Aldi Wine Club 16th Tasting Panel – Note #4

I must admit that, when I first got a view of the 2nd wave of wines selected for the 16th  panel of the Aldi Wine Club, I did think there was a chance that things could hit a mid-panel lull.  My initial belief that I had tasted both of the wines already was, as per my last post, initially wrong and, as it turned out, 100% wrong.

With this Pinot Noir we’re once again tasting from the Aldi flagship Exquisite Collection and just like the Chardonnay, the screw cap, neck brace and label all have clear signs of being well thought through, even down to the sloping cut at the top of the front label which is a really stylish and subtle touch.

The only minus points go once again for the obligatory signature from winemaker Jon McNab giving his bottle/blend approval.  Why wouldn’t he approve it?

The last time I tasted (what I believed to be) this Pinot Noir was as part of the 13th panel back in April 2017, in a cheese and wine pairing.  As it transpired, the original Pinot was from the Sauvignon Blanc stronghold of Marlborough which, although at a very similar latitude, is from the northern part of New Zealand’s south island as opposed to the southern part of the north island, which is where this wine hails from.

Both locations are far enough away from the equator to have the cool climate and temperatures needed to ripen the thin-skinned and fussy Pinot Noir variety, and a quick look at the Aldi website shows that the Marlborough based wine is no longer available.  Perhaps this Wairarapa version is a new substitution for the range?  I did pitch the question to Aldi but, as yet, haven’t received an answer.

As per website reviews, other Aldi customers have also been confused as to the origin of their wine, and it doesn’t help that both wines are packaged virtually identically.

Aldi Wairarapa Pinot 1

Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir 2016, Wairarapa, New Zealand, 13%, £6.99

In colour this was a plummy cherry purple with a lighter red rim hinting at the youthful and thin skinned fruit.

The nose was very expressive and full of herbaceous woody notes with just a sprinkling of floral vanilla and a whiff of smoke.  Also detectable was a touch of diesel, and very precise red cherry fruits, dense, dark and ripe.

On the palate there was the lightest of grainy tannin a well as the sweet ripened fruit of both black and red cherry, cranberry, and plum.  The overall sensation was of a complex berried compote and, to me, a really wonderful and interesting blend.

The acidity, refreshing but not mouth-watering, helped to round out the palate and take the edge off the fruit as opposed to being a dominant character.  The overall palate was direct and forceful, but balanced in a way that one element didn’t interfere with another.

Aldi Wairarapa Pinot 2

The bottle label is absolutely spot on when it talks of an ‘enduring finish’ which is in the multiple minutes.  For me the end palate evolved over time and kept gradually winding through different layers, as opposed to many wines which offer up a direct hit of fruit and then dissipate fairly quickly.

The on-going smoky dusky dark fruit absolutely nailed it and, when given the chance, developed further in to notes that touched upon bitter chocolate and mocha, almost made to be paired with food.  I had this wine with sticky honey BBQ ribs where the darker aspects paired with the meat and the fruitier aspects gelled with the sweeter sauce.

Still only £6.99, which is the same price as the Marlborough Pinot tasted 6 months ago, this is a firm favourite with Aldi customers, currently scoring 4 out of 5 stars 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 #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 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.

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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 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 (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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