Aldi, with 1,000 stores in 29 states, has just opened a dozen or so outlets in the Dallas area. Which means the Wine Curmudgeon has been busy sampling the discount grocer's private label wines, none of which costs more than $8. The results were mixed: The $3 wine pretty much tasted like $3 wine, though the $5 and $6 wines were a bit better.
Aldi, in fact, probably gets more publicity for its wine than it deserves. It only sells 15 kinds of wine, and it's nowhere near the wine operation that Trader Joe's, with its Two Buck Chuck, is. The Aldi wines are made by a handful of major producers; Winking Owl, a $3 line of California wines, is a Gallo product, while the Argentine malbec comes from the company that makes Marcus & James wines.
What's worth drinking? The Landshut Riesling ($6, purchased) was comparable to $8-$10 German rieslings like Clean Slate and Polka Dot. It's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and there is a bit of balance. Serve it chilled, and it's adequate for porch sipping and spicy takeout.
My favorite was the Charles De Monteney merlot ($6, purchased) from France. It reminded me of cheap Bordeaux that I drank 20 years ago, with bell pepper aromas and fruit that was a bit green. It's not for everyone, but if you're tired of cheap, California-style wines that are too fruity, it's worth trying.