I’m aware there’s a degree of misplaced optimism in writing about wine for students. There always was, but it’s worse nowadays, when there are so many other rival attractions – craft beer, cocktails (especially in cans), gin (rather than vodka these days, it seems), not to mention alcohol-free – and when almost a third of under-25s don’t drink at all. It also won’t come as a massive surprise that students are not that different in their tastes from other young wine drinkers.
Judging by a brief and totally unscientific recent poll I conducted on a couple of students who were heading back to university, they look for names and grape varieties they recognise (sauvignon blanc), styles they’ve found they like (mainly whites and rosés) and prices they can afford – “Anything cheap, basically.” Reds don’t get much of a look-in, apparently, or at least not until year two.
Wine in cans has certainly made wines more accessible, but as I found when I did a round-up as part of a Guardian canned drinks survey earlier in the year, they’re not particularly inspiring. Maybe they don’t need to be, but the Isla Negra Chilean sauvignon in today’s pick, which has come out since that tasting, is better than most.
It’s interesting that the Save the Student website advises that there’s better value in own-label offerings, which you’d think would be a given, though maybe students, like many of their parents, I suspect, feel that brands are more impressive. They might well find a good starting point is the helpful ABC approach of Spar’s Letter Collection range, which I’ve recommended here before, though some are more impressive than others (skip the malbec if you’re already a fan, but the chardonnay is really impressive for the money). Being a local offie, Spar also ticks the convenience box. I wouldn’t have thought many students would be buying their booze online.
If I were a wine producer, I’d be a bit worried about all this – there are only so many students who are going to join a university wine club, after all – and devote more of my energies into promoting my brand on TikTok, which doesn’t seem to have leveraged as much of a following for wine as it has for potatoes, of all things. (What wine influencer has the reach of potato-mad @poppycooks, who has an amazing 1.8m followers and counting?)
Maybe that’s the line to pursue: persuade students that they could be the next wine influencer or TikTok star, and they’ll be lining up bottles in no time, mark my words.
Four affordable, student-friendly wines
Spar Letter Collection M Merlot 2020 £5.49 (on offer), 12.5%. Merlot is a good place to start with red wine, especially with this soft, nicely rounded example. The same range’s chardonnay is more than decent for the price, too.
Isla Negra Seashore Sauvignon Blanc Pedro Ximénez £2 (250ml can) Tesco, 12%. A lot of canned wine is pretty dire, but this refreshing, citrussy, Chilean white does actually taste of sauvignon.
Aldi Specially Selected New Zealand Marlborough Pinot Noir 2020 £7.99, 13%. Not the most exciting label but its gorgeously lush fruit makes this a great one to take to a friend’s for dinner.
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com