There is a veritable sea of wine under €15 swimming around in the aisles of your local supermarket. Much of it is grand, some of it very good. Having tasted my way through a lot of them, however, I can confirm that some of it really isn’t very good at all, particularly when you get down below €10. The whites often have very little aromatic character, and just have acidity levels to distinguish them; for the reds, my most common tasting note was ‘lean and mean’ and a lack of fruit, never mind complexity. Fine perhaps for a big bash if you want something cheap to crack open late in proceedings when no one is paying attention anymore, but not the kind of cheerful bargain to earmark for repeat purchases.
oday’s round-up highlights the latter: wines worth getting to know better, all under €15. I’ve mostly focused on core ranges available year-round, and have flagged any from seasonal or limited-run promotions. Many of those promotions are annual, such as SuperValu’s current Spanish and Portuguese wine event, or the French wine sales that hit the shelves in several supermarkets throughout September.
These are a nice chance to try something that you might normally pass by, but those opportunities are there year-round too. As is often the case in life, you’ll generally pay more for products and brands that everyone else is buying. In wine, that means classic regions and styles that a larger proportion of the population can order with some confidence. Intrepid wine drinkers who are willing to explore can be rewarded with better value for money.
Today’s recommendations from Marks & Spencer include a well-priced crowd-pleaser from its Classics Range but also two quirkier choices that would be easy to overlook, but are worth putting on your radar. These represent value throughout the year, but it’s also worth keeping an eye on its regular ‘Save ⅓’ offer which moves around to different wines within its range, such as the opulent barrique-aged Stellenrust Wild Yeast Fermented Chardonnay from South Africa, reduced from €18 to €12 until Monday. Meanwhile, Dunnes Stores’s regular ‘20pc off’ promotion returns in March, though the wines I’ve highlighted offer decent value even at the full price.
You probably already have some value go-tos of your own. Lidl plays a strong game in both Rioja and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, styles that are very popular with the Irish palate, while Aldi’s limited-edition Mimo Moutinho series highlighting lesser-known Portuguese varieties tends to be a good bet. Hopefully today’s selection gives you a few more for your list.
Marks & Spencer Palataia Pinot Noir 2021, Pfalz, Germany, 13.5pc, €11
Made for M&S by Gerd Stepp using low-yield vines and confident wine-making, this light and lovely bargain has scented red fruits and subtle oak spice, light tannins and crisp acidity. Drink solo as an elegant aperitif or pair with everything from tomato-based fish dishes to pizza to game.
Aldi Specially Selected Greco di Tufo 2021, Campania, Italy, 13pc, €11.99
From Aldi’s seasonal autumn/winter cellar, this is a nice introduction to Greco di Tufo, a southern Italian grape that deserves your acquaintance. Think almond notes (a little sugar almond here, though the wine is bone dry) and a herbal-citrus twist of lemon balm.
SuperValu Dona Paula Blue Edition, Mendoza, Argentina, 14pc, €12 (from €15.99 until March 1)
Harvested at night from sustainably managed vineyards in Luján de Cuyo, this blend of Malbec, Pinot Noir and Bonarda has more freshness and elegance than you’ll often see in cheap ’n’ cheerful Malbec. The Black Edition (€15) is a gutsier pairing of Malbec, Cab Sauv and Petit Verdot.
Dunnes Stores Château Béchereau Bordeaux Supérieur 2015, France, 14pc, €14
Bottled for importers MacCormaics Wines, with a strong appeal to the Irish taste for dry fragrant claret with good tannic structure, this frames cassis, plum and winter berries with oak notes of tea and tobacco, orange rind and pot pourri, and a hint of star anise. Think lamb (roast, or tagine) or savoury vegetable dishes.
Tesco Gordon Ramsay Intenso Rosso, 2020, Italy, 14pc €15
Unusually for Italy, this is a multi-region blend of old-vine Tuscan Sangiovese with Montepulciano and Merlot from Abruzzo, but Alberto Antonini (one of the world’s top consultant winemakers) and Mr Ramsay get to do things their way. Big and bold, smooth and fruity; bring on the barbecue.
Tesco Tesco Finest Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2019, Italy, 13.5pc, €12
Produced for Tesco by the Codice Citra co-op, this won an IWC gold medal for good reason. With pretty aromas of dried strawberries and morello cherry with hints of fresh tobacco, and pleasantly rustic tannins bringing structure to ripe red fruit flavours, it’s a well-balanced drop to pair with pasta, pizza or nibbles.
SuperValu Fado Friendship Reserva 2020, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal, 13.5pc, €13.99 (€10 until March 1)
On promotion until March 1, this is very popular with SuperValu customers for good reason: a richly aromatic blend of Tinto Roriz, Alicante Bouschet and Syrah that delivers ripe forest fruits but with structure thanks to grippy tannins, peppery bite and a sour twist, it’s a reliable reach to serve solo or pair with gutsy flavours.
