

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(Stores in alphabetical order)

Independents / Direct

Chiltern Valley, Dry
The Chiltern Valley winery is based in Hambleden, between Marlow and Henley-on-Thames. It is open to the public and runs tours of the vineyard. This wine is made with the Reichensteiner grape, which ripens well, so is popular in England. This light and crisp white is refreshing and delicious.
Available from Old Luxters Chiltern Valley Winery, Hambleden £11.95

Oaken Grove, Benham Blush
Oaken Grove is a family-owned vineyard based in Fawley, near Henley-on-Thames. This wine is a dry rose made from 100% Pinot Noir. Enticing strawberries and cream on the nose with hints of apple, peach and cherry cobbler flavour characteristics. 
Available from £50 for 6 (or Waitrose £11.49)

Premier Estates Grand Rosé, Vino Spumante, Extra Dry, NV, 11%
Easy drinking, light and refreshing, it is pale pink in colour, with hints of ripe summer fruits, floral rose aromas and has a delicate sweetness.
Available from £9.99

Paso Primero Tinto, Cab Sav / Merlot / Temperanillo, Somontano, Spain, 2016, 14.5%
A Spanish wine made from Bordeaux grape varieties by a British couple. This wine is dark with black cherries, chocolate, liquorice and toasty oak. The Cab Sav hits you with dark fruits to start then the merlot adds softness, and the Tempranillo provides a fresh strawberry finish and makes you want to take another sip.
Available from £8.50

Tyto Alba Red, Alicante Bouchet / Touriga Nacianal / Touriga Franca, Tejo, Portugal, 2013, 14%
The tyto alba (barn owl) finds refuge in the forest surrounding this vineyard, which is where this wine gets its name. Clear dark granite colour, very aromatic with mint, cassis, plum, violets and spices. A beautifully complex full-bodied red wine, with soft tannins, and a lovely long rounded finish. Aged in French and American oak barrels for 12 months, followed by 1 year in bottle. A great partner to grilled meats and soft cheeses.
Available from Exquisite Portuguese Senses, Marlow £13.90


Domaine Dampt, Petit Chablis Vieilles Vignes, Chardonnay, France, 2015, 12.5%, £13.99
Perfectly balanced with fresh citrus and crisp, mineral flavours. Petit Chablis is an area just outside of Chablis, so although this Domaine uses the same grape variety and produces wine in the same style as their Chablis, it can’t be called a Chablis, so it is less expensive.

Redwood Road, Merlot, California, USA, 2013, 13%, £11.49
Merlot has been given a bad name, due to cheap versions, and from the line “I am NOT drinking any f***ing Merlot!” said by Miles (Paul Giamatti) in the film Sideways. This wine is stunning and is a favourite of the Marlow Wine Society. It has medium acidity, body, and tannins, with vanilla, black plum and black cherry aromas.

Rex Mundi, Shiraz / Grenache, Roussillon, France, 2016, 13%, £9.99
The tasting notes say “A devilishly delicious blend of spice laden, lip staining Shiraz and plummy Grenache from the rugged Roussillon region” and it certainly is. A label designed for men perhaps, this wine is for all lovers of rich reds. The colour is a deep red, but the flavour are very frit-forward with ripe plum, raspberry, and blackberry. Rex Mundi ('King of the World') was an evil god who corrupted the faithful with promises of earthly pleasures and the forbidden delights of mortal flesh.

Mulberry Bush, Shiraz / Merlot, Robertson, South Africa, 2015, 14%, £8.99
This is what I like to call a telly wine - soft, easy drinking; you don't have to think too much about it, and a pretty price. This wine celebrates the mulberry flavours typical of Shiraz and Merlot from Robertson in South Africa. A cacophony of mulberries, plums and figs, with a smooth finish, this wine is much softer than the mainstream tannic reds coming out of South Africa.

Bain's Kloof Black Frost Reserve, Pinotage, Breedekloof, South Africa, 2013, 14.5%, £11.99
Frost in the Breedekloof Valley is almost unheard of, but in 2016 the frost descended on the vines and the whole vintage was wiped out. A few barrels of Pinotage that had been put aside in 2013 were rediscovered. Named after the devastating black frost, this wine has bramble fruit, spice cake and toasty oak.

