German rivals

04 November 2016

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AS I write, there is much heart-searching going on within the wine-trade; for here, too, Brexit has taken its toll. The collapse in the value of the pound means that the cost of nearly all the wine that we drink will have to rise. At present, importers are circling each other like sumo wrestlers, waiting for the other to make the first move. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that prices will rise before Christmas.

The newspapers are full of stories of the big four supermarkets’ coming under pressure from the German upstarts Aldi and Lidl. While their ranges are smaller, because they do not cram their shelves with the big brands, there are many interesting wines to be found, at excellent prices, at both of them.

I am more familiar with Lidl, as it is the closest supermarket to where I live, beating ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and Aldi by a short head. I also admit that I was put off its Cimarosa range of basic New World wines by the packaging. I am pleased to say, however, that the wines are all now wearing smart new suits, and there are six eminently drinkable wines at under £4 a bottle.

My favourite is the Shiraz from Australia at just £3.89, but you can also select from a Chenin Blanc (£5.49), and a Sauvignon Blanc, from South Africa (£5.99); a Chilean Merlot (£3.89); an Australian Chardonnay (£3.89); and a Californian Zinfandel Rosé (£3.99).

Outside this range, there are well-priced bargain white wines also to be found. Among these I would include the Spanish dry white Rueda Visigodo 2015, made from the Verdejo grape (£4.99), the Mascavinae Picpoul de Pinet 2015 (£6.99), the flavoursome Sentidiño Albariño 2015 (£5.99), and the rich, dessert Muscat de Rivesaltes (£5.99). Also to be found are two wines from Savoie, rarely to be seen in this country.

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A further strength of Lidl’s buying team is that it finds parcels of interesting wines at good prices. The problem is that these may only be on the shelf for a matter of days. Three that I noticed yesterday were that Burgundian oddity the Saint Bris 2015, made from the Sauvignon Blanc (£8.49); a claret that should be put to one side for a year or two, Les Haut de Pez, St Estèphe, 2012 (£12.99); and an Alsace grand cru Steinklotz Gewürztraminer 2013 J. P. Muller (£11.99).

At Aldi, the bargains that caught my eye included a Chilean Cabernet/Carmenère/Syrah blend 2014 from the Maule Valley in the south (£4.79); Freeman’s Bay Pinot Gris 2015 from Gisborne, in New Zealand (£5.69); in its Exquisite Collection Range, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (£5.79), described as having flavours of “lime-drizzled nectarine”; from Australia, a Clare Valley Riesling 2015 (£6.99); and from Argentina, a Malbec 2016 from the Uco Valley (£5.99). Aldi’s house Champagne Monsigny Brut 111 is also a bargain at £9.99.

While wine prices might be moving up, both Aldi and Lidl are more than capable of providing wines of interest at prices of interest. They have the advantage of the enormous buying power of their German parents, and are not tied to the promotional budgets of the big brands. It seems that here, money can be saved, although not at the expense of quality.

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