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Shop Early for Christmas

The second tranche of Aldi’s seasonal offerings went into their stores yesterday and these are – in my view – its highlights.

Since this is the Christmas range the prices – and the quality of what is on offer – go up accordingly.

As ever, there is also a Top Tip to help you enjoy wine – along with my suggestions for the Best of the Rest.

Where pictures are available, click on the image for an enlarged version that should help you pinpoint the specific wine.

Where value white burgundy lives

White burgundy from that region’s prestigious vineyards are inevitably prohibitively expensive but head south to Macon or Cote Chalonnaise and prices do moderate. Those from Montagny – in the second of those two regions – can often be weighty enough for comparisons with its  illustrious northern neighbours.

Look, for instance, at the soft and mellow 2015 Jean Bouchard Montagny Premier Cru (£14.99 and 13.5% abv) with its red apple and spice texture skilfully balanced with a fresh, sharp, acidic mouth feel.

Avoiding the peaks of terroir and price

While Chorey les Beaunes – between Aloxe Corton and Beaune itself – lacks the impressive hillside vineyards of some appellations it nicely captures the spirit of Burgundy but  – often – without the associated price tag.

I feel that 2015 Chorey Les Beaunes Veilles Vignes (£16.99 and 13%) does exactly that with the earthy beetroot touches that work well with its lively cherry and blackcurrant fruit but soft tannin.

Well priced claret – with status

Switching to the other big beast of French winemaking – Bordeaux – the Aldi collection contains a chateau in a prime left bank region but which, itself, has sometimes failed fully to live up to its Fifth Growth status.

Nevertheless, the medium bodied 2014 Chateau Croizet-Bages Pauillac (£19.99 and 13.5%) is attractively sound  claret with firm acidity and mild tannin beneath its cherry (and presumably cabernet derived) blackcurrant fruit and the vanilla or cinnamon touches that support it.

But move to Italy for a sweetie

For a dessert wine, I will not stray into the sauternes of Bordeaux but instead will head to North East Italy for the recioto processes they use there to dry (and concentrate) the grapes destined for wines that bear that sobriquet.

Despite its spicy sweetness Veneto’s 2014 Recioto Della Valpolicella (£8.99 for a  half bottle and 12.5%) still delivers the bramble and plum flavours you expect from thereabouts and keeps the sweetness sharp and clean rather than cloying.

Age really can count

Although the collection contains a range of fortified wines, I (inevitably, perhaps) judged the dearest to be the best by a margin – especially given its excellent price for 40 year old tawny.

So, relish the warmth and smoothness of Maynards 40 Year Old Tawny Port (£29.99 and, of course, 20%) along with its figgy, nutty and brown sugar influences but with nice fruity acidity to keep everything in balance.

Think big for Christmas fizz

Sales of magnums are increasing rapidly – especially with prosecco – so join the throng this Christmas time with this well made – and kindly priced – king sized bottle.

Soft, rich and creamy, Ca’di Pietra Prosecco (£12.99 for a magnum and 11%) has neatly balanced pear and apple flavours given touches of sweetness and ripeness by attractive suggestions of peach.

Dreaming of a blanc de blanc Christmas

Finally, to champagne and I am not going to focus on the ever popular £10.99 version – good as it is – but head for the blanc de blanc – 100% chardonnay of course.

The dominant flavour in 2006 Veuve Monsigny Blanc de Blanc Brut (£19.99 and 12%) is apple but this is presented in a sophisticated, soft, gentle and rounded fashion that seems to know when – and to what extent – to introduce those appealing biscuit influences.

Best of the Rest

Great Value Californian Red (usually an oxymoron)

Ruby cabernet is a cross between cabernet sauvignon and carignan designed to deliver the finesse of the first and the heat resistance of the second. It has been more successful with the second of those goals than the first but still provides a great value, fresh and lively party red.

So, do try California’s lightly textured 2016 California Ruby Cabernet (£5 at M&S and 12.5%) with its nutty, cherry fruit, good acidity, firm tannin and accompanying touches of milk chocolate and clove.

And an Inexpensive Italian White

Tesco currently has a nice run of inexpensive Italian whites – often from little known grape varieties – but, for me, this is the pick of the bunch at entry point price levels.

Enjoy then Abruzzo’s 2016 Finest*  Passerina (£6 – instead of £6.50 until 20 November – at Tesco and 13%) with its surprisingly sharp quince centred edge, textured pear and white peach fruit given extra complexity by a twist of minty toffee.

Top Tips

Wine by the Glass

Time was when one was reluctant to order wine by the glass in a restaurant. Not only did it diminish your choice but it seemed to signal parsimony.

Thanks in part to effective wine preservation systems, a much wider range of wines are now available by the glass – even for relatively expensive wines.

It also plays well to food matching enthusiasts. How often does that rugged red get ruled out when one of the party chooses a fish dish instead of the steak everyone has ordered?

Now it is great to see groups of four, each having different wine with their first courses and, again, with their main courses – eight different options.

For the health conscious, a couple each having a (probably different) 125ml glass with their first course and doing the same (with a 175 glass) for their main course will still drink 20% less than if they shared a bottle.

So, if you still have a prejudice against wine by the glass – now may be time for a re-think.


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