Wine listings at supermarkets are updated all the time as vintages sell out, customer tastes change and the fluctuating currency market demands a re-think if optimal value is to be secured.
I have looked at a few newcomers to the Aldi range in 2019 and here are my thoughts on what looks really promising.
Also today, we have a brilliant guest contribution from a top UK wine trade insider telling us what’s hot from Australia and – of course – our usual Best of the Rest.
Use the pictures next to the description of a wine to help find the bottle concerned in store – that’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Magic Bullet Selection
I was bowled over by the value represented by this excellent Tuscan red that perfectly captures what the sangiovese grape variety (which figures prominently in this wine) is all about – but does so at less than a fiver.
Soft and herbal 2014 Scarletto Toscana (£4.99 at Aldi and 13% abv) has typical black cherry and blackberry fruit, good acidity, firm tannin, suggestions of clove, tomato and pepper but rides out on a long, graphite influenced finish.
And an old favourite
A combination of Spain’s less well known Utiel-Requena region and the equally unfamiliar bobal grape variety used to be the basis of this long time big seller at Aldi – but this version seems to have much more tempranillo, although the region and, best of all, the price are unaltered.
Despite that change, the medium bodied, juicy cherry and plum centred 2017 Toro Loco Superior (£3.99 and 12.5%) remains staggeringly good value and neatly supplements that fruit with good acidity, firm tannin and hints of vanilla, baking spice and rosemary.
Earlier this month, Aldi introduced half bottle versions of Chilean sauvignon and Argentinean malbec (at £2.48) along with this “single serve” version of its Exquisite Collection white burgundy (which gives you a drop or two more than a “medium” glass in a pub).
A full bottle, incidentally, is £6.99.
All the essential ingredients appear aplenty in 2017 Exquisite Collection Macon Villages (£1.99 for 18.7cl, and 12.5%) where smooth, ripe melon fruit, embellished by a hint of peach, vie for attention with fresh, apple and lemon acidity, nicely balanced with more savoury elements.
Ending on a note of frivolity
Another relative newcomer is a South African Fairtrade sparkling muscat which is too sweet and simple for serious wine drinking but will work well where low alcohol “lift music” fizz is the order of the day.
As befits the grape variety, Fairtrade Rosé Moscato (£4.49 and 5.5%) is light, fruity and floral with, in this case, gentle strawberry and red currant based sweetness that would also partner light desserts.
BEST OF THE REST
Traditional chianti at a great price
I mentioned last week that inexpensive chianti is getting lighter but this is much more old style – with all the benefits that implies- and is a genuine cut price bargain (easily justifying a double figure normal price tag).
Enjoy, then, the rounded black cherry fruit in 2014 Baracca & Fassoldi Chianti Riserva (£7 – instead of £12.50 until 4 March – at M&S and 12.5%) that also provides touches of mocha, almonds, clove and black pepper but with gentle tannin and modest acidity.
Unusual blend but great result
Before Christmas, I praised the sparkling wine made by Charles and Ruth Simpson in Kent and here is an unusual sauvignon, chardonnay and viognier blend from their first (and continuing) project in Languedoc.
Viognier fingerprints clearly emerge in the form of the soft, textured apricot elements in 2017 Domine Sainte Rose Coquille d'Oc Blanc (£5.99 – instead of £7.99 until 19 March – at Waitrose and 13%) but these are skilfully supplemented by mint and green pepper depth coupled with lively grapefruit acidity.
Tip: Here’s what to look out for among Australian wines – and why – from someone who really knows.
This week, I’ve been seeking the thoughts of Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia’s Regional General Manager EMEA who is based in London but heads up a team that promotes Australian wine across the UK and Europe.
Previously, Laura (who is one of the 379 Masters of Wine in the world) held key wine- related posts in Tesco and Spar.
MW’s, incidentally, are a rare breed who have to navigate a demanding path – more people have travelled into space than have achieved that qualification.
Laura was just back from Wine Australia’s annual UK trade roadshow when I caught up with her to pose a few questions about her journey through the world of wine.
You’ve done over 25 years in the wine trade. Did you always want to pursue a career in wine?
I had dreams of being a helicopter pilot but soon decided that I didn’t have the discipline to be in the armed services.
I discovered the world of wine whilst at university, so then changed tack completely.
How did your recent Australia Trade Tastings go?
The events in London, Edinburgh and Dublin went very well. Despite the weather, the tastings were well-attended, there was a lot of enthusiasm for Aussie wine and we enjoyed catching up with buyers, media and educators.
How are sales of Australian wine in the UK?
More Australian wine comes to the UK than to any other market, and exports over the last year are up – especially in premium wines above £6 a bottle (which reflects a continuing trend towards quality over quantity).
This “premiumisation” is not just in the UK but worldwide.
And it’s not just in Aussie chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon (which are, of course, still going strong) but there’s also increasing interest in alternative varieties such as fiano, vermentino and nebbiolo.
What excites you about Australian wine?
Its diversity – with 65 distinct wine regions, over 130 grape varieties and an array of styles, there really is an Australian wine for everyone.
Old vine Shiraz, cool climate Chardonnay, alternative grape varieties like Assyrtiko and Saperavi, organic and natural wines, innovative and experimental winemaking all add up to really exciting times for Australian wine.
What’s on the cards for Wine Australia this year?
Well premium wine is definitely something we want to showcase further in the next twelve months.
We’re currently looking at other formats of events, like master classes, immersion days and a pop-up wine bar, to enable trade and consumers to do a deeper dive into Australia.
Education is an important tool to help people discover and share premium Australian wine. We’ve just launched our new education programme Australian Wine Discovered and our new website www.australianwine.com has gone live.
What are your tips for MidWeek readers?
Difficult to narrow down to only a few, but here are my current Aussie tips:
- Jansz Premium Cuvee NV – Waitrose
- Aldi Exquisite Clare Valley Riesling – Aldi
- Wakefield Estate Chardonnay – Majestic Wine
- The Lodge Hill Jim Barry Shiraz – Majestic Wine
- McGuigan Estate Malbec – Sainsbury’s
- M&S Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon – Marks & Spencer
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