When it comes to choosing everyday bottles, it can pay to follow the bigger restaurant chains` lead
If you want to know which wine regions provide the best-value drinking, take a look at the house wines of some of the bigger restaurant chains. Of course, that doesn`t necessarily make them the most exciting options, but they are the ones that hit the spot with most dishes and diners at an affordable price.
Given a lot of chains are Italian, you won`t be surprised that Italy is well represented – especially southern Italy and Sicily. Spain and France still make a decent showing, particularly the Languedoc. And, of the new world countries, it`s South Africa for whites (especially chenin blanc) and Chile for reds.
If you`re looking for an equivalent house wine to have in the fridge or wine rack at home, you could do worse than head for Aldi, which manages to deliver decent quality at a consistently low price. The low-cost Italian white that I would go for there is, in fact, a chardonnay – the `Exquisite Collection` Premium Italian Chardonnay 2012 (£4.99; 12.5% abv) – but don`t let that put you off: it`s not an oaky one, but fresh and smooth, rather in the Gavi mould.
Aldi also has two Chilean reds that would hit the spot if you like yours bright and fruity: the smooth, easy-drinking Andara Merlot 2012 (£3.99; 13% abv) and Estevez Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère 2011 (£4.99; 14% abv), which is a little softer than I would personally choose, but an extraordinary deal for a wine that comes from a named region, Maule. (Carmenère, by the way, is a grape akin to merlot, and was once mistaken for it in Chile.)
Tesco is also a good hunting ground for everyday drinking right now, because it has 20% off its Finest range if you buy four or more bottles, a discount that applies also to wines that are on promotion. That brings the Finest Fiano 2012, a smooth, easy-drinking white from Sicily that`s on offer at £5.99 (from £7.99), down even more, to £4.79; and the fresh, crisp Finest Picpoul de Pinet 2012 (12.5% abv), which is normally £7.49, to £5.99. (Picpoul, which comes from the Languedoc coast, is another restaurant winelist favourite, especially with shellfish.)
Finally, if you have a taste for light(ish) reds, try Tesco`s Finest Frappato 2012 (13.5% abv), from Sicily, on offer at £5.99 and currently £4.79 if you buy four or more bottles. Bizarrely, I wrote in my tasting note that I thought it would go with octopus. And it would – as well as with other seafood – but pizza might be a less eccentric pairing.