Never mind the ad campaigns, M&S is still great for food and booze, says wine correspondent Henry…
We should have guessed that Marks & Spencer was in trouble again from their recent advertising campaign. One can imagine desperate executives at head office shouting: ‘dammit John! We’ve got Mirren, Westwood and Twiggy, yet we’re still losing sales. Get me Lulu on the phone! What you can’t get Lulu? What about Petula Clark? Is she still alive? Edwina Currie? Do people like her? Ok fine we’ll have Emin then but can you get her to stop scowling?’
‘Actually scratch all that, Steve, we’ve got Bonham f****g Carter on board. Don’t ask how much it cost but put it this way, nobody’s getting bonuses this year.’
The reasons for the decline of this British institution have been well-documented. If you wanted basic quality clothes then Marks & Spencer was the only place to shop. Things have moved on and Marks haven’t or maybe they have but they moved the wrong way. And the less said about their nauseating branding as ‘Your M&S’ the better. All this noise, however, obscures how well they do food and drink. The wine department in particular has changed out of all recognition in recent years. It’s now for my money the best place to shop on the high street, better than Oddbins, better than Majestic and better than Waitrose. The range is adventurous with an orange wine from Georgia, some good Croatian and Sicilian stuff and as well as some solid classics from Rioja, Burgundy etc.
My mother used to tut at the extravagance of mothers who did all their shopping at M&S but as a thrifty shopper myself, I don’t think they’re that expensive. And the great thing about Marks is that even though it is technically a supermarket it is acceptable to buy their own branded chocolates, wine, flowers etc. as gifts in a way it wouldn’t be with Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s. (I was trying to explain this to my wife who is American the other day as she still hasn’t quite grasped how supermarkets fit into the class system.) For most people who don’t live near an independent merchant or a delicatessen, having a Marks nearby must be a Godsend particularly at Christmas. If the clothing side went I don’t think I’d notice but a high street without their food and wine would be a very sad place indeed.
Anyway, here are two M&S German wines worth stocking up on:
Palataia Pinot Noir 2012 – £8.99 (£6.74 after discount)
A ripe but not at all jammy German pinot noir for under a tenner, I’m not sure how they do it. There’s even a herby quality like you get in a Burgundy. If you were feeling mischievous, you could decant and pretend it was Santenay.
Darting Estate Riesling 2012 – £9.49 (£7.50 after discount)
This has a little 3% scheurebe in it as well. It’s super zingy, floral and so much fun. It reminded me a little of the young wine, Heurige, you get served in bars in Vienna. Also bone dry so don’t be afraid to serve to German wine-phobic people.
Henry Jeffreys writes a weekly column about wine for The Lady magazine and blogs at worldofbooze.wordpress.com