Aldi Wine Club 13th Tasting Panel – Notes #5 and #6

Well, here we are already on to the final two wines of the 13th Aldi Wine Club panel, and once again it has been a great opportunity to try some wines not on my ordinary supermarket list.

As per the first two bottles received there was a last minute swap out by Aldi and, due to the nicer weather we’ve been seeing here in the UK recently, instead of the planned Chateau Peyredoulle Bordeaux I received:

Aldi Prosecco v3

Aldi Prosecco Superiore NV, Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy, 11%, £7.99

Prosecco is a tried and trusted crowd-pleaser when the weather is warmer, such is the light fresh and fruity nature of the style, and I’ve no doubt that this particular example will be a favourite for many.

A lovely vibrant medium yellow in colour, the nose was full of clean apple and citrus notes.

The palate was immediately light and quaffable with the soft bubble explosion literally melting in your mouth.  A well balanced and refreshing acid streaked down either side of my tongue giving a good spritz whilst allowing the fruit to stay in the centre of your palate.

Juxtaposing this lightness was the fruit character that the bottle described as autumnal, and they weren’t wrong.  Rather than the crunchy green ‘Granny Smith’ apple you usually find in these lighter styles, there was a definite broody yellow apple tone reminiscent of ‘Golden Delicious’.  Notably darker in character than ‘Granny Smith’, we had soft and sweet yellow flesh, both creamy and slightly bruised, with almost a touch of clove and cinnamon.

A touch of lemon citrus lifted the syrupy apple end palate which, at times, became almost cider-like.  The shift between light and dark certainly made this an interesting wine to try, and the sweet apple kept the finish going in the mouth for some time.

Aldi Andara Merlot v2

Andara Merlot 2015, Chile, 13%, £3.99

This particular Merlot was due in the first batch of wines a couple of months back but, in a similar way to the Prosecco above, was shifted out and joins us here in the final two.  Merlot is, of course, one of the French varieties that has made its home in Chile and thrives in popularity.

A medium youthful purple in colour with visible alcohol ‘tears’ in the glass, the nose was particularly full and interesting, with perceptible layers and density.  Included were liquorice notes, black pepper, dark black berry and cherry, and wood with a whiff of vanilla.  The overall sensation was slightly herbaceous with a cakey-bready thick complexion.

On the palate there were jammy blackberry fruits and a fairly high acidity, matched up against smoky dusky blue-skinned plummy fruit.  There were also secondary tones of bitter dark chocolate and a touch of mint on the aftertaste.  Whilst this should represent a veritable compote of flavour, all in all the palate felt a bit disparate with a raw unfinished quality, and not entirely well blended together.

Such was the imbalance of this wine, unusually for an Aldi Wine Club submission, I was able to discern the price prior to looking for it.  At £3.99, whilst there is a good argument that such imperfection should perhaps be expected, I would counter-argue that wines such as Toro Loco show that quality at this level is actively attainable.

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

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Aldi Wine Club 13th Tasting Panel – Notes #3 and #4

Time for my second set of notes on the 13th Aldi Wine Club panel now, and we have a white and a red to review, both from Marlborough on the south island of New Zealand.

Aldi launched their artisan cheese range in the latter half of last year, and one interesting addition to this month’s tasting is that Aldi have supplied a specially paired cheese from the range for each of the wines.  This isn’t the first time that Aldi have done a cheese and wine match as part of the club, and in the run up to Christmas 2016 the 10th tasting panel matched a Brie with truffle against their Exquisite range Pinot Noir.

Having gathered really good feedback from the previous panel reviews, and now in the run up to Easter, Aldi have once again decided to go for a cheese and wine matching, and I’m very happy to be giving them both a try.

Capture2

Aldi Exquisite Collection Private Bin 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.5%, £7.49

The bottle proudly displays its award winning merits by having an IWSC Gold medal sticker on the label.  A quick look online tells me it has also picked up a Decanter Silver medal too.

In colour this is a medium lemon yellow wine with golden tints to the rim.  The nose is amazingly strong and expressive, with well ripened green kiwi, tropical dried pineapple, yellow melon and a lovely honeyed syrup lemon, lime and passion fruit blend.  In short, it smelt fantastic.

On the palate there were lovely juicy and mouth-watering tropical fruits, a squeeze of lime juice and a fairly high acidity.  The ripened fruits have a good weight and silky feel about them, are well rounded, and finish off with a nectarine tang.

If I was to have one criticism it was that the fruits, as quickly as they surged at you, then dropped back in the mid-palate and left you completely in the end palate, giving a short finish led by the bracing acidity.  After the sensational nose of the wine I was perhaps a touch disappointed.

