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. 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…