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Tesco Finest, Central Otago Pinot Noir, 2011

Since the early days of the Wine Rambler I occasionally (and boldly I like to think) set out to explore the world of German wine as UK consumers experience it: in the supermarket. Despite many setbacks I have persevered, out of patriotic and journalistic duty. However, after the flop with German wine from Waitrose even I needed a break - and so I have switched both supermarket and country, in the hope that Tesco and New Zealand would deliver the goods.

And as if that was not enough firepower I also brought in the tenth most powerful woman in wine.

If I were totally honest I should probably say that it was her who brought me into this, but it does not sound quite as dramatic. As there is no Tesco store in my 'hood serendipity needed some help to expose me to their wines. In comes Laura Jewell MW, who heads both the Tesco Fine Wine range and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (which apparently makes her the tenth most powerful woman in wine). In November she invited a bunch of wine writers for a Christmas tasting, which is where I was given the Pinot as a sample to take home.

What I particularly liked about the tasting was that it went against my preferences. As a cool-climate wine drinker I would have expected to be most comfortable with Riesling or Grüner Veltliner, but I found myself to be attracted to the heavier reds - my favourite being Tesco's Finest Gigondas. Like other wines in the Finest range the Gigondas may be more expensive than the average supermarket bottle, but with many wines priced around a tenner we are not talking about a huge investment either. Laura's team are given a lot of freedom for putting together the portfolio, and so they have made "quirky" one of the the selection criteria (the others are safer: "classic", "trendy", "trophy winning" and "wine making").

Laura Jewell MW and colleague Graham Nash
Laura Jewell MW and colleague Graham Nash

Whether New Zealand Pinot Noir is still in the "trendy" or perhaps already half-way in the "classic" category I am not sure, but despite being relatively high in alcohol the Central Otago specimen drinks very well. The bouquet has subtle oak, round fruit (cherry, berries and plum) and a lighter earthiness, spiced with aromas of faint leather and ground spices. All these elements show up on the tongue too, especially the lovely berries, making for a wine with a good balance of fruit smoothness and power. Initially the fruit dominated but then the tannins and earthy notes became more prominent and you notice the concentration and alcohol a little more. I enjoyed the finish of yeasty vegetable broth with cocoa and a light sweetish berry touch.

If you like your Pinot with a little oomph this would be worth checking out. And when you do make sure to get a bottle of the Gigondas too and pour me a glass while I wait to hear back from Waitrose...

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