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.
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.
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.