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2 June 2020

Best red wine

Our expert taste test reveals the best affordable red wine to curl up with in winter or enjoy alongside your summer barbecue
By Aaron West

Our expert panel tasted 11 red wines from big supermarkets, including Aldi, Lidl, Tesco and Waitrose, for the December 2019 and June 2019 editions of Which? magazine.

The reds on test were quite varied, from the gentle and sweet to the rich, ripe and oaky. There were bottles which split our panel, with some liking the vanilla, cherry and almond flavours of some of the wines, and others preferring those that were deep, juicy and smoky.

Winter reds had to be perfect for sipping by a warm fire or accompanying a Christmas dinner, whereas summer reds needed to hold their own against big barbecue flavours whilst also being easy to drink in the hot sun.

Whatever your tastes and budget, we’ve found a red wine for you.

Best winter reds

Only logged in Which? members can view our taste test results and the overall test score as a percentage, plus wine and food pairings, tasting notes, and advice on how to serve more tannic reds from the experts.

If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the red wine on test. To get instant access join Which?.

Prices correct in October 2019.

Aldi Toro Loco Reserva 2015

£5.50 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Described as 'the big brother of the Toro Loco family', this Spanish red from Aldi is 'bolder, bigger and seriously good'. It's also claimed that 'time is taken to age it in wood as per Spanish tradition to earn the Reserva mark' - making it perfect for 'meat, cheese and a nice date'.

Want to know what our expert tasting panel thought? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Asda Extra Special Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018

£8 for a 70cl bottle

Asda claims that this red benefits from being grown in the cooler climate of the Yarra Valley in Australia. Supposedly this makes it 'stunning with lamb, duck or pan-fried tuna'.

But how did the cheapest red wine fare in our expert taste test? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Co-op Irresistable Organic Fairtrade Malbec 2017

£7.50 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

As both an organic and Fairtrade wine, you should be able to expect that care has gone into making this Argentinian red. Co-op also claims that this wine is 'full bodied' and 'bursting with plum, cherry and jam aromas'.

Find out whether this red wine is worth a try. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Iceland Rabo de Galo 2018

£6 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Portuguese wines have drawn more and more attention in recent years, and Iceland claims this is one is 'balanced and elegant' with a 'long and fruity finish'.

But did this Portuguese wine impress our experts? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Lidl Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

£6 for a 70cl bottle

Lidl says that this Australian cabernet sauvignon is bursting with 'ripe, bright blackcurrant fruit that is generous and satisfying'. It's also tipped to be the perfect pairing for a Sunday roast, so could be a real winner for winter.

Hear from our expert tasting panel before you buy. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

M&S Tapa Roja Old Vines Monastrell 2018

£7 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

A south-eastern Spanish merlot that M&S says is a 'deep and sumptuous full-bodied red with intense plum and blackberry aromas and flavours with a herbal twist'.

Find out how this M&S red wine ranks in our list. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Morrisons The Best Côtes Catalanes

£7.75 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

This red is from Roussillon in France, a mountainous region that borders Spain. Morrisons describes it as 'smooth and 'spicy' with 'dark cherry and plum fruit with a brush of herbs'. It's also supposed to be ideal with a peppered steak or slow-cooked lamb shanks. But do the experts agree?

Which? members have full access to our taste test scores. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Rioja Reserva

£9 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Sainsbury's describe this Spanish red as 'rich and smooth' and 'packed full of concentrated cherry and black fruit flavours enveloped in a veil of vanilla from the extensive oak ageing'. As one of the most expensive reds in our line-up, you should be able to expect quality. 

Was this red wine one of our top scorers? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Spar Rios de Los Andes Malbec Reserve 2017

£7 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

This Argentinian malbec is described as “full bodied... full flavour” as well as “strong, rich and fruity”. Spar claims this makes it good value, but for £8 you should expect a great wine. 

Hear what our expert tasting panel thought before buying. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Tesco Finest Montagne St Émilion

£9 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

This French red from the world-famous region of Bordeaux is said to be a 'smooth, full bodied red wine has been carefully blended to obtain the typical blackcurrant, cedar wood and savoury spice flavours of Montagne Saint Emilion'.

But do our experts think it's worth its high price? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Waitrose Romanian Pinot Noir 2018

£8 for a 70cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Romania isn't known for its wine, but this pinot noir is described as 'full of cherry and raspberry and hints of ripe strawberry'. 

Does this make for a winning red that can keep you company over winter? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Best summer reds

Only logged in Which? members can view our taste test results and the overall test score as a percentage, plus wine and food pairings, tasting notes, and advice on how to serve more tannic reds from the experts.

If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the red wine on test. To get instant access join Which?.

Prices correct in October 2018.

Aldi Number 9 Blend Australian GSM 2017

£7 for a 75cl bottle

GSM takes its name from a blend of three grapes: grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre. This is a sweeter red, with hints of crème brulée and chocolate in the flavour.

Australian reds are a classic choice for barbecue season, but how does this wine shape up? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Asda Extra Special Selection Valle De Colchagua Carménère 2016

£6.50 for a 75cl bottle

This wine from Chile has flavour hints of ripe black fruits and oak spice, with recommending pairings of slow roasted or barbecued red meats.