Food match: Aldi Buffallo Mozzarella with Beef Tomato, Basil Leaves and a dash of Balsamic Vinegar

Perhaps already sensing the need to brush off some of the high acid and prolong the fruits, the fatty and creamy nature of the mozzarella did just the trick.  Acting as a counterpoint to the wine it pulled together the palate completely, giving a lovely textured base to the tropical syrup fruit and absorbing some of the high acid which allowed the fruit to really come to the fore.  Very satisfying.

Capture1

Aldi Exquisite Collection 2014 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.5%, £6.99

In the glass this was a delicate medium-light cherry red colour, which basically was able to convey the whole style of the wine in purely visual terms alone.  On the nose there was a good hit of the well ripened fresh red cherries followed by just a whiff of plummy smokiness.

The palate was once again led by the red cherry, backed up with light hints of cranberry and raspberry, and weight from damson and plum fruit.  The medium bodied palate was kept light and fresh from the pure fruit flavours and the acidity, whilst very present and fairly high, was much more reigned in from the previous bottle.  This time the fruit carried on for a good long length.

Food Match: Aldi Brie de Meaux with wholemeal biscuits

The sticky and richly flavoured cheese once again managed to dovetail in nicely with the wine, and the mild mushroom character of the Brie drew out the darker fruits and herbaceous characters of the Pinot grape.

The key match here for me was the heavier weight and sticky quality of the Brie pairing very well with the lighter aspects of the body of the wine, and once again the thick creamy nature of the cheese soaked up and prolonged the ripe fruit flavours of the wine.

The acid was once again tamed but, as it felt fairly well balanced without food, just served to make the final palate more rounded and quaffable.

Once again this was an excellent match that I recommend and will look to try again in future, but if I had to pick a winner from the two, it would be the Sauvignon Blanc and Buffalo Mozzarella pairing.  Instead of just complementing the wine, as was the case with the Pinot Noir, the Buffalo Mozzarella actually took the Sauvignon Blanc to the next level and was very tasty indeed.

With thanks to Aldi UK for the wine and cheese used in this tasting.

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Aldi Wine Club 13th Tasting Panel – Notes #1 and #2

Nearly a full year after I first joined up with the Aldi Wine Club to review half a dozen bottles in their 7th panel, I’m very pleased to once again be linking in with them for their 13th panel.  In a happy coincidence, the first wine I’m trying is the sister act to the first wine I ever reviewed for them; the Vignobles Roussellet Malbec.

ALDI Wine Club Logo

As a quick reminder for anyone not familiar with the club, every other month Aldi select 30 would-be wine experts to become their next tasting panel.  Each month over the following 3 months you are sent two bottles to taste and rate.  You’re free to be as honest as you want with the wines, and they won’t stop sending them to you if one isn’t to your taste.  All you need to do is be prepared to share your views via social media.

Applying to be on the panel is free and you can find all of the application details here (UK only).

Here’s my thoughts on the first two wines that I have been sent for this 13th panel.

Vignobles Roussellet Sauvignon Blanc, France, 11.5% £4.49

Reminding myself of my notes on the Merlot I tasted a year prior, one of the first things I mentioned was that the bottle came under screwcap (largely not favoured by the traditionally led French) and didn’t feature either a production year or a region of production other than the general label of ‘France’.

All of this is exactly the same for this Sauvignon Blanc, but a tiny note on the back label and a Google later tells me that this wine was produced by Grands Chais de France (LGCF), who partner smaller winegrowers all over France and have access to some 2,000 hectares of vines.

In colour this is a medium lemon yellow with golden tints to the rim.  Even before I am six inches close to the glass I’m greeted by a fully fragrant nose of green, be it lime, apple flesh or grassy florality.  There’s also touches of yellow tropical fruit in the form of pineapple and melon.

On the palate you are immediately hit by a big dash of lime and an overwhelming sense of bright sun ripened fruit.  There’s a good medium weight, full of creamy, fleshy, tropical fruit (distinct melon), along with both pink grapefruit and satsuma on the end palate.

Along with a refreshing and precise acidity, the creamy lime carries on for ages and is incredibly satisfying.  With such a lovely, focused and textured wine of multi-layers it is hard to believe that such a full package can be achieved at just 11.5% alcohol.  There is absolutely no restraint in character and this in itself is a revelation.

This is amazingly good value at £4.49 and I would happily pay twice the price for it.  An easy wine to recommend, and by the time you read this I will probably have bought some more.

