Every Lidl Bit Helps

POSTED ON 06/12/2014

I had to pinch myself when Lidl was crowned best value supermarket for wine last month. True, the 600-strong budget chain (in the UK alone) had made a big PR splash with its Premium French Wine Collection after selling 800,000 bottles in the autumn. As you’d expect, prices for the range of 48 bordeaux and other French classics that made up the lion’s share were noticeably higher than those of its core range of 60-odd wines.

Having missed the French Collection but not the hype, my expectations were low as I set off to test the latest batch: a 36-strong Christmas Collection. It was reassuring to find that the clarets were no job lot from recent mediocre harvests but from the good 2008, and excellent 2009 and 2010, vintages. At £12.99, the 2008 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Château Roylland was a richly blackcurranty and delicious drop, as was the perfumed, sweetly ripe and savoury 2009 Château des Carabins, Margaux, £14.99, and the scented, silkily approachable 2010 Les Allées de Cantemerle from classified Haut-Médoc Château Cantemerle. An apparently eyewatering £39.99, the superb classified growth 2009 Château Lagrange is still pitched below the going rate.

I was pleasantly surprised by a juicy, raspberryish Côte de Beaune Villages Vieilles Vignes, £10.99, and its Chilean counterpart, the sweetly strawberryish 2013 Cimarosa Leyda Valley Pinot Noir, £6.99. Chile scored again with an opulent, dark berry fruity, stylishly oaked 2012 Gran Corte Colchagua Valley, £11.99. The value story continued with a vibrantly spicy Côte du Rhône Villages, £5.99, and a super-peppery 2013 Vacqueyras, £8.99. Italy was well represented by a powerfully plum-laden 2012 Masseria Metrano Primitivo, Salento, £7.99, a fine, cherry fruit-rich, yet nippy 2011 Cascina Polsino Barbera d’Asti, £9.99, and a deliciously approachable, gamey 2009 Brunello di Montalcino, £14.99.

In white wine country, a citrus-zest-filled 2013 JP Muller Riesling d’Alsace, £5.99, impressed along with a crisp, dry herbal Sancerre-alike 2013 Domaine du Chêne Vert Reuilly, £8.49, and lusciously sweet, quince-laden 2011 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Tradition, £7.99. I thought the biscuity character and creamy mousse of the Comte de Senneval Grand Cru Brut Champagne, £17.99, worth more than the extra pound over the Bissinger.

Coincidentally, the news that day was full of the plight of the big four, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, and the fact that their total sales for the previous quarter had fallen. That Lidl’s were up 16.8 and Aldi’s 25.5 per cent is no surprise. In their different ways, Lidl, and the increasingly impressive Aldi, are losing their cheapskate’s refuge image. By communicating with shoppers and giving them what they want, they’re making wine buying simple, accessible and good value. Check out www.lidl.co.uk/winecellar for notes and scores from the three Masters of Wine who assist Ben Hulme, Lidl’s clued-up wine buyer.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night In

2009 Taste the Difference Aglianico del Vulture

Springing from the volcanic soils of Mount Vulture (‘vooltooray’) in Basilicata, this is a rich and spicy bright dark cherryish rosso with a satisfyingly glossy texture at a thoroughly satisfying price. £6.75, down from £9, until Tuesday, Sainsbury’s.

Dinner Party

2013 Riesling *5* Kallstadter Saumagen, Pfalz

Made by ex M&S buyer, hence value-conscious, German winemaker Gerd Stepp, this fine, bright dry German riesling is intensely lemon and lime scented with appetisingly citrus-juicy fresh fruit and a tongue-tingling tang on the finish. £15, Marks & Spencer.

Splash Out

2009 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, Auckland, New Zealand

This world–class chardonnay from the Brajkovich family is beautifully crafted with restrained tropical fruit aromas and textured, opulent fruit in meursault vein with subtle oak, nutty complexity and a saline, crisp finish. £18.99, Waitrose. 43 branches.

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