Waxed Bat Reserve, Cab Sav / Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2015, 13.5%, £11.99
The Waxed Bat wines made by Opi Sadler, a well-renowned winemaker in Argentina, are very popular and this Reserve takes you to the next level. This wine reveals the cassis from the cabernet sauvignon and the spiciness from the Malbec, which has been aged in oak for a year to soften the tannins. This wine has a deep red purple colour, with ripe blackcurrant, plum and vanilla aromas. The wine is named after a bat that knocked over a candle and left wax prints on the wine cellar walls.

Pillitteri Estates, Carretto Vidal Icewine, Niagara, Canada, 2015, 11%, 20cl, £12.99
To make icewine, the grapes are left on the vine until the first frost, so the water in the grapes has frozen. The ice is discarded to leave a very sweet grape juice which is fermented into wine. It takes ten times as many grapes to make icewine compared to ordinary dry wine. An amber nectar with honey, apricot and lychee aromas.

Penfolds Father, Grand Tawny, Shiraz / Mourvèdre, Australia, NV, 18.5%, £19.99
Tawny port is aged in oak barrels, rather than in tanks or bottles like ruby port. This method of maturation gives it a lighter body and brown colour. This is an amazing version of a tawny port by Penfolds, but it can’t be labelled as port because its not from Portugal.  Packed with fruitcake flavours – Christmas in a glass!


Miraval Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France, 2015, 13% , £19.99    
The Miraval estate is located in Provence, and was bought by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in 2009. The chateau was extensively renovated and they brought in winemaking expert Perrin to blend a modern style, which received great reviews in 2012. A beautifully pale pink colour, with wild strawberry, peach and tangerine. A lovely mouthfeel and well-balanced.

Georges Duboeuf, Gamay, Fleurie Beaujolais, France, 2015, 13.5%, £10.99
Beaujolais is made using Gamay grapes. Georges Duboeuf is one of the best known winemakers in this region, and has been nicknamed the King of Beaujolais. This wine is Fleurie as it should be, with fresh cherry fruits and a fragrant, floral perfume. Concentrated fruit and light tannic presence, with a silky texture.

Porta 6, Tinta Roriz / Castelão / Touriga Nacional, Lisboa, Portugal, 2012, 13.5%, £8.99
The area around Lisbon is a hive of winemaking activity, making uniquely styled wines primarily from blends of native Portuguese grapes. This typical Portuguese red has jammy forest fruit flavours combined with aromas of violets and touches of spice. This wine was featured on Saturday Kitchen where James Martin dexcribed it as “one of the nicest reds I’ve tasted in 10 years on this show” and then stock sold out in 3 hours!

Chronic Cellars, Purple Paradise, Zinfandel blend, Paso Robles, USA, 2015, 14.5%, £17.99
Purple Paradise has a rich dark colour and intense vanilla, cherry, chocolate, spice and leather flavours. The tannins are soft and the acidity balanced in this delicious wine. Chronic Cellars only use the best, or ‘chronic’, grapes from each year’s yield to create high quality and imaginative blends. This winery makes serious wines for people who don’t take themselves too seriously. The labels are designed using graphic linocuts by Joe Kalionzes.

Elysium, Black Muscat, California, USA, 2015, 15%, 37.5cl, £11.99
Black Muscat is more common as a table grape than as a wine varietal and has a blue-black skin. It is also known as Muscat of Hamburg and makes an unusual dessert wine. This excellent wine is made by Andrew Quady who specialises in dessert wines. It is deep red in colour, with rose and blackcurrant aromas, and is intense with black cherry and ripe fig on the palate. 

Marks & Spencer

Florent Rouve Viré-Cléssé, Chardonnay, Burgundy, France, 2014, 13%, £14.50
A crisp yet rounded dry white with peach, honeysuckle and citrus aromas followed by expressive fruit and mineral flavours. This wine won best supermarket Chardonnay under £15 by Decanter 2016.

Hospices de Beaune, Saint Romain, Burgundy, France, 2013, 13.5%, £50.00
For over six hundred years prime vineyard land in Burgundy has been generously donated to the Hospices and from 1859 the wine produced has been sold at their world-famous Hospices de Beaune charity auction. In 2011 M&S became the first major UK retailer to bid and purchase barrels of wine 'en primeur' (before the wine is ready). A creamy full-bodied Chardonnay with aromas of stone fruit and orange blossom, with cleansing acidity and beautiful French oak.

