Blue Nun MerlotThe red was fruity and pleasant, but not something I’d want to pay more than £3.99 a bottle for. The dry rosé tasted of strawberries, but little else. Both had an easy-drinking nature which hinted that they might be French or Italian. But I was only half right. France and Italy make good mass-market wines and, yes, that red turned out to be a French Merlot. But the rosé was Spanish – and there’s a good chance you’d find them both on the shelves under ‘Germany’. Because these two wines are branded Blue Nun.

Blue Nun roseThe sweet German white wine drunk by over 3 million people in the 1970s has reinvented itself. Blue Nun Original is still available – though it’s drier than it used to be - but new red and white wines have been added to expand the range. The Blue Nun brand now has a range of more than 20 varieties sold worldwide. Only five of those make it to the UK: a Pinot Grigio and Riesling blend, a single-vineyard Riesling called Winemaker’s Passion, the Spanish rosé and French Merlot, and Blue Nun Original.

If the last time you drank Blue Nun was in 1977, then you’re in for a shock. Back then Blue Nun was a traditional German Liebfraumilch, a sweet blend of three local grape varieties. Now the traditional Müller-Thurgau grape has been dropped from the blend, leaving only the aromatic Silvaner and acidic Riesling. The wine has significantly reduced its sugar content too.Blue Nun label

In the 1990s Blue Nun had problems, big problems. Surveys found that although the majority of wine drinkers were aware of the name, they also associated Blue Nun with unfashionable phrases such as “sweet” and “German”.

Blue Nun was still selling the same wine in the same way. The brand simply failed to keep up with changing consumer taste. Wine sales dropped through the floor and the company was sold.

In 1996 the new German owners relaunched the brand. The one hundred and one year-old Blue Nun (she would have been a brown nun but for a printer’s error) up-dated herself. Out went the traditional German brown bottle and in came a bright-blue bottle with a new label: Liebfraumilch was dropped and the nun’s habit became a mere suggestion.

Blue Nun Original sells as well as it did in its ‘heyday’, but as a nation we are now drinking much more wine. So although it sells around 4 million bottles a year, that’s not enough to place it in the UK’s top-fifty best-selling wines. Blue Nun’s aging group of loyal followers have become more sophisticated, and are now looking along the supermarket wine aisles to find other white wines.

The UK remains the largest export market for German wines, but it’s expensive German wine that consumers are turning to. Sales of German wine priced over £5 a bottle (particularly Rieslings) have increased by almost a quarter in the last year. In Blue Nun’s portfolio only the Riesling Winemaker’s Passion meets these criteria. To survive the Blue Nun may still need to change her habits.Blue Nun Pinot Grigio Riesling

PG’s Tips

Blue Nun Original can be found in almost every supermarket across the land, but the more recently launched named grape variety wines are harder to get hold of.

All major supermarkets
Blue Nun Original
, Rhein, Germany. Around £3.59
The Original now smells and tastes like apple strudel with a dollop of cream.

Morrisons
Blue Nun Merlot
, Languedoc, France. £4.49
This Vins de Pays D’Oc smells of cooked blackberries and tastes fruity.

Blue Nun Winemaker’s Passion Riesling, Mosel, Germany £5.99
The best of the bunch in the Blue Nun range. Tastes fresh and zingy, with an edge of toasted pineapple cubes.

Tesco Wine Club
Blue Nun Pinot Grigio Riesling, Germany. £2.37 (bought in a case of 6 at £14.19)
The blend of Pinot Grigio and Riesling gives a light, refreshing wine.

Drinks Direct and Independent wine merchants
Blue Nun Rosé, La Mancha, Spain. £5.99
The colour, smell and taste is of strawberries.