Wine prices may continue to creep upwards, but £50 remains a crucial price point on a wine list. We put the country’s top sommeliers to the test, asking them to submit their best wine under this magic mark, then blind tasted the lot at Imbibe Live. Clinton Cawood reports
£50 is something of an essential price point on a wine list, in almost all types of venues. For some it’s an upper price limit, whereas for others it makes up the substantial middle-section of the wine list – an affordable trade-up for hesitant customers beyond which many still won’t ever venture.
It’s therefore important that the wines around this point on a wine list are over-delivering – not easy with duty and wine prices rising every year.
Nonetheless, the 50 wines chosen here represent an interesting cross-section of regions, grapes and styles – and offer a fascinating snapshot of the wines that are exciting the country’s top sommeliers at the moment.
Plus, as it turns out, the wines themselves were pretty decent, achieving excellent scores when they were blind tasted by a sommelier panel at Imbibe Live.
HOW IT WORKS
We asked 50 of the country’s top sommeliers to submit the best wine on their wine list under £50. We called these in, along with a sommelier tasting panel, and held a tasting at this year’s Imbibe Live. Wines were tasted blind, with tasters only aware of price. Each wine was scored out of 20, taking value for money into account. Scores were then collated to obtain a percentage score. All prices listed are ex-VAT trade.
Julian Bicknell, Hawksmoor Air Street; Clinton Cawood, Imbibe; Mark Deamer, Wine Lovers Collective; Andrea Fasan, La Petite Maison; Jonathan Fillion, Clos Maggiore; Fleur Gomez, Drake & Morgan; Jérémie Guiraud, Lords of the Manor; Mike Harrison, ex-Hotel du Vin; Enikő Heidenwolf, Bread Street Kitchen; Angelo Laveneziana, Sumosan; Barry McCaughley, Chotto Matte, Moti Mahal; Philippe Moranges, Hakkasan Hanway; Adam Pawlowski, Northcote; Lewis Rees, Social Eating House; Adriana Valentini, Corinthia Hotel
76 Robert Plageoles Gaillac Mauzac Nature 2012, France
Submitted by Roberto Della Pietra, Tirage
‘Lovely and yeasty, with a fragrant nose and good persistence. Clean and balanced, with vibrant peachy notes – this would be great drunk as an aperitif, but also with light seafood starters,’ AF. ‘This has a yeasty, almost Marmite nose – there’s sweet and savoury characters. Hints of scrumpy, which I like!’ JB.
£13.50, Les Caves de Pyrène, 01483 554750
72 Danebury Cossack Brut 2006, England
Submitted by Lionel Periner, Wheatsheaf Inn (The Lucky Onion group)
‘Fresh and citrus on the nose. The palate’s focused, taut and linear, with light flintiness and green apple, and a hint of nectarine. This is a good-value sparkler,’ MD. ‘Fruity and floral, with a nice citric edge to it. Simple, yet with a solid delivery,’ AP.
£10.63, Danebury, 01264 781851
71 Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée Sainte Anne Brut NV, Champagne, France
Submitted by Sandia Chang, Bubbledogs
‘This wine has a little oxidation and some soft brioche on the nose, with additional baked apple flavours on the palate,’ MD. ‘There’s plenty of yeast and bread crust flavours. This is a rich wine, with mature fruit – it would go really well paired with lobster or crayfish,’ AL.
£20.15, Vinetrail, 01179 211770
83 Cape Chamonix Chardonnay 2012, Franschhoek, Coastal Region, South Africa
Submitted by Adam Pawlowski, Northcote
‘Rich and buttery, but with some lively acidity coming through. This would work with blue cheese,’ JF. ‘A beautiful aromatic nose, with some additional vanilla flavours, as well as nutmeg. This has a long, persistent finish and it’s very good value too,’ AV.
£6.25, ABS Wine Agencies, 01780 755810
83 Georg Mosbacher Riesling Trocken 2012, Pfalz, Germany
Submitted by Ram Chhetri, Bread Street Kitchen
‘Great acidity with typical citrus flavours, plus floral and vegetal aromas. A good match with fish or shellfish,’ AL. ‘A mix of floral and tropical notes, with a bit of spiciness too. This is very good value for the price,’ FG.
