Christine Austin checks out the French wine promotion at Lidl and pronounces it ‘formidable’

They are the kind of numbers that every supermarket would like to see. Lidl’s wine sales have grown by 38 per cent year on year as more of us are finding good flavours and even better prices at the discount chains. While Lidl’s stores tend not to be in prime locations, there are now enough of them, usually with car parks, so it isn’t difficult to call in and buy a bottle or two.
Lidl has just launched a new French promotion which sees 40 new wines, from Muscadet to Champagne, Sancerre to Sauternes, added to its normally tight, focused range. All of them have been chosen by Lidl wine buyer Ben Hulme who has enlisted the help of Master of Wine Richard Bampfield to score and select the wines. Nothing graded at less than 80 out of 100 gets a place on the shelves.
What I really like about this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it offer is that Lidl has just gone out to the market and picked up some good wines. There hasn’t been a development programme, no special labels, no highly contrived marketing plan. That is the way to keep prices low.
I also like the way they haven’t just stuck to the usual grape varieties and regions. This offer includes wines from Jurançon, Chusclan, Savoie and Saint-Bris. These are not wines that many people have experience of, but if the price is right and the flavours are good then it gets shelf-space until stocks run out. And that is the key to these special offers at Lidl. When it’s gone, it really has gone, so if you buy some of these wines, don’t wait too long before you try them so you can dash back to buy more.
I tasted through some of the new additions to the range. Here are my favourites…

Apremont 2014, Savoie, Le Cellier Savoyard, 11.5%, £6.49: Wines from this region rarely appear on supermarket shelves so it is a joy to see one at this bargain price. Dry, minerally and fresh-tasting with some white floral notes. Try it with cheese on toast or roast chicken.
Domaine St Prix 2014, Saint-Bris, 12.5%, £8.99: An unusual Sauvignon Blanc from the Burgundy region. Warm summers produce rounder, deeper flavours than most Sauvignons. Definitely a food-friendly style.
Alsace Gewürztraminer 2014, 13%, £7.99: Power-packed with rose petals and lychees, this is perfect to pour alongside Thai-spiced dishes, spiced chicken wings or tasty canapés.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 Blanc, Rhône, 13%, £12.99: Probably made from Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Picardin, although details are difficult to find on the label, this has good savoury, white peach notes with a long, mushroom and toast finish.
Jurançon Doux 2013, 12%, £6.79: Soft, definitely sweet but more in the apricot tart way of sweetness, not cloying or sticky. Chill this down and try it mid-afternoon with a slice of Madeira cake.
Ch. Mauras 2012, Sauternes, 13%, 50cl, £8.99: Seriously good with honeyed fruit and marmalade overtones, this will accompany or even replace a good winter pudding. Buy a few bottles to bring out at dinner parties and at Christmas. Despite everyone saying they don’t like sweet wines, they will sip this with strawberry shortcake, chocolate roulade or a sliver of cheese.
Sancerre Rosé 2014, Vigne de la Taille aux Buis, 12.5%, £8.99: This is a soft, strawberry-scented, Pinot Noir-based Sancerre Rosé at a bargain price. Try it with fish, particularly salmon, but drink within six months. I prefer to enjoy these rosés while they still have youth on their side.

Domaine de l’Estagnol 2014, Minervois, 13%, £6.99 It would be nice to know what grapes are in this fruity, juicy, spice-dusted wine, but the back label is no help at all

Les Petits Vallons 2014, Crozes-Hermitage, 12.5%, £8.99: Quite a light style of Crozes, with plenty of savoury, pepper-dusted fruit. A good Thursday night supper wine, with chops or a casserole.
Serabel 2014, Chusclan, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2014, 14%, £5.99: This is a real find at Lidl. Deep, damson and pepper fruit with soft tannin and enough flavour to last until the next mouthful.
Ch. Lagrange 2011, Lussac St. Emilion, Bordeaux, 13%, £8.99: Plummy fruit, with a simple easy style, this will go with any roast lamb served up for Sunday lunch.

Domaine de l’Estagnol 2014, Minervois, 13%, £6.99: It would be nice to know what grapes are in this fruity, juicy, spice-dusted wine, but the label is no help at all. So just pull the cork and enjoy it for its exuberant flavours and easy drinking style.
Champagne Henri Delattre, half bottle, 12%, £5.99: Half bottles of champagne are usually prohibitively expensive, but at £5.99 this deserves a try. Clean and reasonably dry in taste, it lacks complexity, but it does the job.


About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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