Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #2 – Kooliburra Rosé (Blend)

In a follow up to my previous tasting note for the Aldi Wine Club, this next bottle takes us to the other side of the world, and the south of Australia.

Named after the Aboriginal word for small lizard, the Kooliburra Rosé appropriately has a depiction of one on the label and, not only does the red colour of the label offset the deep wild salmon colouring of the wine, it’s also nicely textured with a dimpled sandy sensation.

The wine is bottled under screw-cap and, in a similar fashion to the previous Aldi tasting, again shows a real respect for the design and labelling of the bottle.  At the same time, it is what the label doesn’t tell you that actually has just as much impact.  Again we have no year of vintage specified, and the wine is simply labelled as being from ‘South East Australia’ (which is a big place!).  Thirdly, there’s not even a grape variety specified, so from this we can surmise that the final product is a blend of grapes, different years of production, and grown over an extremely large production region.

Whilst this doesn’t allow the drinker to pull out any details of typicity or origin, it does allow for a standardised house-blend to be achieved year after year, and in the vast production levels that allow the extremely light price-point of £3.79 to be achieved.

The last Aldi wine I tried hit exactly the same checkpoints and, despite my initial concerns, proved to be a very respectable wine.  The gauntlet is well and truly laid-down – can they do it again?

Kooliburra

Kooliburra Rosé Reserve, South Eastern Australia, Blend, 11%, £3.79

As mentioned above, first off the colour of the wine is a vibrant deep pink, which for me is reminiscent of the colour of wild salmon.  On the nose you get the notes of lighter red fruits such as strawberries and cranberries, but they’ve managed to deliver these with a great intensity and depth.  This means that the whole sensation of the nose has a dark and brooding character, rather than just being simple fruit.  I can also detect a confectionate air, which made me think of cherry drops and, along with noting that the alcohol is well under average at 11%, can start to give hints as to how the palate will deliver.

Sure enough, it kicks off with the clean, fresh, well ripened fruit notes of strawberries and cherries.  Whilst the wine is clearly all about the primary fruit, what it also delivers is a well-rounded blend that is totally full of flavour, and easily fills your mouth with a weight that carries through to the end of the palate.  The lush medium acidity is well balanced, but if I had one criticism, it would be that this wine has a good touch of sweetness from the lower alcohol.

As a quick primer to explain what this means – as sugar converts to alcohol in the fermentation process, if you have less alcohol in the finished product, you retain the unconverted sugars which will result in a sweeter wine.  Less alcohol in a wine isn’t a bad thing – it has a lot to do with the climate where the grapes are grown, so whilst Germany is at a marginal northern climate that naturally results in many wines of a lower alcohol, the year-round sunshine of southern Australia wouldn’t suggest this, so the sweetness is a stylistic choice.

To balance this out (if you’re not a fan of a sweeter wine) there’s a couple of things that will pair very well, and that’s either a warm summers day where the simple refreshment will ensure you could easily finish the bottle, or pairing it with a food dish.  In simple rule of thumb, a sweet wine will match best with a dish of equal sweetness, such as a dessert.  When the matching sweetness combines it creates the perception of a drier mouthfeel in the wine, and the acidity is cleaner.  I had this Rosé with Strawberries and Ice Cream and it was perfect.

In summary, this is a straight-forward, but well-realised blend, and absolutely stonking value for the price.  Online reviews agree, and this is currently a 5-star wine on the Aldi website which, whilst the introductory store offers are still in place, can be ordered with ‘Free Delivery’ in the UK.

With thanks to Aldi UK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #1 – Vignobles Roussellet Malbec

I must admit that I have not been a regular Aldi customer. When it comes to the so-called ‘budget’ chain, it’s easy to believe that my avoidance was perhaps out of regular shopping habits or the ‘snob’ factor, but in truth it was merely down to the simple fact that we didn’t actually get an Aldi here in Newbury until the mid-part of 2014.

Once they arrived I did go out of my way to go there and pick up several bottles of the superb Toro Loco red which was going through a high profile TV and press campaign.  Cut it which way you want though – I am very late to the Aldi revolution, which has been making massive inroads in the UK, delivering wine at both quality and price.

