New Which? research finds you don’t have to break the bank this Christmas to put the best tasting food and drink on the table.
Consumers could save nearly £30 this Christmas by buying the best mince pies, Champagne and sparkling wine as opposed to the most expensive item voted by our experts in our blind taste tests. We found the ones with the biggest price tags aren’t always the best, with the supermarkets’ own labels often beating the big brands and luxury retailers.
Waitrose’s Blanc de Noirs Brut NV (£21.99) was awarded a Best Buy and scored the highest with 83%. It beat off competition from big brands Lanson Champagne Black Label Brut NV (£32.99, also a Best Buy), Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut NV (£32.99) and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV (£36.99), despite being at least £10 cheaper.
The Co-operative’s Prosecco DOC Special Cuvée Brut (£9.99) scored top spot with 77% in our sparkling wines league table, with Tesco Finest Prosecco DOC (£9.99) coming a close second and Lidl’s Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2012 Extra Dry (£7.29), the second cheapest we tried, rated third.
We also tested luxury mince pies from major supermarkets and top retailers. The cheapest – Aldi Specially Selected 6 Luxury Mince Pies (£1.69 for six) – came top, followed by Lidl Snowy Lodge 6 Luxury Mince Pies (£1.79 for six) and M&S Handcrafted Ultimate All Butter Mince Pies (£4 for four). Aldi’s mince pies are nearly eight times cheaper per mince pie than the most expensive we tested -Fortnum & Mason Traditional Mince Pies (£12.95 for six) – which came last.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
“With the rising cost of living squeezing so many household budgets, it’s good news that you don’t have to splash out to get good quality food and drink for Christmas. But watch out for gift websites that charge over the odds.”
Which? also tested gluten-free mince pies and English sparkling wines this year. Our experts rated the M&S Gluten Free Mince Pies highly (75%), and two English sparkling wines (M&S Marksman English Sparkling Vintage 2009 by Ridgeview and Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2010, available from Waitrose and online) scored better than Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot Champagnes, despite being around £7 cheaper.
In a separate snapshot study Which? also revealed many gift experience websites are charging more than if you buy the gift directly with the retailer. Out of 14 gift experiences we looked at, you could buy 11 of them cheaper by going direct. For example, a sushi-making workshop by Yo! Sushi and tickets to a ‘Meet the Expert’ event with Oz Clarke at Vinopolis were both £10 more expensive when booked through gift sites rather than directly.
Notes to editors:
1. For a copy of any of the magazine articles please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Mince pies: We asked major supermarkets, Fortnum & Mason, Harrods and Selfridges to nominate a traditional-style premium or luxury mince pie from their own label-range. We also asked them for a gluten-free version if they produce one. A panel of four experts blind tasted each pie warm, and in a different order. They scored each pie on appearance, aroma, texture and taste. We combined these ratings into an overall score. Our experts were: Dan Lepard, award-winning baker, contributor to The Guardian and judge on the 2013 Great Australian Bake Off; Will Torrent, award-winning pastry chef and consultant pastry chef; Gerhard Jenne, creative director of London bespoke cake shop Konditor & Cook; and Patrick Moore, award-winning artisan bread maker.
3. Champagnes and sparkling wines: We asked major supermarkets to nominate one own-label or exclusive, non-vintage brut, white Champagne costing £35 or less; and one own-label or exclusive white brut sparkling wine, vintage or non-vintage, costing between £6.75 and £20. We also asked supermarkets for their own label or exclusive English sparkling wine, and we also included two widely available English sparkling wines. The wines were chilled, their identities hidden, and a panel of five experts tasted each one in a different order. Prices were correct as we went to press. Our experts were: Charles Metcalfe, author, wine and food speaker and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge (IWC); Derek Smedley MW, Master of Wine since 1968; Peter McCombie MW, speaker wine consultant and co-chairman of the IWC; Kathryn McWhirter, author and wine writer; and Joanna Simon, award-winning writer, including 22 years as The Sunday Times wine critic.
4. We checked the prices of 14 different gifts/experiences direct from the retailer and on five different gift websites. For 11 gifts, it was cheaper to buy direct from the retailer than through a gift website and of the 48 prices we checked, 26 were more expensive on the gift sites. Prices were checked on the same day.
