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 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 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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Cuvée Reserve Wine Tasting Weekend 2016

Last weekend saw the approximate one year anniversary of me discovering and joining the Tesco Wine Community which, despite being a one-of-a-kind promotional tool for Tesco, sadly closed last August.  That, however, didn’t stop a core number of us staying in contact and organising a weekend away to do what we do best – talking about and trying new wine.  For me it was a wonderful and fitting way to celebrate the anniversary, by meeting in person some of the people I’d been chatting to online for some time.

Many attendees had met each other at previous Tesco winemaker events, but a rented house in Stratford-Upon-Avon last weekend marked the first time that a concerted effort had been made to bring together a wider group of us from all over the south of England.  Added to this, each attendee was bringing wines that they rated highly and wanted to present in the best possible light, so it was set to include a stellar list of top quality examples.

CR Wend Table

What follows isn’t an account about what transpired, or even a looooooong list of tasting notes – in order to preserve the relaxed atmosphere none of us were taking them.  I will however, as the one who took lots of photos of the bottles as they came and went, try to draw together a list of the 30 wines that were tasted as part of the weekend (including a few not available in the UK and shipped across from Germany).

I appreciate that a simple list of wines may make curious reading for some, but for 10 people in particular, it will remain a document of a wonderful weekend with great wine, great food and above all, great company.

And so, in no particular order:

Sparkling wine

We covered a good number of the sparkling bases here, with an example from each of the major categories:

  • Cono Sur sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé, Bio Bio Valley, Chile, 12%
  • I Duecento Prosecco Brut NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.5%
  • Freixenet Extra Vintage 2013 Brut Cava, Spain, 11.5%
  • Louis Delaunay Brut NV Champagne, France, 12.5%

White wine

Our white wine selection comprised:

  • Denis Dubourdieu 2010 Clos Floridene, Grand Vin De Graves (blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon, 3% Muscadelle), France, 13%. A nice chance to try a rare white example of Graves
  • Symbiose La Grande Olivette, Cuvee Florence, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cótes de Thau 2014, France, 12%. Piquepoul is something of a recent trend in the UK, so this was an interesting one to try
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2013 Weissburgunder, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%. The first of three wines sourced exclusively from Germany and rarely seen in the U.K.
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2014 Riesling, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%
  • Randersackerer Ewig Leben 2013er, Albalonga Auslese, Franken, Germany, 11%
  • Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14%
  • Alvi’s Drift 2015 Chenin Blanc, Worcester, South Africa, 13.5%
  • Calvet Reserve 2013 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 12.5%
  • The Cup and Rings 2013 Godello Sobre Lias, Monterrai, Spain, 13%
  • Ara Single Vineyard 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%

CR Wend German

Red wine

All the wines supplied were kept undisclosed to the other attendees prior to the day, and so it is interesting to notice the heavy red bias towards Spain.  Our full selection comprised:

  • Arjona (unoaked) 2014 Rioja (100% Tempranillo), Spain, 13.5%
  • Club Des Sommeliers, Morgon (100% Gamay) 2014 Beaujolais, France, 12.5%
  • J Opi 2014 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5%. This wine was decanted to bring out the rich flavour
  • Marques de Riscal Finca Torrea 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 14%
  • Cháteau Hervé Laroque 2007 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon), Fronsac, France, 13%
  • La Cantera Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo based blend), Carinena, Spain, 13%, (from magnum)
  • Ermita de San Lorenzo 2008 Garnacha based blend, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Another one for the decanter
  • Mayu Syrah Reserva 2011, Elqui Valley, Chile, 14.5%. This wine was again decanted to allow the rich flavours to mellow
  • Piccini Memoro 2010 (Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’avola, Sangiovese blend), Regional blend across Tuscany, Basilicata, Veneto and Sicily, Italy, 14%. Decanted, but perhaps needed more time to open fully.
  • Cháteau Valfontaine 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) Bordeaux, France, 12%
  • Stobi 2011 Petit Verdot Barrique, Tikves, Macedonia, 14%.  A rare opportunity to try this wine.
  • Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 13.5%
  • Les Vaucorneilles Cuvee Nathan 2005, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 13.5% (Blend of Gamay, Cabernet and Cot)
  • Vox Populi 2012 Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain, 14%
  • Laurent Miquel L’Artisan 2014 (Syrah, Grenache), Faugeres, France, 13.5%

CR Wend Lineup

Thanks to Clare for organising what proved to be a successful event, and one that is already mooted to be taking place again next year.  Cheers!