£8.33, Howard Ripley, 020 8748 2608
82 Ghost Corner, The Bowline Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Elim, South Africa
Submitted by Julian Bicknell, Hawksmoor Air Street
‘Vegetal, asparagus notes on this intense nose. This has character, and some big acidity to clean your palate,’ AL. ‘Pithy grapefruit aromas leading into light citrus and vegetal notes on the palate, with a good, dry finish. Like a New World Sauvignon Blanc,’ MD.
£13.90, Bancroft Wines, 020 7232 5470
81 Latium Morini, Campo Le Calle 2013, Soave DOC, Veneto, Italy
Submitted by Paolo Pivato, Wernher Restaurant at Luton Hoo Hotel Golf & Spa
‘Stone fruit, tropical fruit and some floral elements too, with dominant acidity and persistence,’ AL. ‘Hints of the sea, and pear drops on the nose. Rich, creamy mouthfeel, with flavours of peach and ginger, a long, fresh finish and satisfying spiciness. A good food wine,’ MD.
£8.95, Alliance Wine, 01505 506060
79 Conceito Vinhos Contraste Branco 2012, Douro, Portugal
Submitted by Laure Patry, Pollen Street Social
‘Northern Italian in style, with a crunchy, herbal nose and lifted acidity on the palate,’ MH. ‘Very mineral, with a tight finish. Apples a-go-go!’ LR. ‘A complex nose, with floral and minty notes. The palate is crisp and vibrant, with a juicy, long finish, and some minerality. Good with olive oil-based dishes, white meats or goats’ cheese,’ AF.
£11.90, Raymond Renolds, 01663 742230
79 Gaia, Assyrtiko by Gaia Wild Ferment 2012, Santorini, Greece
Submitted by Laurent Chaniac, Cinnamon Club
‘Oak and tropical fruit predominate – specifically guava and mango notes,’ PM. ‘You have to love this, with its intense style and abundance of citrus fruit. One for lovers of Riesling,’ AL.
£13.56, Hallgarten Druitt, 01582 722538
79 Julia Kemper Branco 2012, Dão, Portugal
Submitted by Charles Pashby-Taylor, Dabbous
‘Nice, young, juicy fruit with good balance – it reminds me of Chenin Blanc. I’d serve this with a braised rabbit loin,’ JF. ‘An interesting nose, with citrus and apple fruit. Well balanced on the palate – I can see this working well as a food wine,’ AP.
£12.89, Alliance Wine, 01505 506060
79 López de Heredia Viña Gravonia Crianza 2004, Spain
Submitted by Virgile Degrez, Lutyens Restaurant
‘Yeast characters and a bit sherry-like, as well as mineral notes. There’s the saltiness and dryness of a sherry on the palate too,’ FG. ‘Rich and powerful on the nose, with some slight oxidation on the palate.’ JF.
£12.20, Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360
79 Viognier Gerovassiliou2013, Greece
Submitted by Andrea Briccarello,Galvin Restaurants and Barry McCaughley, Moti Mahal
‘White fruits and nuts on the nose, followed by a complex musky note on the palate. Great character, and ideal for seafood,’ AF. ‘Punchy fruit, with beautiful floral notes and concentrated citrus. Sweet and sour on the palate, with a white pepper finish. A good match with spicy seafood,’ JB.
£12.87, Hallgarten Druitt,01582 722538
78 Coopers Creek Bell Ringer Albariño 2013, Gisborne, New Zealand
Submitted by Romain Bourger,The Vineyard at Stockcross
‘Low intensity on the nose, with some citric notes. Better on the palate, with more character and lifted acidity,’ MH. ‘Mineral and spicy, with white pepper on the nose, and fine white fruits, as well as lychees. Great attack, with good balance – an aperitif wine,’ AF.
£9.93, Berkmann Wine Cellars,020 7609 4711
77 Coffele Alzari SoaveClassico 2011, Italy
Submitted by Marcelo Eiras, Franco’s
‘Restrained on the nose with good balance and lean, white fruit. A food-focused wine, with some chalky minerality and some lime acidity to finish,’ CC. ‘An interesting and enticing mix of subtle white flowers on the nose, and equally nice on the palate. Elegance, freshness and harmony. Good with sushi,’ BM.
