With another Lidl promotion due at the end of the month, this is a good moment to focus on that other premium discounter – Aldi.
Here is a selection of the wines the company’s astute and very approachable wine buyer Mike James has assembled for us.
Also in today’s post are a couple of Best of the Rest options plus a terrific insight into the wisdom of a brilliant winemaker – Kym Milne MW. Kym has answered some questions especially for MidWeek Wines.
Click on any of the bottles shown for an enlarged image to help you pinpoint the wine on a crowded display.
Sauvignon but not from the Big Two
Sauvignon blanc drinkers (which are legion) tend to gravitate either towards assertive Marlborough versions or more subdued and laid-back options from the Loire Valley but do try this “middle ground”example from Chile’s Leyda Valley which is well worth seeking out – especially at this price.
Enjoy then the freshness and clarity of 2017 Exquisite Collection Leyda Sauvignon Blanc (£5.49 and 13% abv) which is skilfully counterbalanced by a herbal depth that supplements the wine’s lemon and gooseberry fruit.
Australia does dry riesling so well
Generations ago the numerous German settlers in parts of South Australia brought with them their classic riesling grapes. Clare Valley is one area where it has adapted brilliantly bringing fabulous examples of dry riesling often, like this, without a king’s ransom price label.
Fresh and embellished with lively acidity 2017 Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling ( £6.99 and 12.5%) offers a luscious range of flavours that run between lemon, lime, apple and grapefruit. A veritable feast for your taste buds.
NZ pinot gris makes headlines again.
A week or two back, David Kermode lauded the brilliance of New Zealand pinot gris and here is a great example – but from the North Island rather than the tasty South Island examples he cited.
With discernible yet restrained grapefruit centred acidity 2017 Lot Series Ashwood Estate Gisborne Pinot Gris (£6.99 and 13.5%) supports its ripe apple and white peach fruit well and adds further complexity with peppermint based depth and a nice concluding savoury twist.
Great value red with classy blending partners
The sturdiness of nero d’avola is making it an increasingly popular Sicilian grape but here it gains a little help from two classic grapes, merlot and syrah – but be wary of higher alcohol wines in very hot weather!
To me the more expensive Fire Tree Riserva is outpointed by the great value 2017 Fire Tree Sicilian Nero D’Avola Appasimento (£4.99 and 14.5%) with its modestly textured raspberry and red cherry fruit, good acidity but firm tannin and a smooth, vanilla finish.
Oh we do love good malbec!
As the Best of the Rest feature suggests, the UK loves good malbec (especially as the Bank Holiday weather launched the BBQ season) and versions like this from the Uco Valley (where the avaerage altitude is higher) always seem especially attractive.
Conforming to the increasingly popular formula of limited tannin but firm acidity, 2017 Exquisite Collection Argentinian Malbec ((£5.99 and 13%) will secure many friends with its soft and herbal raspberry fruit neatly wrapped around with cinnamon spiciness.
Great quality champagne
Aldi are good on fizz with long standing quality options like its Cremant du Jura or the more recent addition of organic prosecco but its “one third of each traditional grape variety” champagne remains a steal at the price.
Savour then the firm lemon and green apple acidity of Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (£10.99 and 12%) which is neatly counterbalanced by just the right levels of mellow biscuit based depth.
A treat for subscribers in Scotland
MidWeekers in Scotland who enjoy quality gin should also look out for this lovely version (which is one of three made for Scottish Aldi stores by the St Andrews based Eden Mill distillery and – to me – the best of the trio).
I loved the lively flavour spectrum at work in Eden Mill Traditional Batch Gin (£19.99 for 50cl) which ranges from minty freshness to ginger edged depth with suggestions of caraway and liquorice to round it all out.
Best of the Rest
Delicate yet savoury too.
See what I mean with Central Italy’s light and floral 2017 Taste the Difference Verdicchio Classico (£6 – instead of £7 until 22 May – at Sainsbury’s and 13%) which also has sharp lime acidity behind its pineapple and green apple fruit and that promised savoury edge.
Buy it before 13 May as part of a (possibly mixed) half dozen and save a further 25%.
Another great malbec for the BBQ season
The southern Bio Bio region of Chile is discernibly cooler than wine regions nearer the equator and that must test malbec’s forgiving nature to the full – but this version is (as its name implies) hard to resist.
Enjoy then the soft and medium bodied 2016 Co-op Irresistible Bio Bio Valley Malbec (£6.99 at the Co-op and 13.5%) with its cherry and raspberry fruit, limited tannin, good acidity and finish containing touches of vanilla and of cinnamon.
