Wine tastings are always a revelation, and none more so than the one hosted by Lidl recently for people in the wine media to taste.
While almost any big tasting will reveal some gems, I was blown away by both the overall high standard, and the enormous quantity of commendable wines.
For me, the first preconception to tumble was related to the standard of Lidl’s wines from ‘classic’ posh regions such as Chablis and Pouilly-Fumé which generally carry a hefty price premium.
I tend to be wary of the more affordable wines from such regions, believing we’re better off seeking out a good value well-made chardonnay or sauvignon blanc from anywhere in the world rather than the cheapest Chablis or Sancerre respectively.
But the tasting suggested to me that Lidl have, in general, got it right, with cracking good-value wines from the great regions.
However, the biggest surprises were among the new world reds.
I found the standards so consistently high that I had to abandon the plan to seek out ‘good’ wines that I might recommend, and instead struggle to eliminate some of the marginally less impressive bottles.
The upshot is that along with the usual six highlights below I’ve squeezed in further related recommendations which are well worth checking out.
South Africa continues to have a poor reputation despite vast improvements in the wine industry in recent years. At the Lidl tasting I certainly enjoyed the South African chenin.
And the reds (all belonging to the Western Cape appellation) were pretty impressive too.
While we’re at it, I was confused at first by the FairGlobe designation of one wine highlighted below but it turns out that Lidl’s ethical range is signed up to the independent and widely-trusted FairTrade mark.
Tough and all as times are here, maybe we should consider enjoying a good affordable glass of wine while at the same time contributing a little to sustainable development and a fair price for producers.
Chardonnays, Chablis 2010 — Lidl, €8.99
This is a tremendous cool, crisp chardonnay — with its lovely crunchy appley bite it more than holds its own against the fine Pouilly-Fuissé 2009 (€10.99), but for a special occasion you might consider the delightfully complex and creamy Chablis Premier Cru 2009 (€13.99).
Sauvignon blancs, Sancerre 2010 — Lidl, €10.99
This stood out among the sauvignon blancs — generously aromatic and well balanced. The Pouilly-Fumé 2010 (€9.99) is impressive too, while the tight, firm and fresh Cimarosa Chilean Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (€5.29) greatly overdelivers on its price.
Italian reds, Chianti Riserva 2008 — Lidl, €6.99
This is very nice indeed — all aromatic and crisp light red berries. Its partner Chianti 2010 (€4.99) was pretty okay (well what do you expect?), but another Italian you might really enjoy is the fragrant Valpolicella Classico 2010 (€6.99).
Spanish reds, Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva 2005 DOCa — Lidl, €7.99
There’s lots of solid value among the Spanish reds. I’d happily plump for this elegant soft tempranillo, the younger Cepa Lebrel Crianza 2008 (€6.99), or even the Joven 2010 (€5.19) which, despite its youth, lacked the undercooked rawness the Joven designation can imply. You might also enjoy the rich Baturrica Tarragona Gran Reserva (€6.79) blend of tempranillo and cabernet.
New world reds, Cimarosa Chilean Cab Sauv 2011 — Lidl, €4.49
One big surprise was the number of very high standard new world reds, including this delicious, soft cabernet. The overt tannins and rich fruit of the flavoursome Cimarosa Chilean Merlot 2011 (€4.89) belies the cliché about that grape being a bit limp on its own. Another favourite was the delightful spicy FairGlobe South African Pinotage 2011 €5.99.
Rhône reds, Vacqueyras 2010 — Lidl €8.99
One of two cracking values from the southern Rhône, this is delightful light, sweet-and-savoury Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011 (€5.49) is also a friendly, softly fruity and easy-drinking red.
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