£13.63, Fortyfive 10, 020 8875 1784
76 Domaine Albert Mann,Pinot Blanc Auxerrois 2013, Wettolsheim, France
Submitted by Nicolas Pierron, City Social
‘Light on the nose, leading to honey, dried apricot and white peach on the palate. Not bad in terms of value for money,’ FG. ‘Peach on the nose, this is a soft wine, with stone fruit on the palate, along with some minerality. I’d serve this with foie gras or spiced shrimp,’ JF.
£9.80, Les Caves de Pyrène, 01483 554750
76 Jean Becker, Sylvaner Tradition 2010, Alsace, France
Submitted by Andrea Fasan, La Petite Maison
‘This has flowers and honey on the nose – it’s pure summer in a glass. Dry and spicy on the palate, with orchard fruit flavours. A nice and refreshing style of wine,’ JB. ‘Pleasant and fruity on the nose, but lean and precise on the palate, with a lemon and green-apple finish,’ BM.
£7.74, Davy’s Wine Merchant,020 8858 9147
76 Quinta do Crasto, Crasto Douro White 2012, Portugal
Submitted by Simone Fadda, Nobu Berkeley Street
‘Aromatic on the nose, followed by a drier palate than expected. A good food wine, with some nice fresh acidity. It’s not a bad price either,’ CC. ‘This wine is lifted and elegant on the nose, with a herbaceous palate, and good mouthfeel,’ MH.
£8.97, Enotria, 020 8961 4411
75 Raats Family Original Chenin Blanc 2013, Coastal Region, South Africa
Submitted by Julien Sahut, China Tang
‘This wine has a lively nose, with some zesty notes and a peppery character too. Very mineral and light, this would go well with ceviche and pink peppercorns. It’s good value too,’ PM. ‘There’s some good fruit here and it has a nice texture too. This is veryeasy to enjoy,’ AP.
£10.50, Alliance Wine,01505 506060
74 Cà dei Frati I Frati 2013, Lugana, Italy
Submitted by Giancarlo Cuccuru,The Gilbert Scott
‘Like freshly pressed red apple juice. Fresh, fruity and delicate – a princess,’ EH. ‘A nice and unassuming wine, with some good ripeness. Rich yet zippy on the palate, with some nice stone fruit notes,’ CC.
£11.00, Liberty Wines,020 7720 5350
74 Rafael Palacios Louro Do Bolo 2013, Spain
Submitted by Marc Piquet, The Greenhouse Restaurant
‘Flinty and smoky on the nose, but very restrained. Nicely weighted on the palate and harmonious. An enjoyable wine,’ BM. ‘Herbs and white flowers on the nose, with great texture and mouthfeel, and a persistent palate,’ MH.
£11.50, Indigo Wine, 020 7733 8391
73 Telmo Rodriguez, Mountain Blanco 2010, Sierras de Málaga, Spain
Submitted by Antoine Dugand, Le Pont de la Tour
‘Grape, spice and rose petal notes, with a lovely sweet citrus backdrop. A clean finish too – a great food wine, but a pleasure to drink on its own as well,’ MD. ‘A fruit bomb of citrus, apple and pineapple. Very aromatic and fresh, with a little bitterness at the end,’ AP. ‘With tropical fruit and lychee notes, it is aromatic and gentle, with a real elegance,’ AL.
£11.30, Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360
72 Montenidoli Fiore, Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy
Submitted by Emily O’Hare, The River Café
‘Powerful on the nose, with some citrus notes – good persistence and nice proportions,’ BM. ‘White fruit and floral elements on the nose. Clean and crisp on the palate, with fine acidity, white fruits and a clean finish,’ AF.
£14.35, Les Caves de Pyrène, 01483 554750
71 Bodegas Marañones, Picarana 2012, Madrid, Spain
Submitted by Jan Konetzki, Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road
‘Apple aromas, with some honey too – there’s great structure here, which would match with a complex meal,’ AL. ‘A blend of dried fruits and nuts, balanced by slight acidity,’ FG.
