Wines from the discount supermarkets: are they worth the fuss?
All images provided by Aldi and Lidl, unless otherwise specified.
Discount supermarkets are worth their weight in gold, or wine anyway, at the moment! With the national retailers battling it out against each other for the Xmas season's best buys and New Year's Eve celebratory fizz, the cold winter months beckon and so does the wine. Given the bewildering choice facing us now, where should we go for those warming winter bargains and, importantly, are they any good?
Aldi and Lidl have redefined the minimum standards expected now of inexpensive wines that can be bought at your local supermarket. These 'discount supermarkets' offer a selection of food and drink which has raised eyebrows, not just because of the pricing, but for their quality, picking up several coveted awards. So, with this mind, I hosted the latest of my wine tastings, showcasing a selection of 14 wines from Aldi and Lidl which had impressed me earlier in the year and which demonstrate these two companies' ethos on pricing and quality.
Aldi has a core range, as well as limited availability/seasonal offerings. Some of their wines are only available online, while others can be purchased in stores. Their 'Lot Series' comprises a special selection, created exclusively for Aldi in small batches with limited edition, individually numbered bottles at a price of £9.99 each. The 'Exquisite Collection' represents a separate series of good quality wines from top producers in renowned regions around the world. For this tasting, I chose a mix from their core and seasonal ranges, including a couple from the 'Exquisite Collection':-
- Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura £7.49 (core)
With notes of green apples and citrus, softened by a hint of creamy biscuit and good length on the palate, this is a wonderful example of a 100% Chardonnay sparkler from the lesser known French wine region of Jura near the Swiss border. Try this with trout or enjoy on its own for a celebratory glass of fizz that makes a refreshing change from Prosecco and costs a fraction of the cost of a 'Blanc de Blancs' Champagne! One of the best value sparkling wines in the UK today!
- 'Exquisite Collection' Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie 2015 £4.99 (core)
Amazing value for this Loire classic with lemon and stone fruit freshness. The perfect partner for fish or seafood and a good option for anyone seeking a lighter style of wine.
- 'La Altelana' Gavi di Gavi 2015 £7.99 (seasonal)
Made from Cortese, Piedmont's finest white grape, this is a great party wine with lovely floral, citrus and mineral notes. Good as an aperitif, this would also go well with roast chicken.
- Sancerre 2015 £9.99 (seasonal)
Floral, citrus nose with lemon and lime notes, a hint of pear, refreshing acidity and a touch of that characteristic Sancerre flintiness on the palate. Delicious with smoked salmon, goats' cheese and light, white meat dishes.
- Venturer Costieres de Nimes 2015 £4.99 (seasonal)
What great value from this southern Rhone (previously Languedoc) appellation! Blackberries, black cherries, garrigue herbs and peppery spice notes make this a red wine suited to venison or lamb stew and other hearty winter meals.
- Toro Loco Reserva 2012 £4.99 (seasonal)
From Utiel Requeña, a Spanish wine region just west of Valencia, this is a powerful, fragrant, earthy and red fruit-dominant (particularly cranberry) wine. Made from a blend of red grape varieties, including the native Bobal, this was aged for 12 months in oak giving a softening touch of vanilla and coconut. Try this with duck or game.
- Estevez Cabernet-Carmenere 2014 £4.79 (core)
A blend also containing Syrah, this comes from Chile's Maule Valley. Aromatic with soft, fruity notes of plums, blackcurrants and red cherries plus hints of black pepper, coffee, chocolate and a touch of tobacco. A versatile, food-friendly wine that would pair well with red and white meat, especially spicy dishes, or cheese.
- 'Exquisite Collection' Malbec 2016 (£6 for 75cl bottle - part of core range) or 2016 (£11.99 for magnum - seasonal offer).
We tried the 2015 vintage, which showed notes of plums, blackberries, touches of cinnamon, white pepper and violet plus a long finish. This would go very well with sausages or grilled meat.
- La Sogara Amarone Della Valpolicella 2013 £11.99 (seasonal and only available until the end of 2016 and into the new year while stocks last.)
