Tag Archives: Aldi wine

Winebits 476: Aldi wine, bifurcation, student wine

aldi wineThis week’s wine news: Aldi will expand its wine selection, plus the wine business continues to bifurcate and $80 student wine.

More cheap wine: Aldi, the German discount grocer whose cheap wine often shows up on these pages, will spend $1.6 billion to renovate its 1.300 U.S. stores. Part of the renovation, reports Blomberg News, will be upgraded wine sections, “housed in fancier wood fixtures with spotlights.” This is good news for those of us who care about quality cheap wine – Aidi’s wine is one reason why it has become the fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain. It’s also worth noting that Aldi and its arch-rival Lidl, which will debut in the U.S. next year and also does great cheap wine, have almost 11 percent of the U.K. grocery store market. The losers in the two retailers’ growth were Britain’s biggest chains, the counterparts to Kroger and Albertson’s in this country.

Two wine markets: We’ve talked here many times about the divide in the wine market, between the premiumized high end and the wine that most of us drink. Tom Wark at the Fermentation blog offers insight on this subject: “It is becoming abundantly clear that there exist today in the United States two very distinct and separately operating wine industries. One, the larger of the two, is dedicated to selling relatively inexpensive wine to the masses. The other is dedicated to selling relatively expensive wine to a smaller group of wine lovers. What’s interesting about these two separate industries is that there is less and less for their members to talk to each other about.” Wark’s other point? That no one in the wine business seems especially bothered by this, and is perfectly content to let it happen. No wonder I’m so cranky so much of the time.

For a student wine? How about $80 for a wine made by students at the University of California-Davis, perhaps the best wine school at the world. That’s because most of the grapes come from a top-flight parcel of land in Napa Valley, and it’s priced competitively with similar Napa wines. A school official said the goal is to sell a small production of the student wine with a UC-Davis label, and that “It would be very high quality wine that would be up to UC Davis standards. [The wine] would be something students, alumni, faculty and staff could be proud of.”

Big Wine 2019

The $15 wine dinner challenge

$15 wine dinnerNuts to restaurant wine prices – a $15 wine dinner you can make at home, even if you don’t do much cooking.

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t eat out much anymore, given the silly prices of Dallas restaurant meals, the uneven quality of the food and service, and, of course, the stupid markups for their mediocre wine.

This approach has annoyed more than a few of my friends, who like to eat out and aren’t as fussy (or as stubborn or cranky) as I am. “Come on, Jeff, it can’t be that bad,” they say. And them I invite them to the house for the $15 wine dinner challenge.

The challenge: I’ll make them my legendary arroz con pollo (the secret of which is leftover Chinese takeout rice) and an appetizer, plus two cheap wines of my choosing. If they don’t think that my dinner is a better value – a much better value – than the $100 a person budget busters that the foodies wax poetic about, then I’ll buy them one of those dinners.

So far, so good. Most recently, it was socca, the French chickpea flour pancake garnished with yogurt and tomatillo salsa and served with Bogle’s sauvignon blanc, followed by the arroz con pollo plus home-made guacamole, paired with Aldi’s $5 Vina Fuerte. Everyone was happy, and of course they were all surprised that they liked the wine as much as they did since it was so cheap.

My success with the $15 wine dinner challenge is not as much a testament to my cooking skill as it is to the foolishness of Dallas restaurants, who consider hip more important than quality and value. Consider this, from a news release for a high-end restaurant set to open here: It “will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner items like seasonal salads, rice bowls and homemade soups made with locally-sourced proteins and produce, and a curated bar will serve craft beer, cocktails and wine.” Talk about restaurant-speak; a curated bar, indeed. Somewhere, Richard Hainey is spitting fire.

Or as a friend of mine who is in the wine business said the last time we talked about this: “I go out to dinner to have a good time, not to spend a lot of money for food that isn’t as good as what I can make at home.”

Which is something that I wish more people understood. The food and wine – and the prices – would get a lot better.

 

Winebits 367: Cheap wine edition

aldi cheap wineCheap wine news from around the Internet in honor of the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame:

? Cheaper than water: Think wine is cheap in the U.S. or Britain? How about the price in Australia, where some wine costs less than a bottle of water? The BBC reports that a 12-ounce bottle of water costs A$2.50 (US$2.83), while a bottle of red, twice as big, costs as little as A$1 (US$.81). Some of this is the high price of bottled water Down Under; a 16.9-ounce bottle costs less than $2 in the U.S. But, as the story notes, the price has more to do with what the country’s experts are calling the “dire” state of the Aussie wine business: an expensive Australian dollar, steadily falling international demand, and a glut of wine in the domestic market. In other words, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong — for producers, anyway. For consumers, depressed prices in Australian help keep prices down elsewhere.

