Five red wines under £5

Monday, 13 July 2009

Like many other urban social butterflies, I am sure, this weekend I found myself walking that tightrope between "good guest" and "financially solvent". I had three house parties scheduled, which was very exciting! However, house parties, while cheaper than going to the pub, still carry the etiquette of BYOB.

While some supermarkets have fairly inoffensive own-label booze ranges, the recession has not yet hit deep enough to be able to waltz into a dinner party with a box of Tesco Basics "Australian Red" and a fistful of straws.

But, as I have discovered in my lengthy searches up and down the Sainsbury booze aisle, there are still lots of supermarket wines that are both tasty and affordable. We'll call them "social climbers".

5. Canaletto Pinot Noir (£4.49)

Italian. I am usually not a fan of reds with strong cherry flavors, because of cough syrup flashbacks. But this one has really lively light fruit flavors that keep you from feeling like you're five years old and gagging on a spoon. Fairly easy-drinking. Also, its website is hilariously ESL, describing "soft and gently tannins" and announcing that "Our aim is that each Canaletto wine should be a direct reflection of its terroir".

4. The Little Penguin Shiraz (£4.69)

Australian. Firstly, the name is adorable and the label is super-cute too, which in wine is half the battle. At least, it is the way I do it. Little Penguin Shiraz is a little spicy and dark, and it is one of the few under-£10 wines I've had that is tangy and intense without going overkill on the oak. I would pair it with barbecues and bad ideas.

3. Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (depends)

Spanish. How much do I love Cab Sauvignons? They're so friendly. I think this wine is technically like £7/bottle, but it's one of those ones that is on sale every single time you walk past the supermarket wine aisle, so it might as well be £4.50 or whatever. Anyway, this is a little darker than I like my Cabs, but it's super-fierce and very punchy. It's like the Xena: Warrior Princess of el cheapo reds. Muy bien.

2. South Cab Sauvignon (£4.99)

Chilean. No-nonsense and bright. Okay, this spring I discovered this drink called tinto de verano in Spain, which means "the red wine of summer". It's red wine + (European) lemonade + ice, and it's just this really nice fizzy fruity refreshing drink. But! You can't make it with boring wine, you have to have something zingy and full. Which is what this is! South America is really good for zingy wines.

1. Frontera Cab Sauvignon (3 for £10)

Chilean. This is amaaaazing. It is probably my favorite wine ever at the moment – it's the perfect combination of all my favorite wine aspects (red fruit flavors, round, full, easy-drinking) and regularly costing less than £4/bottle. It is on sale at Sainsbury's for 3 for £10 about every other week, and I buy it every time and bring it to every single dinner party to which I am invited. . Also, it has a screw-top, which is very important if you are (for example) bringing it out to a park or outdoor concert or something. Or if you have reached the point in the evening where operating a bottle opener would not be such a safe idea. Which, with Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon, it is very easy to do.


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