‘Near as dammit’ wines are a clever way of getting value for your money

Luke Richardson is a sommelier who has worked in a range of venues across the UK in a career spanning more than 20 years. He is now wine buyer/cheese fanatic at IJ Mellis Cheese. In his column for SLTN he shares his thoughts on all things wine-related and answers your questions about wine. If you have a question for Luke email it to sltn@peeblesmedia.com

headshot of Luke Richardson
Picture: Isabel Kronenberger.

Hi again all! This month, I thought I would talk to you all about the ‘near as dammit’ wines – some of my very favourite wines in all the world.

These are wines that are basically very close in style to some of the most famous wines around, but essentially just outside of a delineated area, or in a different region/ appellation and therefore demanding a much better price – for you that is! As we struggle with the rocketing prices of everything, it seems to me that clever buying is becoming more and more important to seek out what little value is left to find out there. Hopefully these recommendations will help!

I’ll start with one of my favourite white grapes – Albariño. At home in Galicia, in North West Spain, it came to prominence around 20 years ago and has become the premium white grape of Spain. The major downside of that is that the price has increased steadily since then – good examples cost well north of £10 plus VAT now! However, just to the south of Galicia (and the Rias Baixas sub region famous for it’s Albariño) is the Portuguese region of Vinho Verdes. Vinho Verde has become quite the zeitgeist wine of 22/23- a low alcohol, softly spritzy style of wine that is much improved on the battery acid-like metallic-flavoured swill that was being produced in the early 90’s. Now, with the championing of better quality grape varieties like Alvarinho (same thing Jack, in all but name) and Louriero, the quality is through the roof and as an added bonus, they’re still only 10.5/11% in alcohol, so ticking the low ABV box that is popular nowadays too. Whilst the price of good Vinho Verde has risen, it isn’t in the same price category as Albariño – good deals can be made for around £7/£7.50 plus VAT for good quality, softly textured wines. Always look for that softer mouth feel of orchard fruit with a Vinho Verde.

My next recommendation for wines that hit above their price point would have to be a specific style of Côtes Du Rhône.

These are the Côtes Du Rhône produced only by the producers in Northern Rhône, where Syrah (or Shiraz) is the main red grape variety. Now, Crozes Hermitage, a much-loved appellation by the British public, is 100% Syrah, and the producers of the northern Rhône only grow this grape mostly, so the wines that don’t fit into other classifications such as the various Côtes Du Rhône Villages of the north just get put out as generic Côtes Du Rhône.

Whilst maybe not as deep and long as a decent Crozes, these CDR are exceptional value for their quality – instead of paying £12+ for a decent Crozes, expect to pay £8+ for a CDR – just check with your friendly wine supplier about which properties are located in the north. On that note, your wine rep is a font of knowledge for exactly this sort of stuff, and if you don’t ask… well, you know it, you don’t get. Use them, use their knowledge and expertise and find value outside of just the norms – we’ve got to think outside of the box in these exceptionally difficult times.

Until next time, happy hunting!