A warming winter treat, good Amarone is not often available at a low price, unsurprising given the process and skill involved in making it. This example, brimming with sour cherry and raspberry juiciness plus hints of Christmas spice, while not the most complex, is fabulous value and would complement beautifully venison or beef dishes. Make sure you open the bottle at least one or two hours before drinking.
Lidl has a core range and also six limited edition 'Wine Cellar' promotions during the year, an increase from four in 2015. Each of these collections comprises around 40 wines and once sold, they are gone! Additionally, they sometimes have other wines on limited offer, e.g. a Champagne Magnum for Christmas. So, eager to showcase some gems from their 2016 Christmas 'Wine Cellar' collection while still in store, I chose the following:-
- Borgo Regio NV Franciacorta Brut £8.99
Impossibly good value! Where else could you get a Franciacorta at this price? Lovely fresh notes of grapefruit, peach and nectarine make this a sure fire hit at Xmas and New Year's Eve celebrations!
- Sassi del Mare Beneventano Falanghina 2015 £7.99
Brilliant Lidl value again! This time, a wine made with the ancient Falanghina grape from Campania in south-western Italy. Crisp, aromatic green apples, almond and cherry stone notes with refreshing hints of bitter orange and lemon make this an utterly fabulous and versatile food-friendly treat, especially with fish.
- Viento de Otoño Godello 2015 £8.99
I've always loved Godello, a grape variety indigenous to Galicia in north-west Spain, so I was delighted to discover this little gem. Rounded stone fruit notes with touches of cream, nuts, citrus, fresh pear & pineapple. Ideal for food, particularly with fish or paella, but it would also go well with chicken and turkey.
- Gál Tibor Egri Bikavér TITI 2015 £8.99
Named after the nickname of a legendary Hungarian winemaker's son, this red blend could be served lightly chilled. The 14% ABV isn't noticeable, while the bright fruit notes certainly are with red and black berries to the fore plus touches of spice and vanilla plus good acidity. A great wine for the price and one which would pair well with peppered steak, meat stews, goose and many spicy dishes.
- Trockenbeerenauslese 2015 £7.99
Unbelievably good value again for this not often seen German sweet wine, full of orchard fruit and sultana goodness! Try with blue cheese or apple cake. Alternatively, if you can force yourself, store away for many years and enjoy at a later date!
My group loved this selection with Aldi's Crémant du Jura and Lidl's Falanghina being the most popular choices and happy participants commented that they will be heading for their nearest stores very soon!
You don't have to wait long for Lidl's next promotion, as on 26th January 2017, a new, limited collection of 38 wines will be launched in stores. These will feature a selection of mainly French and Spanish wines plus a few others, many with lower alcohol levels than we have become accustomed to. Generally, these are of a lighter style and meant for easier drinking to fit in with a less indulgent post-Xmas time of year! In particular, look out for the following three, which I was able to sample at a recent Press Tasting:-
Image by Robin Goldsmith.
- Pfaffenheim Tête à Tête Pinot Gris Riesling 2015, Alsace £7.99
An absolute treat and a must for white wine lovers! Fresh notes of apples, pears and some tropical fruits too with gentle, spicy hints of white pepper and cinnamon.
Image by Robin Goldsmith.
- Val de Salis Syrah 2014, Vin de Pays d'Oc £5.99
Great value for this Languedoc Syrah with plum and black fruit notes, light touches of coffee, vanilla and prunes plus gentle spice that builds and stays.
Image by Robin Goldsmith.
- Casa Ermelinda Freitas Rosário Branco 2015, Peninsula de Setúbal £4.49
For something completely off-piste, look out for this unusual Portuguese white that's light, delicate, floral and fruity with notes of stone fruit, citrus and hints of papaya.
So are low cost supermarket wines worth the fuss? Based on these latest offerings, the answer is an emphatic 'Yes'! Choose wisely and look out for some amazing offers throughout the year, but be quick to grab some seasonal bargains for Christmas and the New Year while stocks last. Safe and happy drinking!