Aldi has unveiled a range of premium wines for Christmas, with Peter Ranscombe getting a sneaky preview.
WHENVER I mention the names “Aldi” and “Lidl”, readers’ ears immediately begin to twitch.
I’ve learned over the past seven years that Scottish Field readers love a bargain, and they appear to be interested especially in the bottles being stocked by the two German discount supermarket chains.
It shouldn’t really be a surprise – back in my days as a business reporter, it was very noticeable how the two grocers’ car parks suddenly began filling up with Audis, BMWs, and Volvos following the global banking crisis.
While bottles in the £5 to £10 range continue to be both Aldi and Lidl’s core focus, there’s another trend that’s caught my eye in recent years – “premiumisation”.
Both chains have continued to add bottles above the £10 mark, with Lidl mostly focussing on its “Wine Tour” special offers, while Aldi has beefed up its core range.
Aldi’s latest additions were unveiled today, with nine wines under its new “Winemaster’s Lot” range, sitting above its existing “Specially Selected” bottles.
Some of the new wines were on show last month at Aldi’s autumn press tasting in London.
To be honest, I struggled with many of them: the acidity in the 2020 Pouilly Fumé (£10.99) was unbalanced and needs more time to settle; the 2018 Amarone (£19.99) lacked fruit flavours to balance its earthiness; and the tannins in the 2018 Barbaresco (£17.99) outstripped the fruit.
A recurring theme was that these were young wines that needed more time to age to show at their best.
Which are the best wines in Aldi’s new ‘Winemaster’s Lot’ range?
Yet there were three examples from the new range that really jumped out at me and which are well worth a look:
Winemaster’s Lot Sancerre 2019 (£12.99)
Sancerre has crept up in price over the years, and so finding a decent supermarket example at this level has become harder and harder. Aldi’s new bottle provides those classic clean sheet aromas on the nose and then textbook steely wet-stone minerality and lemon on the palate. Its acidity is high, but there’s enough fruit here for balance. It’s worth exploring what your local independent bottle shop can do at this price point too. On sale in store and online from 29 November.
Winemaster’s Lot Vacqueyras Blanc 2020 (£9.99)
Vacqueyras in the southern Rhone valley is better known for producing red wine, but this white bristles with really attractive lemon sherbet and peach aromas from the 20% of viognier alongside the grenache blanc, clairette, roussanne, and bourboulenc in its blend. Those peach and lemon sherbet flavours are joined by more richer lemon curd on the palate to help balance its fresh acidity. On sale in store and online from 6 December.
Winemaster’s Lot English Sparking Wine (£19.99)
Aldi remained tight-lipped over which winery made its English fizz, but I’m going to stick my neck out and guess it was Hattingley in Hampshire – the only identifying mark on the bottle is “W1729”, which is also the code listed on Ocado’s website for Louis Pommery’s English sparkler, produced by Hattingley. It stands to reason because Hattingley’s own wines, Louis Pommery, and now Aldi’s bottle are all great examples. Here, the bright red apple, spun sugar, and red fruit aromas lead into crisp acidity on the palate, which is balanced by 10 grams per litre of residual sugar and fresh green apple, lemon, strawberry, and cranberry flavours. Made from a blend of the three classic Champagne grapes – chardonnay, pinot meunier, and pinot noir – it’s only available through Aldi’s website.
The best of the rest from Aldi’s autumn tasting
With Aldi’s excellent new Winemaster’s Lot English Sparking Wine only being available through its website, I’ve selected some other online-only suggestions from the discounter to help you mix your own case:
Domaine La Roche White Pessac-Leognan 2020 (£19.99)
When it’s done right, Bordeaux Blanc can be a real treat. Here, the blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc – with a dash of sauvignon gris and muscadelle – produces attractive elderflower, lemon wax, and lime on its gorgeous nose. It’s still young, so there’s tonnes of acidity, but there are plenty of concentrated lime, lemon curd, and elderflower cordial flavours to provide balance.
