EVEN casual shoppers must have noticed the increased 4x4 count in the car parks of the discount retailers. With the combined sales of Lidl and Aldi about to top £10 billion, and major supermarkets pushing back strongly – one of the discount duo has significantly moved the goal posts.
From this week, the five million shoppers who pass through Lidl’s doors weekly will find a major addition to the wine range. To attract even more custom, over a million bottles of French wines have been sourced – some of them classics.
About 50 of these new lines arrive on Thursday, with a further dozen or more following six weeks later. Many of the selections – and especially the half from Bordeaux – are very traditional in style. Few concessions to New World winemaking influences are in evidence here. Most prices are very competitive and range from £5 to £26, with an average of £9. My recent tasting of the range produced some interesting highlights from right across the price and style spectrums.
No claim to represent the classic wines of France would be valid without Burgundy, and the white version that caught my eye was the smooth, clean and fresh 2011 P de Marcilly Macon Villages (£7.49). Its predominant flavours of apple and pink grapefruit were offset by hints of honey and skilfully balanced acidity in the way that chardonnay does particularly well.
Among the red Burgundies, the light and delicately textured 2012 Domaine de la Grangerie Mercurey (£9.99) was especially impressive. There is limited tannin here, but just the right amount of acidity to accentuate the cherry and raspberry fruit, which is joined by spicy notes and a subtle, earthy backdrop in a relaxed and meandering finish.
At the cheaper end of the representatives from that other top region, Bordeaux, 2012 Chateau Marjosse Bordeaux Rouge (£8.99) proved to be a great value entry-point claret with good acidic balance. Its flavours of black cherries with touches of herbs, blackcurrant and plums all integrated nicely with the concluding vanilla influences and soft tannins.
Stepping up a notch, the 2007 Chateau Siaurac Lalande de Pomerol (£13.99) is a mature claret, with depth, mellowness and exactly the right tannic grip. Flavours of blackcurrant and mulberry mingle agreeably here with the wine’s background herb and menthol components.
At the top of the claret selection, the 2003 Chateau Haut Bergey Pessac Leognan (£19.99) was another nicely matured version but with more cabernet sauvignon than the others. Its attractively smooth flavours bring bramble and red plums to the fore, but add vanilla, herbs and raspberry-centred acidity – along with a dash or three of tannin.
Moving along the Dordogne, to a classic “sweetie shop”, I was impressed by the 2011 Chateau La Sabatiere Monbazillac (£7.99) – a perfect example of the region’s dessert wines. There was no sign of anything remotely cloying here – luscious honey and marmalade fruit flavours were all kept firmly in check by clean, acidic edges.
Among the sparklers, there were attractive half bottles of Bissinger Champagne Brut (£6.99), which has a lively mousse, biscuity aroma, and neat red apple and lemon fruit with a savoury finish that provides a delightful counterpoint to the wine’s excellent acidity.
But don’t just take my word for it – a great time awaits anyone working their own way through these striking additions to Lidl’s wine shelves.
2013 Extra Special Barossa Valley Shiraz
South Australia, 14.5 per cent
It is hard to beat the combination of shiraz grapes, a great summer and the Barossa – as this ripe and powerful red demonstrates. Enjoy its full but juicy flavours of cherry and plum, generous helpings of menthol and chocolate, all given smoothness and a tannic twist by American oak. £5.98 at Asda
2012 Abadia de San Campio Albarino, Terras Gauda
Rias Baixas, Spain, 12.5 per cent
It’s expensive, but this is about as good as Albarino gets. Its expected fresh, pink grapefruit acidity is beautifully counterbalanced by pithy orange flavours and delightfully rounded complexity. Great wine. £16.50 at L’Art du Vin, Charlestown, Dunfermline