Aldi Revisited

It was November 2013 when I published my first (mostly) glowing review of Aldi wines and spirits. Since then I have been loyally going to their autumn/winter and spring/summer tastings. There have been highs and lows but I decided now was the time to shine a light on a few beauties that I sampled at their most recent tasting.

Sparkling

*Star Buy* – Belletti Rosé Spumante DOC / £5.99 / 11% ABV / Veneto, Italy

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.57.38 Now as I lifted the glass to taste this deep pink popper, I had already begun to cringe with the fear of how awful it was going to be. Pink fizzy drinks labelled spumante with such a small price tag are notoriously sweet, ghastly and probably responsible for some of the worst hangovers in the history of modern drinking (not a fact). But my preemptive grimace was whisked from my visage and replaced with joyful surprise as the liquid made contact with my tongue. Dried strawberry danced over my palate, rose petals hovered overhead, there was some nice tannic structure and it finished dry and clean. Made from 100%, little known native Italian varietal Raboso, this a firecracker of a fizz. Dangerously glug-able and available seasonally so stock up now!

Runner Up – Philippe Michel Cremant du Jura 2012 / £7.29 / 12% ABV / Jura, France

Showing rich biscuit and lemon zest this Aldi stalwart deserves all the plaudits it continues to get year after year from wine critics. Consistency and value are the watchwords here from this champagne method sparkler. Hailing from the mountainous region of south-east France not far from the Swiss border, it’s certainly worth having a few bottles of this “Blanc de Blanc” (100% Chardonnay) knocking about for that Tuesday night when only bubbles will do.

White

*Star Buy* – Lot 02 Tasmanian Chardonnay 2013 / £9.99 / 12.5% ABV / Tasmania, Australia

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 15.47.16As I have mentioned Aldi excel in the lower price brackets, but often I’ve felt that when they’ve tried to go glam the wines lacked the class and finesse of bottles at the same price point stocked by other retailers. But the winds of change do blow with their “The Lot Series”. I was extremely impressed with this excellent example of oaked Chardonnay. Round and generous but bursting with tart Granny Smith apple, layers of aromatic acacia wood and tingling apple skin acidity. A bouncy joy of a wine. The wines of Tasmania really are starting to turn some heads. Literally a world away from the Australian continent, with a generally cooler climate which allows “Tassie” winemakers to craft their own unique identity. The focus is on top quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; not to mention probably producing the best sparkling wines ‘Down Under’.

Runner Up – The Exquisite Collection Rias Baixas Albariño 2014 / £5.99 / 12.5% ABV / Rias Baixas, Spain

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.58.16This racy, minerally, sea salt crusted gem of a grape that loves the rugged ocean swept coast of north-west Spain has been on the rise for a good few years now. A popular wine list alternative to Sauvignon Blanc or equally fashionable Picpoul de Pinet, Albariño (Al-Ba-Reen-Yo) can command some hefty prices both down the gastro pub and in the wine shop. But what continues to be one of Aldi’s strengths is that they are good at getting solid wines from well-known regions at very reasonable prices. Their own label example from the Galician heartland of Rias Baixas has that characteristic high acid, saline, stone fruit element as well as being pure and clean with a lime juice finish that makes you mad for toasted almonds, green olives and another sip. Again it’s a seasonal offering so get a dozen while you can.

Honourable Mention – Pierre Bonnet Vouvray 2014 / £5.99 / 12% ABV / Loire, France

I love of the wines of the Loire, they really do it all. Stunning dry whites with laser-like acidity made from Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc. Crunchy red fruit, green pepper and graphite etched reds from Cabernet Franc. But they also produce cracking, good value fizz and sublime dessert wines too. The region of Vouvray in the Touraine district is dedicated almost solely to Chenin Blanc and is famous around the world for it’s sensational sec (dry), demi-sec (semi-sweet) and moelleux (sweet) versions of this somewhat unsung darling of white varietals. Pierre Bonnet’s wine has lovely pear, lime and lush lemon curd. The texture is a touch creamy but clean and finishes with a hint of dry white flowers.

