M&S opens wine up with its simplified new classics range
John Wilson: Series of 16 wines for up to €17.50 offers sound examples of the greats
M&S Classic Range will eventually grow to more than 30 wines
Marks & Spencer has been busy revamping its wines. Over the past year or two its selection had dwindled a little, with some of the more esoteric wines being delisted. Was it overdelivering to a consumer who wasn’t really too bothered with Moschofilero from Greece or Kalecik Karasi from Turkey?
It still offers the most interesting supermarket range, though. It recently launched two new ranges of wine, both aimed at simplifying the process of buying a bottle. I mentioned the “This is...” range online a few weeks ago; most of these wines are priced at €7.30 a bottle, considerably less than most M&S wines. They’re labelled by style, such as Rich & Spicy or Fresh & Fruity, rather than any region or grape variety. It is an interesting concept, targeting new wine drinkers who are not familiar with the complicated nomenclature that appears on a label.
Now M&S has launched the Classic Range, a series of 16 wines that will eventually grow to more than 30, priced €10.50-€17.50. Classic wines can mean various things to different people, but it should mean a well-known region, grape variety or both. It should also be of a proven quality. The multiples often feel they have to offer these well-known names at low prices, which usually results in a range of uninspiring wines labelled Chablis, Chianti or Marlborough Sauvignon, for example.
“This is our biggest launch in 15 years,” says M&S winemaker Sue Daniels. “We knew from many levels that if customers are faced with a wall of wine with nice colourful labels, they didn’t know where to go. We wanted to take the well-loved regions and grape varieties and find a way of presenting them in an accessible way, all under the one banner, and at accessible price points too.”
Some of the wines are simply existing wines relabelled; others are new. Apparently the most difficult wine to source was Bourgogne Rouge, largely because of rising prices. At €17.50, it is the most expensive wine in the range. I haven’t tried it yet, but I enjoyed all bar one of the seven Classic wines I tried, including the Gavi (€11.80), Pinot Grigio (€10.50) Mineralstein Riesling (€14) and Classic Bordeaux (€10.50). All were very reasonably priced and offered a sound example of how the classic should taste.
Marks & Spencer does not have a monopoly on classic wines. Below I include two other really good classic wines I have tried recently. The Chablis is twice the price of supermarket Chablis (M&S doesn’t have one in its classic range yet) but is better than most supermarket premier cru Chablis, and the Trébiac is claret as it should be.
M&S Classics No 32 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2019
A classic Loire Sauvignon, lightly aromatic with clean green apple fruits, good cleansing acidity and a snappy crisp finish. Great served solo, or with a wide variety of salads. Try it with soft goat’s cheese, fresh herbs and some leafy greens.
From Marks & Spencer, marksandspencer.com
M&S Classics No 35 Beaujolais Villages 2019
A lovely ripe, warm Beaujolais brimming with concentrated dark fruits, and plenty of oomph. A fuller-bodied, very seductive style of Beaujolais; serve lightly chilled with cold meats, cheese and some crusty sourdough.
From Marks & Spencer, marksandspencer.com
Chablis 2018, Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin
Delicious, mouth-watering, intense, racy green fruits, a seam of vibrant mineral acidity finishing bone-dry. Classic Chablis. Oysters or snails in garlic butter would be the traditional matches, but grilled sea bream or sea bass would be great.
From Clontarf Wines, D3, clontarfwines.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; La Touche, Greystones, latouchewines4u.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Matson’s, Grange and Bandon, matsonswinesandbeer.com; siyps.ie
Château Trébiac 2017, Graves
A medium-bodied Bordeaux with elegant, measured, ripe plum fruits and well-integrated tannins that deliver a nice grip. Perfect alongside a roast of beef or lamb.
From Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com