After last month’s look at the current Lidl Wine Tour, attention turns today to the other premium discounter – Aldi.
Read on for my picks from recent arrivals or new vintages in their stores ahead of the usual Christmas specials.
All should be in most stores now.
However, I have pushed the price band up a notch to show some of the more unusual wines their list now features.
My admiration for both discounters is not restricted to price.
After years of spurning gorgonzola sold in the UK, I was won back to it by one mouthful of the great value Lidl version.
It is tangy, nutty, creamier than Stilton and without the ammonia that riddles so many blue cheeses.
Speaking of price and value, the theme recurs in both my Friday Treat and Sunday Best choices.
The red takes you a long way towards an iconic (and much more expensive) Italian star.
Meanwhile the English sparkling wine goes even further down the road towards high standard (and also expensive) rosé champagne.
Do seek them both out.
The images and hyperlinks provided should help you to find them in crowded displays.
Now for those Aldi wines
Starting with a couple of whites
2021 Specially Selected Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc (£8.99 at Aldi and 12% abv):
Although this corner of Western Australia is renowned for its cabernet and chardonnay, it also produces creditable sauvignon blanc.
It is wetter and cooler that other parts of Australia which helps sauvignon appreciably.
Admittedly, though, the end result is less textured and has less forceful acidity than, say, New Zealand versions.
Light in body but with a beautifully clean mouth-feel, it brings us restrained greengage, ripe melon and sherbet lemon flavours combined with zesty lime acidity and grassy but herbal undertones.
A Spanish grape goes west
2021 Specially Selected Uruguayan Albariño (£9.99 at Aldi and 12.5%):
Since the fathers of modern winemaking in Uruguay were largely Basque immigrants, perhaps the main surprise is that Spain’s albarino grapes are only quite recent arrivals.
Conditions in Maldonado, relatively close to the Atlantic, seem to suit the variety well though for this is no novelty product – it can hold its own against even quite expensive options from Rias Baixas.
Soft and rounded, the wine delivers apple, peach and quince flavours supported by a nippy acidic edge that, nevertheless, develops a classic albarino saline finish.
Now a red from somewhere unexpected
2020 Specially Selected Swiss Pinot Noir (£9.99 at Aldi and 13%)
High prices have meant Switzerland is not an automatic choice for wine, but Aldi have experimented with several wines from that country and, for me, this is the best.
It is a pinot from the Valais region which produces wine in the warm but dry Alpine conditions near the fledging River Rhȏne before it crosses into France.
Incredibly soft, the wine has smooth raspberry, blackcurrant and white strawberry flavours embellished by good acidity with hints of cocoa and a certain pinot earthiness, all built into a light body that has only minimal tannin.
Back to more familiar locations
2019 Specially Selected Pézenas (£9.99 at Aldi and 14%):
Pezenas is a sub-appellation of Languedoc from the varied terrain of the area that surrounds the town of the same name.
Given the summer temperatures there, it is (unsurprisingly) powerful wine with high alcohol levels.
It is based on the GSM blend so familiar in the Rhȏne Valley but, slightly unusually, has syrah in the lead and is supplemented here by a dash of carignan (which is permitted in Pezenas provided it stays below the 30% level).
Sturdy and high in alcohol but with surprisingly mild tannin, the result features cherry and damson flavours that are attractively integrated with traces of oregano, vanilla, mocha and liquorice.
My Top Choice
Pleasing to see the new vintage of this superb sparkling wine on Aldi shelves; we have certainly missed it.
Cremant is sparkling wine made by the same method as champagne but in somewhere other than the designated Champagne region.
Not every local variant excels, but this 100% chardonnay version from Jura is an absolute star.
Textured and perfectly balanced, 2019 Specially Selected Cremant du Jura (£8.99 at Aldi and 12%) has a foundation of apple, peach and orange flavours.
These are neatly supplemented by toast and honey touches and given extra verve by sharp grapefruit acidity.
I have mentioned before how Ripasso techniques create a result that sits between basic Valpolicella and its world-famous (and expensive) big brother, Amarone.
The good news for us is that good Ripasso is nearer to Amarone in style but much closer to everyday Valpolicella in price.
This impressive version is densely textured yet contains little tannin and is centred around rich cherry and plum flavours.
Those features are enlivened by good acidity but accompanied by mint, cinnamon and date influences that emerge nicely in its especially smooth finish.
Balfour Cuvee Rosé NV (£22.00 at M&S and 12%)
This is made by the widely acclaimed Hush Heath operation southeast of Tonbridge in Kent and uses the “holy trinity” of champagne grapes (chardonnay and the pinot sisters – noir and meunier).
Make no mistake, you would pay a lot more for rosé champagne of this quality.
Pale pink in colour with a sherbet mouthfeel, it exhibits very lively raspberry, peach and strawberry cheesecake flavours coupled with a rich, creamy texture, sharp grapefruit acidity and a twist of rhubarb to add yet more complexity.
The wine is available in M&S stores and online at Ocado for £22 but is currently down to £19 per bottle on a multi-buy on the M&S website.
Little new to report this morning folk but here’s a reminder that the current promotions at Tesco and the Co-op are due to end next Monday and Tuesday respectively.
My next post (on Monday) contains terrific recommendations of Top Tips for you in the weekly feature of the same name you know so well.
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