£11.50, Indigo Wine, 020 7733 8391
70 Domaine Ballot Millot Bourgogne Blanc 2010, France
Submitted by Claire Love, Loves Restaurant
‘Nutty and mineral, with a vanilla element too – like a candied cream soda – yet bone-dry on the palate. Fresh and soft. A very nice wine,’ JB. ‘A balanced wine, with candy and tropical fruit, plus a silky, creamy, lemon note on the palate,’ EH.
£12.95, Flint, 020 7582 2500
70 Ricardo Santos Seleccion Semillon 2012, Argentina
Submitted by Athila Roos, The Arts Club
‘Mineral and floral on the nose, followed by some grip on the palate, with firm acidity. Persistent, vibrant white fruit notes – good for seafood starters and white meats,’ AF. ‘Like a fermenting fruit bowl, but in a nice way. White pepper and good length on the palate,’ JB.
£9.00, Silly Point Wines, 020 3478 3855
70 Welmoed 2011, Heyden’s Courage, South Africa
Submitted by Lorenzo Abussi, Orrery
‘A gentle nose of white flowers with some lime and nice acidity, which works well with the subtle fruit. Long and persistent, with a dry, herbal finish,’ BM. ‘Slight tropical notes, like coconut and pineapple, lifted by some big acidity,’ CC.
£7.65, Enotria, 020 8961 4411
68 Malatinszky Serena Noblesse 2009, Hungary
Submitted by Diana Rollan, Hakkasan Group
‘This has a quirky nose of candied citrus and pineapple. It delivers freshness and plenty of flavour,’ AP. ‘Apricot, orange blossom and stone fruit flavours. There’s a creamy texture here too,’ AL.
£8.95, Mephisto Wines, 07946 262498
Also tasted: Domaine Bellier,
Cour-Cheverny Romorantin 2010
89 Newton Johnson Family Pinot Noir 2012, South Africa
Submitted by Roger Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn
‘Lovely strawberry fruits on the nose, with sweet raspberry on the palate. Intense flavour, given the light colour,’ MH. ‘A savoury note, with raspberries and a slightly earthy note too. Nice intensity and persistence, leading to a long and well-integrated finish,’ BM.
£17.15, Bibendum, 0845 263 6924
87 Dominio de Tares, Baltos Bierzo 2011, Spain
Submitted by Xavier Rousset MS, Texture
‘Farmyard and mushroom notes, as well as some pepperiness, and some tobacco too,’ AL. ‘A nicely made wine, with tasty fruit backed up by some spicy oak notes too,’ AP.
£9.00, Armit Wines, 020 7908 0690
86 The Other Guys, Moobuzz Pinot Noir 2011, Monterrey, California, US
Submitted by Vanessa Cinti, CUT at 45 Park Lane
‘Super spicy, with delicate structure and ripe fruit,’ EH. ‘Nicely integrated, with soft red berries on the palate, and a pleasant finish,’ BM. ‘Floral notes, along with tobacco and vanilla, and a little fruit. Savoury and fresh on the palate, with spice. Austere on the finish, with some more red berry notes,’ AF.
£10.47, Roberson Wine, 020 7381 7870
85 Oliver Zeter, Pinot Noir Reserve 2010, Pfalz, Germany
Submitted by Charlie Young, Vinoteca
‘This is showing some development, with dried fruit notes, and the colour of a Pinot Noir. Silky and pleasant, with good fruit and acidity. Juicy and moreish, not to mention very versatile. This would work equally well with food as it would on its own,’ CC. ‘Delicate cherries, along with smooth tannins, balanced by moderate acidity,’ EH.
£16.95, German Wine Agencies, 020 7617 7038
84 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2012, Campo de Borja, Spain
Submitted by Agustin Trapero, Launceston Place
‘Smells like sunshine – a fruit explosion with a lot of sweet spices,’ EH. ‘A lovely bouquet – complex and pungent. With time this will develop well. Great for pasta dishes, cheese or white meats,’ AF.
