This was a real tasting, with bottles, tables, people and lots of really good wines. Despite my two-jab status, I am still reluctant to go to busy venues but this was held at the Tate Modern in London which has vast rooms so everyone could be kept at a distance.
Once seated at my table and with my personal pourer Paula in charge of the bottles, I enjoyed sloshing over 100 wines around my taste buds. As always, I was looking for flavour for money, and with Aldi’s wines, that is not difficult.
Aldi has been doing rather well recently. It has shaken off the bargain basement image and now represents good quality at great value prices. It has also proved that it is a mainstream retailer by sharing a shortlist with Booths and Waitrose for Supermarket of the Year in this year’s International Wine Challenge.
Aldi’s still wine buyer, Josh Heley, has been busy, despite not being able to travel to wine regions. “In fact I have been tasting more than ever. We have launched around 220 new wines this year and are probably one of the fastest-growing wine retailers in the UK.”
With that kind of introduction to the Aldi range, here is my special selection of reds, whites and fizz from the tasting. I will bring rosé wines together in a big comparison in the next couple of weeks.
Specially Selected Crémant du Jura 2018, £8.49: A firm favourite in the range. Aldi was the first supermarket to find and bring these clean, lively lemon and crunchy-apple flavours to the shelves and they are still hitting the mark with style and value. This is available online only – probably because the tiny Jura region is not so well known, but it really is worth ordering.
Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut, £12.99: Consistently good with flavours well above its price point, this has creamy, baked apple notes with a hint of toast and a balanced finish. If you are planning a summer wedding this champagne will fit the bill perfectly.
Pierre Jaurant Côtes de Gascogne 2020, France, £4.99: Perfect for sipping in the garden, preferably with slivers of smoked salmon, this is crisp and refreshing with notes of pink grapefruit and lemon.
Mimo Moutinho Vinho Verde 2020, Portugal, £4.99: There are times when you really need the heat and sunshine of Portugal to balance the searing freshness of Vinho Verde. But not with this one. The name means “green wine”, referring to its youthful acidity, not the colour. Even the red version is called Vinho Verde. In this wine the acidity is held in check and shows as zippy lime fruit with hints of nectarine.
Castellore Pecorino 2020, Abruzzo, Italy, £5.49: Bright citrus fruit, a dash of green herbal notes and rounded texture make this a white that can stand up to a substantial lunch.
Specially Selected Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2019, Australia, £5.99: Clear as a bell Chardonnay fruit with no oak clouding the flavours. Peaches and citrus with a terrific finish.
Cambalala Grenache Blanc 2020, South Africa, £6.49: This has a medley of orchard fruits, a rounded texture and a savoury finish. Try with roast chicken.
Aspri Petra Assyrtiko 2020, Greece, £6.99: If you haven’t tried this wine yet, then now is the perfect time. Full of zesty aromatic lemon flavours, team it with fish, cheese and olives.
Specially Selected Jurançon sec 2019, France, £6.99: Not to be confused with Jura, which is on the other side of France, Jurançon produces distinctive dry and sweet wines. This is definitely dry, with apples, lemons and tangerine zest flavours.
Silandeiro Albariño 2019, Rías Baixas, Spain, £7.49: Lovely light, apricot-tinged floral aromas with a crisp, mineral bite on the finish. Team with salads, fish and sushi.
Specially Selected Bacchus 2020, England, £8.99: Bacchus is the grape that is working its way into English vineyards, demonstrating just how well its musky, grapey scents and positive fruit flavours work in our variable climate. This is a fine example and it should be enjoyed as an aperitif or teamed with a summer salad.
Grapevine Shiraz, Jumilla, Spain, £3.65: If the working-from-home students are drinking your stocks dry then buy a case of this. It is perfectly pleasant with spice-edged juicy fruit and sells at an astonishingly great value price.
Specially Selected Buenas Vides Malbec, Argentina, 2020, £5.79: Terrific chunky mulberry fruit with enough structure to stand up to burgers, sausages and steak.
Buenas Vides Criolla 2020, Mendoza, Argentina, £5.99: Criolla varieties are generally thought of as the “native” grapes of Argentina, but they were probably introduced from Europe in the 16th century. With juicy, light, easy-drinking fruit, they make excellent summer wines.
Castellore Italian Red Blend 2019, £5.99: From the eastern coastal region of Italy, this is mainly Montepulciano grape which gives cherry and chocolate flavour with splashes of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese adding structure, depth and vitality. Perfect with pasta or roast lamb.
Castellore Frappato 2020, Sicily, Italy, £6.49: Frappato makes a light, cherry red wine with strawberry flavours and a definite streak of freshness – almost Beaujolais in character. It comes from Sicily and is best served just lightly chilled with charcuterie, simple pasta or pizza.
Specially Selected Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre 2019, France, £6.99: A sturdy, flavour-filled GSM with bramble fruit and hints of liquorice.
Specially Selected Tannat 2019, Uruguay, £6.99: Tannat used to be stiff and chewy but no longer. This is definitely powerful, packed with blackberry and plum fruit but the tannins are ripe, soft and food-friendly.
Roberto Ferraris Barbera d’Asti 2019, Piemonte, Italy, £7.49: This wine stays on the list until it sells out, so make sure you buy some. Online only, but well worth the effort of ordering for its complex forest fruits and savoury notes.
Pinot Vigilante Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand, £9.99: An IWC Gold medal winner so this smooth, rounded, dark cherry and strawberry filled wine is bound to sell out fast. Online only.