ALDI Wine Club Logo

In January this year Aldi launched their online wine shop and, in something of a tandem (it had actually been going a good year already) I became aware of their Wine Club.  For me, this is a no brainer idea in the wake of the closure of the Tesco Wine Community (TWC) last August (see my blog here), which was unique in the market for Supermarket wine endorsement and for whipping up consumer excitement and advocacy.

Entrance to the club is free, but limited, as you have to be hand-picked for each opening (every 3 months), and in return you are expected to be happy to talk regularly on social media about the wines that Aldi have on offer.  One plus point that the Aldi wine club has over the TWC is that they recommend honesty, and have come up with a way to achieve it.  It’s not that Tesco didn’t explicitly want honesty, but with Aldi you are signed-up for a 3-month window of reviewing and you can actually feel free to express your honest opinion, as opposed to (perhaps) faintly praising a particular wine in order to secure further bottles.

If you are happy to go along with the above terms and are lucky enough to be picked, you get a 3 month pass to a number of wines that Aldi want to highlight and you can rate accordingly.  Its then over to you to write a mini 140 character review on Twitter (which ensures you publicise a concise tasting note) and further highlight your reviews via your own blog space.

Luckily enough this suits me all over, and I’ve hopped on the bus for the 7th tasting panel.  In addition to my numerous tweets on the wines (https://twitter.com/Vinesight), presented here is the full tasting note from the first wine supplied.

Aldi Malbec

Vignobles Roussellet Malbec, France, 12.5%, £4.39

When charged with placing a 140 character tweet on a wine, it is tougher than you think to get across everything you want to say.  Alongside the characters swallowed by the picture, the hashtags and the company shout-out, you are left with little over 100 characters.  A mere sentence.

My review stated simply that the wine had a “Good weight. Rich, Intense. Spice to match meatballs. Vanilla & floral. Long cherry length”.  Whilst this is all true and paints the overall picture, it doesn’t tell the whole story, and certainly doesn’t encapsulate everything I like to focus on when reviewing a wine.

If we start at the start, the first thing to notice is that this wine is sealed with a screw-cap, something which isn’t necessarily the case with the majority of French wine.  This isn’t a dig at the bottle, but more a statement on the French who, as the bastion of the old wine world, keep traditional values at the heart of their production.  The inclusion of a screw-cap therefore indicates that this wine is something of misnomer for a typical French bottle, and a hint that a cost-saving has been made.

Digging just a touch further in to the label you also notice further omissions such as the year of production, or even a specific area of France from which the wine originates (it simply states ‘France’).  According to the documentation the wine also includes an element of the Shiraz grape but, as it represents less than 15% of the blend, this also goes un-written and may bother someone trying to construct a full and accountable tasting note.

On the flip side, there has clearly been some thought that has gone in to presenting the wine with a well laid out and designed label.  This alone would be enough to make me pick it up off the shelf, but presents me with a quandary.  We’re hitting a well under-average price-point, with nods to youthful thinking (screw cap), mass production through wide-area blending (or, at the very least, lacking typicity), but we have care going in to presentation.  I’m certainly no wine snob, but I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle for as little as £4.39, certainly not with an expectation to taste.  What a good opportunity!

On to the wine itself and the colour is a dense ruby youthful purple with a nice fine watery white rim.  The nose is equally dense and forthcoming with sweet ripe black fruits of cherry and plum.  There’s also hints of pepper there, but you can tell that this wine is all about the upfront fruit and you expect a packed palate.

In the mouth you immediately feel the good weight of the wine which is nicely medium bodied.  The fruit is clean and clear and very ripe, sometimes heading towards confectionate (perhaps reminiscent of Parma violets with the evident florality).  You also start to get a feel for the secondary characteristics of a light vanilla, black pepper spice, rich cake-like sultana and raisins, as well as light tannin and lip smacking (fairly high) acid.  The wine keeps the mid-palate filled well with the black cherry fruit intensity, and there’s a nice continuing warmth from the 12.5% alcohol.

I paired this wine with meatballs in a rich chilli sauce and it had both the ripe rich fruit to match the dry darker tones of the beef, as well as the weight and spice to match the weight and spice of the chilli sauce.

This wine has been widely praised by numerous influential and skilled palates (both Tim Atkin and Olly Smith, for example) and it is easy to see why.  Overall, this is an extremely good wine and, when you consider the price-point, almost unbelievable that they can bring it in.  A definite recommend.

