Oldie readers have a gimlet eye for a bargain, and both Aldi and Lidl are happy hunting grounds for wine-lovers, Bill Knott discovers
‘So,’ said a slightly supercilious young blogger I met on a recent trip to Bordeaux, ‘who do you write for?’ He prefaced nearly all his sentences with ‘So…’, a linguistic foible that has reached epidemic proportions, especially among the young. So irritating.
The Oldie magazine, I replied, with a hint of asperity. ‘Wow!’ he said, ‘I didn’t even know they had a magazine. I thought they just piled them high and sold them cheap.’ It transpired that he thought I had said Aldi, not Oldie. Aldi now has 900 stores in the UK and Ireland, with a turnover of more than £10bn a year.
Oldie is not just phonetic, though: Oldie readers have a gimlet eye for a bargain, and both Aldi and Lidl are happy hunting grounds for wine-lovers with shallow pockets. It was with a solemn sense of duty, then, that I showed up to Aldi’s latest tasting, sipping and slurping as I channelled my inner oldie and asked myself, ‘Is this worth the money?’ The answer, quite frequently, was yes. So – accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative – let me mark your card.
We start (as one should) with a glass of fizz. Lacheteau Crémant de Loire NV is a splendid drop: a blanc de noirs (100 per cent Cabernet Franc), it has a clean, fruity character with good length on the palate. At £7.99, it is a serious, ‘traditional method’ (you can’t say méthode champenoise any more) sparkler for the price of a frivolous, tank-fermented prosecco. Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny NV champagne (£10.99) is great value, too: Krug it ain’t, but there’s a pleasant yeastiness on the nose and bright, lipsmacking fruit on the palate.
The rest of my selection of Aldi’s wines are from the 2017 vintage. Three Iberian whites impressed: a blossom-scented Animus Vinho Verde (£4.99); a Rias Baixas Albariño (£6.29), long and savoury, with a good grip on the palate; and – my favourite – The Wine Foundry Godello (£6.49), made from a now-lauded grape variety that was nearly extinct in the 1980s: structured and classy, with a distinct flavour of grapefruit zest.
And I liked two French whites: one from the south, a dry, properly lip-stinging Picpoul de Pinet (£6.29), and one from the north, a Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie (£5.69), a sappy, oyster-friendly wine, with the complexity that comes from being matured (albeit briefly) on its lees.
My favourite reds, by contrast (and excepting the ripe and savoury Ferrandière French Merlot (£5.99), a great-value alternative to Right Bank Bordeaux) came from the southern hemisphere: a light, strawberry-scented Chilean Pinot Noir (£4.79); the Estevez Cabernet Sauvignon (£4.79), also from Chile, with plenty of blackcurrant fruit; and the Don Tomas Terroir Selection Malbec (£7.99), an elegantly structured Malbec that will improve over the next year or two.
The caveat, as ever with discount retailers, is that many Aldi wines are only available as a one-off; so the most popular lines sell out quickly. All the wines I have chosen were due to be in store and online (www.aldi.co.uk) from 20th March, if not before; so time is of the essence. Here endeth the Aldi wine column.