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All hail the true wine world champions: It’s all at the co-op now!

Love or loath them, you can’t avoid big brands in all areas of life, including food and drink and increasingly their products are being delivered to our door by the Daddy of them all – you know who it is, I don’t need to say.

Whilst I joke, through clenched teeth, that my sister has probably financed Jeff Bezos’ recent galactic jaunt, I’m still cheered by the Brits’ love of supporting the ‘little guy’ and increasingly, independent producers.

But who to champion in the world of wine? Well, you might want to explore bottles and boxes from wine co-operatives around the world. They are often hidden in plain sight and only a click away online.

As the name suggests, they are generally a group of vineyard owners working together to produce wine. They sell their grapes to the cooperative which then makes the wine and sells it on.

Depending on the wine laws relevant to the country and area, which can be eye-wateringly strict, there are lots of checks on quantity, quality and even things like sugar content. The bottle or box doesn’t always mention the co-op bit – so how would you even know?

A good example of this is: Paco and Lola, a Galicia-based winery in Spain, is super-accessible as you can buy some of their wines in Tesco and Sainsbury’s. They certainly have bags of style, particularly if you are a fan of polka dots, which they have enthusiastically used throughout their branding.

Not only do the labels look great, the wine is lovely too. Founded in 2005, Paco & Lola has around 400 members – all local growers wanting to take their production to a professional level. It is the largest cooperative of the DO Rías Baixas.

If you ever go to this gorgeous area of Spain (and you really should), then please do pay them a visit. I went around eight years ago and absolutely loved it.

The most famous white grape variety of the region is Albariño. It has great acidity with citrus notes and a touch of white flowers on the nose. This makes it an excellent pairing with fish and is a match made in heaven. £12 at Tesco and available at Sainsbury’s too.

If you are a fan of Italian wines, then you need to look out for Vinchio Vaglio-Sera, based in the prestigious Piemonte region of Northern Italy. Medal winners at the People’s Choice Wine Awards and newly imported to the UK by Husky Wines, the Barbera grape is at the heart of what they do.

Founded in 1959 by 19 local vine-growers, it now has 192 members who are owners and tenants of around 450 hectares of vineyards, which are mostly on very steep slopes with fantastic sun exposure.

It is difficult to choose one as they are all so fabulous, but this Vigne Vecchie 50 2017 is a stunning Barbera D’Asti made from 50+ year old vines. It goes with red meats, mushrooms and game. It is also delicious with mature cheeses £17.50 available at Husky Wines online:

If you want to find out more about VVS, here is a snapshot of what they are all about. Warning: If, like me, you’ve not been on holiday for about 18 months, you might just cry.

Finally, how can you hear the words Tutti Frutti Ananas and not want to know more? Based in the Banyuls area of Roussillon in Southern France, “the guys” (as they describe themselves on their website) farm organically on a combination of sand, schist and quartz from vineyards both close to the sea and up in the mountains which loom above.

They make the wines together in Les 9 Caves, a cooperative cellar they share in an old garage in the town’s centre. The wines ferment and age in large concrete vats and are bottled young, brimming with life. Yields are low, resulting in powerful and intense wines.

Toranja

Toranja is a direct press of Grenache Gris from a parcel planted over pure schist. This carries a slight spritz and offers real refreshment through a combination of minerals, lemons and a beautiful saltiness. Available at Reserve Wines (online and in store) for £24.50.

All these lovely people might not be jetting off into outer space any time soon, but their wines are out of this world.

Main pic: @rodrigospabreu

Janet Harrison
Janet Harrison runs Cracking Wine, providing fun and informal wine tasting events in the North of England. She is also founder of the People's Choice Wine Awards.

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