Peter Ranscombe relives his youth as he dips into Marks & Spencer’s latest releases.
DERVLA Kirwan has a lot to answer for.
Whether it was putting the “kiss” into Balykissangel on BBC One or making the Noughties truly naughty with her sultry voiceovers for Marks & Spencer, the Irish actress’s dulcet tones enticed a generation.
It’s no wonder I couldn’t get her voice out of my head as I slowly and seductively trickled tasting samples of M&S’s latest wines into my glass.
“This is not just wine… this is M&S wine,” I purred as I twisted the cap and sent a rush of lush liquid cascading into the goblet, a tiny trickle escaping and racing down the stem.
The fact that I was wearing one of Nigella Lawson’s trademark silk nighties during my tasting simply added to the “food porn” imagery.
Markies has revived “This is not just…” as a slogan for its food in recent years and has now brought the banner to bare on its wine selection.
The high street stalwart is releasing 15 variants in its “This is…” range, with 13 still wines priced at £5 a bottle, and two sparklers at £6 each.
It’s a well-trodden path; master of wine Philippa Carr introduced a similar string to Spar’s bow during 2017, while Waitrose’s equivalent – which sports very similar branding – has been a mainstay of its selection for a number of years too.
Hats off to my wee sister – who was similarly subjected to Ballykissangel as a teenager – for spotting M&S’s new range on Instagram and sending me what I believe is called a “screen shot”.
During lockdown, it’s hard obviously to put the full gambit through its paces, but the five samples supplied by Markies have piqued my interest enough to try the entire range when social distancing allows.
This is… Soft & Fruity Rosé (£5)
The most impressive from the five samples I tried was the rosé, with plenty of attractive and bright red cherry and floral aromas. Pink wines at this price point – especially ones like this that advertise themselves as “off-dry” – can fall into a horrible confected trap, but M&S’s Spanish example side-steps the pitfall, with plenty of acidity to balance the strawberries and cream flavours. It’s a blend of 87% tempranillo with an 8% splash of bobal and 5% monastrelle or mouvedre if you want to get all French.
This is… Rich & Smooth Spanish Red (£5)
Sticking with Spain, and the red delivered similarly attractive notes on the nose, this time focussing around baked plums. The fruit was fresher on the palate, featuring raspberry jam and spun sugar. Spain is a natural contender at this price point; the country produces lots of cheap vino that needs to find a home before the next harvest and so tempranillo like this one has become a supermarket staple.
This is… Rich & Spicy Shiraz (£5)
In a similar way, South-East Australia – an area the size of Western Europe – is also another classic hunting ground for good-value grocery shopping fare. I was impressed with the blackcurrant and spun sugar aromas on its sweet and warm nose, with enough tannic grip on the palate to pair with barbecued sausages or burgers, but balanced by enough blackcurrant and blackberry flavours and a twist of acidity to enjoy on its own. Excellent value at £5.
This is… Fizzy & Fresh Italian Sparkling (£6)
Made by prosecco producer CR-Campegine in Vazzola, this Italian fizz is crisp, clean and simple. It holds its own against supermarket proseccos that are closer to the £10-mark, with lemon joining the green apple on the palate to balance the fresh acidity.
Fresh & Fruity Chenin Blanc (£5)
The only dud in amongst the samples I tried was the South African chenin blanc, which was a real shame because there are so many great wines in this field, such as The Co-operative’s Fairtrade Chenin Blanc 2018 (£4.85). M&S’s bottle ticked the green apple box, but for me lacked any peach or apricot flavours, with tart acidity spoiling the finish. Instead, it’s worth trading up to Spar’s Breedekloof Chenin Blanc (£6.50) or splashing out on the Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2018 (£8) from Marks & Spencer.
For more stories from Peter Ranscombe’s The Grape & The Grain drinks blog visit https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/category/grapegrain/