£2.99 wine: its death is greatly exaggerated

wine aisleThe £2.99 bottle of wine is still with us, just. And why are these low-priced bargains so rare? Because with excise duty now set at £1.90 a bottle, and VAT at 20%, supermarkets make just 5 to 10 pence profit on each one sold. So when each inch of shelf space has to maximise profits it’s easy to see why the £2.99-er is almost extinct. But Aldi and Tesco are keeping this price range alive – for the time being.

Aldi’s £2.99 range is not only a core part of its Wine Cellar but also a core part of its philosophy of ‘high quality and exceptional value’. Now after tasting all seven wines in the range I can whole heartedly agree that they are exceptional value but high quality? While most are there are a couple of stinkers.

Aldi Baron Sain Jean whiteWhile the Baron Saint Jean Blanc is a very quaffable fruity French white and most of the reds are perfectly pleasant, there is a small part of Aldi’s £2.99 range that tastes so weak and watery that the most polite description for them is ‘weak cordial’.

But none of the wines has been made badly – there is no sign of the bacterial infection known as cork taint (eliminated by being screwcap bottles), or off-putting brown tinges in the wine colour due to oxidation (and so loss of those appealing fruity aromas and tastes) from poor wine making techniques, or even that tell-tale hiss when the seal is broken from the build up of pressure of a ‘spritzy’ wine that should be still (again down to poor wine making).

All of which you’d think would be more likely with low cost wine manufacture – yes manufacture not wine making. In the low cost wine world you’ll find no idyllic scenes of bare-footed peasants treading grapes but vast production lines of huge stainless steel fermenting vats warehoused in industrial estates.

Aldi Grapevine ChardonnayNot pretty, but it is hygienic. And so although oxidation and cork taint may be eliminated the input of the cheapest grape juice will also mean the elimination of sophisticated flavours. But there is no excuse to foist on us the watery rubbish labelled Baron Saint Jean Rosé and Grapevine Chardonnay.

Aldi’s £2.99 wine range get’s it mostly right, but pick carefully.

You’ll also find a small cache of £2.99 wines at Tesco within their Everyday Value range, and Asda also stocks the occasional wine under £3 but these tend to be short runs. So when you spot ‘em buy ‘em.

Okay but what do £2.99 wines taste like?

In ranking order:

1

Aldi’s Baron Saint Jean French Blanc

£2.99

A perfectly quaffable creamy apple and pineapple tasting French white with hints of lemon. A good table wine that’ll match almost anything.

Tesco Everyday Value White2

Tesco Everyday Value Spanish White Wine

£2.92 (equivalent price as sold in 1-litre tetrapak at £3.89)

Another perfectly quaffable wine tasting of melon and bananas. Good choice for a party.

3

Aldi’s Italian Red

£2.99

Because it’s made with the flavourful grape varieties of Malvasia and Negroamaro, even at the cheap end of the scale this wine has some chance of retaining some fruitful characteristics. And it does – plum, strawberry and cherry. Pizza plonk.

Tesco Everyday Value Red4

Tesco Everyday Value Spanish Red Wine

£2.92 (equivalent price as sold in 1-litre tetrapak at £3.89)

Light raspberry and cherry fruity flavours. A tinge of astringency but overall creamy.

5

Aldi’s Grapevine Spanish Merlot

£2.99

To get the best of the plum, cherry and sloe flavours it’s best to decant this wine into a jug and let the air mix with this hedgerow-brew. Its slightly sweet edge does mean that you’ll unlikely to be able to finish off the bottle before your taste buds are overwhelmed.

Aldi Baron Saint Jean Red6

Aldi’s Baron Saint Jean Spanish Rouge

£2.99

Sweet blackberry, cherry and damson flavours with a cooked edge. Drinkable though.

7

Aldi’s Grapevine Italian Chardonnay

£2.99

Weak apple and peach flavours – like watered down wine. Drinkable – just.

8

Aldi’s Baron Saint Jean Spanish Rosé

£2.99

Watery strawberry. Why bother?

Wines not tasted:

Tesco’s Everyday Value Spanish Rosé

£2.92 (equivalent price as sold in 1-litre tetrapak at £3.89)

Sainsbury’s Basics German White and Spanish Red

£3.39 so they don’t strictly qualify for the £2.99 bracket. But they’re there so applaud the thought.

Related articles: Aldi's new wines reviewed; Aldi's wines reviewed; Tesco wines reviewed; Three quid bargain wine; Christmas wines under £3.50

This article has also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on MatureTimes.co.uk