Aldi WC13 1st batch

Castellore Pinot Grigio Blush 2015, Veneto, Italy, 11.5%, £4.29

Usually each panel will pair off a red and a white wine but this month, for whatever reason (I’m assuming low stock/supply issues as the bottle currently shows ‘unavailable’ on the Aldi website), a Chilean Malbec was set aside to make way for this Italian Rosado.  This bottle hails from the Veneto in north-eastern Italy which is the heartland of Pinot Grigio production.

I was trying this wine on one of the handful of nice sunny days we’ve seen this year, and with the bottle up to the light the medium farmed salmon pink seemed almost luminous.  The nose was a bit more subtle and I spent a little time trying to draw something out other than the red fruit that you would expect.  Apart from being able to discern that there was a healthy amount of redcurrant alongside the expected strawberry, my conclusion was that this wine was all about the pure up-front fruit.

The palate hovered somewhere between light to low medium weight, and continued the red fruits found on the nose.  There were also good traces of the classic Pinot Grigio characteristics coming through, with an abundance of pear and green apple.  If there was any peach in place it was sucked in to the general red fruit medley, but overall this was fleshy and fruity.

Sadly this was where the problems began and, when pitched against the high acid, the singular fruits felt a little too sweet for me.  It isn’t, of course, a sweet wine, but the perception was further highlighted by the lower alcohol level of 11.5%.  As a result, much of the guts and weight were missing for me, and the finish was fairly short.

In the spirit of finding a way of balancing things out I decided to leave the bottle out of the fridge to warm it a touch, even though fully chilled is recommended.  Whilst this did shave a bit of the harshness off of the acidity, the overall whole still felt pretty water thin, and perhaps it is one to retry with food?  I’m not 100% what was vintage about this wine, and would think that it was in no way different to the style produced every other year.

Even though the sun was out whilst I tried the bottle it wasn’t that warm and, knowing that Rosé/Rosado wines fair better in the summer, perhaps Aldi shouldn’t have bought this bottle forward from the later delivery?

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

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Aldi Wine Club 8th Panel Tasting Note #3

Time now to review the final two wines from the 8th Aldi Wine Club panel.  First up is another wine from their Exquisite range.

Pinot Noir Rose

Exquisite Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13%, £6.49

With the rest of the 8th panel being comprised of white wines this Rosé from the Pinot Noir grape is about as close as I am going to come to a red.  Like the rest of the Exquisite range the dominant type labelling and Royal blue colour of the screw cap immediately makes the bottle look smart and sets off the colour of the wine.

Marlborough is of course best known for its signature grape of Sauvignon Blanc.  Based at the northern tip of the southern island at a fairly low latitude it is certainly cool enough to grow the very fussy Pinot Noir variety, whilst still remaining warm and sunny.  This cooler climate allows the grapes to have a long growing season and fully ripen without being scorched in the sun.  We can tell from the alcohol content of 13% that these grapes have probably seen a long hang-time allowing the sugars to build up nice and slowly.

In colour this is a nice deep darkish pink which I always liken to wild salmon, with just a tinge of onion skin.  In typical style for a youthful New World Rosé the nose is incredibly full and fruity and stuffed full of wild strawberry, raspberry, redcurrant and maybe a touch of cranberry.  In addition there is a touch of lemon citrus, and all the fruit smells deep, ripe and incredibly inviting.

The palate begins with lemon and lime citrus and then hits you with a zingy fresh acidity.  In addition to the list of red fruits that you could detect on the nose the palate also adds a nice creamy texture and weight but, if I had one criticism, this weight has a tendency to disappear in the mid-palate.  This isn’t too much of a worry though as the fresh acidity has enough strength to guide you through to a good length finish.  This wine delivers exactly what you would expect it to, which is a bright and breezy refreshing wine that is great on its own or will stand up to many foods including starters, or even on to lighter main courses.

At £6.49 this is one of the pricier bottles from Aldi, but is still very good value for something that would be perfectly palatable any weekday.

Cotes De Gascogne

Venturer Series Cótes De Gascogne IGP, Colombard /Gros Manseng blend 2015, £11.5%, £4.79

To finish the series off we have something a little unusual in that this wine isn’t sourced from the Exquisite range which has been the stalwart of the previous tastings.  It’s also comprised of two grape varieties that many casual wine consumers may not be aware of, and where a good review can work wonders to open them up to something which they may not initially gravitate towards.