Red

*Star Buy* – Lot 3 Pezenas 2013 / £9.99 / 14.5% ABV / Languedoc, France 

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 15.46.49Aldi’s Lot Series comes up trumps again with this sun-baked blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and just a squirt of Carignan. I have visited the Languedoc a couple times and it’s an unspoilt wine and food lovers playground. The reds do tend to the boozier end of the spectrum, but they have bags of finesse and class too. Pezenas (name of the commune in L’Herault department of Languedoc-Roussillon) pops with perfumed violet, that shows dark fresh fruit, a meaty texture and underpinned by a fine grey slate structure. Certainly one to decant a few hours before and have with friends over a hearty Gallic inspired meal.

Runner Up – The Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Cabernet 2013 / £6.49 / 13.5% ABV / Limestone Coast, Australia

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 16.00.14I cannot recall the last time I recommended a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, let alone an Australian one. That said don’t go out and buy a lottery ticket. The Limestone Coast has within it’s boundaries the almighty Coonawarra region and is responsible for producing 1/3 of Oz’s quality wines, which are often awarded top honours. The nose has a lovely earthy red berry note to it. Upon swishing it around my gob, what struck me right away was the texture. Chewy and fleshy with gorgeous juicy raspberry, blackberry and hit of menthol. It finished slightly gamey with a long inky cassis finish. Went pretty well with my homemade lasagna and was ” the best vegetarian lasagna I have ever eaten” according to my lovely wife. As part of their core range, it should be easier to track down and track it down you must.

Honourable Mention – Toro Loco Bobal Merlot 2013 / £4.49 / 13% ABV /Utiel-Requena, Spain

No Aldi review would be complete without a sub fiver bottle and it’s from good old “Crazy Bull”; whom I have recommended before. There’s ripe dark cherry, generous warming mouthfeel and a nice spicy bite on the finish. Bobal is a varietal native to Utiel-Requena (Valencia) and the main component in nearly all Toro Loco wines. Fitting really as the name Bobal is derived from the Latin “bovale”, referring to the shape of a bull’s head. Great spag bol or sangria wine for tapas.

Spirits

*Star Buy* – Maynard’s 1990 Colheita Port / £14.99 / 20% ABV / Douro, Portugal 

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 15.45.38Maynard’s is Aldi’s flagship port producer and this 25-year-old vintage tawny (Colheita is the term used to describe a vintage tawny) is absolutely dreamy. There’s coffee, gingersnap biscuit, cigar leaf, rich Medjool date, dry fig and finishing with English Breakfast tea tannins. Delicious. I defy anyone to find a fortified wine of this age and quality under £15. Oh, and if you happen to, do send me a sample 😉

 

Runner Up – Goccia D’Oro Limoncello / £7.99 / 25% ABV / Italy

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.59.32I am sure many of you who ever have been on holiday in Italy have at one time or another been sat “digesting” after an epic meal and the host/hostess of that particular carb kingdom has brought over a frosted bottle with contents that resembled runny custard. Small shots are poured out and the viscous yellow liquid is sipped or chucked down in one depending on who has drunk the most vino rosso. I have had some wonderful (often homemade) Limoncello in such establishments and had some that did more harm than good. So it was with some trepidation that I sampled this product new to Aldi’s range. Perhaps not as cold as it could have been but it ticked the boxes. Tart, creamy, yummy out of the freezer after dinner, cold melted lemon curd digestive drinky drink.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 16.04.20Honourable Mention – Caversham Cream Sherry / £5.25 / 18% ABV / Jerez, Spain

Recommending cream sherry!? Me? Looks that way.

So in addition to the normal number strewn white linen tables bedecked with bottles, the had put on a spread of Mozer Roth chocolates and sweetie booze pairings. Well, far be it from me to swan by such a spectacle without (in the name of science) testing their suggestions. Of the ones on offer by far my favourite was the Caversham Cream and almond milk chocolate match. The nutty edge in the sherry picked out the nuggets of nut and the smooth texture of the milk chocolate mingled happily with that of the “cream”. Easiest dessert in the world and you can feed 8 for under a tenner.

Looking at the rest of Aldi’s spirit range on the tasting literature you might be forgiven for thinking you had accidentally been given a list of military grandees; so many medals!

Still a big fan of their Oliver Cromwell Dry Gin (£9.99), Highland Black 8 Y/O Scotch Whisky (£12.99) has a permanent place on my “sideboard” and Ballycastle Irish Cream (£3.99) is a blooming bargain and stands up to bigger brands of that ilk with charm.

