Tag Archives: sainsbury’s

Who sells whose wine?

I made (what I thought was) an interesting statistical discovery while cruising the internet yesterday. Wine-searcher.com is intended primarily as a place where consumers can search for which retailers are offering a specific wine, and how much they are offering it for. It costs a smallish amount ($39) a year to get the full service; I’ve been subscribing for the last couple of years and find it extremely useful. But it does other things as well.

In order to tell you who’s selling a wine, they need to store every retailer’s entire catalogue. At some point recently they’ve started displaying breakdowns of what makes up these catalogues. Clearly a retailer’s spirits are included alongside the wines in these statistics (either that or Scotland makes more wine than I realised), and probably their beers as well (Belgium and Holland crop up on Sainsbury’s list). I found them quite interesting, especially when comparing retailers, so here are a few highlights. (I know the text in the graphics is pretty small – if you click on them they’ll open in their own window and will hopefully be big enough to read)

You might expect, for example, Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s to offer a fairly similar selection, but you’d be wrong. Every standard major English retailer sells more wine from France than from any other country, but at Asda the USA are hot on their heals – French wine makes up 12.64% of their offering, American 12.48% – and at Tesco Australia isn’t far behind (23.79% to 20.7%). The USA’s popularity at Asda isn’t reflected elsewhere – they provide 3.81% of Tesco’s wines, 6.58% at Sainsbury’s and 4.79% at Waitrose. Chile is the fifth biggest producer on Tesco’s list, but seventh at Asda and Waitrose and a miserable 13th at Sainsbury’s. I thought Argentina’s malbecs were big sellers, but in fact they’re an “other” everywhere except Majestic (3.06%) and Tesco (1.44%), which at Sainbury’s means they’re below Belgium, Sweden, Holland and Mexico.

Aldi, the discount supermarket chain, is a curiosity: here France limps in joint fourth, behind South Africa, Chile and Italy, and level with Australia, Germany and Hungary. Spain, with 4.76% of their list, are precisely half as popular. As you might guess by those slightly weird numbers, their list is pitifully small with just 63 things on it.

The higher you go up the qualitative scale, the more France dominates – by the time you hit Berry Brothers the French are responsible for a stonking 76.04%. And there are still some surprises: New Zealand is Majestic’s No2 producer, but No9 at the Wine Society and at BBR it’s just an “other”.

But I guess the most notable thing is the number of different countries whose wines British merchants list. Here, by way of comparison, are a few foreign retailers. Wine.com, apparently America’s largest online wine distributor, does pretty well (though American online wine retailing is a complicated thing, and I couldn’t find any of the major supermarkets, so I don’t know how representative it actually is), but wine lists in Australia and France look very different to ours, and a lot less exciting.

Very Pleasant indeed, thanks

As an obsessive reader of words, particularly in cases where at least one of them promises to be “wine”, I get through a lot of wine reviews. Despite this quantity I have a habit of remembering, at least for a little while, the names of things that get enthusiastically recommended. And if I see the same wine recommended twice in quick succession, I’m considerably less likely to forget it.

(Indeed, if anything sticks in my mind more than phrases I see recurring in tasting notes, it’s phrases I’ve never seen in them before: yesterday I read someone saying a Cote-Rotie tasted like “soapy blue fruits”. For a start, what fruits are blue? Blueberries, basically. Figs can be blue, I suppose, in a slightly purpley way. That’s about it. But blueberries and figs don’t taste anything like each other, particularly when they’re soapy I’d have thought. So which are you referring to? And did you really need to clean them so thoroughly?)

Anyway, here’s a few recommendations I remembered seeing recently:

Tim Atkin2005 McWilliams, Mount Pleasant “Elizabeth” Semillon, Hunter Valley Break a leg if you have to run to Majestic to get hold of this mature Hunter Semillon: light, yet toasty with fresh acidity and notes of citrus peel, herbs and lemon meringue. 93 points

Then, Victoria Moore in the Telegraph picking her best festive wines:  1. McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2005 Australia There is simply no better white to sip with hot smoked salmon … Shot through with inflections of preserved lemons and hay, this unoaked sémillon takes on a toasty note as it ages that weaves around the smoky fish. Superb, at an extraordinary price.

Finally, wine writer and blogger Sarah Ahmed, aka The Wine Detective: It gives me great pleasure to give you the heads up on a stunning Semillon bargain  – as of today, Sainsburys are stocking a new, limited parcel of McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005 priced at only £8.99.  At any rate, (and most definitely at this rate!) it’s a snip for a wine of this class, not least in this outstanding vintage.

All of which has got to make this possibly the most popular supermarket wine in Britain at the moment. What’s more, they were all getting excited when this wine cost £9.99 at Majestic, or £8.99 at Sainsbury’s. But in Sainsbury’s ongoing (until Friday) 25% off six bottles or more offer, that comes down to £6.74. At which this creamy, zingy little vixen becomes even less resistible, offering genuinely astonishing value for money. While you’re there, the Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, a welcoming embrace of calming wintry redness, is on special at £6.99, which becomes £5.24 if you’re buying six or more. My final Sainsbury’s tip is a Yali Three Lagoons Carmenere, on special offer at £7.49 from £9.99, which becomes £5.62 in the deal – a sensual if not particularly thought-provoking red from a reliable and eco-friendly Chilean producer (not so eco-friendly, though, that they don’t use fairly heavy-duty bottles for their top-level wines). So what are you waiting for? Get on your bike, unless you’re off your trolley.