Covid convenience: wines to pick at your corner shop

We’ve got Spar… and Co-op and Scotmid and… if you’re getting your lockdown supplies from a convenience store then Peter Ranscombe has some wine recommendations.

ONE of the enduring images of the coronavirus lockdown will be shoppers queuing patiently outside supermarkets, with a line of mask-clad consumers snaking around the car park.

Yet, for many of us in rural parts of Scotland, that simply isn’t our experience of shopping.

In many remote places, what would be seen as a “convenience store” in a city is often the only local food outlet.

Indeed, popping down to the Spar shop to run messages for Mum was a right of passage for so many of us teuchters when we were growing up.

Whether it’s a Scotmid or a Co-op or a Spar, when you’re popping out for your groceries, you can often pick-up a bottle of wine too.

Although selections will vary widely depending on the size of the shop and its location, you don’t have to skimp on quality.

In fact, the bar for bottles found in many convenience store chains has risen in recent years.

Spar hired the services of master of wine Philippa Carr back in 2017 to revamp its range of wines and it’s made a big difference.

With the Co-op leading the way when it comes to Fairtrade wines and now spreading its wings within the sustainable wine market too, there’s always something of interest on its shelves.

While Scotmid and The Co-operative are separate businesses, they share the same buying group, and so you’ll see the Co-op’s range of wines within Scotmid stores; again, which exact bottles will depend on the size of store, just as they would with the Co-op.

Extreme Bobal 2018 (£10, Co-op)
Hats off to The Co-operative for adding to its environmentally-sustainable range back in February. My pick among the newcomers was the bobal, a lesser-known Spanish variety grown at 1,100 metres above sea level by Bodegas Altolando to the north-west of Valencia. Those high-altitude grapes bring freshness to the wine, while the organic farming adds really nice definition to the blackberry and black cherry flavours.

Terra Madre Organic 2019 (£6.50, Co-op)
Coming in close behind the bobal for me was the organic catarratto, Sicily’s native white grape. So, so savoury on the nose, with lemon rind and tangerine, and then more savouriness on the palate, with a crunch of basil joining the lemon rind to balance the crisp acidity. Watch out for this making an appearance in the Wine to Dine column soon…

Vine & Bloom Pinot Grigio (£6.50, Spar)
Well-balanced, fresh and fruity, this is a great reminder that supermarket pinot grigio doesn’t have to be dull. Classic green apple, pear and floral notes on the nose and then a touch of red apple joining the other orchard fruit on the palate.

Breedekloof Chenin Blanc 2017 (£6.50, Spar)
South Africa is a great place to go looking for value, and this chenin blanc is a perfect case-in-point, with classic red apple and peach aromas, superb fruit concentration to balance the acidity on the palate, a just a tiny touch of rounded creaminess on the finish. Chenin is really versatile when it comes to food and wine matching too, from meaty white fish to salty roast chicken.

Fontaine du Sud Costieres de Nimes 2016 (£8, Spar)
Sandwiched in-between the Languedoc and the Rhone, Costieres de Nimes is one of France’s forgotten wine regions, which means it produces some high-quality wines at lower price points. There’s less woodsmoke than I was expecting and more raspberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant freshness on the nose, leading into concentrated red and black cherries on the palate, before being propelled into a sweet vanilla finish. The tannins have enough grip to handle roast beef, but are nicely balanced by the fruit, delivering a rounded texture.

Pizzolato Prosecco Treviso (£10, Co-op)
It’s perhaps slightly over-priced at a tenner, but you’re getting another organic wine here for your money and that makes me give it the benefit of the doubt. There’s certainly nothing to complain about when it comes to the liquid in the glass – well-defined red and green apple aromas, teeth-squeaking acidity to balance its residual sugar, and concentrated green apple and lemon sherbet flavours on the palate.

Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about wine, whisky and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at