Wine: Cheap but cheerful

Where Kwik Save was once the supermarket that did exactly what it said on the tin, the discount mantle has now passed to Aldi. According to Daniel Gibson, Aldi’s wine buyer, when the price of a summery thirst quenching rosé, the 2007 Vina Decana Rosada, slipped from £2.99 to a grand total of £3.29 after the budget, the company lost an immediate 40 per cent of sales, even though there’s no disputing the value of the wine, even at £3.29.

Aldi prides itself on the fact that because it’s virtually 100 per cent own-brand, with control over the quality and cost of products, it can offer products “of the same quality as, and often better than, competitors and at prices 20-30 per cent cheaper”.

As a recent survey of a 22-item shopping basket found, Aldi was 12 per cent cheaper than the Big Four of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons. The brothers Karland Theo Albrecht from Essen (German for “to eat”) preside over Aldi’s worldwide complement of 8,000-odd stores.

“There’s nostigma attached to EasyJet or Ryanair, is there, so I see no reason why there should be any stigma attached to a discounter like Aldi,” says Gibson. “With no big brands or marketing budgets, we can putour wines on the shelf more cheaply than anyone else.” Gibson runs Aldi’s no-frills wine department in the UK with 65 wines, almost all own-label. The range has width, says Gibson–in other words you can do a full shop–but not depth, so you get one muscadet rather than so many you can't decide which one to choose.

Aldi’s low wine prices are all the more remarkable, given that the euro is so strong and the Government now takes £1.72 in tax on every bottle of wine. But Aldi’s customers insist on a good deal. Does that mean putting suppliers over a barrel? Gibson gives a pained smile and says he prefers to look at it as getting the best prices thanks to buying well.

At their respective price points, there’s no quibble about the value of Aldi’s crisp, dry 2007 Châteaux Selection Bordeaux White from Calvet, £3.39, or the appley, refreshing 2007 Muscadet sur Lie, £3.99. The buttery 2007 Mâcon Villages from Lugny, £4.99, is a respectable drop of white burgundy, and better still, the Linot Grigio Le Dolomie IT rentino, £4.99, is a genuinely well-made, pear-flavoured Italian dry white. From Chile, both the 2007 Tierra del Sol Chardonnay Torrontes, £3.49, and the 2007 Tierra del Sol Sauvignon Blanc, £3.49, deliver flavour some examples of their kind that would not disgrace the dinner table.

The one pricey white on the Aldi list, the 2007 Latuilière Sancerre,£8.99, offers the requisite herbaceous quality to customers in search of a treat. On the red wine list, the 2006 Cellier du Rhône £3.69, delivers a juicy cherryish mouthful at the price and there’s no arguing with the fresh, berry fruity Tierra del Sol Argentinian Shiraz Bonarda, £3.49.

From Australia the 2006 Bush land Premium Single Estate Hunter Valley Shiraz, £4.99, genuinely punches above its weight for the Hope Estate’s impressively spicy, blackcurrant fruit quality. Daniel Gibson puffs up his chest too at the 2005 Valpolicella Ripasso Cantina di Merlara, £4.99, a Venetian red with juicy cherryish fruit.

To call Aldi’s Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura Brut, £5.99, poorman’s champagne might sound like damning it with faint praise but as a party fizz, it’s cheap at the price. Aldi’s 374 stores are currently based mainly in the Midlands and the North West, so readers in other parts of the country may not be as familiar with the discounter as they’d like to be – yet. But in the past 12 months, Aldi has seen the number of ABC1 customers shopping at its stores increase by 17 per cent. Now it is aiming to expand southwards with 1,000 shops in the UK long term – and the Albrechts have plans to put astore on everyone’s doorstep.