They might not be the first place you think of when buying wine, but the Co-op and Spar are well worth checking out.

No matter how organised you might be with your weekly shop or delivery there are times when everyone runs out of something.  It might be milk, eggs or, worst of all, wine.  That’s when you might think off dashing down to the local convenience store, which may be a smaller version of Tesco or Sainsbury but is quite likely to be a Co-op or a Spar.

These two brands have more outlets than the big four supermarkets put  together, but their shops are usually small, neighbourhood stores with a limited range and so you might thank that they are not the right place to buy wine, but that would be a mistake.  Both of these organisations have knowledgeable wine buyers and despite the smaller selection of wines, there is quality inside the bottles.

If you haven’t checked out the range of wine in your local convenience store, this is what you should head for.

CO-OP

The Co-op has a substantial range of wines, with the core reaching most stores, and smaller parcels having limited distribution.  Their buying team bristles with experience and qualifications and they have a habit of finding space for quality brands as well as their own labels.  Their new delivery service is being trialled in London, and if successful may start to roll out across the country.

Stonehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Western Cape, South Africa, £8

Made from grapes grown on the blustery Cape Point where yields are low and flavours are bright and crisp, this makes a tongue-tingling aperitif or team it with salads, starters and fish and chips. Available at 2,419 stores.

CVNE Barrel Fermented White Rioja 2018, Spain, £9.50

Usually the words ‘barrel fermented’ mean that the wine might be overloaded with oak, but not in this wine. The flavours are citrus and cream, not floorboards.  Perfect with oven baked fish dishes, especially when there are olives on the plate. Available in 1,129 stores

Les Pionniers NV Champagne £19

This gorgeous, award-winning fizz comes from Piper Heidsieck and is bright with apple and citrus notes and a creamy, toasty finish. It is one of the most consistent supermarket champagnes on the shelves and often challenges and wins in blind tastings against the well-known brands. Available in 2,398 stores.

Co-op Fairtrade Irresistible Malbec 2017, Famatina Valley, Argentina, £7.50

The Co-op takes Fairtrade very seriously and makes sure that the Fairtrade element gets right back to the communities. Even so, this is a great value wine, with chunky, dark mulberry fruit and ripe, supple tannins.  Team with any hearty casserole.  Available in 2,474 stores.

Ch. Tour de Pas 2015, St-Georges-St-Emilion, Bordeaux, France, £15

You will have to hunt for this gem of a wine, it is available in just 146 of the 3000-plus Co-op stores in the UK, but it is well worth searching for.  Made by Pascal Delbeck who used to make the world-famous Ch. Ausone, this is a still-youthful, slightly tight, Merlot-dominated balanced, complex wine.   When you find it, buy as much as you can carry.

Taylor’s Select Reserve Port, Portugal, usually £10.75 down to £7 until 2 January

A bright, youthful style of port, packed full of black fruit with a seam of freshness running through it, making it perfect to team with cheese or even a chocolate pudding.  This will probably be one of the best port deals for the festive season.  Available at 1,700 stores.

SPAR

There are around 2,700 shops in the UK bearing the Spar brand and while they have a smaller, more focussed range of wines than the Co-op, they do not neglect quality. Yorkshire resident and Master of Wine Philippa Carr acts as consultant, helping Spar’s wine buyer Matt Fowkes with selection and blending.

The range is mostly ‘own label’ Spar wines, but you will have to look hard to find the brand which is usually tucked away with the address on the back label.  This means that you can happily put the bottle on your table and everyone will be impressed by the quality of the wine long before you tell them where you bought it.

Chenin Blanc Reserve 2017, Breedekloof, South Africa, £6.50

Fully deserving of its Gold Medal from the 2019 International Wine and Spirit Competition, this light, fresh, citrus, honeysuckle and crisp apple style of wine is perfect with creamy fish and salads.

Alphabet Chardonnay 2018, Pays d’Oc, France, £6.50

Part of the range that shouts its variety loud and clear on the label and that clarity is in the wines too. Bright, simple, well-made melon, lemon and light savoury notes on the finish make this a wine to team with roast chicken or grilled fish.

Bourgogne Blanc 2016, France, £9

This won a Silver medal at The International Wine Challenge and deservedly so. It has ripe apple and pear fruit with nutty, toasty oat complexity and is a lovely wine for autumn dinner parties.

Vine and Bloom Rosé 2018, Veneto, Italy, usually £6.50, down to £5.50 until 1 January

There is no declared grape variety on this bottle but the style is light, fresh and delicately perfumed with strawberry and cherry fruit.  It has rather more flavour than fashionable Provence rosé wines, but at this time of year that is an advantage.  Team it with charcuterie, salmon and chilli-spiced tuna steak.

Vine and Bloom Merlot 2018, Veneto, Italy, usually £6.50, down to £5.50 until 1 January

There are three new ‘Vine and Bloom’ wines in the Spar range, all of them made to vegan standards. The Merlot is soft, juicy and supple with cassis and plum fruit and a clean fresh finish that will go with a mid-week pizza.

Primitivo 2018, Puglia, Italy, £6.75

Primitivo is not the unsophisticated grape it appears to be. The name derives from ‘primaticcio’, meaning precocious because it ripens so very early. Recent improvements in viticulture has allowed this grape to escape from its previous high-alcohol style and show its dense damson fruit with soft, lush tannins.  It goes perfectly with all the traditional Italian pasta dishes, and makes a terrific supper wine with cheese.

 

 

 

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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