Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket, sells a staggering amount of wine. I don't have the exact figures to hand, but it's in the order of one-third of all off-sales in the UK. Today was their press tasting, which was held at the imposing venue of London's County Hall. On show were some 76 wines from the regular range (totalling 750 lines), plus the debut showing of the new premium range. These 50 wines, ranging in price from £10-£100, will be stocked in 200 stores in 'bespoke fixtures'. It's a welcome development.
Some nice wines, but I'll just report on a few. The Taittinger Prestige Rose (£32.99) impressed me with its complexity and finesse. Defaix-Raveneau 1999 Chablis 1er Cru Cote de Lechet (£16.99) was deliciously savoury and just a little funky: a reall nice wine. The Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile 2000 Alsace (£23.99) was a real star: only 2.9 g/litre residual sugar but the complex, expressive fruit had a sweet quality to it. Delicious. Perhaps my favourite wine of the tasting was also from Alsace: Zind Humbrecht's Gewurztraminer Herrenweg 2000 (£16.99). It's hugely rich and medium sweet with lovely complex melon and lychee flavours. Really nicely balanced. Two vintages of Penfolds Grange (£99.99) were on tasting: the 1997 and 1999. Neither are top-flight Grange vintages. The 1997 shows menthol-edged, spicy, almost medicinal fruit with some warmth, and the 1999 punches hard with intense spicy red and black fruits, together with some tarry, menthol-edged oak imprint.
County Hall is an interesting venue. Beautifully situated on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Westminster, its labyrinthine insides took quite some negotiating to locate the room Tesco had hired. Away from the bits frequented by the public (it houses an aquarium and a hotel), it has a rather sleepy, disused feel to it.