Every supermarket has its own individual approach to its own label red wine range and Marks and Spencer is no different. In fact, Marks and Spencer is unique amongst supermarkets in that its entire range of red wine is exclusive to Marks and Spencer.
It is not immediately obvious when browsing the red wine shelves in a Marks and Spencer store that the whole range of wine is produced under the Marks and Spencer label. You have to look closely at some of the labels to see the supermarket’s name. Instead, on many bottles the producer takes centre stage.
The supermarket’s wine development team is the key to ensuring that Marks and Spencer maintains its reputation for the quality of its wine. Its members visit the suppliers on a regular basis, particularly after a harvest and discuss issues such as filtering, fining and blending until they are happy with the resulting red wine which is then produced exclusively for the supermarket.
The wine development team must be doing something right. Last year, for the third year running, Marks and Spencer won the Supermarket of the Year award at the International Wine Challenge and the supermarket had its most successful year ever at this year’s Decanter and International Wine Challenge awards scooping eight trophies and 450 medals in total, more than double the number of award-winning wines than any of its competitors.
Yet Marks and Spencer is not resting on its laurels. This year sees the launch of a new range of Eastern Mediterranean wines to complement what the supermarket says is the current trend for Eastern Mediterranean food. The 15 new wines include five new red wine styles from Greece, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon.
The Red on Black Agiortiko Nemea 2010 is produced by the Mitravelas winery and is from the PDO Nemea region of Greece. This ripe, spicy red wine has plum characteristics and is an interesting buy at £8.49. Anfora Trio is a red wine from the Aegean region of Turkey. Produced by the Pamukkale Winery it retails for £7.49. For £9.49 you can buy a bottle of Merlot from Israel. The Binyamina Merlot 2010, produced by Binyamina Wines, comes from the Galilee region of Israel.
There are two new reds from Lebanon, both produced from the country’s Bekaa Valley region. Cadet de Ka 2008 is produced by Chateau Ka and costs £8.99 whilst Chateau Ksara’s full-bodied Clos St Alphonse 2009 is available for £9.49.
Wine writer Ned Halley, who rates many supermarket wines in his guide The Best Wines in the Supermarkets 2012, says Marks and Spencer wines are “at an all time peak for quality and choice” and scores many of the supermarket’s red wines 9 out of 10. In fact, the Rioja Perez Burton 2007 gets a rare 10 out of 10 from Halley and he calls it his “Rioja of the year”. If you want to try this Rioja it costs £9.99 and Halley describes it as a “mature, creamy luxury Rioja” and says he “can find no fault with it”.
Other Marks and Spencer red wines worth seeking out according to Halley include the Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield Shiraz 2009 from Australia which costs £11.99. This red wine scores nine out of 10 and is described as having “huge warm and spicy fruit”.
Nine scoring reds from France include the Chateau Gillet 2009 claret which costs just £5.99 and is described as “bursting with black fruit”. The Beaujolais 2009 from Paul Sapin costs £6.49 and is described as “juicy, crunchy, generously coloured and ripe”. At the other end of the price range the Saint Aubin Les Argillers Rouge 2007 retails for £17.00 but for that you get “a deeply deluxe nuts-and-cherries burgundy of real poise”.
Marks and Spencer Italian red wines which earn 9 out of 10 from Halley include the Nebbiolo d’Alba 2007 for £7.99; the Villa Magna Primitivo di Manduria 2008 – a “lush red” at £9.99 – and the Renato Ratti Nebbiolo 2008, costing £12.99 and described as having “lovely weight and silky but grippy texture”.
The Dolphin Bay Shiraz 2010 from South Africa’s Cape region is a great value £4.99. It is another nine out of 10 from Halley who describes the red wine as “peppery and nicely weighted”. Another Shiraz scoring nine is from California. The Freedom Ridge Monterey Shiraz 2009 is a “remarkable dense purple Californian blockbuster” according to Halley who says at £7.99 it is “cheap at the price”.
As well as the Rioja Perez Burton, other Marks and Spencer Spanish red wines impress Halley. The Macia Batle Tinto Mallorca 2010 and the Mencia Bierzo Escondite Perfecto 2009 both cost £9.99 and both score nine out of 10. Halley says the Majorcan red has “lots of interest” whilst the Escondite Perfecto is “boldly intense”.