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 #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 #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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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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