It’s not all love songs and roses though. An area that Aldi still needs to improve on is their beer and ciders. Very disappointing. Step it up guys!

While you may not always be guaranteed to get exactly what you want on a trip to Aldi, they certainly have enough good stuff in their ranges that it will never be a wasted trip.

Check out Aldi’s Wine Cellar range yourself.

 

 

Aldi Winter Tasting

Aye, it’s Aldi Captain, but not as we’ve known it

Aldi was once seen as on a par with Lidl and such like, just another continental out of shape budget supermarket that was good for things like chocolate, mysterious tinned goods, exotic looking biscuits and frozen lobster at Christmas, but little else. However over the past few years Aldi has been hitting the gym and is looking good, business is booming(pre-tax profits jumped 124% in 2012), yes it is partly to do with this age of austerity we are living in, but it is also because Aldi has begun attracting higher earners with it’s buff premium ‘Specially Selected’ food range & ‘Equisite Collection’ wines. I had read some good things about their wines so went along myself to see what all the fuss was about.

Things started out reasonably well with their fizz selection at the sub £10 level. Worth mentioning is Prosecco Superiore DOCG Valdobbiadene & Philippe Michel Cremant de Jura 2011. I found the Prosecco a bit chemical but won’t put most folks off at £7.29. The Cremant was a bit green and sharp, but for a Champagne method sparkler it’s worth a punt at £6.99.

I was most impressed by their entry level Champagne Veuve Monsigny NV Philizot & Fils. Warm buttery lemon & classic rich yeasty biscuit at £11.99 a bottle it’s an absolute steal. May load up on some myself. More great value can be found in magnums(1.5L) with Charles Mignon Champagne NV which is available from the end of November at £29.99 while stocks last.

Finally the Grand Cru Champagne NV Jannisson & Fils with it’s mature yeasts, nettles, lemon zest is a classy drop and a snip at £23.99(available early November while stocks last).

Moving onto the whites I braced my palate seeing the £3.99 pricetag on Cambalala Chenin Blanc 2013. Oh me of little faith, fragrant fresh and perfectly acceptable. Decent Sub £4 wines in the UK are very scarce so this was a welcome discovery indeed. Three very good whites under the ‘Exquisite Collection’ followed. First up was a £4.99 Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc 2012, grassy clean & concentrated. Next the perfumed, green, generous stone fruit laden Sud de France Sauvignon Blanc Viognier 2012 @ £5.99 was a real winner. Saving the best for last Limoux A.C. 2012, made from 100% Chardonnay producing a tremendously complex wine with notes of rich smoky bacon, green plums and spicy smoky finish. I absolutely loved this £6.99 wine from the Languedoc in Southern France, an area more famous for making sparkling wine but on the strength of this we should be drinking more of their still whites.

The bargains continued with two roses on offer. Both from Spain(La Mancha & Utiel-Requena), both under £4 and both very drinkable. Grapevine Tempranillo Garnacha 2012 £3.29, yes 3 pounds and twenty nine pence. Toro Loco 2012 made from the interesting native Bobal grape was more complex and still only £3.69.

Things didn’t get off to the best start with the reds, and it wasn’t till wine number 5 that I thought “Hmmm… this isn’t too bad”. That was a £4.49 Pinot Noir NV by Vignobles Roussellet, then I hit two notables in a row with De la Rougerie Bordeaux Superior 2011 Toro Loco Reserva 2010 both impressing for their honest expression & £4.99 price tags. There was another spell of forgettable bottles before I hit a run of 7 stars(call me lucky), ranging from good to excellent and all from Spain & Italy. The bargain of the Spanish bunch at £5.49 was Minarete Ribera Del Duero D.O. Roble 2011 and is everything you could want in 100% Tempranillo from a highly regarded region.Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 15.39.50 Grippy tannins, earthy black fruit, good mouth feel and nice length. Two more solid Spanish wines followed in Baron Amarillo Gran Reserva Rioja 2005 (£9.99) and The Exquisite Collection Priorat Crianza 2010 (£7.99). But it was a trio of Italians, the 3 Tenors if you will, that had me singing O Sole Mio into my glass.

