When I first started this website a lot of people commented that I must love Trader Joe’s because of all the bargains they have on wine. And as much as I wanted to love Trader Joe’s, I just never became a big fan. Most of the wines I tasted from them were nothing special, albeit they were dirt cheap — which is something I always love. Plus there’s something about the folks working there that just seems inauthentic to me… they’re way too happy and remind me of flair-clad servers at TGI Fridays.
Anyway, while it seems like everyone I meet associates Trader Joe’s with dirt cheap wine, they are not the only one in that game. The folks from Aldi sent a few of their wines our way to taste and I’d say they’re giving TJ’s some competition. I’ve never been an Aldi shopper, so I had no idea they were carrying wines and I was a little surprised when they showed up.
I’ll admit that I was a little bit skeptical at first. But as I looked them over, I saw a few things that were both intriguing and reassuring. First, I was surprised to see the regions on the wines, Chianti, Napa Valley and Mosel. Then I was reassured when I checked the alcohol levels and found them to be appropriate for the styles. Sometimes I’ve found that really cheap wine will have an alcohol level that’s lower than normal, resulting in thin, bland wine, but that wasn’t the case here. I also liked the backside of the labels, which has helpful graphics for folks who don’t know their wine well yet.
Now I will say that none of these wines absolutely blew me away, but none of them were bad either. And for the dirt cheap prices, they are some bargains!
Gonfalone Chianti 2009
I’m a big fan of Chianti, but if I have a choice I’m usually going to select a Chianti Classico versus a Chianti. I expect that a lot of wine consumers aren’t clear on the differences between Chianti and Chianti Classico and that’s an unfortunate circumstance of the names being so similar. And I could confuse you even more by going into the other sub-types of Chianti. But basic difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico is the region of production. While Chianti comes from a rather broad region in Tuscany, Chianti Classico comes from a more limited region, selected for the quality of its grapes. There are some other differences too, but I’ll leave it at that for now. And while I tend to prefer Chianti Classico, I was pleasantly surprised by this Chianti from Gonfalone.
The nose on this wine is nice. It shows well balanced raspberry, nutmeg, strawberry and perfume aromas with moderate intensity. The palate is dry and offers plenty of ripe fruit flavors, like raspberry, plum and sour cherry, plus a little bit of spice. Where it misses is on the acidity, which is more restrained than I would expect for a Chianti, although it’s not terribly off the mark. The finish is decent, with lingering raspberry tea flavors. Overall, it smells and tastes nice, but lacks some vibrancy due to the restrained acidity.
For the price, this is an extreme value.
Wine: Gonfalone Chianti
Walker Napa Valley Red Wine 2007
The color is a brownish, brick red. It doesn’t have the bright red color of most young red blends, but then as a 2007, it ‘s not so young anymore. I was actually a touch surprised to see them carrying a 2007. Although it doesn’t say this anywhere on the bottle, this wine is a blend of merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon.
The nose on this wine shows cherry and plum aromas, as well as quite a bit of oak, which takes on nutmeg and cedar characteristics in this one. The oak is a little heavy, but not offensively so. The palate is medium bodied, which is exactly what the label says. It does have some nice fruit flavors on the palate that give a touch of sweetness and touch of tart, such as raspberry, plum and strawberry. There are some subtle tannins too. The finish is a continuation of the fruit flavors with a bit of residual sugar leaving a slightly sweet flavor on your tongue. This isn’t a wine that I’m going to rant and rave about, but it’s OK for what it is and still quite a value.
Variety: Red blend
When I saw this wine I cringed a bit because I’ve tasted far too many bad, sweet rieslings in the past and I was skeptical. But then I saw that it was from Mosel, which gave me some reassurance. But the proof is ultimately with what’s in the bottle and I was pleasantly surprised by this one.
The nose is a little tight, but shows expecable aromas for a riesling, like honeysuckle, apple and lime. The palate is sweet, with peach, apple and lime flavors. It has enough acidity to bring it to life on your tongue, although a little more acidity would help the overall balance with the sweetness. It finishes long, with lingering sweet apple flavors.
Disclosure: These wines were received as a media sample.