Our complete catalogue of wines from 9 different countries
Mixed cases of wines, expertly chosen for you
Seasonal food hampers and wine chests
A selection of high quality food and drinks
MAJOR GRAPE VARIETIES
In the recipe of wine-making, grape varieties play the role of ingredients. There are many thousand in the world though some, traditionally, give better results than others.
Some are suited to one climate or another, and to particular styles of wine. All have subtle or obvious differences in character that can be tasted in the final wines.
A vintage is the year during which all the grapes for a particular wine are harvested. The word originates from the French ‘vendange’ which means exactly that – harvest.
Most still wines are vintage products, meaning that the year the grapes were picked is marked on the label.
Because weather patterns change each year, some seasons will be better than others for helping to produce high quality grapes. Frosts, harvest-time rain and drought can all damage a country’s wine production.
Modern winemaking techniques can somewhat compensate for some negative impacts on wines form lower-quality years but seasonal changes are still important – mostly in the Old World.
M&S wines are consistent from year to year though some classic areas of the Old World will show differences.
How wine ages
This is made possible by a combination of:
· High aid
· Tannin levels
For example, some very tannic and crisp (acidic) Bordeaux red wines can age for up to forty years if of sufficient quality. Very crisp (acidic) German Riesling can also age for great periods of time.
As long as there is sufficient flavour in the wine that it is worth aging, then over time flavours should improve into more subtle and complex ones, and tannins will soften. Some wines need this time in order to be most enjoyable. For example red Barolo wines from Italy are matured for at least 3 years, by law, before release.
The vast majority of wines are not made to age, and M&S wines that are released with an advisory time period in which they should be drunk, indicated on the black label.
France represents a massive proportion of our catalogue – 130 still wines! France produces wine in nearly every style imaginable, from a great number of climates. This great variety is governed by the French system for naming and producing wine from particular areas. This includes two major systems.
Appellation Controlée (AC) & Vin de Pays (VdP)
Appellation Controlée is the most restrictive and (often) represents the most traditional French regions. It is a governmental control system that oversees wine origins and production methods. These areas include Alsace, the Rhone, Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire, Champagne and the Languedoc Roussillon; there are also a huge number of others.
The Appellation Controlée System
A French law to protect names, improve quality and limit production from demarcated districts. It guarantees the name on the label and the contents of the container.
It ensures all AC wines are labelled with their region of production. E.g. ‘Appellation Sancerre Controlée’
Stresses that it is the place (or terroir) that defines the wine, as well as the grape(s)
Almost never permits grape variety to be used on the front label. Chablis wines are labelled Chablis (the place of origin) not Chardonnay (the grape type)
Maintains traditional areas and supports the inclusion of ‘newer’ areas where quality has risen significantly and consistently. E.g. – much of Bordeaux was classified in 1855 but St Chinian was only made an AC, separate from the larger AC Languedoc, in 1982Appellations often work like Russian dolls, for example the AC area of Bordeaux includes the Médoc and Margaux
The Vin de Pays System
Producers to distinguish higher quality wines that were not made with AC classified grapes. The wines have to come from a specific named place, the producers have to submit the wine for analysis and tasting, and the wines have to be made from certain varieties or blends although these are typically more lenient in varietal scope than AC restrictions.
Vin de Pays wines also may feature the grape name(s) on the front label and, whilst many are of average quality, some are made to world-class standards.
Examples of Vin de Pays areas includes Vin de Pays d’Oc, a gigantic area that covers the southern French Appellation Controlée areas of Languedoc & Roussillon. M&S Gold Label reds and whites are sourced from the Vin de Pays d’Oc where they represent great value. Even within the simpler system, there are more Russian dolls – other Vin de Pays reside within the larger areas. These are termed ‘local’ Vin de Pays.
What follows is a simple examination of the major regions of France.
Example wines: Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Alsace Pinot Grigio, Haute Carmaillet/Chateau Bellevue, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Cotes du Rhone Villages.
Climate: Cool and dry. North-east France, a small region hidden from rain by the Vosges mountains’ shadow
Main grape types: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Muscat, Pinot Blanc
Style: Mostly dry, some sweet. Full, largely unoaked, food orientated wines
Alsace Gewurztraminer good with light Thai food styles. Rose petals, ginger, lychee style – unusual & interesting
Alsace Pinot Gris/Grigio a good alternative to Italian versions. Often more character & depth. Appley, creamy styles
Alsace Riesling is a very fresh, dry, interesting alternative for that clichéd request for ‘just a dry white please’.
