Aldi Wine Club 16th Tasting Panel – Note #6

The final wine from the 16th Aldi Wine Club panel is a red from Costiéres de Nímes in southern France.  Historically part of the very large ‘catch-all’ Languedoc appellation which produces wines from a myriad of different grapes and in varying styles, it now comes under the wing of the neighbouring Rhone appellation.

Aldi Costiere

With a style of wine very similar in nature to those produced in the southern Rhone, this makes absolute sense.  The Mediterranean climate is warm and sunny, which allows the grapes to fully ripen, the sugars to maximise, and the winemaker to deliver a powerful wine.

Venturer Costiéres de Nímes 2016, France, 14%, £5.49

Produced under the branding of Aldi’s ‘Venturer’ range, the striking blue label is well presented, with a pretty (almost gift-like) design carried from the main label through to the neck covering.  In a similar style to the wines of nearby Cháteauneuf du Pape the bottle has some wonderful embossing that delivers a true air of elegance and value.

Costieres Detail

A nice further subtle packaging touch comes from the side of the cork, which is proudly branded ‘Valle du Rhone’.

In colour this is a dark and inky black wine immediately drawing you towards the notion that this is made in a full and chunky style.  A light youthful purple rim offsets the almost opaque centre colouring.

On the nose there are densely packed well ripened, almost raisined, fruits.  Wild black cherry is inter-mingled with blackberries, prunes and herbaceous brambles.  On top of this there are the floral touches of both vanilla and violets as well as the darker notes of black coffee.  This is stacked full of intensity.

The palate deals well with the stewed nature of the darker fruits, and the wine is dense but not chewy, thick but not cloying.  Lots of pepper spice is dotted throughout like a well-seasoned Merlot or Shiraz, and counter-balances the sheer volume of ripe fruit.

Aldi Costiere Back Label

The acidity comes in on the lighter side of medium attempting to tame the beast and, to me, feels just a touch too light to allow the palate to be 100% balanced.  As such, the stewed fruit still manages to carry a touch of harshness as well as ripeness.

As suspected, a little time in the glass allowed the depth to evolve further and smooth out the rough edges, even allowing a little light grain tannin to appear from within the dominant fruit.  The overall sensation was rustic, powerful, but perhaps, just looking for a little finesse to top it off.

I suspect that may well come with a perfect food to match up to the robust style, so if you’re looking for a wine to partner up with some serious meats, stews, or other winter warmers, it would well be worth giving this wine a try.

With Thanks to AldiUK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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Aldi Wine Club 16th Tasting Panel – Note #3

AWC Logo

Having proudly been part of several of Aldi’s previous tasting panels it was inevitable that at some point I would come across a wine previously tasted.  The last tasting note was prepared a full year and a half ago in April 2016 and so we’re a couple of vintages further forward and any assessment is far from a regurgitation of my earlier thoughts.

The Limestone Coast in the south eastern part of South Australia is clearly named after its Limestone base, which is exactly the right ground on which to grow Chardonnay.  The free draining soil allows the vines easy access to water whilst not allowing them to become water-logged or damp, therefore keeping a low PH level and a fresh vibrant acidity.  It is the same combination that gives us both the world famous wines of Burgundy and Champagne.

The magic is clearly working here too as both Decanter and the IWSC have bestowed awards upon the wine’s 2014 vintage.  With the ‘Exquisite Collection’ a flagship in the Aldi wine range, the bottle comes smartly presented with a royal blue neck brace and screw cap, nicely off-setting the green glass colouring.

Aldi Chard 1

The label is printed on nicely textured paper and is clear and well-presented, although it does contain my pet-peeve; the signature ‘approval’ from ‘someone somewhere’, in this case chief winemaker Adam Eggins.

The wine was bottled in South Australia by well-respected family run winery Taylors, and imported in to the UK by a subsidiary of Burgundian wine royalty, Louis Latour.

Exquisite Collection Chardonnay 2016, Limestone Coast, South Australia, 13.5%, £5.79

The backlash days of ABC (anything but Chardonnay!) are long gone but, as if still weary of the burden, the first word that the back label summary says is ‘unoaked’ and it did get me wondering if makers of Aussie Chardonnay still feel the need to distance their product from the cheaper, mass-produced offerings of the past.

Aldi Chard 2

In colour this is a pleasing medium yellow with golden tints, but the real fun starts with the nose which is rich and full with an almost gloopy quality.  Led by the clean, well ripened tropical pineapple, there’s a whiff of stony apricot to back it up.

As suggested by the nose, the palate is rich and full with an oily texture, well balanced by an upfront mouth-watering acidity.  The fresh fruit seesaws between the yellow notes of tropical pineapple and honeysuckle, over to pippy green apple and freshly squeezed lime.

In terms of weight the palate has a nice creamy, buttery, peppery spiciness and I can imagine it being a wonderful match for a similarly weighted dish such as pasta carbonara.  The pepper gives way to some white grapefruit on the end palate which adds a drying, bitter tone which frankly, overstays its welcome.

Not recalling any bitterness in the 2014 vintage I decided to check my notes and, sure enough, the end palate was fruit driven and long-lived, and was something I raved about in terms of quality.

A quick check on the vintage reports for both 2014 and 2016 for the region show that 2014 was the better of the two years with good sunshine fully ripening the fruit.  2016 would therefore naturally have fruit that wasn’t as bright as before and would contain trace elements of unripe characters such as apple pips and bitter grapefruit.  I also noted with interest that a fellow customer review on the Aldi website called it out for being drier and not as ‘outstanding’ as the previous vintage.

Followers of biodynamics believe that certain days are better than others for tasting a wine, and I did ponder whether the time of year may have something to do with the overall success of the tasting.  Tasting the 2014 on a bright and sunny day in early springtime yielded a wine that I fancifully described as reminiscent of ‘blue skies’ and yet this tasting left an impression as brooding as the dusky autumnal evening I conducted it on.

In summary, whilst not as immediately satisfying as the 2014, this is still a rich, ripe wine that will pay dividends when matching up to food.  Another thing definitely worth a highlight is that, in the time between the two tastings the UK has seen an increased level of wine duty as well as pricing fluctuations from the uncertainty of Brexit, yet there has been no price change for this wine.

That on its own is frankly remarkable.

A customer favourite scoring 4.6 out of 5 on the Aldi website, my thanks go to AldiUK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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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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