The Cótes De Gascogne (literally translating as ‘the slopes of Gascony’) hails from south-western France.  The region is widely associated with smaller farmers who are part of larger co-operatives producing entry level wines known as ‘Vin de Pays’ (or ‘wine of the land’).  The Columbard grape began life as a French variety but, being the offspring of Chenin Blanc, has latterly found most of its fame in South African wines where both varieties thrive.  Gros Manseng is a native of southwest France and, due to its high yields, is particularly suited to creating large volumes of everyday entry-level wine.

Perhaps hinting at its lower than average alcohol level of 11.5%, the colour of this wine is a light and delicate lemon yellow with hints of green to the rim.  The nose is floral and light with lots of evident citrus and the fresh cut grass aromas usually associated with Sauvignon Blanc.

The palate is extremely zingy with a fresh acid commanding the light to medium body.  There’s a fresh hit of lime followed by both watermelon and grapefruit as well as perhaps just a touch of peach at the end.  The good length finish is drawn in with a nice creaminess (I’m borrowing from the label when I identify this as lemon curd) and overall this is easy to drink and completely refreshing.

At £4.79 it is priced absolutely for what it is, and it’s great that you can still buy these everyday quaffing wines and get change from a fiver.  Don’t let the odd grape varieties put you off!

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

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Aldi Wine Club 8th Panel Tasting Note #2

The next two bottles from the latest Aldi Wine Club tasting panel arrived recently.  Both were sourced from their ‘Exquisite’ range and with no red this time, we have a white and a rosé to try.

Aldi Albarino

Exquisite Collection Albariño 2015, Rias Baixas, Spain, 12%, £5.99

Well-known within wine loving circles, the region of Rias Baixas and the Albariño grape variety might not be the most familiar of Spanish offerings to the general public, but the good news is that this is another case of the right grape growing in the right place.  Albariño (known as Alvarinho in Portugal) produces distinctive wines and works well in the Atlantic Ocean influenced wetter conditions of the north-western corner of Spain, just north of the Portuguese border.

Bottled under screw-cap, this wine is a nice clean lemon yellow in colour, with a fresh and inviting nose.  There’s a good sprinkling of zesty citrus with heaps of lemon backed up by lime, fresh grass and floral notes, clean green fruit of both apples and pears, and a slight toastiness which rounds out the good full, intense experience.

The palate is led by the fresh lemon citrus and followed by tropical yellow fruit of melon and pineapple along with peach skin and light floral touches.  Even though this wine is absolutely all about the fresh clean fruits (which it has in good measure and pairs well with the steely crisp high acid) I found it slightly lacking in the mid-palate.  This dipped the intensity leaving just the acid and also had a knock on effect to the length, which wasn’t overly long.

All in all, this is an easy enough wine to drink with or without food, but I will have to re-taste before I can recommend or fully evaluate it.  One last thing to add is that if I can’t make a full decision on a wine, I leave the rest of the bottle for a re-taste the next evening.  In this case, it was good enough to be gone in one evening, which does draw conclusions of its own.

Aldi Provence

Exquisite Collection Cótes de Provence Rosé NV, France, 13.5%, £5.99

This wine, like the Albariño above, was picked out by The Telegraph newspaper as a key wine for the summer of 2014, and right from pouring, I can see I’m going to like it.

In a subtle and canny way of keeping quality in line with price, this wine isn’t from any particular vintage, but is rather a blend of years (NV meaning ‘Non Vintage’).  In the classic Provence style it is comprised of four different grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre and Cinsault) which is the regional speciality both in the southern Rhone and continuing in to the south-east of France.

My initial description of how the wine looked in the glass started with the word ‘luminous’ – it had a clear vibrancy (and I use this word often, so it surpassed even that!) with a colour that blended onion skin and wild salmon.  It was clear that this wine would have depth.

The nose was intense as expected, with fresh strawberries and cream leading the way, followed by the stone fruit of peach and nectarine.  There was a little extra sweetness to the nose that suggested all things confectionary, but it wasn’t overplayed.

On the palate the signature strawberries and cream continued, alongside peach, lemon and watermelon, all giving a good weighted mouthfeel.  The acid was placed lower in the mix and kept the palate refreshing whilst allowing ripe fruits to come to the fore.  The length was good and added smoke and further darker notes.

I’ve never been able to put my finger on the dark notes at the end of some rosé wines and often end up listing them as something like ‘a pleasant bitterness’.  Utilising the internet, apparently they are known as ‘salty minerality’ which comprises black skinned olives, brine, and even meat.  Once aware I could instantly pick out these characteristics.  Being fairly unusual characters in wine this was a good eye-opener for me.