CR Wend Table 2

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Spring in to Summer!

3 labels

I popped along to my local Majestic last week for their ‘Jump into Summer’ tasting night where they’d selected 10 wines to show, running across Red, White, Rosé and Sparkling. Not surprisingly the majority were light and fruity Whites/Rosé’s which are great in the warmer weather, but I’m glad that they didn’t shy away from showing some Reds too – my BBQ is never far away in the summer months, and so these wines do still have their place when partnering with food. I participated in a wine poll recently which asked drinkers if they would be switching away from Red wine to lighter styles throughout the summer, and can say that the majority said that they wouldn’t change their habits, so I’m clearly not alone.

Obviously any standard tasting is catering for a generalised palate and with price point/current offers also a key factor, the tasting stayed firmly in the classics. This is fine for what it is, but does make me also yearn for more specialised tastings from these merchants as they can have plenty of gems hidden away. I would also argue that you need to be more guided towards those odd purchases, as opposed to merely steering people towards more Sauvignon Blanc (regular readers will know it isn’t my favourite grape) which they probably would have purchased anyway. I wonder if they believe that more obscure wine tastings would be somewhat less popular?

That said, it did give me a chance to try the St Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand which was superb. It kicked off with a fantastically full nose and both that and the palate were full of everything that Sauvignon Blanc from NZ should deliver on; green fruits, tropical fruits, citrus, lovely acid and a full refreshing mouthfeel. Retail (pre any discounts) on this bottle is £25, so it isn’t only the palate that is rich, and I’ll have to make do with remembering the tasting.

They also showed a 2005 Bordeaux – Chateau Moulinet Lasserre from Pomerol. The 2005 vintage for Bordeaux needs little introduction, and this was everything you’d want; Tertiary characteristics leading the nose – old wood, cigars and faint dried fruit, and then the palate adds velvet and silk. A great long finish is built upon the 13.5% alcohol which has mellowed nicely over time. This bottle retails at £30 (no discounts apply) but I’d be happy to stump up for this one. Funny how the mind works isn’t it!? After all, a good wine is a good wine…….

Talking of good wine, the usual tasting table highlighting current staff picks and other offers was still open as usual, and so this gave you the chance to virtually double the number of wines tasted that evening. I was overjoyed to see that Chilean producer Mayu were represented in the form of their Pedro Ximenez, which is a newly stocked wine for Majestic. Mayu are still one of my go-to producers, and when Majestic stocked their Reserva Syrah it was never out of my trolley. I was genuinely distraught when they stopped selling it, but elated to find it in my local Sainsbury’s. At £10 it is great value but, being a supermarket with their regular ‘Buy 6 Save 25%’ offers, it can be had for £7.50 which is a steal for the quality.

The PX was lovely – loads of ripe green fruits, married with a creamy brooding body, and an excellent length. Price-wise it was down from £10.49 to £6.99, with a further 10% off as a featured wine – amazing value. It wasn’t long before I was raving about it to a poor unsuspecting couple, who gave it a try, and also loved it. About an hour later I was talking to another couple who told me that I must try the Mayu PX, and that it came recommended, pointing to the original couple I had spoken to. In addition to the case I bought, I noticed the other couples picking up several cases between them. My work here was done!

It does bring me back to my earlier point though – something like Pedro Ximenez might have been a hard sell on name alone (someone recently handed me back a glass of wine before tasting it on hearing that it was Romanian), but with a simple recommendation and a chance to try before you buy, it can have a really positive effect.

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