Aldi Wine Club 16th Tasting Panel – Note #2

Another wine review now and this time we’re off for the first of the Aldi red wines offered up by their 16th wine club panel, and the north-eastern vineyards of Portugal.

Perhaps sometimes lost against the prolific and easily recognisable wines of Spain, I don’t tend to taste Portuguese wine half as often as I should.  A conversation with a fellow wine lover this week confirmed that this was their lamentable stance too.

Bottled in Portugal by Vicente Faria, the 7th biggest exporter of Portuguese wine and a family vineyard since the early 19th century, this wine is a blend of three of the indigenous Portuguese red grapes: Tinta Roriz (30%), Touriga Nacional (30%) and Touriga Franca (40%).

Brightly adorning the front of the bottle were two stickers indicating recent successes at two of the world’s leading wine competitions: a commended medal at the IWSC 2017 contest and (since the pictures were done for the Aldi website) a Bronze medal win at the 2017 Decanter wine awards.

All hailing from specially selected plots, the intention of Vincente Faria is to make a ‘delicate’ but ‘complex’ wine with a ‘persistent bouquet’.

Let’s see how they got on.

Aldi Tweet 2

Animus, 2015, Douro DOC, Portugal, 13%, £4.99

Rather than just doing a pure tasting note for the wine, which really only comes alive if you eventually go on to taste the wine, I always like to spend a little time evaluating the packaging.

As an aesthetic that can be appreciated online as well as in person, the label is used as a marketing cue for the consumer to highlight the brand as well as to help to visualise the quality aspirations and overall style of the producer.

Neck Label

Sealed under the merits of a fully branded cork there was the wonderful attention to detail in terms of the neck label, adorned with a crest to the top.  In similar fashion, the label had a good contemporary line drawing design, not too dis-similar to the artist Matisse, depicting two people having a casual drink.

On to the tasting and, in the glass, the wine was a classic youthful and inky dark purple colour.  The nose was incredibly intense and full of rich ripe fruits focusing mainly on the red (with a touch of black) cherry.  This was backed up with a good wedge of vanilla florality offset by some stalky unripe, green pepper.

On to the palate, and there were light chalky tannins with a slightly chewy character.  This gave way to a very fresh and youthful tasting wine full of juicy red and black cherry fruit, the blue fruit notes of plum, a fair whack of peppery spice and just a touch of menthol.  A medium weight in the mouth and a driving medium acidity kept it refreshing to drink both with and without food.

The length carried well, lasting over 30 seconds.  In the wake of Brexit and other economic factors in the UK, a £4.99 wine is becoming an ever-increasingly extinct artefact, well behind the current average UK bottle price of £5.60.

Aldi have, once again, managed to come through with the goods.

Already a firm favourite, scoring 4.4 out of 5 in customer ratings on the Aldi website, my thanks go to AldiUK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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UK Vintage 2017 Report #6 – September

The last blog piece written about the progress of my vines through the 2017 season lamented the less than stunning weather seen in August and hoped for a warmer September to compensate.

Any summer renaissance however (which was promised by several forecasters) never materialised and we are now fully in to the cooler temperatures and visibly shorter days of autumn.

Here’s an update as to how things are progressing in the final run up to the harvest.

Ortega

Ortega Sept 17

Furthest along in terms of maturity, this variety is there or thereabouts ready for picking.  The leaves are already starting to change colour to autumnal brown, and I measured the Brix level of the grapes as 19 (giving a potential alcohol of 10.8%).

As a short explanation for those not familiar with growing/picking grapes, a refractometer is an essential tool for a winemaker.  You simply squeeze a small amount of the grape’s juice on to the clear end plate, seal it in and look through the viewing lens.  As light refracts through the trapped juice, the angle of refraction measures the volume of sugars present, ergo the potential alcohol.

Refractometer

10.8% potential alcohol is fair for a white wine produced in the southern UK climate.  11.5% would be perfect so I’ll try to hang on just a little bit longer for now.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay Sept 17

Probably about 2-3 weeks behind my Ortega is my Chardonnay, with a current Brix level of 16 (potential alcohol of 8.8%).  The leaves here have also just started to change colour but, unlike my Ortega, the last couple of weeks have seen the vine continuing to grow, not so much in length/height, but in density.

MVN3

MVN3 Sept 17

As mentioned last month I have seen a very poor yield this year.  This last week has seen veraison (the changing colour of the berries) start to kick in, but the Brix is still tracking at a lowly 11, which is not even on the conversion chart!

You would expect a red grape to be trailing behind the whites, and this one looks like it will need every single remaining day of the harvest if the poorer crop is to come to anything at all.

