Wine: A Vinho Verde from Marks & Sparks?

I was in the UK for a few days last week and, as I do whenever I am there and have the time, I made a point of searching out some Portuguese wines.

In the past, this has taken me from the likes of Majestic Wine stores (a mediocre selection at best) to supermarkets such as Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s, where Portuguese wines can be counted on one hand, to some specialist wine shops where I have been very pleasantly surprised.

But on this trip, I had very little time and, as I was also in need of some new socks from M&S, I soon found myself in the wine section of a sizeable M&S Food store in not-so-sunny St. Albans, where I was visiting family.

I had, however, earlier that same day, secured some very good fresh picked crab to enjoy with my relatives, so a nice dry white was called for. I could certainly have done better choosing a nice Muscadet or even a Spanish Albarinho but was drawn to the only Portuguese wine on offer amongst hundreds of bottles from all over the world.

It was a humble Vinho Verde, costing £8, and, as a general rule, I would never buy a wine in the UK for under ten quid. The reason for this is that £2.23 of the retail price applied to any wine in the UK is the duty levied on all wine, at a fixed amount irrelevant of how expensive the wine is. So, there is very little margin for profit when it comes to the producer selling any wine that retails for less than a tenner, especially once packaging, the retailer’s margin and VAT have all been taken into account.

Anyway, this wine is supposedly “crafted” especially for M&S as part of their “Classics” Collection, and I was actually quite impressed, especially when comparing it with the cheaper Vinho Verde on sale here in Portugal.

With just 10% alcohol and an almost imperceptible fizz, it is a Vinho Verde in the traditional style, but it is in no way sharp. There are zesty notes of green apples and citrus on the nose with a nice balanced feel in the mouth; very easy drinking and a great match for my seafood lunch.

By Patrick Stuart

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