Litmus, White Pinot Noir, Surrey, England, 2013, 12%, £22
Litmus is produced in the North Downs of Surrey. White Pinot Noir is richer than many white wines because it’s made with red wine grapes. It has flavours of baked apple and pear, with zesty notes of honey, orange and ginger. A lovely full body with light oak. 

Pisano Cisplatino, Tannat, Progreso, Uruguay, 2015, 13.5%, £9.50
Pisano is one of Uruguay’s most respected Bodegas. Tannat is Uruguay's flagship grape, which usually has high tannins and full body. Tannat is also grown in Madiran in South-West France, where it can be pretty pricey. Tannat from Uruguay is a much better value option, and is known for developing raspberry and chocolate flavour characteristics. This wine is full-bodied with plum, herb and spice aromas, and blackberry and raspberry fruit on the palate, finishing with a smoky oak characteristic.


You & Me, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2015, 12.5%, £11.99
Albariño is a green-skinned grape variety native to Galicia on the North Atlantic coast of Spain and Vinho Verde in Portgual where it is known as Alvarinho. This wine comes from the Rias Baixas DOC, which is where the finest Albariño wines are made. Pale yellow colour with hints of green. Intensely aromatic on the nose, and structured and oily on the palate. Floral and with apricot, lime and pear flavour characteristics. A lovely finish with a slightly salty tang at the end, where the salty sea air surrounding the vines influences the flavour profile. A great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

Carmen, Carmenère, Gran Reserva, Colchagua, Chile, 2014, 14%, £14.99
Chile's signature Carmenère grape variety, thought to be lost from its native France, was discovered among Carmen's vineyards. It was previously thought to be Merlot and only in 1994 did DNA research confirm Carmenère's true identity. Black plum and vanilla, soft and velvety, with good length. The term Gran Reserva indicates it has been aged in oak, resulting in cedar and tobacco notes.


Cordoniu, Cuvée Barcelona, Cava, Brut, Spain, NV, 11%, £13.00
This wine is a blend of Spanish grape varieties: Macabeu is a simple grape that is lemony with a bitter almond finish, Xarel.lo has aromatic floral and pear aromas, and Paralleda brings high acidity and a sharp citrus flavour. These three grapes create a fruity sparkling wine that’s less nutty than Champagne. The Traditional Method allows the wine to develop a biscuit flavour because it has been aged on its lees (dead yeast cells) during secondary fermentation.

Cono Sur “Bicicleta”, Pinot Noir, Chile, 2016, 13%, £7.00
This wine is the UKs best selling Pinot Noir, which you will understand when you taste the rich notes of cherry, blackberries and ripe plums. This wine is named after the vineyard workers who travel around the vineyards by bicycle tending the vines using natural methods. And for those of you who worry about air miles, this company is Carbon Neutral.

Dark Horse, Cab Sav, California, USA, 2015, 13.5%, £8.00
A blend of rich grapes from Northern California. Bold flavours of blackberry and black cherry, supported by firm tannins, brown spice and a dark chocolate espresso finish. Some of the best New World Cabernets come from California, and this is a good representation of the style of the region at the entry-level price point.


Puklavec & Friends, Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Grigio, Slovenia, 2016, 12%, £7.99
Slovenia is home to pure, zingy white varietals and a few up and coming reds. This dry white wine is from a family-owned winery where grapes are handpicked. The wine is lively with aromas of passion fruit, lemon zest and red apple. A refreshing blend of two well-known varieties from an emerging region.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht “Zind”, Chardonnay, Alsace, 2014, 12.5%, £17.99
The Domaine Zind-Humbrecht is the joining of the Zind and Humbrecht family vineyards. This winery focuses on making wines that express the terroir, which they reinforce by cultivating the vines organically and using biodynamic principles. This Chardonnay is a light yellow bright colour, intense and aromatic, with wet rock and subtle honey notes. This is a great example of an Alsace Chardonnay. The palate is elegant, dry, with high acidity and a long finish.