The labelling for this bottle is in-keeping with the rest of the ‘Exquisite’ range (the use of the colour blue to offset the contents, clear good looking scripts and fonts, the winemakers signature etc.), but if I had one negative against this wine it would be the funny shaped bottle.  At best it looks like a novelty, but at worst appears simply as a wine ‘alternative’ or soft drink (Orangina springs to mind).

Overall this wine embodies what it is to be part of the Aldi Wine Club, in that it has allowed me to try a wine that I perhaps would not have picked off the shelf, it has enabled me to learn something new about the world of wine, and it again has me scratching my head as to how Aldi can bring in such quality at such market-friendly prices.

I’ll be picking up more of this when I pop in to get the replacement bottle of Albariño.

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

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Aldi Wine Club 8th Panel Tasting Note #1

I’m delighted to be linking in with Aldi again for the 8th panel of their ‘Wine Club’.  This means I’ll be trying six more of their wines over the coming months and, if its anything like the last panel, it will be full of interesting wines.

I’ve recently received the first two bottles, so let’s kick things off.

Aldi Gaguedi

Gaguedi Sauvignon Blanc, Swartland, South Africa, 13.5%, £4.89

Winemaking in South Africa is focused on the south-western tip of the country, and this wine from Swartland is from the western side of the western tip.  Even though winemaking has been taking place in the Southern Cape region for hundreds of years, it has only fairly recently developed in Swartland and plantings are adaptable and dictated to trend as opposed to tradition.  This is why we find the Sauvignon Blanc grape here, as they play off the success seen by New Zealand.

In terms of climate, even with the cooling influences of the Atlantic Ocean rolling across the land, they see a Mediterranean level of warmth, and this distinguishes it from the cooler climate classic Sauvignons of New Zealand.

Visually the wine is a pale to mid lemon colour, with vibrant gold tints to the rim suggesting ripe and juicy fruit.  The nose comes across as a little subdued but, as this can sometimes be from over-chilling the wine, I left it out of the fridge for a bit and we were back in business.  My overall impression of the wine was that it was fairly brooding, with characters other than simple fresh fruit coming to the foreground.  I could detect an oiliness as well as florality and hits of honeysuckle, all of which isn’t your classic Sauvignon.

The unfaltering heat of the climate fully ripens the grapes and this manifests itself with a decent mid-weight body and, despite being zingy with a mouth-watering acidity, backs it up with butter slightly reminiscent of a Chardonnay.  There is a clear streak of freshly squeezed lime, just giving way to touches of green apple flesh, and then heading off towards yellow tropical fruit of melon and pineapple.  The overall sensation is fresh and inviting and lingers on the palate for a good while after.

If you’re a lover of the easy-going classic grassy style of NZ Sauvignon Blanc this wine may not hit the spot for you, but I would happily recommend this as a good solid weekday wine, and another that comes in at the great sub-£5 price-point.

Aldi Blanquette

Exquisite Collection Blanquette de Limoux 2014, Languedoc, France, 12%, £7.99

Next up is a sparkling from the Languedoc in southern France.  When a French sparkling wine is produced in the same way as Champagne but made outside of the Champagne region, it is generally known (since 1990) as a Crémant, but Blanquette (meaning ‘small white’ in the local dialect) is held as the world’s first sparkling wine (dating back to 1544!) and so the historic name was kept as its own distinct AOC. The resultant wines tend to be slightly less effervescent than Champagne, but the big point of difference is that it is made with the Mauzac grape variety.  Not used at all in Champagne, Mauzac must constitute at least 90% of the Blanquette blend and may be topped up with Chardonnay and/or Chenin Blanc.

In terms of the packaging of the bottle it does follow the Champagne style with the word ‘Brut’ written in gold on the neck foil, where the word ‘Champagne’ usually is.  A nice stylish label is completed with the signature of winemaker Jean-Claude Mas.

In colour the wine is a pale lemon yellow and is peppered throughout with fine tiny bubbles rushing to the surface.  There’s a good fresh nose of lemon citrus which is accompanied by bready brioche notes.

On the palate this is at once light and frothy and effortlessly quaffable. Alongside the expected lemon citrus there is a touch of honey, the biscuit brioche notes from the nose continue, and the palate is rounded with the green fruit tones of apples and pears.

A refreshing acidity keeps this lively on your palate all the way through to the finish and, apart from the hallmark lightness of style meaning a certain depth is missing, there is a potential that this could be mistaken for Champagne.  A snip for £7.99 and, if you’re looking for a cheap sparkling for your everyday needs, I personally would put this ahead of Prosecco.

