MY CHRISTMAS WINE SELECTION FROM ALDI...
This year I’m selecting my pick of the wine selection at Aldi. Many of these wines are special, seasonal buys, so grab them when they are here; they won’t hang round forever. It’s reassuring, of course. You can’t just turn on a great big tap and keep these wines flowing. They are finite, and all the better for that.
Now, it’s very much a personal choice in that these are all wines that I want to enjoy with the family at home. I have some other tasting notes on the Aldi Ireland website which you can see here. And the Aldi wine shelves are always worth a browse. The quality is remarkably consistent.
Just a quick comment before we set off on our tour of the bottles. Some of the wine prices at Aldi Ireland are so low that there’s a danger that some people will actually be put off, thinking “that can’t be any good”. I completely understand, in that low wine prices and poor quality do, indeed, tend to go together. However, I can assure you it’s not the case here.
This is going to take a while, so let’s get cracking with the festive fizz and Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura at €10.79 Astonishing value for this 100% Chardonnay blanc des blancs sparkler. Supremely elegant, dry but full on the palate, it knocks spots off many a Champagne and I think it may be worth ageing for a couple of years. If you thought it was too cheap to be any good, think again. You have been missing out on one of the best bargains currently on the shelves.
The same problem may afflict Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut NV at €19.99. I mean, actual Champagne at this price! Can it be any good? Well, it accounts for one in every twelve bottles of Champagne sold in the UK and, thanks to beating Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame in a blind tasting, has serious pedigree. Broad and biscuity, it’s a delicious Champagne, very true to its region and a joy for anyone who is into taste rather than big brands. Serve it without revealing the label and just casually ask “What do you think?”
There’s also a pink version at €23.99, full of restrained, stylish fruit, very pretty and even broader on the palate than the Brut.
The 2010 Blanc de Blancs at €26.99 will be my New Year fizz, supremely elegant 100% Chardonnay vintage Champagne at a staggeringly low price. Delicate, very dry, complex stuff with great finesse.
I always think of Chablis in something like the same breath as Champagne – it’s probably something to do with their affinity with oysters (Aldi have Irish oysters from 23 December, by the way), and smoked salmon.
The straight André Vannier Chablis €11.99 is textbook stuff. I describe it as like sucking pebbles but I hasten to add that this is a great compliment. Too much Chablis at the cheaper end of the scale tastes like pretty basic Macon to me (and heaven knows, one never knows what skullduggery can happen in the wine trade). No, this is the real thing, deliciously austere and minerally, a proper grown up white wine.
The André Vannier Chablis Premier Cru 2013 €19.99 has the same kind of pedigree and minerality but with that added degree of ripeness and smidgin of honey that you get from vineyards with premier cru orientation towards the sun (that’s essentially the only difference with the premiers crus; the soil is the same).
By contrast, Jean Bouchard Montagny 1er Cru €16.99 is fuller and riper with less minerality but a delicious kind of toastiness and stylish character that usually spells “white Burgundy”. I adore it.
If, like me, you are a fan of white Burgundy you must try the Exquisite Collection Limoux Chardonnay €9.99 - my kind of Chardonnay: ripe but not heavy and syrupy, with a backbone of crisp acidity and nicely seasoned with smoky, spicy oak thanks – in this instance – to being barrel fermented. Can you imagine? Fermented in new oak at this price? From Languedoc, but high up in the hills, hence the cool climate style.
Another very deserving candidate from the Exquisite Collection is the EC Plan de Dieu at €9.99. Plan de Dieu is one of the Cotes du Rhone villages so is, by definition, a cut above straight Cotes du Rhone but still made from the usual Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. This stuff has the typical extra depth of colour and intensity with supple fruit, a touch of spice but also a whiff of the garrigue: local wild herbs like thyme and oregano. Unwooded, rich and soft, not at million miles away from the style of a decent young Chateauneuf-du-Pape. (By the way Aldi’s domaine-bottled Chateaneuf-du-Pape is a snip at €14.99).
If you fancy something a bit more powerful and assertive and perhaps hanker after the aroma and flavour of American oak that is the hallmark of so much of Spain’s reds, the gloriously deep, dark and old-fashioned EC Marques de Carrion Rioja Reserva at €10.99 is both a great bargain at the price and a lovely bit of winemaking. It has swathes of velvet Grenache fruit around a core of gentle but persuasive tannins and a surprisingly lengthy finish with smoke and spice. (If you like Aldi’s perennial Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva at €8.99, you will adore this one).
You get spice, too, in the brilliantly priced Toro Loco Reserva at €7.99, 100% Tempranillo, very ripe and round and generously seasoned with the vanilla scent of new oak. It’s deeper and more concentrated than the usual Toro Loco which is a hugely popular wine in the Aldi range. I can’t suggest a better party red.