Climate: Relatively cool, coastal rain. South-west France, near the sea, based around a large river area
Sub-regions: Margaux, Médoc, Pomerol, St Emillion, Fronsac, Graves, Pauillac and Sauternes, all in straight-sided bottles
Three main red grape types: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Two main white grape types: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc
Style: often elegance before power, though some modern styles of Bordeaux wines are beginning to copy some traits of the New World, like our Chateau Launay which is more powerful than the classic-styled Terre du Lion
Majority of production is dry red & white, with some famous sweet whites. Many are oaked.
Often very tannic when young – world class, super-premium Bordeaux takes many years to mature into wonderful wines
Lurton la Chapelle, a fantastic young red Bordeaux, is a good exception to this
All M&S Bordeaux is ready to drink once in stores
Climate: Cool, marginal, continental, occasional frosts and harvest-time rain. North-east of central France, at the top of the Rhone valley. Note: Chablis is much farther north than most of Burgundy, it is, in fact. Near Champagne.
Regions: Chablis, Cote d’Or, Cote Chalonnaise, Cote de Beaune, Macon (including St Véran), Nuits St Georges, Mercurey, Pommard, Meaujolais (including Fleurie, Chénas, Morgan and other small areas). All Burgundian wines are produced in slope-shouldered bottles. Basic Burgundy is marked ‘Bourgogne’, the French name for the region.
Two major red grape types: Pinot Noir and Gamay (the grape of Beaujolais)
Red wine styles: Pinot Noir produces elegant, perfumed, raspberry wines that can be relatively light or meaty and concentrated. Gamay is usually light bodied, fruity with very little tannin, summer fruit and blueberry flavours.
One major white grape type: Chardonnay
White wine styles: elegant, stony, rich or light, sometimes mildly oaked.
D) THE LOIRE
Climate: cool, marginal, Mediterranean. It is in western France and follows the long Loire river valley to the coast.
Regions: (from west to east along the river) Muscadet, Anjou, Chinon, Vouvray, Touraine, Quincy, Menetou Salon, Sancerre, Poully Fumé, Vin de Pays de la Jardin de la France.
White grape types: Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, VdP Jardin de la France, Touraine), Chenin Blanc (Vouvray, Layon), Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet)
White wine styles: refreshing, crisp, full range of dry to sweet, honey, lemon, elderflower, piercing flavours.
Red grape types: Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grolleau (Rosé d’Anjou)
Red wine styles: relatively light, refreshing, can be served lightly chilled in some cases, tangy.
E) RHONE AND THE SOUTH – Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence
Climate: predominantly very warm, Rhone can be continental in style, other areas Mediterranean. The Rhone valley runs north to south, following the Rhone river.
Rhone regions: (north to south) Cote Rotie, Condrieu, Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Rhone Villages (better than basic Cotes du Rhone, includes Rasteau, Vacqueyras and other villages), Chateauneuf du Pape
Languedoc-Roussilon regions: (east towards Spain) Costieres de Nimes, Coteaux du Languedoc, Faugeres, St Chinian, Minervois, Corbieres, Fitou, Cotes de Roussillon, Cote de Roussillon Villages
Red grape types: Syrah/Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan
Styles for red: warm red and black fruit flavours, spice, herbs, richness, meat and leather
Rosé wines made from the same red grape varieties
White grape types: Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and Gris, Clairette
Styles for white: round, spicy, mellow, some have stone and mineral flavours ,apricots, almonds, not often overly fruity
Majority of production is red. Many rosés, whites and some sweet wines are also madeo
Fantastic value & quality can be found throughout the south of France
F) NORTHERN ITALY
Northern Italy includes the five major wine making regions, which include the most famous Italian wines, and some of their sub-regions/wine styles are in parentheses. E.g. Tuscany – the large region & (Chianti) – a wine region within Tuscany. Grape varieties are listed with their regions/wine names in brackets. E.g. Corvina – the grape, followed by (Valpolicella) – the wine & wine region.
Regions: Tuscany (Chianti), Veneto (Valpolicella), Trentino (predominantly French varieties like the two Cabernets, Merlot, Chardonnay, also produces Lambrusco), Friuli (many whites and French grape varieties), Piedmont (Barolo, other wines from Nebbiolo and the Langhe)
Red grape varieties: Corvina (Valpolicella), Sangiovese (Chianti), Barbera (Piedmontese reds), Nebbiolo (Barolo and the Langhe), Merlot (Friuli), Rondinells (Valpolicella), Cabernet Sauvignon (Tuscany, Friuli)
Red wine styles: high acid to suit local foods, refreshing, sour cherry, spice, bramble flavours
White grape varieties: Cortese (Gavi), Arneis (Piedmonte), Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc (Friuli), Garganega (Soave, Veneto), Prosecco (Prosecco in Veneto), Trebbiano (Tuscany)
White wine styles: apple, lime, mineral, almond, relatively neutral wines to complement but not overwhelm local foods
G) SOUTHERN ITALY & SICILY
In the last twenty years, Italian wine quality has significantly increased in many areas. Sicily and southern areas of mainland Italy are now host to a number of interesting surprises and fantastic value wines like our range of £3.99 Sicilian wines and the Single Estate Corte Ibla Sicilian Nero d’Avola at £9.99 – which is a stunning, complex, rich, toffee-spice red wine.