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

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Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #6 – Crémant du Jura Chardonnay 2013

My final review now for the Aldi Wine Club, and what better way to go out than with a bit of fizz!

When the French turn their hand to making sparkling wine outside of the delimited region of Champagne, it is known as Crémant.  Made in exactly the same way as traditional Champagne, you get all of the skill but without the baubles of prestige that drive up Champagne prices the world over.

Eight French regions produce a Crémant including Limoux, Alsace and the Loire, but today we are headed to the Jura which is located on the mid-eastern side of the country between Burgundy and Switzerland.  Although many Crémants use grape varieties not used in Champagne such Pinot Gris, Savagnin, Pinot Blanc or Riesling, today we’re trying one that is made with one of the thoroughbred Champagne varieties – Chardonnay.

Aldi Cremant

Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura Chardonnay 2013, France, 12%, £7.29

Bottled under cork and muzzle exactly like its Champagne counterparts, this bottle has a very pleasing appearance, with it’s squat bottle reminiscent to me of the uber-expensive Champagne, Krug.

Crémant is made in a lighter style than Champagne but in many other respects the look is similar, and this wine is a lovely golden yellow in colour with fabulous small bubbles trickling their way from the bottom to the top of your glass.  When some sparkling wines are falsely carbonated to give the fizz, the bubbles will be bigger (as in a can of fizzy drink) and noticeably ‘false’, so the fact that these bubbles are incredibly fine is a good marker.

On the nose I can pick up lemon citrus with a touch of lime zest as well as some honey and peach, white pepper spice and cream.

On the palate there is the citrus characters mentioned, which seem to now have more of a confectionate lemon curd quality.  There’s also the fleshy notes of green apple and, more precisely, the apple pips.  This quality hints to the fact that the fruit isn’t fully ripened, which isn’t something to worry about, but a fairly natural consequence of grapes grown in a marginal northern climate.

The wine is made in the dry Brut style which balances well with the medium acid levels.  Underpinning the fruit you have the deep rich weight and texture of butter and cream coming from the Chardonnay grape, and also a slightly discernible light grip tannin.  The weight is medium, and yet the wine is light and airy and the mousse completely quaffable prior to it dissolving in the mouth.  The length is medium and the overall sensation is clean, refreshing and moreish.

It’s very weird to be saying this, but at £7.29 this fizz represents the most expensive wine I’ve been sent as part of the Aldi wine club.  This is of course completely competitive alongside the price-point of both Prosecco and Cava, but when compared to virtually any Champagne (including those ‘on offer’), it is extremely good value.

The wine has also been especially well received with the critics and is the winner of several awards including a Bronze medal from Decanter, a Silver medal at the International Wine Challenge 2015, and a Gold medal at the IWSC (International Wines & Spirits Challenge).

As a reflection on the above bottle and indeed all of the others supplied by Aldi for this series of tastings, I can honestly say that the quality has been well above my expectations, and the prices substantially lower.  My future wine-buying routine will well and truly be changed going forward and, even though I always look for merit in any wine no matter what it is, I would be being untruthful if I said that I wouldn’t have previously been distrustful or perhaps dismissive of a wine priced up at £3.79.

My eyes have truly been opened – Cheers!

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

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Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #5 – Muscadet Sévre Et Maine 2015

I’m nearing the end of my 6 tastings for Aldi and so here we are already at my penultimate note.  Today we’re travelling to the western end of the Loire Valley, itself located in western France, and trying a Muscadet Sévre Et Maine.  The name of the wine comes from the area as well as the two rivers that flow through the Pays Nantais.

The grape variety used for this wine is Melon de Bourgogne (aka Melon in the USA) which, as the name suggests, was traditionally a variety grown in Burgundy.  Aside of some US plantings it is now so synonymous with the Loire that the grape is even sometimes known as Muscadet.  Whilst the grape variety might be unfamiliar to many, the fact that the French plantings survive in the Loire is a good indication that the variety works in this maritime northern climate.  This adopted homeland, alongside a fussy marginal northern climate (especially when moderated by the cool ocean breezes and the cool air from the Loire River itself), mean that we should be looking for both a delicate wine as well as a good overall quality.

Aldi Muscadet

The Exquisite Collection Muscadet Sévre Et Maine 2015, Loire Valley, France, 12%, £4.99

This wine is bottled under screw-cap as many a fresh youthful white wine is, and once again has the pleasing (to my eye) Royal blue coloured seal to offset against the green hue of the bottle.

