Aldi adds Devon still wine to Exquisite line

Aldi has turned to Devon to source its first English still wine and its Exquisite Collection Lyme Block will be released in time for summer.

The Bacchus/Pinot Blanc wine comes from Lyme Bay Winery and it will sell for £9.99 a bottle.

Going into a major multiple – let alone a discounter – is a risk for any English winery, but Lyme Bay managing director James Lambert told DRN he was swayed by the retailer’s commitment to uphold its premium price point.

Aldi wine buyer Mike James, who is celebrating a decade in the role this year, said: “It’s what I wanted from an English wine: acidic, racy, brilliant with fish and chips.

“We started the conversations pre-harvest, talked about volumes and costs and agreed that we are not here to be a big, bad, bullying multiple.

“We put it under our Exquisite Collection at £9.99. At any retailer, and certainly Aldi, it is a juicy price point, but it’s a serious wine. Hopefully the customers will really like what we are doing.”

James reported that Aldi continues to outperform the market in wine and he is celebrating a first-ever Retailer of the Year win at the International Wine Challenge.

“We can talk the talk and walk the walk and the proof is on the shelves. It’s in the market data and our performance,” he said. “We are really proud of what we have been doing. Our shelves aren’t just full of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Italian Pinot Grigio.

“We have to tick those boxes, but we are still nimble and innovative and bringing things to the market.

“We are very pleased with our growth. We had a great summer and it was better than the good summer our competitors were seeing.”

James said the retailer saw massive sales of rosé and crisp, acidic wines such as Muscadet, Riesling, Albariño and Picpoul last summer. “We have all those again, and we are trying to be a bit more creative around that, with a couple of white wines from Portugal and some white blends from southern France.”

He added: “We sold an incredible amount of Portuguese wine in 2018 – an unsurprising trend given the great value and easy-drinking style of so many of the wines produced there. While the Douro had a difficult vintage, we still see Portugal as a great opportunity and, during our trip there in November, we uncovered some brilliant new wines, such as the Wine Foundry Avesso, which will boost our Portuguese offering further.

“We have a lot of rosé. We have backed the summer horse and, to be honest, even if it’s just an average British summer this year, people want to feel the summer vibe.”

Buying was a challenge last year due to a short harvest, particularly in Europe, but that pressure has eased now. “Buying in Europe has been a bit easier,” said James. “The 2017 vintage was a challenge and a lot of creativity was needed in terms of blending to stretch volumes to get the quality. It has been generally easier this year.”

Brexit looms large on the horizon, but he added: “We have the same challenges everybody else does. We are confident we will have wine on the shelves and our customers will be happy. We are not going to let anything get in the way of that.”

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