£9.90, Boutinot, 01619 081300
84 Vinedos del Contino, Contino Rioja Reserva 2007, La Rioja, Spain
Submitted by George Bergier, The Victorian Chophouse Company
‘Blackcurrant leaf and cherry aromas, followed by leather, mint, tobacco and wet leaves on the palate,’ AV. ‘Spicy fruit, and smoke – a rich wine, with well-managed oak and freshness,’ AP.
£23.95, Matthew Clark, 01462 813736
83 Las Orcas Decenio Rioja Reserva 2002, Rioja, Spain
Submitted by Clement Robert, Medlar
‘A blend of mature red fruit with a hint of spiciness and oak. Good value for money,’ FG. ‘Something for the fans of old-school stuff! I can see people fighting over this at that price,’ AP.
£8.55, Indigo Wine, 020 7733 8391
82 Il Passo Nerello Mascalese Nero D’Avola 2012, Sicily, Italy
Submitted by Laurence Jordan, The Balmoral Hotel
‘Gorgeous fruit here, with earthy black cherry notes, along with raspberry, cherry and plum. Juicy tannins and a wonderful, fleshy finish. This is a real pleasure to drink, at a bargain price,’ MD. ‘Peppery, with vanilla notes and plenty of juicy, red fruit,’ PM.
£9.35, Liberty Wines, 020 7720 5350
82 Quinta do Noval, Cedro do Noval 2009, Portugal
Submitted by Arnaud Bardary, Maze by Gordon Ramsay
‘This wine has wonderful violet notes, along with red fruit, and somewhat aggressive tannins,’ AL. ‘It’s nicely made, with fruit and spice, along with just enough oak. There’s a pepperiness to the finish too,’ AP.
£11.50, H2Vin, 020 3478 7376
81 Bodegas Juan Gil, 12 Meses Silver Label Monastrell 2012, Jumilla, Spain
Submitted by Zigmars Grinbergs, Hotel du Vin Brighton
‘Very fruity and sweet on the nose, with a generous palate and plenty of oaky flavour,’ AP. ‘Wet leaves and spiciness on the nose, followed by a surprisingly sweeter and jammier palate, with some liquorice notes. Well balanced,’ FG.
£9.30, Boutinot, 01619 081300
80 La Vierge Nymphomane 2011, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa
Submitted by Stephen Raducki, Berners Tavern
‘Tastes like a Cabernet Sauvignon – with mint, blackcurrant and graphite notes,’ PM. ‘Mature red fruit flavours – strawberries, in particular – with a flinty note, as well as tobacco and some toasted characters,’ AL.
£10.85, Wine Treasury, 020 7793 9999
80 Domaine de la Mirandole, Côtes du Rhone 2011, France
Submitted by Maxime Alary, Blanchette
‘Fine red fruits and spiciness on the nose. Vibrant red berries on the long and savoury palate. Good with red meat carpaccio or cold meat starters,’ AF. ‘Pleasant on the nose, with baked fruit and light spice that continues on the palate, with soft tannins,’ LR.
£8.00, Wine Source, 020 3574 4034
78 Black Slate, Escaladei Vi de la Vila Priorat 2011, Spain
Submitted by Miguel Gomez, Typing Room
‘Lovely, clean, beautiful fruit, along with a light chocolate note and really pleasant skin tannins on the palate. Great mouthfeel, and really worth the cash,’ CC. ‘Silky texture, with red berries and light but well-integrated tannins. This is elegant, and would be great with duck breast,’ EH.
£11.55, Indigo Wine, 01179 211770
78 Tufarello Nero di Troia Vigneti Canosini 2012, Puglia, Italy
Submitted by Michael Simms, Sartoria
‘Bramble fruit on the nose, which transfers to the palate, along with hints of chocolate – a well-made glugger,’ MD. ‘Mulled strawberries and pink peppercorns, along with some strong tannins. Well balanced overall,’ FG.
£7.90, Liberty Wines, 020 7720 5350
77 Tenuta di Lidia Matera, Terre Nobili Alarico 2012, Calabria, Italy
Submitted by Neil Alexander, L’Enclume Restaurant
‘Strawberry jam with a herbal element, leading to dark red cherries and vanilla on the palate, along with some medium tannins,’ FG. ‘Plenty of oak, with woody, vanilla notes alongside cherry and clove. A very intense wine,’ PM.
