Now that belt-tightening has become a way of life it seems that we are all looking out for bargains in our weekly grocery shop. Supermarket chain Aldi has done well out of this. Known for its simplistic layout and limited choice, it has managed to increase turnover by 30 per cent in the last year.
Aldi has 461 stores in the UK and is planning to expand over the next few years to more than 500, but the UK part of the chain is just a fraction of its world-wide presence. German-owned, the name of the stores comes from the founding brothers, Karl and Theo Albrecht. Aldi is a much snappier name than Albrecht Discount and the chain has grown to more than 8,000 stores across Europe, Australia and the States.
Unlike the big High Street names who usually list several brand leaders as well as own-labels, the choice at Aldi is fairly stark. You either buy the Aldi brand or you don’t and some lines do run out from time to time. There is no chance of ringing the store to find out whether they have what you want. They don’t list their phone numbers and they don’t employ anyone to answer the phone. The queues at checkouts are legendary and internet shopping is not an option.
But is it worth shopping there? From the wine point of view, the range is limited, with just 64 wines in the core range. But this actually gives them concentrated buying power, as wine buyer Mike James explained. He has been buying wine for two years and has assembled a core range from around the world and has a new selection of more upmarket wines ready for the Christmas season.
“We have found that our shoppers are trading down from Waitrose and so the Aldi wine range is trading up to keep them interested,” said Mike. Here is what you should brave the Aldi experience for.
Crémant du Jura 2009, France, £6.99
This has been in the Aldi range for years and it is fantastic value. Made from 100 per cent Chardonnay it has a soft creamy mousse and a fresh-tasting, crisp, dry finish. It tastes well above its price point.
Champagne Brut NV, Philizot, £12.99
Most supermarkets manage to get a champagne down to this price at some point pre-Christmas but this is the regular price. It provides rounded toasty flavours with a soft, gentle finish. Perfect for a Friday night in or a large group of people.
Toro Loco Tempranillo 2011, Utiel Requena, Spain, £3.59
When the duty on a bottle of wine is £1.90 and VAT adds another 20 per cent it is a miracle to get something drinkable at £3.59, especially since this is the regular price. Simple easy, raspberry fruit and soft tannins to see you through your Monday to Wednesday drinking needs.
Minarete Ribera del Duero Roble 2011, Spain, £5.49
A step up in quality from Spain with deep, ripe berry fruit and an easy finish. Try alongside a flavoursome casserole.
The Exquisite Collection
Available next month, and while Exquisite might be an exaggeration, there are some decent wines in the range.
Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2012, South Australia, £5.99
With clean, melon and citrus flavours, and no oak, this is a well- made, stylish wine to go with fish and chicken.
Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia £6.49
The partner red to the Limestone Coast Chardonnay, sourced from the same good quality supplier, this has terrific Cabernet character with balanced acidity and a touch of complexity.
Uco Valley Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina, £5.99
Good chunky mulberry fruit with enough flavour to cope with a steak.
Premium Christmas range
These wines will appear in store towards the end of November.
Moscato Spumante 2011, Italy, £4.79
It isn’t fashionable to like this kind of wine, but I love it for its fabulous juicy, just-picked aromatic grapiness.
Team it with a fruit-based dessert.
Prosecco Extra Dry 2011, Magnum, £14.99
A magnum always looks good and this is a great price for a big bottle of well-made fizz. Floral on the nose, and there is enough acidity to balance the fruit.
Toro Loco Reserva 2008, Utiel-Requena, Spain £4.99
A definite step up from the regular Toro Loco Tempranillo with deeper, riper fruit and a lift of Garnacha and Cabernet.
Super Premium Christmas Range
With a six putts Tokaji at £17.99, a Puligny Montrachet at £16.99 and a Grand Cru Margaux at £22.99 this is certainly the top of the tree for Aldi.
There are some good wines in this section, but if you plan on spending serious amounts of money I would head for other retailers who have a bit more experience of buying at this level.