Regions: Abruzzi, Puglia, Sicily
Red grape types: Montepulciano (Abruzzi), Negro Amaro (Puglia), Primitivo (Puglia), Sangiovese (Sicily), Nero d’Avola (Sicily)
Red wine styles: warmer fruit flavours, not as dry in comparison to northern wines
White grape types: Pinot Grigio, Grillo, Cataratto
White wine styles: more often dry, through Sicily is the home of Marsala – a sweet style of wine. Expect almonds, citrus fruit and apples, softer with warmer/more tropical flavours than in the north of Italy
H) THE NEW WORLD
Wine production is certainly not confined to Europe. Wine itself is thought to have originated in the Middle East – production still persists in Lebanon and Turkey today – before it spread to Greece and then on to Italy. France and Spain were next in line for adopting this fascinatingly diverse beverage and its accompanying mind-softening effects.
During the late Middle Ages, cutting from European vines were carries all around the world, to be planted in the colonies that were established there by explorers. Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia all began their wine industries in the last several centuries. Their greatest changes have come in the last thirty years, giving rise to the huge number of New World wines (from non European countries) we now sell.
AUSTRALIA was one of the first New World countries to mass-market and advertise its wines abroad. It has gained a large market share in international wine sales, but is currently at risk of producing too much wine in recent years.
M&S has established its own series of sub-brands within our Australian lines. Burra Brook, Pheasant Gully and Honey Tree represent similar styles to the more famous Australian brands, and as such are a good alternative to recommend to costumers, because f the unique feature that we choose the blends for our wines. This level of detail is not available to our competitions.
From this point, customers can be converted to M&S wines through those brands like Burra Brook, and then on to our specialised Australian lines that have more specific regional titles. Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is a great step to take for any costumer who might enjoy the same grape variety by Burra Brook. The small region of Coonawarra offers better quality, more style and wine character, whilst still being Australian in impression.
This newer emphasis on smaller Australian wine regions echoes the ancient European notion of terroir, the idea than where you grow the grapes is extremely important tot the final wine. This includes carious climate and physical elements of geography. 15-20 years ago this practice was not common in Australia, which at that time favoured large volume, consistent products, created by blending many wines from much larger areas of land.
SPIRITS & FORTIFIED WINES
High alcohol products like single malt whiskies and vintage Ports have often been seen as objects of great luxury. Whether this is an appreciation of the cheerful effects of higher alcohol or because of the special production methods is up for debate. Spirits and fortified wined like Port and Sherry form a traditional backbone of Wines and Drinks.
All spirits are alcoholic products that have been distilled. This process increases the concentration of alcohol in a liquid by evaporating alcohol away from the unnecessary water.
The word Port comes directly from the name Portugal, the country of origin. It Is a fortified red and sometimes white wine, fortified meaning it has higher alcohol than most ‘light’ (normal or table) wines. Like many European wines and regions, the name Port is protected. No wines carrying this name can be imported into the European Union unless they are genuine products from the correct zone
There are two broad styles of Port, both of which are oaked but for very different periods of time, mostly depending on the quality of the original wine. Oak flavours in Port are generally subtle because the barrels are old. There is also a huge concentration of flavour, sweetness and alcohol in the wine which conceals some woody flavours for a good balance of taste characters.
Ruby Ports – these spend most of their lives in bottles/ bottle aged ports can deposit sediment material over time and, in the case of Vintage Port, will remain in the bottle for 10 years or more before they are considered ready to drink. These are more powerful styles of Port and include young, uncomplicated Ruby Ports (bright red, like the colour) as well as older Vintage Ports for which all thegrapes were picked in a single harvest. They have strong flavours of red and black cherries when young
Tawny Ports – these spend most of their lives in smaller barrels and are more elegant than the powerful-tasting bottle-aged Ports. This period in oak creates a tawny colour and mellow, walnut flavoured wines like Late Bottled Vintage and Tawny Ports (again named after the colour).