Baily & Baily “Folio”, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, 2015, 11.5%, £8.49
A racy Riesling with zingy citrus fruit, lime and a hint of petrol on the finish. Many Rieslings are off-dry, as is this one. However, its acidity is so high that without doing a sweetness test (dipping the tip of your tongue into the wine) you may not detect the residual sugar. This style is common in Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia. Sweeter wines tend to have lower alcohol, because the fermentation has been stopped before all the sugar has been turned into alcohol.

Dr Loosen Grey Slate, Riesling, Feinherb, Mosel, Germany, 2014, 10.5%, £9.99
Riesling from the Mosel is light and refreshing. This wine is fruity with pineapple, peach, green apple and slate flavour characteristics. There is grey slate surrounding the vines, which is important for radiating the heat. This wine is ‘feinherb’ which means off-dry; look for ‘trocken’ on the label if you prefer a dry German Riesling.

Whispering Angel, Chateau d’Esclans, Provence, France, 2015 13%, £16.99
A benchmark of classic Côtes de Provence rosé. Adored by wine lovers around the world, the wine has evocative favours of grapefruit and citrus combined with refreshing acidity. A vegetarian wine.

Torres Celeste Crianza, Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2014, 14%, £11.99
Tempranillo wines not from Rioja often use these terms to describe the style of the wine, but they don’t have to adhere to the same strict regulations, meaning you can often find cheaper or better-made alternatives. This wine from nearby region Ribera del Duero offers a similar style of wine as a Rioja Crianza.

Anciano Gran Reserva, Tempranillo, Valdepenas, Spain, 2007, 13%, £8.99
Tempranillo combines juicy fruit flavours with earthy notes, so often appeals to both fans of savoury and fans of fruity wines. This wine has been made from 30-year-old vines and been aged for seven years. Strawberry fruit from the Tempranillo and smokiness from the extended ageing combine to produce something quite exciting. This is an exciting way of sampling the style of a Gran Reserva Rioja (albeit less good quality and not as full-bodied) but at a third of the price.

Climbing, Shiraz, Orange, Australia, 2014, 14%, £8.99
Deep red with purple edges. Plum, dark cherry and blackberry, with hints of spice, white pepper and dark chocolate notes. This is complemented by more savoury notes of black olive, leather and subtle oak. A perfect accompaniment to roast or barbecued red meats, duck and game, hard & blue cheese dishes.

Chateau Musar, Cab Sav / Cinsault / Carignan, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2006, 14%, £24.99
This is a truly wonderful wine and is dubbed the “Lafite from Lebanon”, although it has adapted the Bordeaux blend (Cab Sav / Merlot) to be more spicy. The Cinsault adds violets and pepper to the Cab Sav’s blackcurrants. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, this is suitable for vegans, but leaves a thick sediment, so decant carefully.

Wine Discovery

Saint Clair, Wairau Reserve, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2014, 13%, £19.99
Saint Clair has won the most awards for Sauvignon Blanc in NZ. This Wairau Reserve uses only the best parcels of grapes from the Saint Clair vineyards. A full and rich Sauvignon Blanc with passion fruit, gooseberries, grapefruit and green pepper, and an intense minerality.  The long lingering finish is testament to the quality of this wine.

Swartland Winery, Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa, 2014, 13.5%, £15.50
Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape which can be made in a variety of styles. Chenin from the Loire in France, is fresh with pear and chamomile because of the cool climate. This South African wine is richer with baked apple, honey and dried fruit. It is creamy on the palate and is a perfect match for roast turkey.

Maggio, Chardonnay, Lodi California, USA, 2015, 13.5%, £13.00
This is an oaked Chardonnay, and many people steer clear from French-oaked Chardonnay wines, but in California they focus on making full-bodied, fresh and balanced wines. This is heady with butterscotch and melon aromas. The full body means this white wine can handle roast turkey.

Kayra Beyaz, Kalecik Karasi, Blanc de Noir, Anatolia, Turkey, 2015, 12%, £12.90
Kayra is producing premium wines from the Anatolia region, which isconsidered to be the birthplace of wine. Pale pink in colour with delightful aromas of citrus, pink grapefruit and ripe red fruits. Wild strawberry and a hint of ginger on the palate, finishing with a lively acidity. Refreshing, like dipping your toes in a swimming pool. Serve with salads, fresh shellfish, or sushi.

