After Christmas, winter is just awful. Dark, cold, and out of pocket, many of us were paid before Christmas and took a real hit buying presents. So how to lubricate the long dark nights when your pockets contain little more than lint? Well, the Nickolls and Perks famous February Sale of course!
As more of a broke wine drinker than a wine broker, I’ve identified great value wines from our list that can be relied upon time and time again for those weekday meals when you don’t want to spend too much but you definitely deserve a nice drop. One or two wines on this list aren’t included in the sale, but every bottle costs around a tenner – or much less. I mean, you made it to Wenesday, and Friday feels so far away…
Why should bubbles be reserved for celebrations? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: sparkling wine pairs excellently with food, and at this price, there’s no reason not to test the theory. The fresh rush of acidity backed up by subtle yeasty notes from lees contact cries out for salty, fatty foods. We strongly recommend you pick up either of these bottles of phenomenal value traditional method bubbles on a friday and go all out at the chippy on the way home. Order battered and deep fried fish with chips, tartare sauce, maybe even sausage or pies as well. These wines will lift the humble British classic to the stuff of gods.
There is a special place in my heart for Muscadet. It’s a relatively simple wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape in the western Loire (confusingly, not Burgundy). It’s got racing acidity, a cool mineral backbone, and it’s a classic pairing with all manner of seafoods, including oysters. Sound familiar? Yes, it shares these qualities with Chablis, but Muscadet is resolutely its own wine. And it has a habit of showing up just when I need it at absurdly reasonable prices. Added complexity and body comes from a local tradition of lees contact and batonnage, so the wine stands up to a surprising variety of foods. Locals love it with all shellfish, but particularly mussels and oysters. On a cheese board, I would veer towards white goat cheeses, as well as Brie or even Gruyere. A classic wine for frites, you can easily subsitite the great british chip for the same effect. Muscadet also has the honour of being one of few wines to pair well with artichokes!
A side note to Muscadet: look out for this wine on wine lists in restaurants. It’s almost always good value, and its neutral-but-interesting character coupled with its acidity means it will get along very happily with almost everyone’s food even if they order very different dishes.
Similar to Muscadet but with a touch more lemon character, Picpoul de Pinet is great with salty seafood such as oysters and mussels, has bright, refreshing acidity and seemingly no-one talks about it. Meaning it’s also great value! Another standby on my weekday wine list, Picpoul is becoming easier to find and these example from Baron de Badasserie and Domaine de la Serre will sing given a stage of fish, salad, and potatoes.
I love Maconnais wines because they single-handedly disprove the notion that good, distinctive Burgundy has to break the bank. Bursting with juicy apple and stone fruit character and usually unoaked, these wines nevertheless have the heft to take on lighter meat dishes such as pork or chicken. They’re typically very comfortable with fish, and I’d even venture that they’d get on quite well with a Waldorf salad – provided it isn’t gloopy with too much mayonnaise. This Domaine Bourdon is an absolutely steal for ten pounds, and it will make a simple chicken dinner feel like a real treat.
My Riesling-d’etre (sorry). In all seriousness, the infinitely rewarding qualities of a good bottle of Riesling simply cannot be overstated. Fallen from grace in the last few decades, this grape is rife for a comeback, with an incredible variety of styles available, and the out-of-fashion status again providing the wines with an incredible cost-quality ratio. I’ve chosen two from our cellars to represent the two classical regions of Riesling: Alsace in the far east of France, where a dry style predominates, and the Rheingau in Germany, where growers make a low-alcohol, fragrant nectar with a touch of residual sugar. Frustratingly, people seem to think that it’s passé to drink wines with even a hint of sweetness in them, which is a shame for these distinctive, versatile wines. Pair an off-dry Riesling such as this one from the Rheingau with anything fragrant and spicy, especially Thai food, for one of the most magical flavour combinations under the sun. Residual sugar neutralises the effect of hot chilli, so if you like spicy food, make friends with off-dry and sweet styles of wine. The aromatic qualities of the grape work in tandem with the kaffir lime, galangal, and Thai basil that makes Thai food so unmistakable. And if you absolutely cannot stomach off-dry wines, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink Riesling. In Alsace, as well as in Australia and Washington state, a bone-dry style predominates, and the wines pair well with a huge variety of dishes because of their famous acidity.
An up-and-coming grape from Rias Baixas, Albarino perhaps benefits from what could be called ‘Sauvignon Blanc Fatigue Syndrome.’ Looking elsewhere for reliably available, good value white wines with strong fruity aromas and balanced acidity, drinkers have landed in this unique cooler-climate region of North-west Spain (not coincidentally just over the border from the home of Portugal’s excellent Vinho Verde). As a coastal region, the wines have naturally been paired with seafood since time immemorial, and the fresh fruits that leap out of the glass (grapefruit, lemon, stone fruit) give you some room for maneuver with zingy sauces, chutneys, and salads.
