Christine Austin samples a selection of the 400 wines on the Co-op's shelves and recommends going on a shopping spree

Over the last few years I have become increasingly impressed by the wine range in the Co-op. Their team of buyers frequently go off-piste to find distinctive wines that other retailers are not selling, and there is a good sprinkling of wines sourced from ethical, environmental and Fairtrade suppliers. Rather than just aim for the easy flavours, they manage to source wines with personality and taste, then sell them at reasonable prices.

On top of that they run a series of offers, nibbling a pound or two off selected wines from time to time but unlike at some retailers I don’t get the feeling that prices have been pumped up to come down.

The Co-op has also revived their membership concept that offers a 5% ‘reward’ on any Co-op brands and services. This is put into your online wallet to be used against future purchases, but where their membership differs is that an additional 1% is put into a community fund for local projects and you can select on-line which project you would like your funds to go to. Last year around 4000 community projects around the country were helped by donations of around £2000 each. This whole community action harks back to the early days of the co-op when the co-operative movement was founded to improve life and supply food to factory workers in the north.

Co-op membership can also bring you closer to the process of wine selection. A group of enthusiastic members signed up to help design the back labels of some craft beers and now there is another group who have helped select and name a California Pinot Grigio that will soon arrive on Co-op shelves around the country.

Another advantage that the Co-op has introduced is home delivery where you can choose your purchases in store and then they will deliver them free, so long as you spend over £25. Not all stores do this, but there is a fair selection from Ackworth to Whitby who will.

I recently tasted through a fair chunk of their 400-wine range. With several thousand stores Not all wines are in all 2500 stores and naturally the biggest stores have the widest selection, but the new style convenience stores which are popping up across the region generally have a good, balanced range. Here are my favourites.

Fizz

Co-op Cava Rosado Brut, Penedès, Spain, £6.49

Cheap as chips and ideal to pour at any summer gathering. Positively pink, try adding a few raspberries to the glass.

Champagne les Pionniers, NV, £16.99

Consistently good, this creamy, toasty champagne frequently beats higher-priced champagnes in blind tastings. It comes from Piper Heidsieck and is made under the careful supervision of Regis Camus, chef de cave, who has been awarded the accolade ‘Sparkling Winemaker of the year, no less than eight times.

Champagne Les Pionniers Vintage 2008, £25.99

No apologies for following through with this vintage champagne. It tastes divine with deeper, more savoury flavours than the non-vintage but still with a clean, long, engaging finish. With class well above its price point, this is a bargain to have tucked away for special occasions this summer.

Whites

Domaine des Forges Savennières 2015, £10.99

The honey, lemon and lightly baked apple flavours of Savennières are delicious but hard to find. Only available in a handful of stores, but if you do pass a big store then check the shelves.

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstadt Goldtröpfchen Kabinett 2014, Germany, £10.99

This comes from the steep, slate slopes of the Mosel valley in Germany and it is thrillingly fresh, with pure, floral fruit backed by clean, pink grapefruit acidity. There is an edge of grape sweetness remaining in the wine, but this is more than balanced by the crisp finish. Team it with a sunshine lunch.

Vanita Grillo 2016, Sicily, £6.99

Behind the old-fashioned label is a bright, lively wine, with white blossom aromas, stone-fruit flavours and a dusting of sun-baked herbs. Pour alongside creamy pasta dishes.

Irresistible Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Chile, £7.49

From the cool, coastal region of Leyda, this wine is bursting with lively green, gooseberry and herby notes. Thirst quenching and refreshing.

 

Harvesting Chilean Sauvignon Blanc grapes

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2016, Marche, Italy, £5.79

Light, apricot notes with pineapple and lime, and just a hint of bitter almonds on the edge. Drink when the sun is shining with a picnic lunch.

Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough, New Zealand, £8.99

Currently on offer at £6.99 until Tuesday this comes from a vast new estate in the Awatere Valley. The vineyards are eco and animal friendly with chickens and guinea fowl wandering around, beehives located at several spots and several wildlife lakes. For some strange reason they even have a yak. The winery is covered in solar panels and the wine is made to very high standards. Well worth stocking up with this one, with luck we could have a long summer.

 

Bees are part of the landscape at Yealands

Reds

Le Mont Verdoyant Beaujolais Villages, France, £6.99

Vibrant with juicy cherry and raspberry fruit with a bright, lively finish. Chill this in an ice bucket for half an hour and serve with salmon, tuna or even spiced chicken kebabs.

Co-op Irresistible Chinon 2015, Loire, France, £9.99

100% Cabernet Franc grapes give this wine a lifted herby note amongst crunchy raspberry flavours. Chill it slightly and serve with pink lamb or herb-spiked chicken.

Co-op Irresistible Barbera 2014, Piedmont, Italy, £6.99

Terrific flavour for money in this soft, juicy, hedgerow berry wine. Team it with simple tomato-based pasta dishes.

Co-op Fairtrade Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Famatina Valley, Argentina, £5.99

This is an example of how good quality wine can be produced ethically and still retail at a bargain price. Soft, lush, cassis fruit makes this a great wine to pour at a barbecue.

Co-op Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014, Rhône, France, £15.99

Made by the Perrin family who also own the prestigious Ch. de Beaucastel this is seriously good with spiced plums and pepper and savoury complexity.

On offer at £11.99 from next Wednesday until 4 July, stock up early.

Don David Blend of Terroirs Malbec 2015, Calchaquí Valley, Argentina, £8.99

This comes from the high altitude vineyards of Salta in the north of Argentina where days are sunny and hot, but temperatures fall like a stone at night, keeping fresh flavours in the grapes. Dense cherry and damson fruit, with soft structure make this a perfect wine to go with steak.

Argentinian Malbec – perfect with a barbecue

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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