In colour, this wine is on the lighter side of lemon yellow and has lovely green tints to the rim.  The nose is one you don’t want to over-chill and kill the flavours on, as it pairs a lightness of touch with an intense delivery. It draws together a myriad of sensations which kick off with lots of lemon, a whiff of lime, green apples, grapey characters, and a touch of peach.

In the mouth the first thing I notice is the gloopy quality and good weight that the wine has.  This is closely followed by a generous acidity which manages to be both all-encompassing and yet direct and linear.  Next up is a crisp delivery of lemon citrus, fruity peach, a dash of orange peel, and a slightly sour ending, which for me is like taking a huge bite in to a grapefruit.   The fruits are under-pinned with a smoky creaminess that comes from the lees (yeast) ageing, which is indicated by the addition of the words ‘Sur Lie’ on the bottle.  This ageing is what also gives the wine its gloopy weight and definition.

The tangy acidity continues on the palate for some time after the swallow, along with some of the sour grapefruit notes.  Overall this is an extremely juicy, bouncy, vibrant and fresh wine which will go perfectly with light bites, and most fish or seafood dishes, as well as patisserie.

I always write my own tasting notes before looking at the back of the bottle or included notes for the suggestions of the producer, and one thing that was mentioned a couple of times but completely evaded me (no matter how hard I looked) was mint.  I simply couldn’t find it, but it’s worth mentioning it in case that’s your thing.

Overall this is an incredibly refreshing, and once again extremely competitively priced wine, given the layers of flavours that can be found.  At just 12% alcohol (which was once the norm but, thanks to the New World and global warming, is probably actually considered a low alcohol level now) my own personal palate yearns for a bit more of the robust and fuller bodied white wines that I am used to.  That’s not a criticism of the wine or how it compares to other bottles of Muscadet (of which delicacy is a key trait) but merely to highlight that whilst this does have an intense character, it is notable for a lighter, subtler style.

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

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Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #4 – Toro Loco Superior 2014

I first heard of Toro Loco in 2012 when it managed to scoop a prestigious IWSC (International Wines & Spirits Challenge) Silver medal.  That’s no mean feat by itself, but when you consider that Toro Loco is the Aldi own-brand Spanish offering and priced at the crazy low price of £3.49, the win was all the more special.  It’s no wonder that journalists were queuing up to publicise the ‘find’ (you can read more on the triumph here) and very soon it was ‘out of stock’.  Astonishingly the wine remains at the same £3.49 price-point in 2016.

The wine hails from Utiel-Requena, in the province of Valencia on the mid-eastern coast of Spain.  Using leading red Spanish grape variety Tempranillo alongside a healthy helping of another local variety (Bobal) this is a wine that wants to highlight it’s Spanish roots.  The name Toro Loco translates as ‘Crazy Bull’ (hence the label bull/corkscrew design) and was chosen to personify the essence of Spain, from the local custom of bull fighting to the ‘living-life-to-the-full’ ethos of its residents.

When I first heard about Toro Loco back then I went straight out and bought a bottle to see if the fuss was justified.  I wasn’t disappointed and, having purchased it a couple of times since, this tasting was a great chance to re-visit the current vintage on offer.

Aldi Toro Loco

Toro Loco Superior 2014, Tempranillo (75%) & Bobal (25%), Utiel-Requena, Spain, 12.5%, £3.49

The wine is bottled under screw-cap and is a youthful vibrant clean purple in colour with a fine watery white rim.

The nose, whilst being full of character, is fairly restrained and is more about the thoughtful reflection of a local style, rather than the ‘in-your-face’ blockbuster style.  I can pick up a good array of both primary and secondary aromas from the dark black cherry fruit, stewed prune and raisin, to bitter black chocolate, woody notes and floral vanilla.

After the nasal sensation, the medium body that follows has a surprising lightness of touch.  Once again you get the upfront hits of black cherry and sour plum, but this is closely followed up with a typical Spanish vanilla creaminess and a touch of pepper spice.  The fruits are succulent, ripe and juicy and the fresh acid drives an uplifting palate.

At the same time this wine manages to show sophistication and blends in darker touches and a medium tannin level which grips the inside of your mouth.  There’s a decent layering of bitter chocolate, leathery tones and tobacco which all add together to create a deep multi-layered flavour sensation.  The length is equally impressive and retains the bitter chocolate from the mid-palate.

In the spirit of delivering a balanced review, if I had to make one criticism about this wine it would be in regards to the lighter weight delivering so much character, and when I tasted this wine the following day a lot of the deeper mid-palate tones had started to disappear, almost as if too much had been forced in too soon (remember that the vintage is less than 2 years old at this point).

