About a year or so ago, I met one of the loveliest people in wine. Philippa Carr MW was on a trip with me in the South of France, and she’d just been approached by Spar, the Dutch franchised supermarket chain, to help out with their wine selection. I was very noddy and smiley as she spoke, genuinely chuffed she was so enthused by it, but didn’t think much more of it to be honest. That was until I heard they were launching a new wine range last week at a venue round the corner from my flat. Be rude not to check it out, right?
I went in without much expectation. I had a Spar up by me when I was a kid in North West England. It was next to the playing fields so you’d pop in on the way back from a four hour kick-about for a drink and a bit of pick n’ mix. But I’m not sure I’d ever thought of them as the kind of place that’d have a knock out wine list.
But dear me, I was seriously impressed. It might well be one of the toughest jobs in wine to produce a solid range of wines that hits the £5 and £6 price ranges and still have them drinkable. Philippa and UK buyer Matthew Fowkes have done just that.
The entry level “coloured label” range does what it says on the tin. Quite literally infact. But using the opportunities in large wine producing regions like South Africa, Southern France, and Spain, they’ve managed something pretty good here. I normally wouldn’t touch a £5 bottle of wine, but that “Bold Red” Tempranillo in particular was really worth a try.
And the smash and grab is emphatically completed by what they call the “alphabet series”. A selection of varietal wines (only one grape variety) with the label adorned with the initials of said grape variety. They look damn smart, and taste a lot more than just acceptable. For £6 a pop too! Highlights to look out for are (again) the Tempranillo and the Pinot Grigio rosé from everyone’s favourite Romanian wine producer, Cramele Recas.
The ranges are being rolled out across participating stores as we speak. Next time you pass a Spar pop your head in. Some real neat efforts in there!