As I finally sit down to some wine I’d choose to drink, here’s a final verdict on the UK’s top wine brands based on my experience with them over the past three weeks. So counting down from the – let’s be polite – least good to the least bad…
(numbers in brackets indicate their position in terms of UK sales)
10 – Blossom Hill (3)
I hadn’t expected a great deal from California’s best-selling brand, and nothing I tried changed my view.
9 – Stowells (5)
Without a Tempranillo that I can still unfortunately taste, this would have jumped several places, thanks to a surprisingly good Veneto Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio.
8 – Hardy’s (1)
Eight wines, with only Nottage Hill Chardonnay having something positive to say for itself. And people wonder why Australia’s reputation isn’t what it used to be…
7 – Echo Falls (9)
As with Blossom Hill, I hadn’t high hopes here, but it delivered a little more than expected. Still only OK, but better than mediocre.
5= – Kumala (10)
I’ll be interested to see whether a new broom here improves these wines. Nothing too bad on show, but nothing too good either.
5= – Gallo (2)
Hard to believe that the White Zin was my pick here. Nothing wrong with the other wines either, although the Sycamore Canyon pair aren’t good value at their regular price.
4 – Wolf Blass (6)
A mixed performance, with a good Cabernet, but some rather top-heavy whites – nothing dreadful about them, but not styles I want to encourage.
3 – Lindemans (7)
Were it not for the muddy vanilla flavours that clouded the reds, these would have scored higher. Bin 65 Chardonnay was as good as any of the whites.
2 – Banrock Station (8)
Solid performance, with the results perhaps skewed upwards by the pleasant maturity of the 2003 Shiraz, not a vintage currently available.
1 – Jacob’s Creek (4)
The best by a significant margin, with wines that seem to have been made by a person with a soul rather than by a parrot with a recipe book.
It’s been a very interesting three weeks with many ups and downs. To sum up…
1) Jacob’s Creek is the big brand for customers to buy and for wine producers to emulate.
2) Please can the Americans stop drinking Australian reds, then the producers might revert to making the wines that won them so many friends in the UK in the first place. Clumsy vanilla flavours abound – why?
3) Speaking of the other side of the pond, why can’t California do a brand as good as Jacob’s Creek, Montana and Casillero del Diablo?
4) If any wine lover want to cut their consumption, switch to Big Brands – you won’t want to finish many of the bottles.
5) As I said here, Len Evans got it right – avoid mediocre wine.
I’ll say that again – avoid mediocre wine. Affordable wine doesn’t have to be banal – watch this space over the next few months for proof of that…