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23 November 2020

Best red wine

Our expert taste test reveals the best affordable red wines to curl up with this winter
Toasting glasses of red wine over roast dinner
JM
Jake Massey

Our expert panel tasted 10 red wines from big supermarkets, including Aldi, Lidl, Tesco and Waitrose, for the December 2020 edition 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 sparked debate among our expert panel, but they agreed on three Best Buy reds which stood out from the crowd – each for unique reasons. 

These own-brand exclusive winter reds had to be perfect for sipping by a warm fire or accompanying a Christmas dinner. We looked for reds that are affordable, but stand you in good stead when friends and guests drop round (even if they can't), so they cost up to £10 and no more. 

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?.

All of the prices in this guide are correct as of November 2020. Price and stock available may vary in the run up to Christmas.

Aldi Princes de France Gigondas 2018

£9.99 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

This 2018 wine from Aldi's French range promises spice and fruit in spades. Want to know what our expert tasting panel thought? Log in or join Which? to unlock our test results.

Available in Aldi soon.

Asda Extra Special Valpolicella Ripasso 2017

£9.50 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

From the north east of Italy, this red wine gets its name from the ripasso technique, which involves using semi-dried grape skins in the blend. Asda claims that it's a deep, full-bodied wine. Log in or join Which? find out if our experts agreed.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Asda

Co-op Irresistible Fairtrade Organic Malbec 2018

£7.50 for a 75cl bottle, vegetarian

Co-op's organic and Fairtrade malbec is sold as 'full bodied' and 'bursting with plum, cherry and jam aromas'. To find out whether this red wine is worth a slot in your winter favourites, log in or join Which?.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Co-op

Lidl Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2017

£10 for a 75cl bottle, vegetarian

Lidl describes this wine as 'dry, firm, with plummy fruit typical of Merlot, and a note of oak'. It's from Bordeaux's Saint-Emilion region. Log in or join Which? to unlock our test results.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Lidl

M&S Classics Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

£8 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

'Smooth and intensely fruity, with flavours of plum and red ripe berries', according to M&S. Log in or join Which? to find out how this M&S red from Chile's Central Valley ranks in our winter line-up. 

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at M&S

Morrisons The Best Toscana 2018

£10 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Morrisons describe this Tuscan wine as 'the colour of ink with a full mellow taste of ripe, black fruit'. Made with the Corvina grape, harvested late in the season, it's claimed to go well with classic Italian dish. Which? members have full access to our taste test scores. Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Morrisons

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Cotes De Ventoux 2018

£10 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

'Juicy raspberries meet aromatic spice and finish with a silky elegance' is how Sainsbury's describe this red from the Southern Rhone. Its grapes were grown in a Unesco Global Geopark, giving the wine sustainability credibility. Was this red wine one of our top-scorers? Log in or join Which? to find out.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Sainsbury's

Spar Primitivo Puglia 2019

£6.75 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

This Italian red has been described as 'bursting with spicy red-berried fruitiness'. Puglia borders the Mediterranean Sea where its grapes bask in the sunshine. But how does it taste in winter? Log in or join Which? to unlock our test results.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Spar

Tesco Finest Malbec 2019

£8 for a 75cl bottle, vegetarian

Made with grapes east of the Andes, Tesco claim this wine has 'elegant blackberry and plum flavours' and that 'lighter notes of blueberry and white pepper develop into a long and fruity finish'. Log in or join Which? find out if all that came over in our test.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Tesco

Waitrose No.1 Cederberg Syrah 2018

£10 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Waitrose describes this South African wine as having 'rich red fruit flavours of mulberry', plus 'ripe juicy cherries balanced with elegant oak'. Does this make for a winning red that can keep you company over winter? Log in or join Which? to unlock our test results.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Waitrose

Prices correct as of November 2020.

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.

Three top tips to get the most from red wine



 1. Aerating doesn’t need to be fancy 

Aerating will help bring out the flavour in an earthy red wine, but you don’t need a posh decanter. Just open the bottle early to let it ‘breathe’, or for greater exposure to air and pour it into a jug for a bit. If you don’t get a chance to open the wine early, try putting it in a blender and pulsing for a few seconds. 

Discover the best wine aerators as rated by our wine experts.

2. It’s not a sin to combine wines

While it may sound sacrilegious, our experts say that combining wines can sometimes get a good result. For example, if you have a sharp, high-acid wine, you could mix it with one that’s smoother and more relaxed to get a more balanced red wine, for example. 

3. Get the correct temperature for red

It’s a common misconception that it's best to serve red wine at room temperature. While this may have been true once upon a time, the idea predates central heating. Typical room temperature used to be 14°C, but now it’s 21°C, which is too warm. You may find red wine tastes better if you chill it a little in the fridge. Half an hour, maximum, should be enough.

Read our expert reviews to find the best wine coolers.

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 off.

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 experts Charles Metcalfe and Kathryn McWhirter gave us their 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.

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 red wine ideal for drinking in the winter. They had to be affordable but good quality and they had to be own label or exclusive, up to £10.

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
  • Oz Clarke Wine writer, television presenter and broadcaster
  • Sam Caporn Master of wine, wine consultant, speaker, writer and IWC judge

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