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Updated: 4 Jan 2022

Best red wine

Our expert taste test reveals the best affordable red wines to curl up with this winter
AA
Amy Axworthy

Our expert panel tasted 10 red wines from the big supermarkets, including Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose, for the December 2021 edition of Which? magazine. 

The reds on test were quite varied, from the gentle and sweet to the rich, ripe and oaky. Some bottles sparked debate among our expert panel, but they agreed on one Best Buy that was the star of the show. Plus, we also found a bargain wine bursting with flavour which was highlighted for its great value.

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 £12 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?.

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All of the prices in this guide are correct as of November 2021. 

Aldi Cocodrilo Argentinian Malbec 2020

£10 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Aldi Cocodrilo Argentinian Malbec 2020

Aldi describes this Argentinian wine as having ‘aromas of black fruit and fresh plum’. But how does it compare with other supermarket wines? 

Log in or join Which? to unlock our test results.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at Aldi (in-store only). 

Asda Extra Special Old Vine Garnacha 2019

£6 for a 75cl bottle

Asda Extra Special Old Vine Garnacha 2019

This wine is from the ‘sun-baked’ Spanish vineyards of Aragon. ‘Its intense flavour comes from the 25 year old vines’, according to Asda. 

Log in or join Which? to find out how this affordable garnacha measured up in our tests.

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

Co-op Fairtrade Irresistible Malbec 2019

£7.50 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Co-op Fairtrade Irresistible Malbec 2019

Co-op claims that this malbec is produced by one of Argentina's most respected winemakers. But is it worthy of a Best Buy? 

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results.

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

Lidl Baturrica Tarragona Gran Reserva 2015

£5 for a 75cl bottle

Lidl Baturrica Tarragona Gran Reserva 2015

Lidl's budget-friendly red wine is the cheapest on test, but does its taste make it good value for money? 

Log in or join Which? to get the answer.

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

Morrisons The Best Marqués de Los Rios Rioja Gran Reserva 2014

£12 for a 75cl bottle, vegetarian

Morrisons The Best Marqués de Los Rios Rioja Gran Reserva 2014

This Spanish red from Morrisons is the joint-most expensive supermarket wine we tested, but is it worth paying more for? 

Log in or join Which? to find out. 

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

M&S Classic Lomas del Marqués Rioja Reserva 2015

£9 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

M&S Classic Lomas Del Marqués Rioja Reserva 2015

Is this M&S Rioja the perfect tipple for a cold winter's evening? Our panel of tasters tell all. 

You can log in now or join Which? to see how this wine did in our winter line-up.

Want to buy without reading our results? This wine is available at M&S (in-store only) or Ocado

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Pays d'Orc Pinot Noir 2019

£11 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Pays d'Orc Pinot Noir 2019

Did our experts ‘Taste the Difference’ in Sainsbury's 2019 pinot noir? Find out where it ranks in our taste test. 

Log in now or join Which? to find out.

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

Spar Ursa Maior Rioja Reserva 2017

£8 for a 75cl bottle, vegan and vegetarian

Spar Ursa Maior Rioja Reserva 2017

Produced in Northern Spain and reasonably priced - but is Spar's rioja a winning red?

 Log in now or join Which? to unlock our results. 

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

Tesco Finest Trilogy Malbec 2018

£12 for a 75cl bottle, vegetarian

Tesco Finest Trilogy Malbec 2018

At more than double the price of the cheapest bottle we tested, is Tesco's malbec worth paying more for? 

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our results.

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

Waitrose No. 1 Foundation Cederberg Syrah 2019

£11 for a 75cl bottle, vegetarian

Waitrose No. 1 Foundation Cederberg Syrah 2019

Waitrose describes this wine has having ‘rich red fruit flavours of mulberry and ripe, juicy cherries’ that are ‘balanced with elegant oak and a touch of freshly ground black pepper’. But did this varied collection of flavours impress our experts? 

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our results. 

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

Prices correct as of November 2021.