Lidl Corte alle Mura Chianti Riserva 2019, Tuscany, Italy, 13pc, €7.99
A handy wine for take-out pairs, with enough tangy acidity to cut the richness of fattier meats like lamb or duck, or to stand up to tomato-based pizza, this cheap and cheery Chianti layers some oak perfume over tart cherry and blueberry fruit, finishing dry and refreshing.
Lidl Gunn Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13pc, €11.99
Lidl plays a strong Kiwi Sauvignon game, but this is worth the extra few euro. An elegant match with seafood with none of the pungency that can make Marlborough wines divisive. Instead, think delicate grapefruit aromas and crisp citrus-led flavours with hints of lemongrass and salted lemon.
Aldi Hardys Chapter & Verse Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, 13pc, €7.69
Nuanced it ain’t, but with more character than many wishy-washy whites at that price, this lightly oaked Chardonnay does what it says on the label, literally, delivering ‘fresh tropical fruit with a hint of cream’, with notes of pineapple, butterscotch and vanilla. Pair with cream-based dishes.
Tesco Tesco Finest Vinas del Rey Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 13pc, €14
Entry-level Albariño can edge toward tutti-frutti notes but this keeps the fruit fresh and vibrant, with some honeysuckle and mandarin giving floral and citrus nuance to the apricot character. A natural match for seafood and shellfish, which dominates Galicia’s gastronomy, or try a tagine for the apricot connection.
Marks & Spencer M&S Found Furmint 2021, Tokaj, Hungary, 11pc, €12
The M&S Found range spotlights smart wines from lesser-known regions, like this super-dry white from a region best-known for its luscious sweet wines. Made by the prestigious Château Dereszla, think clean and crisp with zippy green apple and lemon-peel notes. Go crab salad or seafood soup.
Aldi Specially Selected Lebanese Red, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 14pc, €10.99
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Syrah and Carignan, this easy-drinking, dry and food-friendly red balances fragrant forest fruit with smooth tannins. Introduced a couple of years ago, it’s become a seasonal highlight of Aldi’s autumn/winter cellar and worth snapping up when you find it.
Tesco Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet 2021, Languedoc, France, 13pc, €12
A great example of some of the solid value offered by the Tesco Finest range, which tends to deliver on its promise — in this case, a dry, clean and fresh white that is a traditional pairing with local seafood and carries a hint of coastal salinity over its spritzy lemon peel, pear and fine notes.
Aldi Kooliburra Clare Valley Riesling 2020, Australia, 12pc, €8.99
Whether you’re a Riesling fan seeking an affordable go-to, or a newbie open to giving it a try, this is a mouth-watering version with a touch of that signature petrol aroma, plus green apple, grapefruit zest, herbal complexity and a very dry, saline finish. An excellent match for whole-roast fish or seafood.
Marks & Spencer M&S Classics No 6 Valpolicella Ripasso 2020, Italy, 13.5pc, €15
Another oak-aged crowd-pleaser with broad appeal, this is a solid example of the Ripasso method bringing body, richness and concentration to Valpolicella’s sour cherry character. Fleshy and rich, but with food-friendly freshness and smooth tannins, and nuances of tea-poached plums.
Dunnes Stores Château de l’Auberdiere Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2020, France, 12pc, €11.65 (€9.32 in March)
A delicate bouquet of apple skin and blossom leads to a crisp attack on the palate which is saline and lemony, very fresh and fairly lean but with some welcome flesh too thanks to the lees ageing. A classic lunchtime pairing for all things seafood.
SuperValu Lady B Monastrell-Syrah, Yecla, Spain, 14.5pc, €10 (RRP €15)
A guest wine of SuperValu’s current Spanish and Portuguese wine event, this organic blend of local Monastrell with 40pc Syrah is very approachable in both price and style, with six months in French oak and some welcome acidity framing the rich fruit nicely. Pair with fatty meats like lamb or duck.
Lidl Hachón Reserva 2017, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 14pc, €11.99
Featuring in Lidl’s everyday range and hailing from one of Spain’s highest and most extreme wine regions, this is a great go-to for fans of American oak-aged Tempranillo. Expect vanilla, mocha and clove notes, concentrated plum and berry fruits, and some freshness and tannins keeping things structured.
Dunnes Stores Château Vaugelas Fût de Chêne 2020, Corbières, France, 13.5pc,€12
From Corbières in Languedoc-Roussillon but featuring a Rhône-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre, this crowd-pleasing and elegant red would be a solid choice for a family gathering (especially when on promo in March) and would sit well with slow-cooked meats or roasts.