Waitrose Top 10 French Wines
by Angela Mount
Waitrose continue to scoop up medals and awards galore for their wine range; the latest in a long line is being crowned ‘best supermarket for French wine’ in the Harpers 2014 French wine awards.
The Waitrose French wine range is extensive and includes over 350 wines, ranging from tip top, premium classics, including some cleverly snapped up older vintages, to some of the very best and affordable French wines on the market.
With an expert team of buyers, including a number of Masters of Wine on the selection team, there are some delicious and unusual treats in stores and online – as showcased at Waitrose’s recent press tasting; here are 10 of my current favourites, both established old friends and some new discoveries.
All the wines presented in this article are exclusively available at Waitrose Cellar.
Waitrose have one of the best ranges of Champagnes of any of the supermarkets, and consistently pick up award after award. Their house Champagne comes out top, time and time again in blind tastings, and deservedly so. It’s rich and bold, with a tantalizing stream of tiny bubbles, heady aromas of russet apples and toasted hazelnuts, with a rich, creamy flavour – bold and impressive. Good on its own, but also rich enough to accompany smoked salmon, seafood canapés… or why not try an absolute classic Champagne with fish and chips!
With the current focus on fruity Chenin Blancs from South Africa, it’s easy to forget the region where the grape originated. This is a beautiful example of exciting Chenin Blanc from the Saumur region of the Loire Valley – with scents of white peach and apricot, and gentle flavours of ripe Mediterranean stone fruit and fresh herbs, it has a typical, slightly honeyed edge, but is bone dry, with whistle-clean, vibrant freshness, which is so characteristic of these wines. Try it with mussels cooked in Thai spices, goan fish curries, braised pork and Moroccan tagines.
Another white, which is exclusive to Waitrose, this has to be one of the best value and most fitting party whites on the scene this Christmas. It’s bright and breezy, with a mouth-watering zestiness. Made from the Colombard and Ugni Blanc grapes, and packed with super-fresh lemon and fresh lime character, it has a green apple crispness and is a really great all rounder at a cracking price. Perfect for parties, or keep a couple of bottles in the fridge for an affordable weekday treat with simply pan-fried fish, or crisp salads.
Another classic from the Loire valley, this time from one of the most respected producers in the famous Sancerre region of the Loire. This is the true home of Sauvignon Blanc, where the wines have a vibrant, herbaceous character, and frequently more subtle than their New World Sauvignon Blanc counterparts. This one, new to the Waitrose range, has a bright, lemony freshness, with hints of freshly cut herbs and a vibrant, zestily dry backbone, with lovely ripe, gooseberry fruit flavours. It’s also biodynamic, which means the grapes have been grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides.
It’s a classic at any time of year and is perfect with pan-fried bream or any white fish, with a creamy sauce and THE match for goats cheese salad.
This is new to the Waitrose stable and a very welcome addition. It’s also exclusive to them. If you’re looking for great quality Burgundy, without too much oak, and without the normal price tag, this is a must. Montagny, in the southern part of the Burgundy area, produces some of the smoothest, creamiest wines in the region, and offers arguably, the best value. I love this unoaked Chardonnay – it has all the hallmarks of good white Burgundy, with its buttery, ripe, hazelnut and baked apple character, but it has an enchanting freshness and verve as well. A perfect, classic white for Christmas, but it’s a superb offering at any time of year, especially with pan-fried salmon, creamy seafood dishes and roast chicken or pork.
This is my white wine of choice for anything spicy. It’s a sassy, seductive, spicy off-dry white from Alsace, made from the aromatic Pinot Gris grape. Bold, and vibrant, with very ripe pear and baked apple flavours weaving through, this wine has a rich texture and weight, wafting scents of candied peel and apricots. It’s perfect with smoked salmon, or any smoked fish, and spot on for Indian and Asian cuisine.
This is simply and utterly delicious and charming. It’s not all about big, bold, spicy reds for winter, there is a place for delightfully fresh and upliftingly lighter styles as well. This is bright, juicy and bursting with fresh strawberry and raspberry fruit, and dare I say it, a hint of freshly peeled banana on the nose. It’s bigger and bolder than most Beaujolais, and beguiles with its easy charm. With its red berry succulence, it’s a perfect lighter style party red, and spot on with gammon, roast chicken, or just a simple plate of charcuterie.
Here’s the perfect, wintry, party red. From deep in the Minervois region of Southern France, this is an extremely keenly priced soft, warm red either for parties, or to see us through the dark and cold nights. It’s made from the Carignan grape variety, which can be dense and burly, but here’s it’s been very cleverly made to deliver a rich, velvety, yet juicy red – a hug in a glass would be a good way of describing it. Plump, ripe blackberry and plum fruit, a dash of spice, a sprinkling of wild, southern French herbs – altogether a delicious medley of warming richness which is bang on with winter stews, pies, and braised lamb.
If you’re looking for affordable, elegant, silky-smooth claret, stop right here. There’s lots of Merlot in this blend, and that’s what makes it so soft, attractive and appealing right now. The label is smart, the wine is too. It’s a real classic for winter, full of soft, enticing, blackcurrant fruit, with a bit of mint and cedarwood wafting through. Well balanced, elegant and very keenly priced, it’s one of the best Bordeaux under £10 out there. Roast beef, roast lamb, steak, or steak pie, this will bring an added layer of wintry comfort.
Velvety and sumptuous are the first two words I’d use to describe this gloriously soft and enticing red. From one of the villages in the southern Rhone region, it’s a blend of juicy, red berry fresh Grenache, and dark, brooding Syrah. Put them together and you’ve got a seductive, full-bodied yet soft red, full of ripe, sweet brambly hedgerow fruits, a hint of thyme, a touch of spice and a dusting of cocoa. What’s not to like? Perfect with winter stews, roast lamb, and peppery sausages.
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*This article was originally published on 21/11/2014. Revised and updated 19/01/2022.