White up your Soi

Not a Mont Clair in sight: the wine section in a UK Tesco supermarket.

Tesco has become the largest single wine shipper in Britain with about a thousand different wines on offer. For several years their own label wines have been well received by both the press and public alike. Many of the wines in this range are available here in Thailand at the main branches of Tesco-Lotus and they represent splendid value for money.

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Almost every grape variety and style of wine is represented in this extensive range though not all of them are available locally. The respected UK wine magazine Decanter says: “Tesco boasts a very large range of wines and so it’s inevitable that on occasion, quality can take a hit in favour of price. But if you know where to look, there’s some genuine value to be found on the supermarket’s shelves.”  I suppose the key phrase here is “if you know where to look” so let’s check out a couple of Tesco whites that to me seem particularly good value for money. We can have a look at some of the reds on another occasion. But exactly what do we mean by “good value” when it comes to wine?

The only way to discover whether a wine is “good value” is by trying it out but whenever possible read the online reviews in advance. To my mind, the most important thing is that wine should be what it’s supposed to be. If the label tells you that it’s Italian Frascati, it should taste like Italian Frascati and not like Chilean Chardonnay. We want the wine to be true to the grape and its terroir and reflect some of the key characteristics.

Secondly, the wine should look good in the glass; clear, clean and bright. Thirdly, it should have interesting and rewarding aromas. Fourth is the all-important taste. A “good value” white wine should have a pleasing balance in the mouth; it should have the appropriate degree of dryness or sweetness depending on the style and it should have a satisfying degree of acidity. The texture or “mouth-feel” should seem right for the style of wine. Some whites have an oily texture whereas others feel as sharp as a blade.

The fifth sign of good value is what’s sometimes called “the finish” or after-taste. We want the wine to have a lingering finish to the flavour and not quickly fade into a watery shadow of itself in a matter of seconds.

We also need to ask ourselves whether the wine “has something to say.” I know this is verging on the abstract but “good value” wines often have that elusive quality. In a word, they taste interesting. Finally we need to decide whether we actually like the wine and whether it’s going to do the job we bought it for. Are we looking for a party glugger, a more elegant wine to kick off a socially-distanced evening or something to go with a particular meal? And as far as wine and food pairing are concerned, there’s plenty of helpful advice online.

These Tesco wines cost more than simple fruit wine simply because they are far better quality. In the UK they cost half the price but here we have we are saddled with exorbitantly high duty and taxes.


Tesco Finest Pinot Grigio 2018, Italy.  Bt. 599 @ Tesco-Lotus

Pinot Grigio is known in France as Pinot Gris but the two wines are quite different. The French style, produced in the Alsace region is a splendidly rich and aromatic wine which was sometimes confusingly known as Tokay d’Alsace. The Italian version, grown up in the north-eastern corner of the country is much lighter in style with higher acidity. Pinot Grigio is grown in many other countries and the Italian style is the most popular. This Tesco example comes from the hills of Trentino where altitude and extra time on the vine bring enhanced complexity and provide dry, delicate flavours.

The wine is a pale straw colour and has a floral, honeyed aroma. The honey is unmistakable and you might also detect a hint of pears, apple or pomelo. It’s a dry crisp wine with 12.5% ABV and has with plenty of satisfying fruit on the taste and not too much acidity.  In some ways it’s quite an elegant wine and although you could drink it on its own, I always find that Italian wines show their best when partnered with food. This would go well with grilled fish or possibly chicken dishes but as with all white you need to serve it cold. Young too, for after a year it will begin to fade.


Tesco Finest Chenin Blanc 2018, South Africa. Bt. 670 @ Tesco-Lotus

Chenin Blanc, as the name suggests hails from France but the largest plantings of this grape are found in South Africa. I always think of it as a light summer wine because it’s undemanding, easy on the palate and seems to work with a variety of different foods. It’s the ideal picnic wine. This one comes from the Breede River Valley and it’s a pale straw colour. Fruity, inviting aromas waft out of the glass as you pour it and you’ll probably recognise the smell of apricots and apple. A little bit later, the secondary aromas of pear creep through. At 12.5% ABV this is a light-bodied wine with lively, tangy acidity – slightly more than the Pinot Grigio and there’s a surprisingly long finish too. The fresh acidity would make this ideal for something like creamy chicken dishes or full-flavoured fish. Serve it ice cold. The wine I mean, not the fish.