Gewurtztraminer is a richly perfumed, fuller bodied, almost opulent white wine from the beautiful Alsace region. Like its fellow noble variety Riesling, it thrives with spicy foods, and will respond well to north african spiced dishes such as tagine or jewelled rice. It’s famous for its distinctive bouquet of lychee and rosewater, and is known as one of the easiest varieties to identify in a blind tasting. We recommend seeking out a bottle of this unique wine – you won’t forget it.
An entry-level wine from the iconic Chateau Musar, this Jeune Blanc consists of an unusual blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Vermentino. Expect tonnes of ripe tropical fruit with a persistent fullness in the mouth and a long finish. Again, this sort of thing will pair well with heavily accented foods, such as spiced oriental or north african dishes, herby chicken dishes, or the food of its homeland, Lebanon.
There’s a reason that Chardonnay remains enduringly popular. Winemakers love it because it responds to inventive vinification. Chardonnay is also fabled in Burgundy for its ability to express subtle differences in terroir. I’ve chosen a few chunkier, sunnier-styled Chardonnays for this list as they offer great value for money and are very food friendly. Simple chicken dinners, quiches, or anything creamy, cheesy, or buttery will complement the richer notes of these wines. I’m thinking in particular of a buttery pie crust filled with creamy chicken and white wine sauce. Perfect for winter!
Much-mythologised and feared by winemakers, Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow, and thus to find at low prices. In the Languedoc in the south of France, Les Vignerons have taken the unusual decision to mix the grape with Grenache, resulting in a delicious and unusual blend that is unpretentious and delicious. This will go really well with lightly spiced dishes such as Mexican Chilli. On the other end of France in the northeastern region of Alsace, another style of Pinot Noir is made. Arthur Metz’ interpretation is lean, poised, and a little elusive. Serve cellar cool, and the wine will give you its best with charcuterie.
Get this while it lasts. Cabernet Franc is the unsung hero of the Bordeaux blend, where a small minority adds floral perfume to the fruitiness of Merlot and the austerity of Cabernet Sauvignon. In Chinon and elsewhere in the Loire valley, Cabernet Franc makes light and medium-bodied wines of elegant simplicity. Beloved of Parisian bistros and brasseries, the wines have complicated aromas of graphite and violets, and their acidity is great for cutting through fatty meats like sausages. A classic food wine, don’t expect tonnes of look-at-me fruit; Chinon is a wine with humility that works best when elevating simply cooked red meat dishes.
Another light-medium bodied wine that doesn’t like to show off, Bardolino is a great food wine. Made from the same grapes as Valpolicella but in a more fresh and fruity, food friendly style, Bardolino goes particularly well with the eternal weekday favourite spaghetti. Alternatively, consider lighter meat dishes such as pork, or heavier fish dishes such as tuna.
Great value from the Languedoc again here. A classic blend of Syrah and Grenache will be familiar to fans of Southern Rhone wines that cost much more! These complex wines have a bit of blood in their teeth, a sense of wildness from the famous garrigues of the Languedoc. Accordingly, match with wild food. Venison, duck, and in particular wild boar are traditional pairings, but they will get along well with anything richly flavoured and most red meat dishes. Pick up the 2009 vintage for an affordable wine with good bottle-age.
Cotes Catalanes wines always stand out to me as having a truly unique terroir, and this Syrah is no exception. This is a special vintage for the producer, as it is their first certified organic harvest. The wine will pair well with lamb chops, moussaka, or grilled kebabs. Plenty of peppery spice here could stand up to most smokey, grilled meats, even if you’re a bit heavy-handed with seasoning.
A wine for impatient Bordeaux hounds, Malbec and Rioja fans, or anyone with a love of something big and fruity! Barrel and bottle age soften the infamous Cabernet Sauvignon tannins here, producing a rich and appealing, fruity wine with just enough acidity to carry the fruit into a satisfying finish. Cries out for a nice piece of roasted beef.
Pinotage is an infamous opinion splitter, and a must-try for the vino-curious. Some love its smokey character, others say it smells like a tire fire. Either way, it goes really well with grilled, smokey foods like chipotle chilli or anything deliberately charred, so it’s a great winter warmer.
Few meals fail to be elevated by the company of wine, so pick up a bargain to spice up the mundane midweek routine. This is just a small selection of great value weekday wines from our cellars, chosen entirely on the basis of the author’s taste. Explore the rest of our website for more ideas, and check the full sale section for more deals.
– Joe Collier