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Do you snub supermarket own-brand booze?

Supermarket gin

Do you always reach for the big brands when buying wines and spirits in the supermarket? You might be missing out by ignoring own-label drinks, according to our latest taste test.

Results from our expert-led taste tests of wine and gin show that the best supermarket own-label alcohol can hold its own against leading brands, and in some cases it’s noticeably better.

In the gin and white wine taste tests, brands such as Gordon’s and Oxford Landing were pushed down the table – all the Best Buys were own-label. And even when the brands did come out on top, our experts found plenty to like about the supermarkets’ products.

Buying supermarket own-label gin

I think there can still be a stigma around buying own-label, particularly for wine – people worry they might be thought of as cheap if they bring a supermarket wine to a dinner party. Based on the design on their labels, supermarkets themselves seem to agree – in some cases you really have to squint closely before you can make out ‘Asda’ or ‘The Co-operative’ in tiny font.

I’ve never been loyal to a particular drinks brand. I’ve preferred Lidl gin to Gordon’s for a while now – I started off buying it just because it was cheaper, but quickly realised that I liked the taste at least as much, if not more. Since then, I’ve found more expensive branded gins that tasted a bit better, but for a gin & tonic with a slice of lemon and plenty of ice, Lidl gin does the job perfectly well for me.

Generally, if you compared a premium drink to something that’s much cheaper, I expect you’d notice the difference in quality. But for drinks in the same price bracket, our research shows that you shouldn’t dismiss what the supermarkets have to offer.

Is there a particular wine or spirit brand that you swear by, or have you found own-label bargains too?

Comments
Profile photo of NFH
Member

Since Sainsbury’s and Tesco both closed their branches in Calais, I no longer have an opportunity to buy their own-brand booze.

Buying booze in the UK is ridiculously expensive because of excessive tax. For example, British beer tax is 17 times the level of Belgian beer tax and 11 times the level of French beer tax. Consequently British beer tax is more than the full retail price of the beer in Belgium. I know that beer is not the subject of this conversation, but the principle is the same for other drinks.

Thanks for the tip about Lidl gin. I’ll buy a few bottles next time I buy beer at Lidl in Belgium.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

You can always support a British Cooperative by visiting the Wine Societies’ outlet in Montreuil.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Like many people I used to stick to Gordon’s Gin for years as a default option but once when it was not available I had some Greenall’s Gin and really liked it and have preferred it ever since. I have occasionally had Beefeater Gin and Bombay Sapphire where Greenall’s was not on the bar and they are quite good. I like my gin with a Bitter Lemon rather than Tonic Water but the request appears to confuse some bar staff who think I just want a slice of lemon in the glass with the gin. I don’t think I’ll be going out of my way to get some Lidl Gin but if passing I might buy a bottle in the interests of consumer research because I think Lidl and Aldi both try hard to offer good quality at budget prices and it is good when word gets around about some of their excellent drinks at sensible prices. I have been quite impressed by some of Aldi’s German wine which, at the price point you think will be very ordinary, but turns out to be really enjoyable. We have an Aldi within walking distance so it’s easy to pick up a few specials from time to time.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I enjoy single malt whiskies, particularly the very peaty ones. 🙂 I have tasted some supermarket offerings and while they can be nicer than blends, they are disappointing in my limited experience. I don’t drink much so it’s not a major expense to buy known brands.

I sometimes buy supermarket wines, which seem to be a lot nicer than when these first appeared.

Most other drinks are once a year purchases in the run-up to Christmas, plus the occasional bottle of sherry and port. I don’t experiment in case visitors turn up their noses at supermarket gin or vodka, however good it is. I don’t really know why I’m happy with offering friends a glass of supermarket wine but not a gin. Maybe there’s a tonic for this problem.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I’m a fan of the Wine Society, because it is a cooperative, well-priced good quality and focused on its members. They list malt whiskies (I don’t drink whisky) and a very nice own brand gin and vodka. Delivered to your door. No need to stagger back from the supermarket. I hope this isn’t advertising, but Which? have featured them in the past I think. Do remember if you buy a £4.50 bottle of wine, the wine is probably worth around 30p; duty, vat, bottling, labour, transport account for the vast majority of your spend at this level. Buy a £6.50 bottle and you’ve got far better quality contents.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I had a look at the whiskies offered by the Wine Society and was invited to select the ‘Dominant Grape’. That reminds me of the tale told by a friend about a bottle of Japanese whisky labelled as made from the finest Scottish grapes.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Searching “whisky” brings up 7. 2 blended and 5 malts. Like the cereal “grape nuts” its origins are wheat and barley, and not grapes.

Member
Peter near Lpool says:
22 August 2015

My main purchases are in three different areas:

* cider (pear or apple), which have included Stella Artois (my favourite), but more recently a low cost pear cider from Lidl.

* white rum – Malibu and other brands – enjoy both, so no point paying OTT prices

* Baileys – now far too costly, so Asda’s own ‘Irish Cream’ at under a fiver for a 70cl bottle, is my tipple around Christmas

Not something I buy unless feeling there’s something to celebrate (and piles of cash in my pocket) : Southern Comfort – I cannot imagine an alternative brand being as pleasant as this, and have never looked for an alternativ !

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
Member

Mahon gin when in Menorca is the top of the tops, but supermarket’s own labels are often fine, especially if your wallet is poorer than it is snooty. I like Aldi’s Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin (I don’t like the name so much, but that’s another story), and also Lidl’s Hampstead London Dry Gin, which I prefer, but I was disappointed by Lidl’s Castelgy. They all do the trick with a supermarket’s own brand low cal tonic water and a slice of nicely fragrant lemon, on ice.

The minute I drink a spirit neat or with a little water, like a single malt scotch, things change for me though. Nothing will do instead of the real McCoy. I remember having a dram of Lagavulin once that would be worth kow-towing to. Impossible act to follow.

I have tried several of Tesco own wines and have found them perfectly adequate so far, if you don’t expect them to surpass the best of the best in situ, eg a Chateauneuf-du-Pape bought from the vineyard itself.

Didn’t Which? review Tesco’s own champagne and say it was good? It is!

Cheers, everybody!

Member
Deborah says:
25 August 2015
Profile photo of DaveBiggart
Member

Which experts rated Glenfiddich 12 year old single malt as the top whisky. In Scotland we call this cooking whisky! There are far better single malts from the Spey Valley and the Islands.
Disappointing result from so called experts!! Next time ask people who really know about whisky!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I thought ‘cooking whisky’ referred to a blend, but I won’t argue.

But bland and blend are not too different.

I’m sure I could find a supermarket offering that would appeal more than Glenfiddich.

Profile photo of heather
Member

OOps, getting rather catty !!!!!!!horses for courses, its the old saying ‘ one mans meat is another man’s poisen … so lets play nice!!!!!!