As prices rise due to inflation, tax hikes, the increasing cost of labour and a whole host of other factors, it seems impossible to find a good deal on a bottle of wine these days. Now more than ever I find myself buying bottles of wine for £10 or more, when even a few years ago it seems as though finding something interesting for less than £6 was a realistic endeavour.
One thing I’ve discovered over the years is there is little to find in your local off-licence that is of value or even a bargain. Bottles of Gallo and Wolf Blass selling for £7.99 aren’t exactly making the most of your money. If you want to find something cheap, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Often I try to find my best wine bargains at one of my local specialist wine merchants, all of whom sell a range of wines from everyday bargain bottles to the best of the best in the world.
But this past Jubilee weekend while I was visiting a friend in Manchester I was re-acquainted with one retailer (and reminded of a competitor that must be mentioned equally) that offers some surprisingly good wines for what are likely to be the lowest average prices in the country.
And those retailers are? Aldi and Lidl.
I kid you not.
The bottles that did it for me were a Pouilly-Fumé and a Muscadet, both of which seem not to be carried by the retailer any more. But the good news is they have no shortage of other offerings available, many of which have gained respect from wine critics and in wine competitions. The situation is the same for wines at Lidl.
The basic premise of shops like Aldi and Lidl is nearly everything they sell is an own-brand product, giving them complete control over the goods they sell. The theory here is they can then sell them at a much lower price than anything else on the market.
If you can get over the fact you've bought some of your wine at one of these shops, you'll find a whole lot of value for everyday drinking wines. Below are some of the highlights.
Henri Di Lorgere Macon Villages, Burgundy, France (£4.99, Aldi)
The Macon region is known for being the source of affordable chardonnay wines in Burgundy, many of which are unoaked, crisp and dry, the perfect accompaniment to a hot summer’s day. Aldi says this one has flavours of apple and pear with notes of minerality. It won a bronze medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards last year, which goes some way to show its quality.
Bordeaux White Wine 2010, France (£4.19, Aldi)
I simply love dry white Bordeaux. The styles made in the Bordeaux region can range from crisp, dry and refreshing to deep and full-bodied, bursting with complex flavours and all sorts of peach and spice flavours. Like all whites from the region, this is a blend of 70% sauvignon blanc and 30% semillon, expressing lively fresh character. Try it with fish, as many good white Bordeaux match nicely.
Cimarosa Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Chile (£3.99, Lidl)
This win was rated gold in the Decanter World Wine Awards last year because of the quality it delivers despite selling for less than £4. Having drank this not long after its award was announced, I can confirm it is a completely suitable wine, but don’t expect anything overly complex or profound. It is on the lighter side of a typical cabernet with blackcurrant flavours and a fruity, crisp style.
This may very well be one of the cheapest Champagnes available in the UK. And even though the price is nice, it has also gained enough accolades to make it worth a serious look. No surprise this outperformed the likes of Lanson Black Label, Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, since those three have gained a reputation for being fairly forgettable as Champagnes go. With fruity and apple aromas, there is little to complain about at this price. If you want to pay less than this, you would have to look at sparkling wines elsewhere in France or even a Cava.