How to choose a red wine

Glasses of 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 on where it’s grown, but plums, berries and spices are common flavours. It’s sometimes blended with other varieties, but is often a soloist in Argentina. 
  • Merlot is 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, sometimes grassy, usually full bodied and often tannic (which has 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

Red wine with a salmon dish

1. Aerating doesn’t need to be fancy 

Aerating will help bring out the flavour in a firm red wine, but you don’t need a posh decanter. For greater exposure to air, just pour it into a jug. If you don’t get a chance to open the wine early, as a last resort, 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 riper to get a more balanced wine, for example. 

3. Use 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.

Cooking with red wine

Red wine and steak dinner

Adding red wine to a sauce or gravy for red meat or turkey can help your drinking wine pair better with the food, adding acidity and flavour.

When choosing red wine to cook with, buy an inexpensive bottle or, if you have any, use up the leftover wine from the night before. 

It's important to use a wine without too much acidity to avoid accentuating the sharpness when reducing the wine in the gravy. 

If you're avoiding alcohol, make sure you drive off all the alcohol - it should only take a few minutes of fast boiling. 

See all of our best food and drink

How to recycle wine bottles

Glass bottles can usually go in your household recycling bin. If your council doesn’t accept them, you can take them to a local bottle bank.

The recycling process can vary depending on where you live, so make sure to check with your local area if bottles require rinsing first and whether metal screw caps should be replaced or recycled separately. 

Natural corks can’t go in your recycling bin. You can recycle natural corks through Recorked UK – either by posting them or dropping them off at your nearest collection point.

Synthetic corks, which are made of plastic, can’t be recycled. They should be disposed of in your general waste bin.

Choosing a sustainable wine

Red wine glasses in a vineyard

Unfortunately, it’s not easy finding out the eco credentials for every wine in the supermarket but we’ve rounded-up a few tips to help you buy more sustainability. 

Organic wines can be better for the environment because they use fewer pesticides, but this isn’t a stamp of approval, nor is it the only factor to consider. For example, the amount of water and the packaging used when creating wine will also have an effect. 

As well as looking for organic wines, look out for a sustainably certified logo to ensure you are buying a wine that’s as green as possible. Sustainably certified wines must meet certain standards for their energy and water consumption. Unfortunately, though, these logos aren’t hugely common in supermarket aisles, but it’s still worth keeping an eye out as it’s becoming more mainstream.   

In fact, Great Britain released its first certified sustainable wines in August 2021. The scheme encourages wine producers to follow more sustainable practices, such as recycling wastewater, maintaining and improving soil health, and reducing the environmental impact of wine packaging. Look out for the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) logo pictured below. 

There are several smaller producers that haven't yet applied for a sustainability certification due to restrictions in time and resources, but this doesn’t mean that their wine isn’t a sustainable option. You’ll need to do your own research into these smaller producers.

You can also choose to buy your wine through companies that are taking steps to improve their practices. For example, Laithwaites, which is owned by Direct Wines, claims to offset its carbon emissions that come with deliveries through major reforestation projects, as well as recycling 95% of all its waste at their Gloucester Distribution Centre. While Waitrose has launched it Waitrose Unpacked initiative which aims to reduce its packaging use by asking customers to bring in empty bottles that can be refilled with wine. This can also be used for other food and drink products.   

To find out more on reading wine labels in general, check out our guide on how to read a wine label.

How we tested red wine

We asked supermarkets to nominate own-label or exclusive red wines priced between £4.50 and £13 (excluding special offers) that were widely available to buy and particularly good for drinking in winter. They could be non-vintage or vintage.

Each bottle was concealed in a bag so that it could be tasted and rated fairly by our panel of experts. Each expert tasted the drinks in a different order, before discussing their ratings and agreeing on Best Buy red wines.

Our experts were:

  • Kathryn McWhirter Wine expert and co-author (with Charles Metcalfe) of The Wine and Food Lover's Guide to Portugal
  • Charles Metcalfe Speaker, author and co-founder of the International Wine Challenge
  • Sumita Sarma Wine writer and founder of wine consultancy Sumilier
  • Peter McCombie Master of Wine, restaurant wine consultant, speaker, writer and critic