Kym secured his Oenology Degree in Australia in 1980 and became a Master of Wine 11 years later when he was Chief Winemaker at New Zealand’s Villa Maria.
Having moved on from that role he became probably the best known “Flying Winemaker” working with big name operations in Chile, South Africa and elsewhere.
Since 2003 he has been Chief Winemaker at the Bird in Hand Winery in Adelaide Hills making some brilliant wines there which are widely available in the UK – and most definitely well worth seeking out.
So, here is how he replied to our questions:
- How is the 2018 vintage shaping up?
Kym: 2018 so far is looking like a very good vintage for Bird in Hand. Cropping levels were about average or up a little on some varieties.
It has been a very dry vintage so no disease issues at all and fruit was able to be picked at the ripeness desired.
Vintage in general was around 3 weeks earlier than the very late 2017 vintage, but approximately a week later than 2016.
- What is the story behind the Italian grape varieties you are experimenting with at Bird in Hand?
Kym: We are experimenting with small volumes of a number of Italian Varieties at Bird in Hand – Arneis, Pinot Grigio, Nero d'Avola and Montepulciano.
Volumes are still small at this stage and sales are limited to our cellar door at the winery and a few specialist outlets in Australia.
We have been very pleased with the quality so far and will possibly look to increase volumes a little, although this will take time.
- Speaking of Bird in Hand,, how do wines from the Adelaide Hills differ from those in the (relatively) near-by Barossa?
Kym: The Adelaide Hills is a very different region to the Barossa, being a much cooler region.
This is due mainly to altitude; the Adelaide Hills is a long, rather narrow strip of land that runs along the top of the Mt Lofty Ranges with vineyards between 300 – 600m above sea level.
What this altitude gives is cool nights; during the day we would usually be about 2-3 °C below the temperatures of say the Barossa or the nearby city of Adelaide, but during the evenings we drop to 10-14 °C lower.
These cool nights slow ripening considerably, and also allow more acid retention in the grapes. As an example we would harvest Shiraz in the Adelaide Hills up to 4-6 weeks later than the Barossa.
In terms of wine style, these cool nights for white wines lead to bright varietal characters, good natural acidity – typical of cool climate whites.
Our reds tend to be more medium bodied compared to some of the traditional hotter regions of Sth Australia, show bright fruit characters and retain a slightly firmer tannin structure. In our opinion this leads to very food friendly styles of red wine.
- Extending that geographic focus, which part of Australia currently offers the best value for money?
Kym: At a step above entry level I think some of the lesser known regions such as Langhorne Creek and the Limestone Coast offer very good value for money.
In terms of high quality wines many different regions are making great wines.
The Adelaide Hills (clearly biased!), Margaret River, and Tasmania are regions I think are producing some outstanding wines along with many others.
- In which countries outside Australia did you particularly enjoy your winemaking?
Kym: I have enjoyed making wine in many different countries. Italy was always a favourite as I was fortunate to work with some lovely family wineries, there is tremendous diversity in varieties and styles and the food is fabulous.
- You seem to be a “cork sceptic”. Is there really no place for it even in expensive wine made to last for years?
Kym: I am not a lover of cork. I have had too many old bottles of good wine that have been affected by the cork that were disappointing.
A good cork is as good as a screw cap – the issue is that corks are variable. The idea that wines do not age so well under screwcap has long been proven incorrect.
- How crucial is it for winemakers also to be MW's?
Kym: Not crucial at all. The MW is more of a wine trade qualification than a winemaking qualification.
The number of winemakers that are MW's is relatively small. I originally studied and sat the MW to broaden my outlook and learn more about the wine styles of the world.
It certainly did that and I am sure helped my winemaking overall, but the world is full of great winemakers that are not MW's.
Having said I found it a very positive experience to add an MW to my winemaking degree.
- Given the fantastic new wine regions emerging, is your life as flying winemaker really over?
Kym: I still do a small amount of consultancy overseas (Rustenberg Wines in Sth Africa, Craggy Range in NZ and Errazuriz in Chile) mainly involved in post vintage wine assessments and blendings so I still do a bit of overseas work.
My main role though is at Bird in Hand winery in the Adelaide Hills as their Chief Winemaker, working with our very talented winemaking team.
For a flavour of Kym’s wines take a look at this website where the folk can probably help you with the best way to acquire Bird in Hand wines.
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