One of the questions I get asked most frequently is which supermarket offers the best value wine.
This is hardly surprising as more than 80 per cent of wine bought today is sold by the big nine supermarkets. Customers are also getting increasingly sceptical and concerned about supposed ‘half price wine’ deals – and they want to know which aisle to head to for a true bargain.
Waitrose and Marks & Spencer are currently my pick of the best in terms of overall quality – but they do not offer the best value. Setting the rest (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Co-op, Aldi and Lidl) to the test, I think Asda and Aldi are ahead of the game with the wines they offer under £6 – with Aldi edging ahead with a small well-chosen range at cracking prices.
Wine sales across Aldi’s 460+ UK stores (44 stores in Scotland) were up 29 per cent at the end of last year in a very difficult market – and with a new Exquisite Collection (similar to Asda’s Extra Special and Tesco Finest) offering a permanent premium range, this small expanding retailer is encroaching into the middle class market.
Aldi’s success is all the more surprising when you find that it has just one wine buyer. Mike James is also a fitness fanatic and wildlife enthusiast, with a phD on the world’s smallest butterfly (Twitter @drmikerjames). Perhaps working alone in choosing wines to list is easier than getting a decision through a large team; Tesco apparently have no less than 15 buyers.
I still have not grown to love Aldi’s rather bleak store interiors and their limited grocery section – but when it comes to wine a small range can avoid too much confusion and baffling choice. All its wines are own label (as they are in Marks & Spencer), so you won’t find any big brands like Banrock Station or Jacob’s Creek here. Supermarket own label wines are generally on the increase in all supermarkets and we will definitely be seeing more of them in the other big retailers.
I did not like all of Aldi’s range, but found good deals from Australia and France in particular. My other quibbles are that not all Aldi stores stock the entire range and its website and internet shopping system seems way behind the larger retailers such as Sainsbury’s or Tesco. However, I was impressed to see Aldi making an effort to please Scottish palates – with a new range of 13 locally sourced ales in its Scottish beer festival – including Eden, Tryst, Loch Ness and Highland Breweries.
Aldi’s best and worst
Champagne Veuve Monsigny Brut NV (£12.99)
Described as classy and complex by judges at a recent wine competition, this silver medal winner is certainly very quaffable – equal to Lidl’s own at the same price.
Cremant du Jura Chardonnay 2010 P hilippe Michel (£6.99)
Popular creamy bargain which would suit lovers of Blanc de Blancs Champagne looking for a bargain.
Exquisite Collection Gavi 2012 (£4.99)
This was very popular in our taste test, with creamy honeyed notes; spoilt a little by unnecessary use of oak to bolster the palate – but still a great bargain from Italy.
Exquisite Collection Rias Baixas Albarino 2011 (£5.99)
A new Spanish wine to Aldi’s range – snap up this lovely summery crisp dry white before it sells out.
Exquisite Collection CÔtes du Provence RosÉ 2012 (£5.99)
Another new addition to their range: great price for a Provençal rosé, a perfect hammock wine.
Exquisite Collection South East Australian Shiraz 2011 (£5.99)
A big favourite in our tasting: smoky peppery richly fruited palate, finishes a touch short – but still very good value for money.
Estevez Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2011 (£4.99)
Cracking buy from Chile made by Concha y Toro – gutsy, blackberry upfront fruit, balsamic finish.
Orkney Blast 6 per cent (£1.99 for 50cl)
Hoppy, woody, rich malty heaven – voted Champion Beer of Scotland in 2010.
Exquisite Collection Bordeaux Sauvignon 2012 (£4.99)
Light thin and just boring to drink – with little character.
Exquisite Collection Fleurie 2010 (£6.99)
Disappointingly thin for the price: not a pretty Fleurie.
Claret 2012 (£3.99)
Rustic earthy – with a short finish.
Cambalan Pinotage 2011 (£4.99)
This South African wine is mean and lean on fruit with an unattractive bitter finish.
Foxy Blonde 3.8 per cent (£1.69 for 50cl)
This Scottish brew is too light in flavour and lacking complexity for a garden quaffer.
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