5. Consumers could save nearly £30: We compared the best scoring item in each category – mince pies, Champagne and sparkling wine – with the most expensive item we tested. Buying Aldi mince pies (£1.69) instead of Fortnum & Mason (£12.95) would save you £11.26; buying The Co-operative sparkling wine (£9.99) instead of Morrisons (£12.99) would save you £3; and buying Waitrose Champagne (£21.99) instead of Veuve Cliquot (£36.99) would save you £15. This adds up to a total of £29.26.
6. Full league tables:
Those marked ‘BB’ have been awarded a Which? Best Buy.
Best mince pies
1. Aldi Specially Selected 6 Luxury Mince Pies (£1.69 for six), 78%, BB
2. Lidl Snowy Lodge 6 Luxury Mine Pies (£1.79 for six), 70%, BB
3. M&S Handcrafted Ultimate All Butter Mince Pies (£4 for four), 70%, BB
4. Tesco Finest Deep Filled All Butter Pastry Mince Pies (£2.50 for six), 68%
5. Harrods Luxury Almond & Brandy Mince Pies (£9.50 for six), 66%
6. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All Butter Mince Pies (£2.50 for six), 66%
7. Asda Extra Special Luxury Mince Pies (£2 for six), 65%
8. Waitrose All Butter Mince Pies (£2.50 for six), 59%
9. The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Luxury All Butter Mince Pies (£2.50 for six), 58%
10. Selfridges Traditional Mince Pies (£6.99 for six), 58%
11. Morrisons M Signature All Butter Deep Filled Mince Pies (£2 for six), 55%
12. Fortnum & Mason Traditional Mince Pies (£12.95 for six), 54%
Gluten free mince pies
1. M&S Gluten Free Mince Pies (£2.49 for four), 75% (Also wheat-free)
2. Sainsbury’s Freefrom (£1.75 for four), 67% (Also wheat- and dairy-free)
3. Waitrose Love Life Free From Gluten Deep Filled Mince Pies (£2.50 for four), 57%
4. Lovemore Mince Pies (£1.99 for four), 57% (Also wheat-free)
Best Champagnes & sparkling wines
1. Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut NV (£21.99), 83%, BB
2. Lanson Black Label Brut NV (£32.99), 82%, BB
3. Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut NV (£32.99), 77%
4. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV (£36.99), 77%
5. Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs Brut NV (£21.99), 76%
6. Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne (£19.99), 75%
7. Aldi Champagne Veuve Monsigny Brut by Philizot (£12.99), 74%
8. Morrisons M Signature Champagne Brut (£19.99), 74%
9. Asda Extra Special Louis Bernard Champagne Premier Cru Brut (£19.75), 72%
10. Lidl Comte de Brismand Champagne Reserve Brut (£12.99), 72%
11. The Co-operative Les Pionniers Selected Cuvee Brut (£19.99), 69%
12. M&S De Saint Gall Brut Premier Cru Tradition (£29), 65%
1. The Co-operative Prosecco DOC Special cuvée Brut (£9.99), 77%, BB
2. Tesco Finest Prosecco DOC (£9.99), 76%, BB
3. Lidl Conegliano Valdobbiandene Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2012 Extra Dry (£7.29), 75%, BB
4. Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Brut (£9.99), 75%, BB
5. Asda Extra Special Prosecco Brut (£8.25), 74%, BB
6. Waitrose Prosecco NV Italy (£8.99), 71%
7. Aldi Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura Chardonnay 2011 (£6.99), 70%
8. M&S Cava Heretat El Padruell NV Brut, (£7.99), 70%
9. Morrisons Lavit Segura Viudas Cava Brut Nature 2011 (£12.99), 69%
10. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco DOC Superiore Brut 2012 (£9.99), 63%
English sparkling wine
1. Marks and Spencer Marksman English Sparkling Brut NV Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2009 by Ridgeview (£26.00), 79%
2. Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2010 (£24.99), 78% (Waitrose and online)
3. Breaky Bottom Brut 2008 Sussex (£23.99), 74% (selected branches of Waitrose, WaitroseDirect.com
4. Plumpton Estate The Dean Brut NV (£20.99), 69% (selected branches of Waitrose, WaitroseDirect.com)
5. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference English Sparkling Brut 2007 by Denbies (£19.99), 69%