Is the Tesco’s Finest Wine range some of the best value in the high street?
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
There are some twenty plus “The Finest” range of wines at Tesco’s. A brave claim from them, for what is essentially an own label.
You may remember the own labels of old, very plain packaging, very “ordinary” products, and probably the cheapest you could find on the shelves!
But I am delighted to say that scenario has very materially changed in recent years. Tesco’s can use it’s very substantial buying power to find some very well made interesting wines which are also great value. These fit the bill perfectly for excellent and enjoyable everyday drinking, without breaking the bank. This is a selection of my favourites:-
There is a very respectable Finest Prosecco for those who like an easy drinking fizz, not mouth puckeringly dry, and a good party wine. At £8 good value. There is also a pale pink Finest Prosecco Rosé for £9, for those who love the colour and a little more flavour in the blend.
For lovers of Champagne, I have to enthuse about the very excellent Finest 1531 Blanquette de Limoux, made the same way as Champagne. It is dry crisp and elegant with white peach and crisp apple character.
A must try fizz, thought to be the first bottle fermented sparkling wine, discovered by the monks in Saint Hilaire, Limoux, in the hills just south of Carcassonne, southwest France. Made from different grapes than Champagne but just as crisp and interesting. Hence the 1531 label, the year it was first supposed to have been produced! At £9.50, certainly one of the best value fizzes on the market.
As you would expect, Tesco’s also have an excellent Champagne in their Finest range. A Brut Premier Cru. This Champagne is made by the tremendous Union de Champagne co-operative in the premier cru village of Avize.
They have access to 1700 hectares of grower Champagnes from Grand Cru, Premier Cru and good village vineyards. It has won numerous awards, quite deservedly, and is a crisp bright Champagne with good balance and persistence and lovely bright citrus, peach and ripe apple aromas, overlaid with a lovely honeyed brioche character from bottle ageing. One of the best value Champagnes on the market at £21. Some commentators have compared it with well know Grands Marques at nearly twice that price, and prefer the Tesco Champagne.
For The Finest whites, it is well worth a bit of experimentation. My favourites are both Italian, but from grapes you may not be familiar with.
My first choice is their lovely bright complex Finest Pecorino from the South Eastern Adriatic coastal hills of Abruzzo. Great crisp wine great for fish and shell fish dishes, but also try with cheeses, and if you can find the Italian cheese of the same name from the same region, it is a perfect marriage. For £7, a snip.
Also from the same part of Italy is a slightly softer, more aromatic wine from another little known ancient Italian grape variety, the Finest Passerina. More floral with lovely fruit and a slightly salty finish, no doubt from the sea breezes across the vineyards. Again only £7, this is worth much more.
For those who like crisp refreshing Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, try these two, they are lovely wines to keep in the fridge for regular quaffing.
With summer now upon us, Rosé wines are a popular choice. From The Finest range I have chosen a good wine from the wonderful Rosé producing vineyards of Provence.
The Finest Côtes de Provence Rosé is light, bright and fresh with berry fruit and rose petal aromas and white peachy fruit on the palate. Good easy quaffing summer party wine at a fair £9.
The Finest red wines are a little predicable - a sound Argentine Malbec, a good Chianti Classico, and a bright fresh but relatively straightforward but quaffable Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. But the two I have picked out for best value and most interest are firstly a lovely New Zealand Marlborough Pinot Noir.
Light elegant juicy red berry fruit and, above all, elegant gentleness. These wines from the cool South Island are generally far more expensive than this Finest Pinot Noir at £9.
My other pick is from South Africa, and from in my view, the unjustly unfashionable Pinotage grape. Pinotage can be delicious, and this is well made, complex and has lots of wild berry fruit. Another quaffing wine and at the time of writing, currently on offer for £6.00 - great value.
There are one or two others I am also keen on, but perhaps for another day?
Try the £6.50 white southern French, Finest, Côtes de Gascogne. A typical, nicely made local wine, ideal for salads and simple summer cold platters.
Or if you want some of the best English Sparkling wine, from Kent and one of the top producers, Hush Heath, Tesco’s have a White Brut and a Rosé in their Finest range, both for £21.
Bravo Tesco, your Finest range is a top value selection for great everyday drinking.