So I was at the Tesco press tasting today. It was held in a new location: floor 31 on Centrepoint, the large concrete tower at the intersection between Tottenham Court Road, New Oxford Street and the Charing Cross Road in the centre of London. The views were quite spectacular.
The wines? Well, Tesco have a large range and they have to focus solidly on the bottom end for much of this range. I found some nice wines, but far too many were just rather ordinary, and they weren’t particularly cheap. So many wines are now coming in a pound or two more expensive than their quality justifies, presumably to protect margins and give some room for promotional activity. I came away thinking that Asda and Waitrose offer more in that £4.50-£7 range than Tesco do.
One sign of hope is that Tesco are increasing their online range, with an expansion of their fine wine offering from 50 to 200 lines due next month. They showed a selection at the tasting. This means that they can buy in 5 or 10 case quantities, although purchases have to be in multiples of six (Waitrose Wine Direct allow mixing and matching of single bottles).
The disappointment of the tasting? Guigal Cote-Rotie 2005. This tasted like a mediocre Cotes du Rhone, without any of the personality or character of Cote-Rotie. It was light, simple and berryish. If you offered it to me at £10, I’d not be in the slightest bit tempted. At £34 a bottle it’s a bad joke.
The highlight? A pair of beautiful sherries from Gonzalez Byas. Apostoles is a VORS Palo Cortado with amazing complexity and freshness, and Matusalem is a VORS Oloroso in a sweet style, with a mindblowing array of flavours. £19.99 each for half a bottle, and at that price brilliant value.