Posted on January 9th, 2008
Since buying a few bottles of red wine in Marks & Spencer and having read some of the comments, I’m convinced there’s some brilliant quality and value for wine at M&S, and it’s often too easily missed. However, if you look closely at the small print on the front label or the back label, there may be some clues.
For example, Wither Hills Pinot Noir available at Sainsburys for £14.24 (just over €19). Marks and Spencer’s Clocktower Pinot Noir (made by Wither Hills) is around €15.
Clocktower (Wither Hills) Pinot Noir, Marlborough (around €15)
100% estate grown at the medal winning Wither Hills in Marlborough, this 2004 is a real treat. Pinot Noir is renowned as a grape that must be managed extremely carefully – the French have described it as ‘La Veuve Faiseuse’ which translates to ‘The widow maker’. With the expertise of the Wither Hills viticultural team and the use of a specialist Pinot Noir cellar team, lead by Ben Glover, wonderful consistency of quality has been achieved. Made in a Burgundian style this wine has real elegance and balance. Deeply flavoured ripe berries produces an enticing bouquet and opulent, mouthfilling sensation, with a lingering palate. An elegant wine that will suit medium term cellaring.
What’s interesting is that M&S sell their “Clocktower” Pinot Noir and explicitly mention Ben Glover on their label too.
Here’s how M&S write up the Clocktower:
A wonderfully smooth, deeply fruity premium Pinot Noir. A wine with generous, ripe flavours of blackcurrant and red berry fruit and a rounded, long finish.
The region of Marlborough on New Zealand’s South Island, produces world-class wines, including premium Pinot Noir, for many the world’s greatest red grapes. The cool climate and warm sun here helps produce Pinots with great balance, ripeness and elegance. This fine example was made by the renowned winemaker Ben Glover who aged the wine in barrels for 12 months for subtle, integrated oak character. This wine has been sealed with a screw cap – our aim is to choose the most suitable closure for each wine.
Small print on the front label says “Produced & bottled by Wither Hills Vyds..”
So, what other treasures are hidden in the aisles of Marks & Spencer?
Earth’s End (Mount Edward) Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Slightly pricey at around €20, but when you look a little closer at the label, it’s made by an Irish guy, Alan Brady, credited with bringing Pinot Noir to Otago in the 80′s. His wine is Mount Edward, described by M&S as follows:
Grown amongst the mountains and lakes of the southern alps in New Zealand this wine comes from the region of Central Otago, arguably one of the world’s top regions for Pinot Noir outside Burgandy. A new world wine that brings you classic Pinot Noir and a modern example of New Zealand culture. Produced in partnership with Mount Edward Wines and with the permission of the great warrior chief Te Rauparaha’s direct descendants.
DeLoach Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
According to M&S, this Pinot Noir is:
A wonderful pinot noir, elegant with an explosion of ripe red berry fruits on the palate. Due to the cool climate the grapes are grown in, the wine is very pure and clean.
This fine Pinot Noir comes from a single vineyard minutes from the cooling influence of the Pacific coast. The vines are lovingly tended by the Kisaichi family using sustainable practices bordering on organic
The Russian River Valley of California is a genuine oddity. Cool and foggy, even during summer, this is an ideal climate for one of the world’s finest but most challenging grape varieties – Pinot Noir. These chilly conditions mix with California’s blazing sun to bring a balanced temperature that ripens these perfect grapes but also preserves their freshness, for a wonderfully elegant wine.
DeLoach describe themselves as follows
At DeLoach Vineyards, we focus on small-lot winemaking, giving exceptional care and attention to our OFS, Vineyard-Designate, and Russian River Valley wines. Our passion is Pinot Noir – the noble variety of Burgundy that demands a delicate, labor-intensive process to showcase the exceptional terroir and complexity of the Russian River Valley.
When comparing the DeLoach label with that in M&S, it’s hasn’t been altered, except for Marks & Spencer being embossed on it. It retails at around €25 (with the typical was €29.95, now €24.95! bullshit).
Quick verdict on all three wines
All three wines are great quality Pinot Noirs. All a little different, but in many ways typical of Pinot Noir: earthy, fruity, herbaceous and, in my view delicious. If you’re a Pinot Noir fan, and not everyone is, then I’d recommend all three.
Marks & Spencer wine: worth a second look
I picked these three Pinot Noirs up at 30% discount before Christmas. In general terms, in the €15-€25 range, I think New Zealand delivers great value in Pinot Noirs whereas Burgundy can be very ordinary unless you look above €30 or €40.
And as regards buying wine in Marks n’ Sparks, before you turn your noses up at their “own brand” wine, check out the smallprint (and sometimes the large) on the label. You don’t know what you could be missing.
How about you?
Any “wine value” stories you care to share?