Peter Ranscombe discovers some surprises among the latest wines released by Lidl and Aldi.
DRAW closer and let me tell you some tales of the unexpected.
There’s the tale of the sauvignon blanc from Hungary.
There’s the story of the sangiovese from Chile.
And there’s the legend of the riesling – from Canada.
Supermarket chain Aldi unveiled its spring and summer wine range this week, with fellow German discounter Lidl following suit on Monday with its latest “wine tour” special offer.
Lidl’s latest promotion focuses on Italy, while Aldi’s biannual range refresh covers the whole gamut.
While it’s not yet possible to taste through either range in its entirety, what struck me about the selections I sampled from each retailer was the way in which familiar grapes popped up in unfamiliar places.
So, let me spin you a yarn or two about this spring’s surprises from the discounters…
A Kiwi-slaying sauvignon blanc: Haraszthy Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (£7.99, Lidl)
The stand-out wine for me among Lidl’s latest wine tour, with expressive guava, passionfruit, gooseberry and asparagus on the nose, before the gooseberry takes over on the palate. It was the texture that blew me away though – a lot of sauvignon blanc is competent, yet dull, but this example has a lemon peel-like mouthfeel.
A white wine made from black grapes: Duca di Sasseta Bianco Puglia Negroamaro 2019 (£5.99, Lidl)
If ever-so-slightly-sweet red wines like nero d’Avola have been getting you through the second lockdown then this is the bottle for you. Negroamaro is usually made into a red wine, with many examples hanging onto some residual sugar, like many neros, but here it’s been turned into a white wine by keeping the juice away from the black grape skins. The result is aromas of peach, lemon curd, and honey on the nose, with more honeyed peach and fresher lemon sherbet on the palate. It’s slightly sweet, but there’s enough acidity to stop it becoming cloying.
An Italian interloper in Chile: Estevez Chilean Sangiovese Reserva (£6.49, Aldi)
Sangiovese is the backbone of Brunello and Chianti in Tuscany, but this example from Chile’s Coquimbo valley shows how well the variety can travel. Warming and inviting cedar, spun sugar, red cherry, and raspberry jam on the nose? Check. Noticeably dry yet well-integrated tannins, balanced by more red cherry and fresher strawberry on the finish? Check. Lasagne matching abilities? You bet.
My new pizza preference: Buenas Vides Criolla (£5.99, Aldi)
Meet your new pay-day pizza pal. I often find criolla from Argentina too acidic, but this bottle displays excellent balance, with a very Italianesque nose full of bright spun sugar, red cherry, and red plum, leading into plenty of red cherry, raspberry jam, and more spun sugar on the palate to balance the well-integrated acidity and tannins.
A ‘Cotes du Rhone’ that’s not from the Rhone: Bastide Miraflors 2018 (£8.99, Lidl)
Scooch along France’s southern coast from the Rhone and you’ll reach Roussillon, where a similar mix of red grapes grow. A blend of syrah and old vine grenache was used to make Bastide Miraflors, an ideal wine for the final sausage casserole of the spring or an early summer barbecued burger. Blackberry, raspberry, and subtle vanilla and wood smoke mingle on the nose before fresher red fruit comes to the fore on the palate, with blackcurrant taking over on the finish. There’s plenty of ripe fruit to balance the well-integrated tannins.
A Canadian white that’s not a dessert wine: The Falls Riesling 2019 (£9.99, Aldi)
Both Lidl and Aldi have regularly stocked impressive Canadian ice wines around Christmas, but here we have an interesting example of a Canadian riesling from Niagara Falls that’s been made as a slightly off-dry wine instead of a sweet wine. The lemon and lemon sherbet on the nose are a bit muted, but it hits top gear on the palate, with more concentrated lemon and lime to balance the acidity. Think Australia’s Clare Valley, rather than German restraint.
A forgotten New Zealand treat: Freeman’s Bay Marlborough Riesling 2014 (£7.99, Aldi)
Staying with riesling, and a real treat from New Zealand. A 2014 riesling for £7.99? Did it get lost in transit? Did it sit in an unforgotten corner of a warehouse? Never mind its travel history, it’s really benefited from that extra time in bottle before hitting the market, with honey, lemon curd, and riesling’s tell-tale petrol note on the nose, plus concentrated lime marmalade and lemon curd on the palate. There’s still plenty of fresh acidity to balance those intense flavours, and there’s even a wee nutty note developing on the finish. I’ll not offer any warranty on its longevity past this point, but it’d be interesting to tuck away a bottle to see if it’ll age any further.
An island grape on the mainland – part 1: Duca di Sasseta Bianco Toscana Vermentino 2019 (£7.49, Lidl)
Sardinia is the spiritual home of the vermentino grape, but it’s also the main white variety across the Tyrrhenian Sea on the coast of Tuscany. Lidl’s example offers the classic bright lemon and sweet lemon sherbet on the nose and palate, and there’s even a wee bit of salted almond on the finish. It’s simple, straightforward, and a good introduction to vermentino’s crisp acidity – before upgrading to Castello Banfi’s La Pettegola Vermentino.
An island grape on the mainland – part 2: Aspri Petra Assyrtiko 2020 (£6.99, Aldi)
Few grapes are linked so closely with a single place as assyrtiko and Santorini. Yet the white grape also in fact grows on other Greek islands and on the mainland too, like this example. It lacks the vibrancy of Santorini’s assyrtiko, but it’s worth a look at this price, with bright lemon on the nose and more lemon, grapefruit, and a touch of lemon sherbet on the palate to balance its crisp acidity.
An organic wine that doesn’t cost the earth: Caladelverde Bianco Terre Siciliane Organic 2019 (£5.99, Lidl)
While I regularly bang the drum for sustainable and organic wines, I’m conscious that the extra care and attention in the vineyard does mean they do cost a few pounds extra. Yet this bottle again demonstrates that there are decent sub-£10 examples out there, as we discovered last September. Bright green apple and lemon on the nose are joined by floral notes, with a more savoury take on the lemons dominating on the palate, turning this into a classy Sicilian white that will pair nicely with roast chicken or meaty white fish.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his blog, The Grape & The Grain