Co-op: brilliant off-licence with a convenience store stuck on

Co-op storeUSP, or Unique Selling Point, is what every marketing department of every High Street retailer wants us to think of when their brand name comes to mind. With the Co-op it’s that there’s one of their food stores in every one of the UK’s postal areas. Yeess, but with many of these stuck in out of the way shopping arcades and often too small to do the entire weekly shop in you may wonder what reason there is for seeking them out. Because their wine range is so fab. Think of them more of a brilliant off-licence with a convenience store stuck on the side.

Start your wander down the wine aisle next to the reds and reach out for a bottle of Boschendal SMV 2010 (£8.49). This is not your usual South African red based around the too often burnt flavours of the indigenous Pinotage grape, but a blend inspired by the upmarket French wine makers of the Rhone Valley – predominantly Shiraz and Mourvedre with the final 7% made up of the wonderfully aromatic white grape variety Viognier.

white grapesAdding white grapes into a batch of fermenting red is quite unusual, but the French wine makers of the Côte Rôtie discovered that it didn’t half soften up their tannic, mouth-stripping Syrahs (Syrah/Shiraz – it’s the same grape variety but spelt differently depending on which side of the equator you ‘re on).

So if adding white grapes to red worked in France then why not in South Africa - and in Australia and New Zealand too?

And it does, very successfully. The only drawback from the winemakers’ point of view is that South African reds (and Australian and New Zealand ones to a lesser extent) don’t have the money-pulling cache of a wine labelled ‘Appellation Côte Rôtie Côntrollée’. And so rather than retailing their wines for £35 a bottle they’re more likely to price them at £7 to £8 - which may be bad news for the winemaker but is good news for value-seeking wine consumers.

Co-op logoSo what else is good news at the Co-op ‘off licence’?

PG Wine Tips

£5.99 and under

There are a few fruity, slurpable wines among the forgettable masses.

La Metropole French Cuvée Classique, White and Red

£5.49 Co-op (down from £6.99 until February 26)

Buy both the red and white versions of this Southern French blend to be your everyday table wines. Both are equally enjoyable – the white tastes like melon cheesecake and the red of strawberry and blackberry – and both are versatile enough to match almost anything.

Ogier Côtes du Rhone Réserve 2011

£5.49 Co-op (down from £6.99 until February 26)

Another posh name at the Co-op selling very cheaply: light blackberry and plum flavours with a hint of chocolate. A nice medium-light quaffing wine.

Ostalon French Domaine L’Ostal Cazes Minervois 2007

£5.99 Co-op (down from £7.99 until February 26)

This oomphy red blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache smells of juniper berry but tastes of wood and damson.

Costs a bit more, but tastes great

Sometimes a bottle of wine tastes so fab it's still a bargain whatever it costs.

Bankhouse New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2011

£7.49 Co-op

A lightly flavoured Sauvignon with just enough sharpness to get the taste buds going: light gooseberry and melon.

Boschendal South African SMV 2010

£8.49 Co-op

Aromas of Old Spice, mulberry and violets with flavours of cherry choc violet creams.

Related articles: Co-op Premium Wines: wines with the wow factor, Fairtrade wines at a fair price

This article has also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on MatureTimes.co.uk