? Miracle machine? Some people still don’t believe that cheap wine is suitable for drinking, and that it tastes like it did 20 years ago — harsh, bitter, and acidic. This is apparently why the Sonic Decanter raised $139,000 on Kickstarter, $50,000 more than its goal. The gadget is supposed age cheap wine to “bring out aromas not normally present in young, unaged wines,” soften tannins, and enhance flavors. The catch is that almost all cheap wine isn’t made to be aged, doesn’t have any extra aromas to bring out, and already has soft tannins and enhanced fruit flavors. That formula is the reason for being for most grocery store merlot. And this doesn’t take into account the $249 cost, which not only translates into two cases of $10 wine, but into four bottles of very nice white Burgundy, which I’ll take over a gadget any time.

? Aldi wine: The Aldi supermarket chain’s plans for U.S. expansion — 50 percent more stores by 2018 — is welcome news for anyone who drinks cheap wine, given the company’s skill at selling quality labels for very little money. I’ve written about it on the blog quite a bit, and I’m not the only who is impressed. Max Allen, writing in The Australian, discusses the chain’s success in his country, noting that the wines it sells more than hold their own against other Australian wines, and do so for significantly less money. In fact, he uses the words “crazy cheap.”

Mini-reviews 59: Hearty Burgundy, white Burgundy, Aldi, Gascogne

Mini-reviews 59: Hearty Burgundy, whReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, mini-reviews of four wines I really wanted to like, but didn’t:

? Gallo Family Vineyards Hearty Burgundy NV ($9/1.5 liters, sample, 12%): The wine your parents and grandparents drank in college (in a 50th anniversary edition) is more modern in style these days, with more ripe black fruit. But it still tastes pretty much like it did then, which is surprising, and, for better or worse, epitomizes the concept of jug wine.

? Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les S tilles 2011 ($25, purchased, 12.5%): Disappointing white Burgundy from one of my favorite producers — more like what California chardonnay tastes like when winemakers say they’ve made “French-style” wine. Oak isn’t integrated at all, though apple and pear fruit is evident.

? Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013: ($7, purchased, 13%): Aldi store brand is one-note, citrus-aggressive New Zealand white that’s a step up from something like Monkey Bay but, oddly, not all that enjoyable when the bottle is empty.

? Globerati C tes de Gascogne ($6, purchased, 12%): Easily the worst made Gascon wine I’ve ever had — thin, lacking fruit, almost no terroir, and none of the white grapiness that makes Gascon wine so much fun. What was Globerati thinking?

The Aldi wine experience

Aldi wineThe biggest surprise when the Aldi grocery store chain came to Dallas was that it sold wine, which seemed odd for a discount supermarket whose customers aren’t wine drinkers the way most experts think of wine drinkers. Even more surprising: The wine is cheap, even by Wine Curmudgeon standards, and some of it, like the Vina Decana tempranillo, is much better than it should be.

In this, the Aldi wine experience speaks to the change in the way we buy wine in the U.S., and how smart retailers are using that to their advantage. How Aldi does this, after the jump:

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Two wines from Aldi, and the differences in cheap wine

There are two kinds of cheap wine — those made to hit a certain price, like Two-buck Chuck, and those made to taste like wine, like the bottles in the $10 Hall of Fame. This is often a difficult concept to explain, since consumers assume price is price and don’t think much past that.

That’s why I was so intrigued by two $5 wines I bought at Aldi, the national discount grocer (and where most of the wine is private label). The wines — a Spanish tempranillo and an Italian red from Montepulciano — demonstrated this contradiction perfectly. The former was everything great cheap wine should be, enjoyable and a value, even at $5. The latter was made to cost $5, and I was reminded of that with every sip.

The quality of wines made to hit a certain price are notoriously inconsistent. That’s because, if the price of grapes increases, the wine contains cheaper grapes of lesser quality so it can maintain its price. Wine made to taste like wine is usually made with better quality grapes, so that it tastes the way it should. The producer either raises the price if grapes become more expensive or takes a smaller profit.

The tempranillo, Vina Decana 2010 ($5, purchased, 12.5%), tasted like tempranillo — cherry fruit balanced by crispness and some sort of combination of vanilla and earthiness. No, it’s not a Gran Reserva Rioja, and I realize all those adjectives might confuse the issue. The point is that the wine has a lot more going on than one would expect for $5, and someone paid attention to this when they made it. In this, it reminded me of the much beloved and sorely missed Solaz, perhaps the greatest cheap red wine of my wine writing career.

The Montepulciano, Violescent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011 ($5, purchased, 13.5%), was just the opposite, made to cost $5 and that what it tasted like wasn’t as important as how much it cost. The wine was rough and acidic, almost green and unripe in an old fashioned “This is the way we churned out cheap wine in Italy before the winemaking revolution of the past two decades” style. It was drinkable, but we want more than that, don’t we?

The other thing this illustrates is that wine quality is not always a retailer’s top concern, and this is especially true for retailers like Aldi that sell on price. Their thinking is centered around product mix, shelf space, what’s available, and what has the best margins. The burden is on the consumer to decide if the wine is a value, and given how little time most of us have to worry about these things (and little experience and education, as well), that’s not as easy as it should be. What’s worse is that retailers count on that, and which is why too much wine is like the Violescent and not the Decana.

More about Aldi wine:
? The Aldi wine experience
? Wine of the week: Aldi private labels
? The Five Day, $3 Wine Challenge: The results