Waitrose and Marks and Spencer are stalwarts of the high street and Christine Austin picks her top tipples from both.

It has been tasting season again when the major supermarkets twist off the stelvins and uncork their clarets for the waiting palates of the press. I have sniffed, swirled and spat my way through around 1000 wines in a very few days, making notes on the good ones and turning up my nose at some others.

This week the focus is on Marks and Spencer and on Waitrose, both stalwarts of the High Street and these are my top ten wines from each.


Everyone knows that Waitrose stands for quality, and that goes for the wine as well as the food, but it also has an image of being just a little bit more expensive than many other retailers.

That isn’t necessarily so.  While they have a range of wines that covers all parts of the price spectrum, they have a programme of offers that frequently chop 25% off the retail price of dozens of wines every month.  In addition, usually twice a year they extend that 25% off to cover all wines over a fiver when you buy six bottles.  These offers are sprung on me, just as much as they are sprung on you, but they usually do one around this time of year so it might be worthwhile writing your shopping list now and then keeping an eye on your local store so you can snap up the bargains when the offer is announced.  If you don’t want to carry large boxes home with you, the www.waitrosecellar.com website is brilliant, allowing you to mix cases and get all the discounts available.  I also use the ‘click and collect’ service which brings the whole range of Waitrose wine within reach in just a few days.

With the dinner party and festive season approaching, this is what to buy.

Waitrose Whites

Waitrose and Partners Viña Taboexa Albariño, Rías Baixas 2017, £8.49

The glorious, peach-edged, aromatic style of Albariño is not just for sunshine drinking.  It pairs wonderfully with risotto, fish cakes and salad starters.

Waitrose Foundation Chenin Blanc Cederberg 2018, South Africa, £8.99

From high altitude vineyards where daytime is cool and nights are cold, this is a crisp, dry zesty wine with notes of honeysuckle and peach.  It is particularly good with avocado, scallops and light pasta dishes.

Forte Alto Pinot Grigio 2017, Vigneti delle Dolomiti Trentino, Italy, £9.79

A surprisingly good Pinot Grigio with ripe pear and stone-fruit flavours and a bright, fresh style.  Unlike many Pinot Grigios, this one tastes dry.

Paikea Chardonnay 2017, Gisborne, New Zealand, £9.99

Smooth, elegant, food-friendly Chardonnay with the emphasis on fruit and texture, not oak. A great wine to serve alongside fishy starters and chicken.

Waitrose Reds

L’Arene des Anges 2016, Costières di Nîmes, France £7.99

Packed full with ripe, spicy Grenache and Syrah fruit this is smooth and flavourful.  Team it with sausages and stews.

Maree d’Ione Organic Nero di Troia 2017, Puglia, Italy £8.79

Currently on offer at £6.49 this is soft and elegant with dark plum fruit and a distinct streak of herbs and tobacco.  Pair with a meaty pasta dish.

Norton Winemaker’s Reserve Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina £12.99

A chunky, powerful wine with mulberry and blackberry fruit, spiced black pepper and supple tannins.  Perfect with steak.

Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand £14.99

From Larry McKenna, one of New Zealand’s best winemakers, this is a lush, fruit-filled style of Pinot with layers of savoury complexity.

Waitrose Fizz and Fortified

Graham Beck Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut, South Africa £14.99

Currently on offer at £10.99 this is your chance to step away from the Prosecco and move to an elegant, dry, creamy fizz.

Rustenberg Straw Wine 2016, South Arica, £13.49 for 37.5cl

Currently on offer at £10.75, this goes perfectly with almost any fruit-based dessert and it comes in a half bottle so everyone gets just a taste. Lively with notes of peach and lemon marmalade.

Marks and Spencer

The special offers in M&S are less dramatic, but in general quality for money remains high.  M&S have a knack for finding new unusual wines, while still keeping old favourites.  Their range is definitely worth a try.

M&S Whites

Cape White 2018, South Africa £5

A great-value, simple, honey and melon style of wine with crisp acidity.  Good as an aperitif but this will also go with creamy pasta, chicken and fish.

Marques de Alercon 2017, Castilla La Mancha, Spain, £7

Old vines and cool temperatures give this wine more weight and freshness that you might expect from this region.  Light citrus flavours and enough weight to take on fish or salads.

Gavi di Gavi 2017, Piedmont, Italy £12

Fresh-tasting, white flower aromatics with notes of peach, lime and honeyand a crisp, crunchy almost-minerally edge.  It goes well with a mozzarella and tomato salad.

Koha Sauvignon Blanc 2017, New Zealand, 1.5L pouch, £18

Two bottles-worth in a plastic pouch with a good pouring tap so you don’t have any wastage.  Bright Sauvignon Blanc with plenty of zippy freshness, perfect as an aperitif.

M&S Reds

Haut-Vignoble Bordeaux, France 2017 £7

A well made, great value claret that is ready now but won’t come to any harm if you lose it for another year.  Stylish, cassis fruit with supple tannins.  Great with lamb.

Corbières Domaine de la Combe du Buis 2017, France £8.50

80% Carignan rounded out with 20% Merlot makes this a super-charged, bramble and blackberry filled wine, layered with notes of liquorice and herbs.  Enjoy with rich meaty stews.

Barbera d’Asti 2016, Piedmont, Italy £8.50

A soft, mature-tasting wine with red plum fruit and herbaceous, forest floor notes.  Pour alongside anything that has mushrooms in the mix.

Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield Shiraz 2016, £15

A winter-weight wine, packed with dark, blackberry fruit, layered with chocolate and black pepper.  Team with roast beef or steak.


M&S Fizz and Fortified

Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, £12

On offer at £9.60 until 5 November, this is one of the best value-for-money sparkling wines on the shelves.  Fresh, lively lemon-charged flavours with enough weight to carry through from aperitif to the table.

Finest Reserve Port NV £12

Made by David Guimaraens who makes all of Taylor’s ports, this is remarkable quality for money. Full of smooth, dark, peppery fruit. Perfect with cheese, or as a toe-warmer after a frosty morning walk.

About The Author

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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