supermarket wine

Under this label, we focus on wines that you can get from the likes of Sainsbury, Tesco, Oddbins and Asda, wine that is not necessary always super cheap, but certainly affordable. As far as possible, we will aim to cover what German (and also Austrian) wine is available, but obviously the choice of German supermarket wine in the UK is limited - so expect a random selection of the good, bad and ugly.

Waitrose responds to open letter about "Legends of Germany"

Earlier this year I published an open letter to Waitrose that within hours became our most widely read, tweeted about and "liked" article of the year. I had criticised Waitrose for stocking a wine that pretends to be "one of the most renowned wines of Germany" and yet is only a generic blend that may not even be from the Mosel village whose name it displays on the label. I had always seen Waitrose as a retailer that champions German wine and so I was disappointed when I discovered the so called "Legends of Germany".

Since the publication of the article Waitrose have gotten back to me with a response.

Stop misleading customers and damaging the reputation of German wine - an open letter to Waitrose

Dear Waitrose,

You are not like every other supermarket. You were the first to sell organic food in the UK. You have a royal warrant to supply the Queen. You are owned by your employees. And through your wine business you have won much respect, including mine.

That is until you sold me a bottle of "Piesporter Michelsberg" under the label of "Legends of Germany" as "one of the most renowned wines of Germany". Admittedly, this has not the same shocking ring to it as labelling horsemeat as beef, nor is it a health risk or illegal. And yet you are misleading your customers, thereby damaging the image of a product you and others have worked hard to restore to former glory: German wine.

Legends of Germany, Piesporter Michelsberg

You may have heard of Sisyphus. He is the bloke doomed to roll a giant bolder up a hill, only to watch it roll down and having to do it all over again. Forever. I am not there yet, but my quest to find good, affordable German wine in a British supermarket feels a little similar. Here is the next instalment from the series, and it takes us to upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose.

It also takes us to the Mosel region - Piesporter Michelsberg is the name for a fairly large sub-region of the Mosel. Theoretically it is named after the village of Piesport, where they have been making outstanding wine since the time of the Romans. In reality though "Michelsberg" on the label pretty much guarantees that the wine in your bottle has never seen Piesport and is in fact a cheap blend, mostly from Müller-Thurgau grapes. That Waitrose sell such a wine as "Legends of Germany" made me almost angry, so much so that I wrote them an open letter.

torsten Tuesday, 12/03/2013

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, 2011

It could have been the cheap Pinot Grigio. It could have been all the talk about boring Super Tuscans. Or maybe it was growing up in Munich where everyone who wanted to be trendy drank Italian wine and annoyed the heck out of me with their cheap Prosecco talk. Whatever the reason, I don't tend to look to Italy when it comes to buying wine. Now, it has been established that I am a cool climate sucker and a certified acid hound, but a country with such a great wine tradition and amazing range of grape varieties and regions should have something to offer that I like.

Well, it does - and even more shockingly I found it in a supermarket.

Mainzer St. Alban, Spätlese 2009

Supermarkets are fascinating. They are evil, they are convenient, they are uniform, they are where we shop. Not all of us, not all of the time, but still often enough that the big chains have a turnover that dwarfs the GDP of many a country. And, despite what wine critics with their writings about hand-crafted wines from family-run vineyards sold by independent shops will make you believe, supermarkets are also where most people get their wine from - about 80% of the UK retail market. This means that if you want to reach the average wine consumer or if you want to understand what or how they buy, supermarkets are the place to go.

So every once in a while I venture into a supermarket and buy whatever German wine I find. If you have followed my supermarket wine exploits you will know that at times this has led to dangerous self-experimentation, and often to disappointment. Is today's wine any different?

Cono Sur, Pinot Noir, 2009

Recently, I have had a lot of cheap, in fact very cheap supermarket wine. As this experience wasn't always enjoyable, I set out to find an affordable wine available on the mass market that I could like, to show it can be done. Remembering some pleasant encounters with wines from the Chilean Cono Sur estate, I grabbed a bottle of their Pinot Noir, sold at £6.49. What can you expect from such a wine?

Making good Pinot Noir is not cheap, and if you consider taxes and duties in the UK this is a very low price. Certainly the cheapest I remember seeing around for a while.

Liebfraumilch, Piesporter, Blue Nun - German supermarket wine blindtasting self-experimentation

The trio of "Liebfraumilch", "Piesporter" and "Blue Nun" represent the cheapest German wines available in the export market. They are infamous for giving German wine the image of sweet, headache-inducing plonk. But what do British consumers do? They still buy them. En mass. The power of the cheap side is too strong in these wines. Clearly, all the Wine Rambler's preaching has been in vain. And so one day I found myself in desperation considering a range of unthinkable options, ranging from jumping off a bridge to pouring Liebfraumilch over myself and then setting myself alight in front of Tesco. That will teach 'em!

don't be deceived by the shiny colours, it's the infamous three

However, as I am afraid of heights and as Liebfraumilch is too weak to burn I had to come up with a different idea. I decided to change tack and, instead of shouting "rubbish", to give constructive advice. I risked my palate and ventured out to learn which of the infamous three was the best. This called for an epic, scientific blind-tasting battle, a painful self-experimentation endured in the interest of humanity's greater good: Liebfraumilch, Piesporter, Blue Nun, which one is it going to be?

Blue Nun, 2009

Blue Nun is a German wine label that is very successful in the UK. Known for relatively inexpensive, off-dry wines, Blue Nun is especially marketed at younger women. I am not one of those, but in my quest to explore inexpensive German supermarket wine I have reviewed one previously (see also for details on the brand), and now it was time to brave it a second time.

I bought the 2009 Blue Nun at Sainsburys as part of a blind tasting experiment involving cheap German supermarket wines. How did the £4.29 wine fair?

torsten Monday, 07/03/2011
Liebfraumilch, Pfalz

Having written about Liebfraumilch previously, I will keep this introduction short. What once was the name for a highly sought after German wine has since become a label for plonk - a mildly sweet wine, produced as cheaply as possible from vineyards all over German wine growing regions. It is very popular in the English market and sells in bulk.

I bought mine for £3.06 from Sainsburys as part of a blind tasting experiment in cheap German wine. And was a little surprised.

torsten Monday, 07/03/2011
Piesporter Michelsberg

Piesport is the name of a wine growing village in Germany. On steep hills along the Mosel, some of Germany's best Riesling is grown. "Piesporter Michelsberg", however, only indicates that the wine comes from grapes grown somewhere in the area. It is a designation no quality producer with a good vineyard there would use, so when you find it on a label you are most likely looking at a mass-produced wine that will probably not even contain grapes grown in Piesport itself.

I bought my Michelsberg for £3.99 from Sainsburys as part of a blind tasting experiment in cheap German wine. How did it fair?

torsten Monday, 07/03/2011