Columba Bianca Vitese, Nero D’Avola, Sicily, Italy, 2016, 14%, £9.50
Nero d’Avola is a full-bodied wine but with brighter flavour characteristics than you might expect from such a warm region. It’s a more rounded, more consistent, more fun alternative to Pinot Noir or Malbec. Rich flavours of plum and black cherries with a violet aftertaste. Fresh yet warming, like sitting in the sun on a cold day. Pairs well with grilled red or white meats, or rabbit.

San Marzano “Vindoro”, Negroamaro, Salento, Italy, 2012, 14.5%, £28.00
Negroamaro is not a grape that’s well-known, but if you love a full-bodied and juicy red then this should excite. Deep in colour, this velvety wine is powerful yet well balanced. It is rich in firm tannins, with a pleasantly long lasting finish. “Firm” tannins means the wine has high tannin and does dry the mouth but in a good way, a way that balances the juicy black fruits. Black cherry jam with a tickle of vanilla.

Berton Vineyard, Reserve, Cab Sav, Coonawarra, Australia, 2013, 14.5%, £14.75
Coonawarra in South Australia is just about the best region for New World Cab Sav, known for growing grapes on its strip of “terra rossa” soil. The 2014 vintage was rated as the best New World Cab Sav in Decanter magazine April 2017. Cherries and fresh blackberries with firm tannins and a lovely long length.

Wine Rack

Black Shack, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2015, 13.5%, £9.19
This lovely fresh wine is made by the same people behind Majestic's The Black Cottage (£12.99), so represents great value for money. Black Shack is cheaper because the winemaker has used grapes from lesser vineyard parcels, but the grapes still come from the Wairau and Awatere Valleys, which are premium sites within the Marlborough region. Bright, pale yellow, with lime green tinges, with aromas of gooseberries and a hint of lychee.

Borgo Magredo, Sauvignon Blanc, Friuli, Italy, 2015, 12.5%, £9.99
This straw yellow wine has greenish reflections. It has intense aromas of elderberry, nettle and blueberry, with apple, pear, and quince on the palate. Delicate, dry, balanced acidity and good persistence. Enjoy with white fish or herby risotto. 

Yalumba, Organic Viognier, South Australia, 2016, 13.5%, £11.99
The Viognier grape originates in France, in the Condrieu appellation in the Rhône Valley. A full-bodied, dry aromatic unoaked white wine, with lovely peach, tangerine and honeysuckle flavours. You may notice an oily sensation on your tongue, which is common with this grape. It has quite a high alcohol content because the grapes are left on the vine longer to ensure they achieve the heady aromas. Yalumba is a well-known producer of Viognier, at all price levels.

Trivento Reserve, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2016, 12.5%, £9.19
Mendoza Malbecs tend to demonstrate blackberry, plum, chocolate and leather flavour characteristics. You can often detect violets too. Trivento Reserve is deeply coloured, spicy and juicy with a velvety texture. High levels of fruit and alcohol, partnered with soft tannins make this easy drinking. No wonder it’s the UK’s best selling Malbec.

Little Penguin, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, 2013 13.5%, £6.99
The Little Penguin Shiraz is spicy with bold flavours of blackberry and plum. The fruit for the Little Penguin Shiraz is sourced from warm climate vineyards throughout Australia.

The Hedonist, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2014 14%, £15.49
Black and silky, aged in new American oak with a long velvety finish. Blackcurrant jam, sweet spices, vanilla and coconut. This is a vegetarian and organic wine. It has been made with minimum interference so represents Australian Shiraz at its best.

Survivor, Merlot/Cab Sav, Swartland, South Africa 2014 14.5%, £12.99
Swartland is a region that the wine world is talking about, because of the experienced winemakers who have moved there. Swartland has a Mediterranean climate so a good bet is to look for grape varieties that grow in those conditions, such as a Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon blend like you would find in Bordeaux, yet at a lower price point.

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  1. Love this post. So many wines I want to go and buy right now. Shame I am planning trying to have a dry January. I guess I can still stock up ready for catch up February though.

  2. What I'd do is keep an eye out for when stores are having promotions and pick them up then.