With thanks to Aldi UK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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Laithwaites Premiere March 2016

Another Laithwaites Premiere tasting now, taking a look at the bottles they select each month, in a bid to get the regular wine purchaser out of their comfort zone and trying something new.  As usual there’s one bottle of white and one bottle of red, falling anywhere in the £7.99 to £12 price bracket.

LaithMar16

Da Silva Amoras 2014, Lisboa VR, Portugal, 12.5%, £7.99

Laithwaites became ‘Portuguese Wine Importer of the year’ in 2010, so it’s no surprise that they’re promoting unique wines from that part of the world.  At £7.99 it’s certainly not one of the most expensive offerings from the scheme, so a ‘try-before-you-buy’ tasting is good news.

The first thing that’s great about this wine is that it is from the ‘Santos Lima’ family estate, owned by the da Silva family for several generations, which ensures a serious attention to detail.  Secondly, they have access to the long sunny Portuguese days and perfect growing conditions that comprise “slopes, soil and breezy conditions close to the Atlantic”.

On a third note, this wine was also a treat for me as it comprises a blend of four very different and unusual grape varieties – Fernao Pires (30%), Arinto (30%), Vital (30%) and Moscatel (10%), two of which I’d never tried before.

Each of the grapes plays a clear part in to the final palate, with the Fernao Pires providing the weight and spice, the Arinto giving the crisp citrics, and the Vital and Moscatel providing the grapey characters.

In colour the wine is an almost luminous golden yellow, both clean and bright and evocative of its youth.  What the nose has in the depth of flavour, it seems to unfortunately lack in its intensity. All the scents are there, but the wine is quite closed and I felt that you really needed to search to find them.  Usually this ‘closed’ nature could be down to over chilling the wine, but this wasn’t a factor in this case.

This is a mid-weight wine, creamy with a low-key but present acidity, making it both crisp and refreshing.  The citrus comes primarily from lemon and to a lesser extent lime, but both apples and grapes are the heavy hitters.  Whilst the green notes are offset by the yellow fruits, the palate is quite dark, almost sour.  When you consider that the ‘grapey’ aspect should only come from 40% of the blend, this is quite interesting.

Whilst showing a bit of a tangy after-taste, it has a good long length which manages to retain the musky fruit.  When looking at the online comments for this wine it appears that it is a bit of fence-sitter, with as many liking this as disliking the final product, but I enjoyed it and would potentially purchase in future.

Inca Tree Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5%, £10.49

With this wine sitting in the top part of the price category I was initially hopeful (most recent Premiere examples have peaked at the £9.99 bracket).  As many will know, Malbec is the French originated, but Argentine adopted grape variety, so a wine of this variety in this country (and at this price) should be top notch.

The bottle is well presented, with the image of the Jaguar (almost evoking that of the Ram on the 2000 Mouton) on the label to pay tribute to local folklore, where the animal is sacred and elusive.

In the glass this is a nice deep youthful purple, and the nose hits you even before you get to the glass which is always a good sign of complexity.  The first impressions of the nose are of sweet red cherry, plums and damsons.

Whilst the body was medium, the high acid actually kept the overall sensation fairly light. On the first day I tried this wine the fruit disappeared pretty quickly on the mid-palate, leaving only a spiciness rather than the fruit.  In lieu of a satisfactory tasting I decided to give this wine another go on a second date and it was well worth it.  Keeping the wine the extra day allowed the mid-palate to fill out with plummy fruits, and this melded well with the aforementioned spice and warmth.

So, decanting is definitely recommended for this wine but, even when doing that, I’m not sure I would put in the +£10 bracket.  There was a distinct complexity missing for me that would elevate it to anything above the £8 level and I was perhaps doing more than I should have, trying to coax something out of it.  It’s clearly a wine that is all about primary fruit and upfront exposure and, based on this tasting, is not something I would buy again.

So the Premiere story this month seems to be the cheaper white wine turned out to show better than the more expensive red.  Interesting stuff.

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Cuvée Reserve Wine Tasting Weekend 2016

Last weekend saw the approximate one year anniversary of me discovering and joining the Tesco Wine Community which, despite being a one-of-a-kind promotional tool for Tesco, sadly closed last August.  That, however, didn’t stop a core number of us staying in contact and organising a weekend away to do what we do best – talking about and trying new wine.  For me it was a wonderful and fitting way to celebrate the anniversary, by meeting in person some of the people I’d been chatting to online for some time.

