For all the ease of use and endless pondering the internet has bought to wine buying, sometimes (all too often?) the purchase of a bottle can come down to what looks best out of the discounted bottles at the nearest supermarket.
It’s fair enough – modern life is often complicated enough without turning the purchase of every wine into a premeditated act that demands hours of research, the anxious checking of online reviews and the careful calibration of meal to grape.
So it was that I grabbed this bottle of McGuigan Bin No.578 Merlot off the shelf of a nearby supermarket and whisked it to the counter minutes before the shop shut. There was thankfully little time to stand gawping in the aisle at the mediocre selection. My decision was made by grape and the price, which was that most eye-catching of supermarket discounts, a 50% reduction from £9.99 to £4.99.
My hopes weren’t particularly high, the occasion wasn’t particularly special, but it was actually pretty good. In comparison to some flat Merlots I’ve tried, this South Australian offering has an interesting character – enough to mark it out from the usual fire and forget supermarket crowd.
While it retains the easy-drinking nature characteristic of the grape, it’s not ultra-quaffable in that “I’m not really paying attention to this” kind of way. Instead, unsuspecting taste buds alight on a pleasing play of rich plummy blackberry fruitiness that is saturated with a crackle of spice, then get stroked by the smokey soaky oakiness that unburdens itself leisurely across the oral cavity.
It’s heavy, full-bodied and a little sweet with alcohol. There’s some tannin but not too much to worry about once the wine has had time to breathe. Cheese was a pleasing partner, providing an equally mouth-filling counterpart.
Of course the heady oak could get a bit tiring over time, and it won’t please those looking for the last word in austerity or refinement. But for £4.99 this is a good deal.
For £9.99? As they say on the internet, “not so much”.
I found it at Sainsbury’s.