Peter Ranscombe reviews five wines from Marks & Sparks’ latest additions.
MARKS & Spencer continued the roll out of its “Classics” range this week.
The first wave of bottles over the summer concentrated on old world examples, while this week’s wines focus on the new world, with a few other European players thrown into the mix.
The “Classics” range marks a step-up in quality – and price – from the “This is…” introductory selection, which made its debut in the spring.
While it’s hard to run the rule over the new ranges properly during the pandemic, here are my first impressions of the new additions…
No 27 Classics Carmenere 2019 (£8)
Carmenere, the forgotten Bordeaux blending variety that’s become Chile’s flagship red grape, can be uninspiring in many of its supermarket incarnations, but this example is my pick of the bunch. It’s got those “classic” stalky green pepper notes on the nose, but they’re perfectly ripe, and they’re joined by darker damson and bitter chocolate aromas. What’s most impressive though is the massive hit of milk chocolate on the palate – this is the “classic” flavour I expect from carmenere and it’s here in spades, alongside blackberry and vanilla notes.
No 16 Classics Pinotage 2020 (£8)
I’ll admit, I’m always nervous when tasting supermarket pinotage, because so many not only smell of burnt rubber but taste of it too. This bottle, however, is excellent – the “classic” burnt rubber note is there on the nose, but there are fresh blackberry and blackcurrant aromas too for balance. On the palate, there’s surprisingly fresh acidity, plus much redder raspberry fruit flavours. Hats off to M&S for sticking with a Fairtrade wine for its refreshed range.
No 29 Classics Malbec 2019 (£8)
Sadly the malbec didn’t work for me – for a “classic” Argentinian malbec, I’d expect more fruit and less sweet vanilla oak. Markies is up-front about the oak on the back label, but it just doesn’t tick the textbook box I was expecting. If you prefer Coke to Diet Coke though, fill your boots.
No 31 Classics Alsace Pinot Gris (£10)
While it appears the new world wines are the stars of the show in the second part of M&S’s Classics range, I want to fly the flag for two of the European wines released in this wave. The success of any own-label range like this comes from choosing the right producers and Markies has opted for the awesome Alsace co-operative Cave de Turckheim as its partner in the far reaches of Eastern France. “Classic” pear on the nose then peachier on the palate, with a slurp of honey and plenty of acidity to provide balance.
No 9 Classics Alsace Gewurztraminer 2019 (£10)
I’ll be totally honest, gewurztraminer is a grape for which I very seldom reach but, every time I try it, I’m reminded about why it’s brilliant. Pronounced honeysuckle, lemon sherbet and peach on its “classic” nose and then a cartload of peach on the palate, with honey and a floral tang. For me, it’s place is with the spicy Asian cuisine that M&S trumpets on the back label, rather than a glass on its own, but its sweeter notes do have an easy-going appeal.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.