Own-brand wines aren’t always ordinary: it pays to check out the maker’s name on the back label
Taste the Difference Languedoc White, France 2017 (£8, Sainsbury’s) Supermarkets have been big on own-labels since they got into the wine game seriously in the 1970s. But in the past couple of years they have taken up a larger proportion of retailer ranges than ever. It’s easy to understand why: stocking own-labels over brands gives retailers more control and profit. They can switch to a cheaper or more compliant supplier without anyone really noticing and, given the wine is exclusive to them, they don’t have to worry about customers comparing prices with their rivals up the road. As a punter, it pays to seek out the maker’s name, however, even if it is on the back-label, and few own-label makers are more consistent than Languedoc’s Paul Mas, the long-time provider of this soft, juicy, peachy Sainsbury’s blend.
De Bortoli Topsy Turvy Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia 2016 (£6.50, Morrisons)
Paul Mas winemaker Jean-Claude Mas – who has wines of remarkably good value for the quality under both his and his various paymasters’ names, in pretty much all the major supermarkets – is not the only talented and prolific ghost-winemaker hidden away in the fine print on own-labels. Tesco’s somewhat patchy finest* range, for example, is well served Down Under by skilled winemakers such as Nick Picone of Villa Maria – maker of the refined Central Otago Pinot Noir, New Zealand 2016 (£12.50) – and Steve Webber, the Victoria-based talent behind the coolly sophisticated Yarra Valley duo (Chardonnay 2016 and Pinot Noir 2016; both £11), as well as the chiselled, zingy and wonderful value Chardonnay sold under his employer De Bortoli’s own name at Morrisons.