First The Exquisite Collection Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G. 2009 (£8.99) seduced with its gamey licorice, menthol, sour dried cherry, tobacco & cigar box. Also from Aldi’s EC range was a rich inky, liquorice allsorts, smoky blackberry Valipolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Superiore 2010. Perhaps a touch sweet but for £7.99 a bottle you won’t hear me complaining.

Finally my red of the day, Conventino Barolo D.O.C.G. 2009. It may have been a tank sample with a ratty temporary label but damn my taste buds it was magnificent! Wet undergrowth, fall leaves, hung game, dry dry fruit, pungent prune, earthy and rooted. Barolo is a notoriously complex & often restrictively expensive, a wine that took me many years to begin to appreciate. But this at £9.99 this accessible example is most definitely one to buy by the case (available November 24 while stocks last).

Domaine Lou Frejau Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2012 was good but at £14.99 no better value than what other supermarkets can offer. More impressive was Edouard Delaunay Gevrey Chambertain 2007 with it’s mushroom, faded red fruits, game birds, lifted red berry perfume, licorice root, sad strawberry and salty leather tannins. Though not a great vintage at £19.99 a bottle if you are after some value Burgundy you could do much worse. 

The Fortified and Sweet Wines section kicked off with a double bang with Austrian Selection Beernaulese(£5.99) that was all lush apricot, honeycomb & candied melon. The Exquisite Collection Eiswein(Ice wine) from Germany was even more special with notes of creamy apple, flinty minerals and a long, fresh, smoky green finish. Lovers of Ice wine know they can be very expensive indeed, which makes this beauty at £7.99 all the more remarkable.

 

On the Port front their flagship Maynard’s ranged from a superb LBV(Late Bottled Vintage) right up to a decent 1989 Vintage with two very good Tawnies in the middle. My affections lay with the LBV that showed dense fig, prune, nutty chocolate and a real value buster @ £9.99.

Slightly disappointing was the beer and cider range. Though Sheppy’s Vintage Cider & Church’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer were solid enough performers.

They got back to winning ways though with their spirit selection. Right out of the traps their core range Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin made me take notice with it’s light fragrant touch, that was balanced with just the right amount of Juniper. Bloody good for £9.99! An interesting 1973 Vintage Brandy(£29.99 & available while stocks last) followed before I was treated to 4 super whiskies and a top bourbon. Highland Black 8 Y/O Scotch Whisky was on the money with nettles, lavender & long earthy smoky finish, only £12.99. Glen Marnoch 12 Y/O was more sweet subtle smooth honey & heather at £18.79. Glen Marnoch 24 Y/O took the my breath away, literally. My note was “Wild boar on fire in my mouth”. A beast of a scotch not for the faint of heart, but very good indeed at £34.99. My favorite was Glen Orrin 30 Y/O Whisky(Available Dec 8 while stocks last) which had me saying things like “History, fishy bowels of a sailing ship, salty, TCP, pepper, long complex, so moving, wow!”. A whisky tremendous character but not cheap at £49.99 for 70cl. Finally from over the pond Jefferson’s Small Batch Bourbon wooed me with frontier charms of pine resin, gun smoke, savory white pepper & super spicy finish. Not a bad deal at £29.99.

Usually I skip liqueurs at a tasting but was drawn to their range frankly because it was cheap, and good value had definitely been the buzz word for the day.  I tasted all 6 of them and will be popping into Aldi to buy 4 or 5 of them as they weren’t half bad. Orange Liqueur was a touch chemical but at £5.99 worth it if you like Gran Marnier or Cointreau type drinks. A solid Ginger Wine, a must for Holiday cocktails was an amazing £3.29, Amaretto £4.99 for 50cl again did what it said on the tin and with style. Ballycastle Irish Cream Liqueur for £4.29 will have you switching from that more famous & expensive B named brand in a Gaelic heartbeat. Finally if you’re a real discerning drinker of the creamy stuff then the step up to Specially Selected Irish Cream will suit you down to the ground, and only £6.49!

 

 

 

Ok so currently they have less stores and you can’t get your groceries online but judging from this tasting Aldi is most certainly fighting fit for the modern age. Morrison’s, Tesco et all better watch their backs…