Like everyone I love a bargain. And for me one of the only things that beats finding cold chicken in the fridge when you're peckish, is finding a decent wine for next to nix.
One of the hazards of my job is that most of the wines I get sent to review are up there in terms of price and quality. Wineries are interested in what I have to say about their top wines, so therefore I don't get sent many of the wines you see on special in the supermarket. And let's be honest, that's where most of us shop. So I buy a lot of the cheaper wines with my weekly groceries just to keep up with what's landing on our supermarket shelves.
Some are ugly, some are interesting, but even at their cheapest (and I've seen wines at $5.99 a bottle) they still deserve a bit of open-minded scrutiny because people are buying them up by the carload.
I decided to see if I could find seven decent wines at the supermarket for $70 and here's what I found.
SAUV BLANC 2011 MARLBOROUGH, $12.99
Okay, so the only time I like seeing anything wearing red and black is when that "anything" is Richie McCaw.
It looks like a dog's dinner and why on earth you'd use those colours on a bottle of sauvignon blanc is absolutely beyond me - and don't get me started on the inane branding.
So what does it taste like? Actually it's not too bad, there are some floral and citrus aromas followed by some interesting tropical flavours and spritzy acidity, but there's also a slightly murky, astringent feel on the finish. Might reluctantly buy again.
HOUSE OF WINE SHIRAZ 2011, $14.99
I think I would rather slowly slice my fingers off with a potato peeler than put this bottle on my dinner table for other people to see. Another horrendous-looking bottle, but we all know it's what's on the inside that counts and this wine is actually quite quaffable.
The back label describes it as "restaurant quality wine" but let's be honest , it's definitely more McDonald's than Michelin-star.
It has some interesting dried herb and spice notes on the nose and palate but it's also very jammy and sweet. There's also a hint of cough syrup on the finish. I might buy it again if I could serve it to people in the dark.
CORBANS WHITE LABEL CABERNET MERLOT 2011, $7.99
This wine has been around for donkeys', but I think the last time I tasted it was in my teens.
Lifted and plummy and, hello, it's a good drink.
There's a spicy, liquorice layer, sweet red fruits and even a hint of cocoa. Solid tannins and decent length of flavour mean I'd be happy to buy a second bottle, possibly even a third.
HARDY'S CABERNET SAUVIGNON NV, $7.99
No date on the label means it's a blend of wine made in different years and that's not a bad thing if it's done well. With this wine I'm not so sure. It smells like Christmas fruit mince - cinnamon, mace, currants, and cloves. It is a sweet, manufactured plonk which won't harm you, you won't have to think about it too much, and I reckon it'd work nicely in a mulled wine or a big pot of sangria come summer. Would buy again for such purposes.
CATHEDRAL COVE HAWKE'S BAY RED NV, $9.99
It may have no vintage listed on the label or any details about what grapes were actually used to make the wine, and the wine producer in question lists their address on the back label as having an address in Epsom (that famous, up-and-coming wine region) but it's actually not half bad. There's spicy-sweet, ripe plum and all sorts of berry flavours packed in there, stitched together with a hint of old saddle leather and smoke - it's soft, fleshy and a great quaffer that I would buy again.
THE HAMMOCK TREE EAST COAST CHARDONNAY 2009, $7.99
1/2I've never seen this wine before so it's totally new to me and because the label actually looked quite pretty, I was curious to see what it tasted like. In hindsight I wished I'd left it on the shelf. The label boasts of having "creamy, tropical fruit flavours, citrus notes and a fresh, lingering finish". All I can say is that whoever wrote that wasn't drinking this wine. It smells and tastes like that awful fruit-infused sports water you buy from the service station when you're hung over.
Watery and weird. Would not buy again.
OBIKWA MERLOT SHIRAZ 2010, $9.99
The only thing remotely attractive about this South African wine is the little green sticker on the label which says it's an "eco-friendly, lightweight bottle". Quite a few people bought this wine while I stood there trying to decide whether to choose it myself.
Having tasted it, I'm baffled as to why it's so popular. There's an odd, smoky, gravy-like aroma and it's very drying in the mouth. Again there's that cough syrup character on the finish - not flash. Would not buy again.