Musar Jeune Red, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2013 (£9.95, Booths) In any calculation about which supermarket is the best to buy wine, my answer tends to come down to a choice between Marks & Spencer or Waitrose, with the former’s more adventurous spirit nudging it ahead for the time being. Northern readers would probably want to add a third name to the list, however, and after tasting a selection from the name in question, Booths, I can see their point. With 28 stores dotted around the northwest, this Victorian institution is a strictly regional concern, but its range is streets ahead of most of the national competition, strong on the classics but threaded through with quirkier choices such as this exuberant unoaked, Rhône-like red bargain from the great Lebanese producer Château Musar.
Lyme Bay Winery Shoreline, Devon, England 2014 (£12.85, Booths) English wine has become an important part of the range at the ‘northern Waitrose’. Though not extensive, it’s well chosen, with sparkling wines from a handful of my favourite producers (Camel Valley, Hambledon, Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Wiston Estate) and Lyme Bay Winery’s distinctive, delicately aromatic and incisive dry white from Devon. As its name suggests, Shoreline’s light raciness is perfectly pitched for seafood, but so too are another adventurous Booths trio from Spain’s northwest, Galicia. With its mix of stone fruit juiciness, citrus bite, herbs and nuttiness, Les Trois Amis Audacia Godello, Valdeorras 2013 (£15.50), is the pick of the bunch, but both Ailalá-Ailalelo Treixadura 2015 (£13) and Pazo Tizón Extramundi Blanco 2015 (£15) are equally full of the region’s natural zip and zing.
Lenza di Munti Etna Bianco, Sicily, Italy 2015 (£9.45, Booths) Staying in Spain, but on the opposite side of the country, Booths has a nice line in garnacha from old vines in the generously brambly Honoro Vera Garnacha 2015 (£8.45) from Calatayud in Aragon and the spicier, more savoury Cellers Can Blau ‘Blau’ 2014 (£8.95) from Montsant in Catalonia. In Italy, standouts include a husky, cherry-scented Rosso 2013 (£9.45) and a luminous, smoky-mineral Bianco from Lenza di Munti on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. Classic France is also well served, not least in some seriously good value own-labels, such as the crunchy blackcurrant of Booths Red Bordeaux 2015 (£7.50) and the silky raspberry prettiness of Booths Fleurie 2014 (£9.50).
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