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It’s Festival Time at Aldi

Get the lowdown on what impressess in the brand new Aldi Wine Festival that starts this morning - along with the usual Best of the Rest from other suppliers and a guest piece on wine from a terrific Spanish region.

Hard on the heels of Lidl’s latest Wine Tour, the other “Premium Discounter” launches a new wine promotion this morning.

Aldi’s twelve bottle Wine Festival centres on the theme “strangely familiar” with an unusual twist to wines we know quite well.

It includes, for example, Chile’s take on malbec and gewürztraminer, as against versions from Argentina or Alsace respectively.

Here are my thoughts on the Wine Festival highlights.

Click on any of the bottles shown for an enlarged image to help you pinpoint the wine on a crowded display.

Spice from the Andes

For me the stand-out white is the gewürztraminer made by the mighty Concha y Toro operation in Chile and which has capably resolved the grape variety’s Achilles heel (very limited acidity) to provide a hugely successful complement to modestly spiced oriental food.

While the texture in 2017 Los Gansos Chilean Gewurztraminer (£6.99 and 13.5% abv) is relatively light, its gentle grapefruit acidity hits the spot perfectly and combines well with the wine’s cooked apple and ripe nectarine fruit and with the crystalline ginger touches that support it.

Stay in Chile for the first red

Its ideal climate has made Chile’s Colchagua Valley a fruitful region for wine production – with a great reputation for quality merlot – but here it successfully takes on the malbec grape.

Dark and smooth, 2016 Quisco Chilean Malbec (£6.99 and 13.5%) delivers plum and loganberry fruit with firm acidity, sage, vanilla and sweet spice influenced depth but only soft tannin.

Shiraz with neither sulphites nor preservatives

If that headline ticks boxes for you then seek out this well-priced red from South Africa’s Swartland region – an area once merely a source of blending wine but now home to much admired wines and to a number of energetic young producers.

Maybe it’s psychosomatic but I get a strong sense of cleanness and purity when drinking the intense and juicy 2017 Earth’s Essence Shiraz (£6.99 and 14%) with its plum, blackberry and red currant fruit that fits perfectly into the smooth, nutty, mint, vanilla and black pepper on which it rides out.

Top spot though goes to California

Our final stop is in the cool but dry coastal region of Monterey in California for an unusual blend of petit sirah (note the spelling) and petit verdot which – despite the “double petit” – is a BIG, bold (and very tasty) red.

My pick of the Festival then is the monster 2015 Odd Lot (£9.99 and 14.5%) with smooth, concentrated elderberry and blackberry fruit supported by a mocha, herbal and cinnamon background and inevitably embellished with chewy tannin.

Best of the Rest

I have spoken in praise of the iheart brand before (for its “unpretentious, everyday, easy to understand wine”) and here is their latest vintage malbec from Mendoza (of course) and available at certain convenience stores.

Classically light and soft, 2016 i heart Malbec (£8 RRP – but look out for offers – at Nisa and 13%) has cherry and red plum fruit with firm acidity, a cinnamon and milk chocolate backdrop but only limited tannin.

 Flash Sale at Lidl

Anyone seeking an inexpensive but slightly unusual “house” white wine should prick up their ears now.

For years, Lidl have been listing a great value white made from the South American Pedro Jimenez grape – a bird of a very different feather to Spain’s sherry grape – and now have knocked a pound off its price for this weekend only.

When better then to try the Central Valley’s 2015 Cimarosa Pedro Jimenez (£2.99 – instead of £3.99 on 3 and 4 February only – at Lidl and 12%) with its textured, red apple and lemon fruit embellished with a tangy, salty backdrop and gentle acidity.

Remember, though, stock levels do vary appreciably from store to store so your local guys may only have a limited supply.

Top Tip

Head to Ribera for aristocratic Spanish reds

Pueblo de Haza (Burgos)

Regular MidWeeker, Martin Vallely, went along (on our behalf) to a Ribera del Duero Masterclass tutored in Edinburgh by Tom Cannavan. Tom runs the very influential, long-haul website – Wine Pages – and has recently initiated highly regarded Festivals of Wine in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Here is Martin’s report on an area many Spaniards place above Rioja in their personal red wine pecking order.

“I must admit to having been a bit unlucky with my past Ribera del Duero purchases so it was nice to have the opportunity to experience such a range of good examples.

An excellent introduction to the breadth of the region’s wines can be found in the uncomplicated, fruit forward 2016 Bodegas Protos, Protos Roble (£6.86 at www.vinissimus.co.uk).

This has been neatly smoothed out by around six months in American oak.

However, the standout for me in terms of value was from Bodegas Montebello and was made in the Joven style from young vines there.

The result was an impressive fresh, attractively fruity and (in the context of this tasting) medium bodied red wine.

The Drink Shop (www.thedrinkshop.com) sell 2014 Monteabellon, Ribera Del Duero Avaniel – which is an earlier vintage to the one I tasted – and is priced at £9.36.

That is a great price for wine this good which seems like an ideal partner for cold meats and cheese.

Finally, let’s move up the price points and experience the dense and robust persona which well made tempranillo can demonstrate so ably.

I was really taken with the powerful, ripe black fruit components of 2014 Cruz de Alba, Crianza (£12.27 also at www.vinissimus.co.uk).

This is wine that keeps on giving and was the pick of the crop I tasted that night.”


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