Christine Austin finds that Morrisons has the edge over Asda in a taste test with a Yorkshire flavour.

After several years of trying to persuade its customers to use taste terms such as “fresh”, “smooth” and “intense” to find their favourite wines on the shelves, Morrisons has bowed to pressure and decided to go back to the tried and tested way of displaying them – country by country.
It has been a big decision, since clearly the buying team believe in their descriptors but the customers didn’t.
Having tasted more than 130 wines in the Morrisons range last week, not only was I impressed by the quality and flavours, I was delighted by the value offered by much of the range, in particular by Morrisons’ own label wines.

Try the great value M Signature Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda.

Try the great value M Signature Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda.

These days there are not many bottles that manage to limbo under the £5 price tag and still retain their flavours but Morrisons has managed to put together a handful of great value wines, most of which would happily slot into a Monday to Wednesday suppertime.
Start the evening with the clean, citrus and almond notes in Morrisons Soave 2015 with a salad starter (£4), then move on to the lively, cherry-spiked fruit of Morrisons Sangiovese 2014 with a bowl of pasta. Alternatively there is a great value, light and fruity Morrisons Chilean Pinot Noir, and even a half-decent Morrisons Pinotage 2015 from South Africa. At £4 a bottle for all these wines, they indicate careful buying and blending by the Morrisons team.
And while some of these bargain wines may be good but somewhat basic in flavour terms it is easy to step up to another level of wines at just a couple of pounds more that offer more fruit and style.
Within the “crisp and fresh” group, you could spend £6.25 on Morrisons’ own-label M Signature Soave Classico 2015 and you get a wine that has a touch of lemon, herbs and a streak of food-friendly bitter almonds on the finish. Also “crisp and fresh” in style is M Signature Fiano 2015, which has notes of tropical fruit and floral edges yet still only costs £6. From Chile the M Signature Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015 at £6.50 doesn’t make any apologies for its great-value price, shining out with gooseberry and guava fruit and ending with a crunchy herbaceous finish.
Among the reds the M Signature range also contained some great value tastes such as a lively, juicy, cherry and raspberry-packed Beaujolais Villages 2015 (£7); a chunky, herb-sprinkled, dark-fruited M Signature Languedoc Red 2013 (£7) and an exceptionally good dark cherry and truffle M Signature Barbera d’Asti 2014 (£6).
To go with well-flavoured meaty dishes head for the figs, leather and chocolate notes of M Signature Valpolicella Ripasso 2014 (£7.50) or the firm forest fruit flavours of M Signature Limestone Coast Shiraz (£7).
Fizz was also a highlight at the tasting with the bright floral flavours of M Signature Prosecco (£8.25) standing out for value while M Signature Cava Brut (£7) was soft, creamy and balanced.
Having encountered such a consistent level of value and quality at Morrisons it was disappointing to head to the other Yorkshire-based supermarket, Asda, on the same day and find a range that didn’t quite charm my taste buds in the same way.
There were some highlights, in particular in the Wine Atlas range which brings together distinctive, different flavours from relatively unknown grape varieties. Head first for the lively raspberry fruit and soft, juicy tannins of Wine Atlas Marzemino 2014 (£5.97) from Trentino in Italy, then move south to Sicily for dark, black cherry fruit in Wine Atlas Frappato 2014 (£4.97).
Bobal 2014 (£4.97) from Utiel-Requena in Spain is one of my favourites in the range for its summer pudding red fruits and touch of spice, but I am also a fan of the deep, rich fruit with a savoury twist in Feteasca Neagra (£4.97) from Romania.
Extra Special is Asda’s way of identifying its own label wines that it is particularly proud of but amongst these there were too many wines that didn’t quite hit the mark on flavour-for-money. The ones that I did like include Extra Special Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2015 (£7.98) for its simple, direct, cherry-packed fruit; a well-structured Extra Special Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 from Chile (£5); and a good value Extra Special Douro 2014 (£5) from Portugal.
Outside the own-labels, I found some terrific tastes in the citrus-charged, zesty Haut des Janeil Gros Manseng Sauvignon Blanc (£9) from Côtes de Gascogne and bright, minerally flavours in Family Founders 78 Series Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (£13.97) from Saint Clair winery in Marlborough, New Zealand.
Among the reds, head for the dark, chunky, meat-friendly Beaux Arts 2014 (£7.50) from Fitou while Noster Nobilis Priorat 2013 (£7.98) gathers together some deep, damson fruit with firm structuring tannins and a long, savoury finish.
Overall in this Yorkshire head-to-head Morrisons won outright for variety, flavour and value but this may be just a sign of the times. Asda has made some changes in the wine buying team and so perhaps this tasting reflected the difficulties of a change-over period. I look forward to the next set of tastings when maybe Asda will have regained its confidence.

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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