I had to pinch myself when Lidl was last month crowned the best supermarket for wine. The budget chain, which has 600 stores in Britain alone, has made a big public-relations splash with its Premium French Wine Collection, selling 800,000 bottles this autumn alone. As you'd expect, prices for the range of 48 Bordeaux and other French classics were a bit higher than those in its core 60-strong wine range.
My expectations were low as I set off to test the latest batch, a 36-strong Christmas Collection. It was reassuring to find that the clarets were not a job-lot from recent mediocre harvests but from the good 2008, and excellent 2009 and 2010, vintages. At £12.99, the 2008 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Château Roylland was rich, blackcurranty and delicious. So was the perfumed and savoury 2009 Château des Carabins, Margaux, £14.99, and the scented, approachable 2010 Les Allées de Cantemerle from classified Haut-Médoc Château Cantemerle. At an apparently eyewatering £39.99, the superb 2009 Château Lagrange is still pitched below the going market rate.
I was pleasantly surprised by a juicy, raspberry-rich Côte de Beaune Villages Vieilles Vignes, £10.99, and its Chilean counterpart, the strawberryish 2013 Cimarosa Leyda Valley Pinot Noir, £6.99. Chile scored again with an opulent, dark-berry-fruit oaked 2012 Gran Corte Colchagua Valley, £11.99. The good-value story continued with a vibrantly spicy Côte du Rhône Villages, £5.99, and a super-peppery 2013 Vacqueyras, £8.99. Italy was well represented by a powerfully plum-laden 2012 Masseria Metrano Primitivo, Salento, £7.99, and also a fine, cherry fruit-rich, yet nippy 2011 Cascina Polsino Barbera d'Asti, £9.99, and an approachable, gamey 2009 Brunello di Montalcino, £14.99.
In white wine country, a citrus-zest-filled 2013 JP Muller Riesling d'Alsace, £5.99, impressed along with a crisp, dry, Sancerre-like 2013 Domaine du Chêne Vert Reuilly, £8.49, and a quince-laden 2011 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Tradition, £7.99. I thought the biscuity character and creamy mousse of the Comte de Senneval Grand Cru Brut Champagne, £17.99, worth more than the extra pound over its near rival, the Bissinger.
Coincidentally, the news that day was dominated by the woes of the big four supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons – and the fact that their total sales for the previous quarter had fallen. Lidl's were up 16.8 per cent and Aldi's 25.5 per cent – no surprise. In their different ways, Lidl and Aldi are losing their cheapskate image. By communicating with shoppers and giving them what they want, they're making wine buying simple, accessible and good value.Reuse content