Wine review: Vina Fuerte 2015

vina fuerteThe new vintage of the Vina Fuerte, once a dependable $5 Spanish red, isn’t very Spanish or  worth $5

The Aldi discount grocer is famous for its cheap, quality wine in Europe. Unfortunately, we’re not getting any of that in the U.S. – as the new vintage of the Vina Fuerte sadly demonstrates.

The Vina Fuerte ($5, purchased, 13%) is a Spanish tempranillo, and the 2014 was more than serviceable. It tasted like Spanish tempranillo – tart cherry fruit with some character and interest in the back. It wasn’t $10 Hall of Fame quality, but it was the kind of red wine to buy for dinner without worrying about whether it would be any good. In fact, I usually bought two.

The 2015, though, is about as Spanish as a pair of sweat socks. The tart cherry fruit has been bulldozed in favor of almost overripe California-style red fruit and the character and the interest in the back have been replaced by heaping amounts of fake oak.

This is disappointing, but not surprising. Aldi’s U.S. wine decisions have focused on the lowest common denominator over the past couple of years: Plonk like Winking Owl, copying the overpriced and very ordinary wines sold in traditional grocery stores, and bringing in one-offs that are priced for their labels and not what’s inside the bottle.

The days when Aldi sold Vina Decana, a Hall of Fame Spanish tempranillo, and the equally worthy Benedetto Chianti are long gone. Today, we’re stuck with focus group wines like the new Fuerte; apparently, we’ll never get to enjoy real wine like this.

It’s baffling. Aldi understands the U.S. grocery store market so well that even Walmart is running scared, but it treats wine with the same arrogance and disdain for the consumer that everyone else does. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

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