Many attendees had met each other at previous Tesco winemaker events, but a rented house in Stratford-Upon-Avon last weekend marked the first time that a concerted effort had been made to bring together a wider group of us from all over the south of England.  Added to this, each attendee was bringing wines that they rated highly and wanted to present in the best possible light, so it was set to include a stellar list of top quality examples.

CR Wend Table

What follows isn’t an account about what transpired, or even a looooooong list of tasting notes – in order to preserve the relaxed atmosphere none of us were taking them.  I will however, as the one who took lots of photos of the bottles as they came and went, try to draw together a list of the 30 wines that were tasted as part of the weekend (including a few not available in the UK and shipped across from Germany).

I appreciate that a simple list of wines may make curious reading for some, but for 10 people in particular, it will remain a document of a wonderful weekend with great wine, great food and above all, great company.

And so, in no particular order:

Sparkling wine

We covered a good number of the sparkling bases here, with an example from each of the major categories:

  • Cono Sur sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé, Bio Bio Valley, Chile, 12%
  • I Duecento Prosecco Brut NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.5%
  • Freixenet Extra Vintage 2013 Brut Cava, Spain, 11.5%
  • Louis Delaunay Brut NV Champagne, France, 12.5%

White wine

Our white wine selection comprised:

  • Denis Dubourdieu 2010 Clos Floridene, Grand Vin De Graves (blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon, 3% Muscadelle), France, 13%. A nice chance to try a rare white example of Graves
  • Symbiose La Grande Olivette, Cuvee Florence, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cótes de Thau 2014, France, 12%. Piquepoul is something of a recent trend in the UK, so this was an interesting one to try
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2013 Weissburgunder, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%. The first of three wines sourced exclusively from Germany and rarely seen in the U.K.
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2014 Riesling, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%
  • Randersackerer Ewig Leben 2013er, Albalonga Auslese, Franken, Germany, 11%
  • Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14%
  • Alvi’s Drift 2015 Chenin Blanc, Worcester, South Africa, 13.5%
  • Calvet Reserve 2013 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 12.5%
  • The Cup and Rings 2013 Godello Sobre Lias, Monterrai, Spain, 13%
  • Ara Single Vineyard 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%

CR Wend German

Red wine

All the wines supplied were kept undisclosed to the other attendees prior to the day, and so it is interesting to notice the heavy red bias towards Spain.  Our full selection comprised:

  • Arjona (unoaked) 2014 Rioja (100% Tempranillo), Spain, 13.5%
  • Club Des Sommeliers, Morgon (100% Gamay) 2014 Beaujolais, France, 12.5%
  • J Opi 2014 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5%. This wine was decanted to bring out the rich flavour
  • Marques de Riscal Finca Torrea 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 14%
  • Cháteau Hervé Laroque 2007 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon), Fronsac, France, 13%
  • La Cantera Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo based blend), Carinena, Spain, 13%, (from magnum)
  • Ermita de San Lorenzo 2008 Garnacha based blend, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Another one for the decanter
  • Mayu Syrah Reserva 2011, Elqui Valley, Chile, 14.5%. This wine was again decanted to allow the rich flavours to mellow
  • Piccini Memoro 2010 (Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’avola, Sangiovese blend), Regional blend across Tuscany, Basilicata, Veneto and Sicily, Italy, 14%. Decanted, but perhaps needed more time to open fully.
  • Cháteau Valfontaine 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) Bordeaux, France, 12%
  • Stobi 2011 Petit Verdot Barrique, Tikves, Macedonia, 14%.  A rare opportunity to try this wine.
  • Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 13.5%
  • Les Vaucorneilles Cuvee Nathan 2005, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 13.5% (Blend of Gamay, Cabernet and Cot)
  • Vox Populi 2012 Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain, 14%
  • Laurent Miquel L’Artisan 2014 (Syrah, Grenache), Faugeres, France, 13.5%

CR Wend Lineup

Thanks to Clare for organising what proved to be a successful event, and one that is already mooted to be taking place again next year.  Cheers!

CR Wend Table 2

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