Christmas 2014: Which supermarkets topped the Moneywise taste test?
From delicious mince pies to sparkling champagnes, Christmas can be as bad for your bank balance as it is for your waistline. Fortunately for you, Moneywise is here at least to help with the former.
We want to make sure that whatever treats you're planning to stock up on over the next few weeks are of the best quality and value for money, too. With that in mind, we blind-tested seven of the UK's major supermarkets' own-brand mince pies and champagnes to find the best for Christmas 2014.
How we scored the test
Fifteen members of the Moneywise team were asked to taste seven mince pies and seven champagnes (it's a tough job!). While the supermarket name was kept hidden, the team was informed of the price. They were asked to rate the mince pies and champagne on taste and value for money (and appearance of the pies).
They were invited to score them from one to five, with one being poor and five excellent. Average scores were calculated to reveal the winners and runners-up.
Battle of the bubbly
Winner: Waitrose Brut NV Champagne
It was an unseasonably warm Hallowe'en afternoon but when Christmas came early to Moneywise HQ, we duly donned our paper hats and got down to business.
We started off with the bubbly. Prices ranged from £11.99 to £25 and while there was a clear howler among the pack, the rest all went down pretty well. The runaway winner for the team was a £19.99 offering from Waitrose – the Waitrose Brut NV Champagne.
Comments were universally positive, with one of our tasters, Moneywise chief sub-editor Hannah Nemeth, noting "it has a lovely taste with a great, fresh flavour – beautiful". Our editor Mark King was impressed, too, and remarked on its "very crisp and clean" taste.
The team was satisfied with the price point, scoring 4.4 points for value for money and it topped our score cards with an overall average score of 4.3 out of five.
Taking second place was the Morrisons bubbly – WM Champagne at £18.99 – which achieved an overall score of 3.2, followed by Asda's £25 bottle (2.86) in third place and Lidl's at £11.99 (2.6) in fourth place.
Languishing down at the bottom of the champagne league was the budget offering from Aldi, also priced at £11.99. The supermarket has seen huge success in recent years but its "flat", "horrible" and "unpleasant" Monsigny Champagne left us with a sour taste in
It scored a woeful 1 for taste, while it picked up just 2.1 points for value for money. So not even the cheap price was enough to bolster our tasters and, as a result, Aldi came in last place with an overall score of 1.6.
Interestingly, its fellow budget competitor, Lidl, managed to beat both Tesco and Sainsbury's into fifth and sixth place respectively with its Comte de Senneval bottle, also costing £11.99. It only scored 2.2 on taste (deemed "very average" by one taster) but scored better than the supermarket giants when it came to value for money – achieving a score of 3, compared to 2.4 for Tesco's Grand Cru Vintage Champagne 2007 at £24.99 and just 1.8 for Sainsbury's Blanc De Noirs bottle (£17.99).
Champagne taste test
|Supermarket||Own brand||Price||Overall score out of 5|
|Waitrose||Waitrose Brut NV Champagne 75cl||£19.99||4.3|
|Asda||Louise Bernard Vintage Champagne 2009||£25||2.9|
|Lidl||Comte de Senneval Champagne||£11.99||2.6|
|Tesco||Grand Cru Vintage Champagne 2007||£24.99||2.5|
|Sainsbury's||Blanc De Noirs Champagne 75cl||£17.99||2.1|
Winner: Aldi Specially Selected Mince Pies
It's not all bad news for Aldi. Its Specially Selected Mince Pies came out on top with an impressive overall score of 3.9 out of five. The snowflake-decorated pies were described as having a "delicious filling" that was not "too sweet" but it only came fourth on the taste score due to the pies' "crumbly" pastry.
However, we were very impressed with the price – £1.40 for six works out at just 24p per pie – and its value score of 4.3, boosting the overall score enough to secure the inaugural Moneywise Mince Pie of The Year: 2014 prize.
Our runner-up emerged as Waitrose's All Butter Mince Pies. They secured second place, with an overall score of 3.7.
While Tesco came third with its Tesco Finest Mini Mince Pies at £2.50 for 12, it was fourth place Sainsbury's that caused a bit of a stir around the tasting table. The price of its Handcrafted Blackcurrant and Cassis Mince Pies really let it down. When it came to taste alone, Sainsbury's pipped Aldi to the post, achieving a mark of 3.9 on average, compared to Aldi's 3.5.
Sainsbury's pies were described as tasting "homemade" and "really fruity". But our tasters gave the thumbs down to the price – £3.50 for a pack of four (85p per pie) was deemed too expensive, resulting in a value-for-money score of just 2.9 and leaving it in fourth place with a final score of 3.4.
In last place was Asda for its six-pack of Luxury Mince Pies at £2.50. The tasters were unimpressed, calling them "unpleasant" and "far too sweet".
So what does Moneywise's taste test 2014 go to show?
From our findings, it is clear you don't have to spend a fortune to have a great Christmas. Don't pre-judge a supermarket on what you think it might offer. While Waitrose came top in our Champagne test, it wasn't the most expensive on offer (Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda all have more costly bubbly) and low-cost Aldi was the very best when it came to mince pies.
So shop around – you'll be able to cater for all your family and friends without breaking the bank.
Mince-Pie Taste Test
|Supermarket||Own brand||Price||Overall score out of 5|
|Aldi||Specially Selected Mince Pies x6||£1.49||3.9|
|Waitrose||Waitrose All Butter Mince Pies x6||£2.50||3.7|
|Tesco||Tesco Finest Mini Mince Pies x12||£2.50||3.6|
|Sainsbury's||Taste the Difference Handcrafted Blackcurrant & Cassis Mince Pies x4||£3.50||3.4|
|Morrisons||All Butter Deep Filled Mince Pies x6||£1.79||3.2|
|Lidl||Snowy Lodge Mince Pies x12||£1.79||2.8|
|Asda||Asda Luxury Mince Pies x6||£1.89||2.7|
Christmas crackers: the inside story
To make sure your Christmas lunch goes with a bang, we also tested a selection of supermarket crackers to see which ones delivered the biggest bang for your buck.
Using the same scoring system as for the Champagne and mince pies, Lidl's Luxury Crackers (£4 for six) scored best at 4. These classy crackers wowed us with their gifts (our testers got playing cards, a bottle opener, nail clippers and a set of measuring spoons) and overall quality.
Waitrose's Christmas Gold Trail Crackers (£10 for 12, 83p per cracker) came in second with a score of 3.4 and were praised for their gold and silver holly design.
Most disappointing were Sainsbury's Christmas Crackers, with a score of 2.3 out of five. While 30p a cracker (£4 for 12) might seem cheap, our testers were unimpressed – describing them as "low on quality" and "tacky in appearance".