Clearly this is nit-picking, and on the day of opening this wine was as good as any in terms of being a fine food match.  It’s worth remembering that drinking wine with food is an inherent part of Spanish culture and over time they have created a balanced wine style that suit the local flavours.  I can imagine this wine pairing well with a whole host of tomato based meals, tapas dishes, stews and much more.

As a last thought, I simply can’t believe there is any way that this can be produced for £3.49 a bottle – it simply defies logic.  There are numerous costs that every bottle of wine has to bear including transportation, retailer mark-up, and packaging & labelling.  On top of these are the hefty VAT and Duty costs imposed by the Government which can easily make up 50% of the overall price on a standard bottle of wine.  Estimates show that on a £3.79 bottle of wine only about 15p actually goes on the wine itself, and that runs the whole process from growing the grapes, to harvesting them, to the final production.  To get all the above depth from 15p seems unbelievable, almost unreasonable.

It was sold out the last time I went to get it, but trust me, I’ll be buying it again very shortly if I can get it.  I may even ‘trade up’ to the Toro Loco Reserva, which sees additional ageing in oak and adds Garnacha and other international grape varieties (Merlot and Shiraz) to the blend.  As the premium offering for the brand, it still comes in at a very modest £4.99

Toro Loco is truly a gem of a wine and one that you don’t want to miss.

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

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Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #3 – Exquisite Limestone Coast 2014 Chardonnay

On to the third of my Aldi tastings now and we’re back in Australia, but this time dealing with something a little bit more special.

When reviewing a wine I like to consider all aspects of it and, if having the word ‘Exquisite’ in the name is not enough, this wine hails from the Limestone Coast, which I find quite an exotic term and it transports me immediately to sunnier and foreign climes.  For me, I can almost taste the minerality and warmth.

The Limestone Coast is fairly obviously named to highlight the geological make-up of the base soils of this region of Southern Australia, and that’s important when knowing that you’re about to try a Chardonnay.  Chardonnay is of course a French grape, happiest in the quality wine regions of both Champagne and Burgundy.  What may not be so well known is that both of these French regions have a Limestone base, and this bodes extremely well for this wine.  As they’ve planted the right grape in the right place you know you’re probably in for a good tasting.

Aldi Chard

Exquisite Collection Chardonnay 2014, Limestone Coast, South Australia, 13.5%, £5.79

The wine is bottled under screw-cap, and I love the effect that the colour scheme has on the overall presentation of the bottle, with the ‘Royal’ blue off-setting the green/yellow of the bottle/contents very well.  A nice clean scripted label compliments the whole, which also tells us that this is the product of one year, and that the wine is unoaked.  This is an important point, as many New World Chardonnays faced a backlash a few years ago due to the addition of too much wood flavouring to bolster the sometimes neutral flavours of Old World Chardonnay.

Upon pouring the wine is a nice clear light straw colour with touches of gold.  The nose is good, clear and nicely intense, almost plump (if that’s possible for just a scent).  You can immediately understand that this is a rich creamy wine with a clear lemon and lime citrus hit, but also with deep honeyed characters and tropical pineapple.  It’s an incredibly fresh sensation which again brings me back to those warm and sunny days, and I swear (if it’s not too wine-geek-fanciful) that I could taste ‘blue skies’.  No?  Let’s just say then that it is a full, evocative nose.

On the palate you again get the sensations of a pleasing density and fullness and, alongside the good weight you get the fresh burst of yellow fruits including lemon, Galia melon, and the aforementioned pineapple.  There’s also a touch of florality, and a touch of honey (which I will assume to be the honeysuckle referenced on the label).

In addition to the clear fruits, this wine has much more to offer.  There’s the added warmth from the 13.5% alcohol, a lush creamy spice (which comes from its time ageing on its yeast) and a discreet smokiness that rounds out the end palate.  Overall this is a well-crafted, densely populated wine, and it’s easy to see why it forms part of the ‘Exquisite’ line.  The length was equally as impressive as I’d gone away to do something else and realised some five minutes later that I could still taste it.  Wonderful stuff.

I really like unoaked Chardonnay so didn’t actually pair this with food for this tasting.  Whilst it was absolutely perfect on its own, the smokiness and richness of the flavours would pair very well with a sauce of the same nature, or seafood and light bites in order to bring out the yellow fruit notes. A sure-fire winner and another one which, at the price-point of £5.79, is truly remarkable value for money.

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

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