Pililiteri Estates Vidal Ice Wines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada 2020 (£13.99, Lidl) In the battle of the two German discounters, Aldi, which recently overtook Morrisons to become the UK’s fourth largest supermarket group, may have cemented its position as the largest on these shores. But it’s Lidl – which leapfrogged Co-op to become the UK’s sixth largest supermarket in March and which, according to market researchers Kantar, had its best sales since 2014 – is growing the fastest. When it comes to wine, both have been squeezing the prices of their competitors for years, with Tesco et al’s cost-of-living crisis focusing on wines about fivefold. But, as I wrote about Aldi after tasting their collection back in April, none of the competitors focused solely on the lower end of wine pricing. Lidl’s Christmas collection, which hits stores this week, is sure to feature a few specially priced bottles, like the sticky mango-lychee-scented wine.
Château de Landeras Graves, Bordeaux, France 2019 (£10.99, Lidl) Making ice wine, a Canadian specialty borrowed from the German and Austrian tradition of making “iswin” from grapes harvested so late that they’ve been frozen on the vine, is an expensive process, because the yield from frozen grapes is necessarily much lower than those harvested at earlier in the year. In context, then, at £14 a bottle is a bargain. So, too, is one of Lidl’s new Christmas varietals: Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2014 (£9.99), a buttery and jam-scented tangy example of a golden Hungarian sweet wine made from grapes concentrated in sugar and flavor by forming a ‘noble rot’ Botrytis. Additional other Lidl Christmas bottles – all at £10 and worth trying while they’re in store over the next month or two – include two well-made and well-priced examples of classic French styles: the fresh, brightly-smelling and luscious-smelling Château de Landeras claret. Graves, and the crunchy, ripe red apples from the 2014 Comte de Senneval Champagne Millésime (£19.99).
Lidl Chianti Riserva, Tuscany, Italy 2019 (£5.99, Lidl) Although the retailer has some good finds at the pricier end of its range, the hope is to find something of much lower value than the tinner that brings most wine drinkers to Lidl. Among the retailer’s Christmas range, Monsaraz Reserva’s robust southern Portuguese dip, Alentejo 2020 (£7.99) will pair well with a hearty winter stew, while Gedeon Birtok Zöld Veltlini 2021 (£6.99), mild ( 11,5% abv) but has a pleasantly aromatic, dry white Hungarian green apple made from a grape variety known by its Austrian name Gruner Veltliner. But to me, the most eye-catching deals are in the retailer’s year-round range. The Chianti Riserva is a delicious red, subtly smoked and darkly fruity with a dusting of baking spice and a nice chew. Thörnicher St Michael Riesling Feinherb, Austria 2021 (£4.99), meanwhile, is a gently pinkish-white, stone-soft fruit with a hint of sweetness and a balance of lime acidity.
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