We all know picking wines for others is complete trial and error in most cases. Even if you are good friends with the other guests and sort of know what they may like already, wines from the same areas or grape varieties, but different producers and price points can be radically different! Here are some handy hints for wines that are reasonably consistent in style, and are generally ‘crowd pleasers’ whatever you buy.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
The good stuff is always usually fairly expensive at between £7-10 a bottle. However, there is not much need to spend more than this on it. The fancier ones rarely add much more punch to the general New Zealand style and character for the money. When chilled and served in the summer sun- its mouth-watering acidity and very aromatic/fruity nature make it highly refreshing both on its own, as an aperitif while you wait for the food to be prepared/cooked and nibble on the starters. It also rarely clashes with any foods (unless with a sweet dessert).
These qualities make it a great all-rounder, and usually well received by all. Our favourite we drink and use in our tastings, is Brancott Estate. This is widely available at most supermarkets/wine merchants, usually around £7-10.
If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper/softer, less ‘out there’ in style, white Bordeaux Sauvignon Blancs can offer a great value alternative. Or why not tried some of Sancerrre/Pouilly Fumé’s less famous neighbours? Look for Quincy, Reuilly or Touraine Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire- like this good value one from Tesco.
Dry or Off Dry Rosé
Got a bit of a sweet tooth, or just fancy something pink and refreshing to match the weather? (and possibly the colour of your skin after a few hours in the sun!) These styles of wine go great with BBQ fish like grilled salmon or spicier foods, which the sugar helps to offset. Fetzer’s Californian White Zinfandel is a good one, from £6.99.
Or how about a Loire rosé, or a Rosé D’Anjou- Sainsbury’s do a great own label one at £5, full of thirst quenching red berry flavours. There’s also Cabernet D’Anjou which tends to be a bit drier, and with more body as its made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Spain is also a good source of flavourful rosé made from Tempranillo and Grenache. Bodega Muga's is one of our favourites for around a tenner. Plenty of these great tasting rosé’s are available from supermarkets and wine merchants at wallet friendly prices of £5-10. (Rosé isn’t terribly fashionable at the moment, and when this happens to a wine less demand usually means more approachable prices!)
This makes great picnic wine. It is made from Gamay, a red grape which is both very fruity, refreshing and thin skinned, meaning it is quite light bodied and with less harsh tannins. This is why you can lightly chill it if you fancy a red for a change! Because these wines are mostly youthful, and intended for drinking not too long after they have been made, this helps keep their prices relatively keen. The named villages like Morgon, Moulin a Vent, Chenas and Julienas you pay a premium for, but excellent quality and value can be found if you pick up one labelled ‘Beaujolais Villages’ which tend to have a bit more character to them than basic Beaujolais. Expect to pay a modest £6-10 per bottle. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Beaujolais Villages is consistent, and one of our favourites at £7.
A bottle of Fizz
Who doesn’t like something a bit bubbly from time to time? It gives a sense of occasion and treating yourselves, whatever you’re having- be it Prosecco, Champagne, Cava or Crémant (Sparkling wines made in other areas of France that aren’t Champagne). Sparkling wines also make a refreshing, pre food welcome drink- and their acidic nature causes your mouth to water, which means they are also a good palate cleanser for fatty or creamy foods like that juicy burger with a side of coleslaw/potato salad. Our favourite value Prosecco is ASDA’s award winning Extra Special label at £7, which flies off the shelves whenever it’s on offer. It has all the lovely floral, citrus, apple and pear flavours a good Prosecco should be bursting with. Chuck a bit of peach pureé or juice in for an easy Bellini cocktail. A good value Cava, is Codorníu Selección Raventós from £7.99 or how about their excellent rosé from £7. Cheap Champagne is usually a bit of a false economy as the producers often do the bare minimum to get the name, but Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny holds up pretty well for its full price of £11, even better when £9.99.