Summing up, there is once again a slight resurgence in the temperatures forecasted for next week but, as this change has been on the horizon for a good few weeks now, I will believe it when I see it.

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Aldi Wine Club 16th Tasting Panel – Note #1

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Although it feels like longer it’s only been 5 months since I last checked in with the Aldi Wine Club as part of their 13th tasting panel.  Always keen to keep up with the latest offerings, it was a pleasure to be included as part of their 16th panel, even more so as the range has moved onwards since I was last in touch and I would be tasting two wines I’d never tried before.

As a reminder, the club is open to any UK based participants, should they fancy themselves as a budding wine taster with a flair for publicising the wines via social media.  To apply for the next panel simply head here and follow the simple qualifying rules (150 words as to why you should be chosen), and you too could be sampling the latest Aldi wine offerings in exchange for an honest review.

The great thing about the panel is that honesty is a key part of the deal – you don’t have to be un-necessarily fawning over a wine that doesn’t ‘float-your-boat’ to get a free bottle; you just need to be honest and constructive in your feedback.

In addition, as opposed to some other tasting schemes out there, you don’t have to be a regular purchaser of Aldi wine to stand a chance of joining the club.  First timers are welcome and have an opinion as valid as any other.

First up for this 16th panel was a Sauvignon Blanc, not perhaps from the expected motherland of New Zealand, but instead from the southern Cape of South Africa.

Labelled as ‘The Project’, my first question was, OK, so what is ‘The Project’?  This was helpfully covered by the back label and described as a collaboration between ‘two mates’ sharing a love of the vine.

With a view to utilising the scenic vineyards around Cape Town, and in pursuit of the nirvana of vinous perfection, experienced winemaker Thys Louw (born in to a wine-making family stretching back a further 5 generations) and maverick winemaker Duncan Savage joined together in pursuit of excellence.

My senses certainly pricked on hearing the name Duncan Savage as I’d been to a tasting last October and raved about his white offering, full of flavour and with a great sense of style and attention to detail on the packaging.

I was now looking forward to a top-quality wine.

SB Tweet

The Project Sauvignon Blanc 2016, South Africa, 12.5%, £5.99

Although Aldi are now on to the 2017 vintage (remember that southern hemisphere wine is harvested in February/March), this is a review of the 2016 vintage supplied to me.

Bottled under screw cap and coming in an eco-friendly-looking clean green bottle, a slightly odd gripe of mine was the inclusion of various spurious bits of information on the label, perhaps to ape the style of other wines of a similar nature.

Mentioning that the wine was ‘project approved’ with ‘batch 1’ containing the ‘mineral element’ and ‘batch 2’ containing the ‘fruit element’ was not only useless information, but potentially confusing to the average consumer.  There was also the obligatory signature in the bottom right of the label from someone somewhere, clearly meaning something official which surely no-one really cares about when buying/tasting the wine.

If the above made you think I was slightly over-picking the holes here, another grumble was that the label was slightly peeling off when I received the wine, a good deal more so when it was chilled down for drinking (I managed to fully peel it off with little effort, which was completely at odds with the dedication previously seen in the Savage bottles).

Perhaps as I’d only just re-watched the great 2009 TV documentary series ‘Wine’, which in part showed South African producers moving their wine industry ‘forward’ to a new era alongside scenes of them hand sticking each bottle label in turn, it made me juxtapose my grand thoughts with a rather more rustic endeavour.

On to the tasting then and, being pale lemon in colour this had a good, strong, impressively expressive nose.  Focused on the tropical yellow fruits of dried pineapple and melon there was also a touch of stony peach fruit.

The palate was full of lively juicy fruits creating a good medium weight in the mouth.  The acidity was both refreshingly vibrant and mineral in character with an almost piercing, linear quality pushing it through the expressive fruits.

Dominated by apple green flesh and green grassy notes, the golden tropical fruits carried through from the nose, all well-ripened and juicy through good sun exposure.  The end palate had a grapefruit bitter tang to offset and round the palate off.  This certainly wasn’t your average gooseberry/asparagus dominant Sauvignon Blanc.

Although I didn’t try this with food it stood up fantastically well on its own, and the packaging was a complete red-herring as to the quality contained within.

My dominant memory is the seriously long finish which lasted well over a minute (I gave up timing it in the end, just to enjoy it).  I’d easily hang my hat on that.  Summer may have ebbed away but the taste of this wine almost still lingers on.

Currently rated 4.2 out of 5 on the Aldi site, my thanks go to AldiUK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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