Taste Test: Are Aldi Wines a Savvy Buy?

Money’s tight for most of us at the moment, with many people choosing to stay in rather than spending money in bars and restaurants at the weekend.

Even supermarket wine can be on the pricey side, though, and it’s not much fun sipping a mediocre £7 bottle of wine and feeling you’ve been short-changed when you’re already trying to be thrifty.

Like many people, I’ve thus far pretty much ignored my local Aldi. Yeah, sometimes I pop in for the odd good-value store-cupboard buy, but I’ve never even looked at the wine aisle until now.

Last week, I realised I’ve been a bit of a div. A quick glance at the wine cellar section of the Aldi website shows you they have IWC/Decanter Awards medal-winners galore on their shelves, and at less than a fiver for most bottles it’s well worth a try.

Here are our picks of the range. In honour of the Olympics, we’re going to award them medals in ascending order…

Bronze: Toro Loco Rosé,
£3.59 per bottle

A bronze winner at this year’s IWSC, we were pretty hopeful about this one. Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to expectations – it was alright, but nothing great. It had a slight metally finish and not much going on, but there were some pleasant cherry whiffs and flavours. Not bad for the price, and greatly improved after twenty minutes in the air (why not try one of the decanters we found?)

Silver: Vina Decana Crianza,
£4.19 per bottle

Another big winner, this is a Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Again, this benefited from some oxygen, but once opened up it was decidedly moreish: sweet spice and red fruit flavour make this a warming treat. Excellent value.

Gold: Henri di Lorgere Macon Villages,
£4.99 per bottle

One of the most heavily-awarded wines in the range, it’s simply astounding this is less than a fiver. We found this pleasant immediately as you open the bottle, but like the others it flowered with some time to breath. Crisp, pear-driven and round, this also has great minerality and a hint of oak. A great level of complexity for the price, and a pleasant food accompaniment too. You could easily pay £3 more for something similar in other supermarkets.

Your Local: Why it’s great to shop at independent wine merchants

Okay, I admit it: I buy wine from supermarkets. Pretty much all the time. I can’t help it – they’re relatively cheap, they’re nearby and they generally have quite an impressive variety of choice. But what I buy is often disappointing value for money, or just not that exciting.

The other option is to buy from a wine merchant, but then you might have to pay delivery charges, arrange delivery dates, and – because you generally order via phone or the internet – you don’t get to hear that lovely clinky bottle sound as you make your selection.

So why don’t more of us pop to the local wine merchant? They’re literally everywhere, and it’s about time we realised their fantastic potential.

Reasons TippleTipple love to buy local:

  • They’re generally run by people with a long-held love affair with wine. They know their stuff, and all the ones I’ve met have seemed to genuinely enjoy making recommendations. And they’ve never let me down yet.
  • They’re all about the community spirit. Check out the website and the signs in-store and you’re bound to find exciting upcoming tastings and events.
  • They’re actually less scary than supermarkets. You don’t have to make your choice on your own, or ask someone over-worked and under-paid who really doesn’t care what you buy. The people that work at these shops are probably wine geeks too. And I’ve not met a snobby one yet.
  • They sell AMAZING wines. Every shop I’ve visited brims with names I recognise from the most innovative and just generally brilliant producers, and from some of the lesser-explored (but VERY exciting) countries and regions. I’d much prefer that to yet another big-brand Pinot Grigio.
  • You really don’t pay that much more. No, you won’t generally find a £3.99 bottle like you will in Tesco, but after yonks of working in the industry I can often tell what the mark-up is, and if it’s a good wine (which it will be) it’s almost always worth it.
  • You explore more. I don’t know what it is, but I’m much more likely to go “Alright, I’ll give that a go!” if I can see the wine on the shelf among the other options, read the label (and yeah, a pretty picture does help – I am silly), and feel the bottle in my hand. It makes it much less scary to take a risk, so I don’t often pick up the same old stuff.

Basically, if you’re as much of a wine geek as I am, you’ll hopefully understand why sometimes the local wine merchant just seems so much more refreshing and satisfying to buy from.

So that’s why we’ve launched the Your Local feature: we’re trying to find the best of the hundreds of UK-wide local wine shops and tell you what they have to offer. We’ll let you know about their upcoming events and offers and just tell you why they’re brilliant.

If you know a good one in your area then please get in touch!

Image taken from shoobydooby‘s photostream.