From the cooler climate of New Zealand comes the EC Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet at €10.99, a very attractive and accessible New World take on Bordeaux. Very fragrant on the nose with masses of spicy oak and very soft on the palate, undemanding but with a bit of attractive complexity.
The Lot wines are a recent Aldi innovation. Essentially, they ask winemakers in different places to produce something exceptional and exclusive to Aldi. The wines, by and large, are a little off-beat or out of the ordinary, especially in a supermarket context; they are also, as you would expect, priced very keenly. The idea, in a way, is to stress that Aldi is serious about wine. All of the Lot wines are first rate but I’ve selected a few here that really do it for me.
The Lot 06 Priorat Garnacha at €13.99 is a big red, as you would expect from very old vines in the mountainous region of Priorat or Priorato near Barcelona (near, but a very long and twisty drive). Not just but rather dark and brooding with a touch of mulberry, dark chocolate and leather, maybe a bit of black pepper too. Most unusual, full in the mouth and long on the finish. It needs time to breathe and I think is best decanted an hour before drinking.
Don’t expect the Lot 07 Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc at €13.99 from South Africa to be one of those soft, ripe, easy-drinking New World whites. This is proper grown-up Chenin Blanc, the sort that I thought the South Africans had forgotten about. It’s bone dry to the point of near austerity with a honeyed kick on the finish and that glorious touch of new mown hay on the nose. It’s a stunner, but definitely for the more grown up palate. If you love Chilean Chardonnay, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I can’t see you taking to this one. But if you like Chablis, chances are you will.
By contrast, here’s the seductive Lot 10 Coonawarra & Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at €13.99 which is unusual in being a blend from two distinct regions, the warmer Clare Valley and the cooler Coonawarra of the famous red soil. This is anathema to Europeans but actually a brilliant idea, producing a wine of remarkable balance. Very cassis with pencil shavings and a whiff of mint or eucalyptus. In other words, very Oz and very classic.
Speaking of classics, well, it doesn’t get any more classic than Chateau La Marzelle Saint-Emillion Grand Cru Classé 2008 at €29.99. All of the supermarkets have gone mad for Saint-Emillion grands crus this Christmas and they are a mixed bag (one, indeed is scorchingly overpriced for what it is, but it would be unfair to name names). Aldi have bagged the top prize for quality and value, however, with this one. Dominated by Merlot, of course, and given the Rolls-Royce treatment, this La Marzelle is delightfully structured. There’s plenty of ripe yet firm fruit seasoned with smoky oak yielding spiciness and grippy tannins on the finish. Being a 2008, it has enough bottle age to reveal its true aromas, complex and very inviting. It needs time to breathe in the glass so pour it while you have a glass of white with the starter. €30 for a bottle of wine might seem a lot to spend but (a) it’s a bargain for this quality and (b) quality rather than quantity is the way to go.
So, that’s a stunner from the Right Bank, now for a cracker from the Left Bank (we’re talking the Gironde here) and the nicely mature Chateau Curé-Bourse Margaux 2010 which, naturally, goes heavy on the Cabernet and with five years ageing delivers a typically elegant, and, as they say in these parts (and not my phrase, I stress) feminine nose that is fragrant, complex and inviting. There’s concentration vying with delicacy on the palate and the kind of long, contemplative finish that means quality.
There’s no doubting the quality of the EC Muscat Saint Jean de Minervois at €7.99 but there’s nothing contemplative about it. This wine is sheer fun and blissfully seductive. A sweet, grapey, spicy white wine with zippy acidity for balance, it’s just gorgeous, especially with a wedge of blue cheese.
But keep some of that blue cheese, especially for the Maynard’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port at €13.99 which has that lovely mature port nose without the hassle of having to decant. It still has a warm, rosy hue but ageing in wood has turned the colour brickish and it smells of candied fruits and nuts. In other words, Christmas in a glass. And perfect with plum pudding, of course. Maynard’s, by the way, is owned by the Van Zeller family who used to own Quinta do Noval and the legendary Nacional, probably the great vintage port made).
If you fancy pushing the boat out a little there’s the opportunity to taste the fabulous Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos at €24.99, which is remarkably cheap for a wine of this quality. Honeyed, very sweet yet nicely balanced with a crisp backbone, it’s all apricot fruit and need to be drunk slowly to appreciate how much is going on in the layers of flavour.
But if it’s even more layers of flavour you’re after you must try the Maynard’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port €49.99, a wine so concentrated at this advanced age that it’s almost an essence. If you’ve ever wondered what wine people mean by “length” all you have to do is to take a moutfhul of this stuff and swallow. Then count until the flavour disappears. It will take quite a while, believe me.
I am proud to work with Aldi Ireland in regard to their wine range.