M&S Bin End

Ireland has the highest rates of wine taxation in Europe.  Any bottle of wine, regardless of quality or final price is subject to excise duty of €3.19.  This tax is also subject to VAT at the standard rate of 23%, effectively making a bottle of wine €3.92, going straight to the government coffers, just for entering the country.  Every facet of wine making must then be added to this price, which is also subject to 23% VAT.

To retail a bottle of wine in Ireland for €5, taxation will account for an eye-watering €4.34!  This is why I have never recommended a bottle under €5.  Until today.

Marks and Spencer Grenache Noir 2013. Was €9.80. Now €4.90.

Marks and Spencer Grenache Noir 2013. Was €9.80. Now €4.90.

Shopping in Marks and Spencer in Liffey Valley yesterday, I spotted their Grenache Noir from the Rhône Valley was reduced from €9.80 to €6.40.  Deciding it was worth a punt at that price I popped one in my basket.  When I got to the till I smugly found it was reduced further- to €4.90.  Surely it was worth that?

I’m glad to say it was.  A blend of Grenache and Syrah, it is a simple, easy-drinking, every day wine with nice red and black fruit and a touch of spice.  The finish is a bit short, but better than many wines twice the price.  And although you won’t mistake this for a top Rhône wine, you won’t find another wine as good for this price.

I presume Marks and Spencer are discontinuing this wine, so at €4.90 it won’t last long.

Rating: DECENT 2.8/5

Value: EXCELLENT 5/5

Marks and Spencer Vin de Pays du Gers 2013

GERSMarks and Spencer. On Special €8.79-25%=€6.59.

Hailing from the warm, Mediterranean-influenced area of southwest France, this M&S bottling received a Commendation in last year’s Decanter Wine Awards, and it fully deserved it.  Classed as an IGP wine and made from the Colombard and Ugni blanc grapes, better known for Armagnac production, this relatively humble wine is the best value bottle I have had this year.

Unoaked, this wine is full of fresh zesty fruit on the nose- young green apples, citrus fruits and a hint of peach and pear.  And this follows through on the mouth.  Light to medium bodied, it has a lovely refreshing, crisp acidity.  Green apple, red grapefruit and gooseberry hit on first taste, followed by a more mellow finish that hints at peach and pear.

This is a fabulous, Summer wine (particularly at the €6.59 I paid) that should be drunk young and served well chilled.  Pairs beautifully with crisp Summer salad or baked fish.

Highly Recommended.

Home Ranch Pinot Noir 2009

PinotMarks and Spencer. On Special €16.00-25%= €12.00.

Although this wine retails at slightly over my Weekday Wine limit, I tend to bulk buy my wines in Marks and Spencers when they offer 25% off six bottles, so this Californian Pinot Noir was only €12.  Made by the respectable Hahn Winery of Monterey, this came highly recommended, so I was really looking forward to trying this wine.

Monterey claims to be the first scientifically identified location for viticulture, when a 1935 study recommended it as being comparable to the premium areas of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Sonoma and Napa.  It wasn’t until the 1960’s, however, that the area began producing top quality wines and despite being voted as Wine Enthusiast’s top wine destination in 2013, you can find wines from Monterey that won’t burn a hole in your wallet- more than can be said of near-neighbours, Napa Valley and Sonoma County.  As well as this, the 2009 vintage was one of the best of the decade, so was very hopeful that Hahn Winery had plenty of good fruit for this M&S bottling.

So, as you can tell, I was looking forward to this wine, keeping my fingers crossed for a rare Pinot Noir bargain.  Rusty orange in the glass, the nose was full of ripe bramble fruit, as well as vanilla, nutmeg and hints of lavender and violets.  It was obvious from the nose, as well as the 14.5% alcohol, that this was not going to be a restrained, refined Burgundian style Pinot.  Instead it was heaving with fully ripened fruit and heavy oak.  If the winery can control this fully ripened fruit, it can produce a fantastic expression of Pinot Noir.  Unfortunately this wine was out of balance in the glass.

Medium-to-full bodied, the heavy bramble fruit, vanilla and spice followed through on the mouth, but unfortunately so did the heavy alcohol.  After lovely primary notes, the alcohol simply takes over and that is all that remains for the length.  Shame, because it was very close to being a real bargain find.

This wine is not one of Marks and Spencer’s best value wines at full price, but certainly not plonk by any stretch.