Our experts thought this wine stood out from the crowd, but will it be to your personal taste? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Co-op Irresistible Bio Bio Malbec 2017

£8 for a 75cl bottle

Argentina may be the country that springs to mind when you think of malbec, but this Chilean red could be a real contender.

See if our panel loved its slightly unconventional flavours. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Lidl Chilean Malbec Reserva Privada 2018

£6 for a 75cl bottle

If you’ve blown your budget on your canapes or steak centrepiece then you might be tempted by this Chilean red, the cheapest wine we tested.

Is it a bargain Best Buy bottle or is price an indication of quality? Join Which? to unlock our full table of test results.

M&S Cotes du Rhone 2016

£6 for a 75cl bottle

A French Cotes de Rhone made from classic grenache and syrah grapes. A fruity flavour comes through along with ‘autumnal aromas’.

See if the flavours work just as well for drinking through a long, hot summer. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Morrisons The Best Negroamaro 2017

£7.25 for a 75cl bottle

The Italian negroamaro grape takes its name from its dark colour, and you get expect a succulent berry fruit flavour from the wine it produces.

Did our panel love this wine’s sweetness or would a different bottle be better for a barbecue? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Morador Malbec 2017

£7.50 for a 75cl bottle

Sainsbury’s claims that its ‘intense and fruity’ Argentinian malbec is the perfect match for beef, so it could be the perfect wine to serve with chargrilled steak at a summer barbecue.

Find out if it’s versatile enough for all your summer drinking. Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Tesco Finest Fairtrade South African Pinotage 2018

£7.50 for a 75cl bottle

Tesco claims that its South African pinotage is a complex red that offers several layers of taste, from dark red fruits and coffee to sweet spice and mocha.

Are all the flavours well balanced in this wine? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

Waitrose Terre di Faiano Organic Primitivo 2017

£10 for a 75cl bottle

The oak aging adds a roasted and spicy aroma to this Italian red, and it’s described as the ideal pairing for rich meat dishes.

Does it deserve a place at your garden table though? Join Which? to unlock our test results.

How to choose a red wine

There’s no substitute for trying wines out and keeping a record of those you liked and didn’t. But in the meantime, you can use our guide to the most common varieties to get you started:

  • malbec goes well with meat, especially beef. Its taste varies greatly depending where it’s grown, but plums, berries and spices are common flavours. It’s sometimes blended with other varieties, but often a soloist in Argentina. 
  • merlot is very versatile and soft, making it easy-drinking for those new to wine. 
  • pinot noir varies enormously depending where the grapes are grown. Goes well with lamb, duck, guinea fowl, hamburgers, haggis and many cheeses. 
  • cabernet sauvignon is blackcurranty, often grassy, usually full bodied and often tannic (which can have a drying effect in your mouth). Good with lamb and goose.  

Discover which red wines go best with different foods.

Correct temperature for red

It’s a common misconception that room temperature is best for serving red wine: actually that idea pre-dates central heating. 

Room temperature used to be 14°C: now it’s 21°C, which is too warm. 

Chill your wine a little in the fridge, for half an hour maximum. You can warm it up again in the glass in your hands if it’s then too cold. 

How not to waste corked wine

Even if a wine is corked, vinegary, oxidised or sulphury, you can almost always cook with it. As long as you cook it through to alcohol evaporation, the faults disappear with the alcohol.

Now watch our video guide for more expert tips including when to serve wines that are high in tannins (more bitter tasting) and how to revive a bottle of wine you've just opened that tastes a bit odd.

Speedy mulled wine recipe

Much as we love mulled wine, it isn't the most sociable of drinks if you have to hover over the hob to wait for the spices to slowly infuse. 

If you're hosting a Christmas party, and you don't want to have to stay in the kitchen, we have some tips on how to make a speedy mulled wine in no time at all... 

Only logged in Which? members can view this content. To get instant access join Which? today.

Best red with Christmas dinner

Our expert Charles Metcalfe, wine taster and co-chair of the International Wine Challenge (IWC), gave us his top tips on food and wine pairings, including:

  • the best wine with roast turkey
  • the best wine with smoked salmon
  • the best wine with vegetarian food, including root veg, green veg and chilli.

Only logged in Which? members can view this content. To get instant access join Which? today.

How we tested

We asked each supermarket to suggest a good-value red wine ideal for drinking in the winter and summer months. They had to be own label or exclusive, within the £5 to £9 price range for winter reds and £6 to £10 for summer reds, vintage or non-vintage.

Each wine was disguised before being tasted blind and then rated by our panel of experts. Each expert tasted the drinks in a different order, before discussing their ratings and agreeing on two Best Buy red wines. 

Our experts were: 

  • Charles Metcalfe wine taster and co-chair of the International Wine Challenge (IWC)
  • Kathryn McWhirter wine taster, author and translator
  • Peter McCombie Master of Wine, speaker, consultant, co-chairman of the IWC
  • Richard Bampfield Master of Wine, European Champagne Ambassador 2009
  • Sam Caporn Master of wine, wine consultant, speaker, writer and IWC judge
  • Helen McGinn International wine judge and award-winning author
  • Peter Richards Master of Wine, writer, presenter and broadcaster