Tuesday 21 March 2023

Co-op Sea Salt & Chardonnay Wine Vinegar

With their Sea Salt & Chardonnay Wine Vinegar crisps, the Co-op have delivered a flavour with such a sharp, acidic tang, it'll strip your tongue bare and create a year zero moment for your taste buds. Unfortunately, being a supermarket own-brand packet of crisps, the wider world isn't as aware of the intense experience on offer from these slices of potato. But, thanks to the emergence of British Crisps (and a tip-off from one of our loyal Twitter followers), we can start striving to put these wrongs right.

I've always gone for the established crisp manufacturers when I've been shopping in the supermarket. It's much easier, I reasoned, to go for Walkers or The Real McCoy as opposed to something new and unusual. And as for supermarket own-brands, do me a favour! Why would I pluck for those inferior offerings? Most likely, they've been shovelled up off the floor of some cockroach infested factory and, frankly, I've got tastier things to be putting in my mouth.

It is, of course, a rather outdated view to mock supermarket own-brand products. You see, since the late 1990s, when Tesco (with their Finest range) and then Sainsbury's (with their Taste the Difference range) started treating their customers to gourmet delights for a not unreasonable sum, supermarket own-brands have been more than respectable. Even the budget supermarkets, such as Aldi and Lidl have got in on the act, with their, respectively, Specially Selected and Deluxe ranges proving wildly successful with the consumer.

Positioned somewhere between Tesco/Sainsbury's and Aldi/Lidl are the Co-op and, yes, they have a premium own-brand range as well. Launching in 2003, under the name Truly Irresistible, the Co-op's deluxe range eventually dropped the 'Truly' part of their name in 2016 and simply became Irresistible. It's not a range I've tried before, and this isn't down to snobbery, it's simply because there's never been a Co-op nearby. However, following a hot tip, I made it my mission to venture further afield and pick up a pack of these, apparently, irresistible Sea Salt & Chardonnay Wine Vinegar crisps.

At first glance, the packet is a classy, artisan affair with an atmosphere built upon rustic minimalism. But, look a little longer, and you realise that the Co-op have perhaps taken their minimalism too far. Barely a child's handful of crisps are scattered across a wooden surface with a stingy offering of salt granules, and a lot of space in between. It's not as tight and tidy as I, personally, would have liked. I love minimalism, but it needs to hang together better to make an impact. I was equally baffled as to why, directly beneath the Sea Salt & Chardonnay Wine Vinegar title, they then repeat this title directly below with a few extra words. But, you know, it's what inside that counts.

And, wow, the tangy, salty air immediately hits you as you tear open the packet. It's not dissimilar to walking down a seafront as the sea air intermingles with the myriad chip shops in action, and it helps imbue these crisps with a quintessential British air before they've even been crunched. Talking of crunching it was time to put down my nose and get my mouth into action.

Let's not beat around the potato bush, these are heavenly, but oh so intense. With a strong, satisfying crunch, these crisps unleash an exhilarating rollercoaster ride of a flavour. Starting slowly, the sophisticated and sweet tang of the chardonnay wine vinegar builds and builds to produce a slap in the face not dissimilar to a double espresso, but here it's as if it's being injected directly into your central nervous system.

The sea salt, of course, provides the perfect flavour-enhancing edge and, at times, when some of the crisps were particularly saturated with seasoning, it was genuinely like tucking into a bag of chip shop chips. As with the very best crisps, the quality of the potato here is crucial. And the Co-op have selected some exceptionally hardy potatoes from Herefordshire to go toe-to-toe with their accomplished seasoning.

It's a flavour which simply can't be underestimated. As I wilfully stuffed handful after handful of pure, concentrated acidic flavour into every corner of my mouth, I suddenly realised my senses were being overwhelmed. My nose had begun to run as if I was at the business end of a cold and my lips were not just burning, but pulsating. It's a rare crisp which has had this impact on me, perhaps only the Blair's Death Ray crisps I had several years ago overwhelmed me more, but that's more of a showboating crisp. And it's American, so it's not relevant for British Crisps.

The Co-op's Sea Salt & Chardonnay Wine Vinegar crisps are not for the lighthearted, but for the more hedonistic crisp aficionados, they're an experience which can't be missed. It's unlikely you would want these on a daily basis, thanks to their consciousness-altering ferocity, but as an occasional reminder of what life can be like, these are perfect. Also, I forgot to add, they are fairly greasy, but this simply acts as a fantastic reason to lick your fingers at the end and let the flavour erupt once more. A gem of an own-brand and, at £1 for a 40g bag, a superb premium option.


  1. One of the best reviews of any foodstuff I've ever read. You had me hooked at "create a year zero moment for your taste buds". Like you, I don't have a Co-op near me, but I'm going to search one out and go on a culinary journey. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, I'm new to food reviews, so your comment is very encouraging!