WHAT'S NEW (AND VERY KEENLY PRICED) ON THE ALDI WINE SHELVES...
Every now and then I stop and reflect on how the whole world of wine has become so much more democratic over the past thirty or forty years. When I worked, as a student, in the wine trade (just lifting and carrying) it was in an era when people “had” a wine merchant in much the same way as the privileged few had a tailor and a stockbroker.
Well, the supermarkets have put paid to all that and we should be eternally grateful. In the past people worried about betraying their ignorance to a snooty oenophile behind a counter, or mispronouncing Sauternes. Now you just pick the bottle and bring it to the checkout. There’s no judgement, thank heaven.
Actually, the old pronunciation problem (which explains why Fleurie outsells Chiroubles and Sancerre outsells Pouilly-Fumé) is neatly and amusingly addressed in Aldi’s new Pardon My French range. The Fitou is subtitled Fit You, and the Cotes de Gascogne is nicknamed Gastronomy.
The purists may object but I think anything that makes wine more accessible – and we’re talking proper, real wines in this instance – has to be a good thing.
Aldi is also responding to the growing demand for organically grown wines and even “natural” wines, made with minimal intervention. At a recent tasting in London, I was astonished at the quality of the organic wines, especially in the context of the very keen prices. Chatting to Jilly Goolden there, I was interested that we shared the same view.
Here are half a dozen suggestions of what you might like to try in Aldi at the moment. I hasten to add that there’s lots more too. These wines will be in stock until September but don't hang about just in case!
Pardon My French Cotes de Gascogne 2016
There’s Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng here but it’s the Colombard that makes you think you’re sniffing a Sauvignon Blanc. And yes, it’s all gooseberry and nettle, green peppers and a touch of raw asparagus – which is pretty amazing for this kind of price. Aldi, unlike other retailers, very sensibly don’t go for increased residual sugar on their more inexpensive wines so this one is properly grown-up and dry. Very fresh and clean, making it a perfect aperitif with a few green olives and just the ticket with fresh goat’s cheese.
Pardon My French Fitou 2015
It’s not often you see Fitou in Ireland these days and while this one is punningly called Fit You, it’s a proper red wine that puts me in mind of red check table cloths, assiettes of charcuterie, crusty bread and unsalted butter. The Carignan is very obvious – that’s the pepper and mulberry – but Syrah adds spice and plums, the Grenache a suggestion of ripe strawberry. It’s very much the essence of the south of France in a glass and at a very keen price.
Jean Claude Mas Classic Grenache Noir 2016
As the name implies, this is all about Grenache, a grape that I’ve always associated with an aroma of strawberries but the first thing that struck me about this wine was a different fruit. It’s overflowering with juicy, intense raspberries and then a touch of strawberry jam kicks in on the finish. So, yes, it’s quite delicious and underneath all that exuberant fruit there’s proper tannic structure to hold it all together and make it very much a food wine in a bistro kind of way.
Jean Claude Mas Estate Organic Sud de France
This is a typical white Languedoc blend of Colombard and Grenache Blanc but with two unusual additions: a little Muscat and Chardonnay. The result is delightfully fruity and perfumed in a spicy, grapey kind of way (that’s the Muscat getting through). Unoaked and very much about the fruit, it’s not wholly dry and, as a result, is quite seductive. I can imagine this being a big hit with everyone at Easter Sunday lunch – a crowd pleaser that’s actually really good. Plus, it’s grown without artificial fertilisers or chemical sprays.
Lot 22 Terrasses du Larzac 2015
This is serious stuff. Not only have we 70% Syrah, but the grapes are from low-yielding 40 year old vines growing on the Terrasses du Larzac on the lower slopes of Mont Baudile in the heart of the Languedoc. Unusually the Syrah is fermented by maceration carbonique, pulling out only the softest of tannins. The 30% Grenache is fermented conventionally and the whole lot is expensively aged for almost a year in new oak casks. The result is a fabulous red wine with lovely complexity and impressive length at a knockdown price.
Every time I think that Prosecco is rather boring, something like this comes along and makes me reconsider. In essence, this is crisp, dry, elegant, clean, fully sparkling (this is not one of the cheap frizzantes, it’s properly spumante). But there’s more to it than that. Most Prosecco is produced in vast quantities from grapes grown all over the region. This is from a family-owned single estate, much of the harvest is carried out by hand and no pesticides or herbicides are ever used in the vineyards. It’s no surprise that it tastes so pure and wholesome.