£12.50, Buon Vino, 01729 892905
76 Conti Di Buscareto, Lacrima Di Morro D’Alba 2012, Italy
Submitted by Jeremie Guiraud, Lords of the Manor
‘Really ripe and pronounced, with a confected plum note on the nose. Decent on the palate, with a some black tea, and a balsamic character,’ BM. ‘Fresh, sweet berries on the nose, along with a violet note. Clean and fresh, along with some tannins. Good for light starters – cold meats and cheese,’ AF.
£9.30, Ellis of Richmond, 020 8744 5550
74 Herve Souhaut Gamay 2013, France
Submitted by Becca Goodall, Foxlow
‘Quite a medicinal nose, with youthful and fruity notes,’ BM. ‘Very distinctive, with very extracted black tea notes, and cigar tobacco and hay as well. This needs a big, rich, meaty dish,’ LR. ‘Crunchy red fruits on the nose, and quite herbal too,’ MH.
£13.25, Les Caves de Pyrène, 01483 554750
72 Domaine Les Fines Graves, Moulin-à-Vent 2012, France
Submitted by Matthew Cocks, Cubitt House Group
‘Fruity, with redcurrants and cranberries. A well-balanced wine,’ AV. ‘Cherry and dried fig, along with a pepperiness – this is still a little young,’ AL. ‘Hints of vanilla and stewed strawberry fruit – this needs a bit more ageing though,’ FG.
£8.87, Thorman Hunt, 020 7735 6511
72 Tapiz Dos Fincas Malbec 2011, Argentina
Submitted by Zack Charilaou, Gaucho
‘Rich cassis notes, along with some dark cherry and a touch of mintiness. Good tannins on the palate – this wine would stand up well to richer food,’ CC. ‘Deep and spicy aromas on the nose, leading into a pleasing plummy palate, with a spicy finish,’ BM.
Other Tapiz wines available via Hispamerchants, 020 8740 4556
69 Bolney Wine Estate 2012, Lychgate Red, England
Submitted by Garry Clark, The Chester Grosvenor
‘Savoury and mineral on the nose, with a herbal element, followed by surprising freshness on the palate, along with red fruits,’ LR. ‘Gamey and compelling on the nose, with amazing character for the money. Herby notes throughout. Give me some lamb!’ JB.
£8.92, C&O Wines, 0161 976 3696
69 Charles Smith, The Velvet Devil Merlot 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington State, US
Submitted by Frédéric Jean-Yves Billet, Luton Hoo Hotel Golf & Spa
‘Fine cherry notes, alongside floral and mineral aromas. This is clean, crisp and vibrant on the palate, with red juicy berries, and a long, fine finish, and firm tannins,’ AF. ‘Slightly creamy, with lean cherry notes. Good grippy texture on the palate, with some slightly ashy minerality too,’ CC.
£10.93, Bibendum, 0845 263 6924
68 Domaine Fernand Girard, Sancerre Rouge 2010, Loire, France
Submitted by Sarah Guignard, The French Table
‘Earthy and vegetal notes, with fresh, delicate flavours,’ PM. ‘Light ruby colour, with a herbaceous, mineral nose. Gamay-like in colour and taste – a pleasant wine,’ FG.
£9.55, Armit Wines, 020 7908 0690
– Overall scores were high – this is clearly a price point where sommeliers have the opportunity to offer some real bang for buck.
– The Old World dominated in this tasting, with Spain alone accounting for 20% of the wines, though Italy and France were plentiful too. With the exception of South Africa and its five entries, the New World was relatively thin on the ground here, which is surprising given the kind of progress made in Australia and New Zealand of late.
– The tasters commented on a general food-friendliness here, and rightly so, given that these are all restaurant wines.
– Some submitters courageously put forward wines well below the price limit, and were often rewarded, with many sub-£10 ex-VAT wines scoring highly. Our panel often picked out these wines for representing such good value.
– On the other hand, the submitters of the higher-priced wines are clearly working far more modest margins than the average if they’re able to list these under £50.