Trizanne Signature Wines South Africa Semillon 2018 (£14.99)
Staying with semillon, and meeting Trizanne Barnard was one of the highlights of my trip to the Cape Wine trade show in South Africa back in 2018. Her semillon combines lemon with light wood smoke on the nose, before delivering more savoury grilled lemon notes on the palate. It’s definitely a food wine, but I absolutely loved it.
Eloisa Chilean Barrel Fermented Viognier 2018 (£9.99)
An attractive mix of peach, honey, wood smoke, and lemon sherbet on the nose, and then textured peach, lemon curd, and more honey on the palate. There’s nearly 17 grams of residual sugar per litre to help those concentrated fruit flavours to balance its bright acidity. A great example of viognier’s more serious and grown-up side.
Specially Selected Alsace Pinot Gris 2020 (£9.99)
Pinot Gris is often overshadowed by its pinot grigio alter-ego, but this bottle shows why it’s one of the Alsace region’s stars. Bright lemon sherbet, peach, and raspberry on the nose, with lemon joining more of those peach melba flavours on the palate. This one is a really exciting find – it’s fruity, yet has fresh acidity for balance, and only a single gram of residual sugar.
Specially Selected English Pinot Noir Early 2018 (£10.99)
Pricy, but very interesting – spun sugar and raspberry jam on the nose and then chalky tannins on the palate, balanced by more spun sugar, raspberry jam, and fresher raspberry. Still showing as “coming soon” on Aldi’s website.
Paraiso Sur Chilean Syrah 2016 (£9.99)
Great value syrah from Chile’s Casablanca valley. Attractive and bright violet, blackcurrant, and a stoney note on the nose, with gentle yet meaty ripe tannins on the palate, plus a kick of fresh acidity, and sweet blackcurrant jam flavour.
Kooliburra Woodhenge Shiraz 2019 (£14.99)
Made for Aldi by Wirra Wirra, this great value wine knocks about a third off the price of the equivalent branded bottle. Violet, blackcurrant, and a touch of mint on the nose, before launching into bright blackfruit and sweeter milk chocolate on the palate, with well-controlled tannins.
Lejano Argentinian Petit Verdot 2017 (£14.99)
Relegated to blending status to add colour in Bordeaux, petit verdot is shining in its own right in this example from Argentinian hotspot Mendoza. This would be my roast beef option, with attractive cigar smoke, cedar, and dark chocolate on the nose, and an excellent concentration of blackcurrant, dark chocolate, and roast meat on the palate.
Chateau D’Arsac Margaux 2015 (£19.99)
A quartet of classic Bordeaux to finish; again, it’s worth seeing what your local independent bottle shot can do around these price points too. Aldi’s choice of Margaux has a whiff of boot polish amid a complex nose full of wood smoke, mint, cassis, and dark fruit. Chewy tannins, but well balanced by roast meat, more dark fruit, and a lick of blackcurrant jam.
Chateau Moulinet Pomerol 2016 (£24.99)
A fruity and juicy Bordeaux, thanks to its 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, with raspberry, red cherry, dark chocolate, and coffee flavours, with a sprinkling of black cherry and blackberry for good measure. The cabernet franc adds a hint of pencil lead on the nose too.
Chateau Laforge 2015 (£19.99)
Nope, not made by the chief engineer in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but instead a cracking wee Saint-Emilion. A really attractive nose full of complex wood smoke, cedar, cigar smoke, dark chocolate, spun sugar, and a greengrocer’s shop full of dark fruit, with earthy tones too. Its tannins are still surprisingly assertive, but the concentrated fruit spectrum provides balance and ticks all the boxes, ranging from dark fruit through dark and milk chocolate to vanilla and roast meat.
Specially Selected Sauternes 2016 (£7.49 for 375ml)
Available both in store and online, I couldn’t leave out this excellent Sauternes, made for Aldi by Chateau de Suduiraut. About half the price at which you’d expect a sweet wine of this quality to sell. Pronounced pineapple, lemon curd, lime, biscuit, spun sugar, and caramel on the nose, with a healthy dose of acidity delivering balance on the palate, where honey and peach join the lemon curd, pineapple, and lime.
Read more of Peter’s spirits, wine, and beer reviews on his blog, The Grape & The Grain