Thursday 4 February 2016

Aldi Encounter: Kooliburra Shiraz

So the good news is that Aldi have decided to offer an online wine delivery service. More than good news: up there with the Beatles releasing Hey Jude, it's that big. The thing about Aldi, and its coeval, Lidl, is that it's an adorable modern paradox - an aspirational discount supermarket, a place selling okay stuff at an affordable price, and so candid in its actions that middle-class bubbleheads like me are desperate to have one in the neighbourhood, partly to show the world our demotic love of a bargain, partly to drive down the prices in the adjoining Waitrose, partly to get away from the sheer chore of driving to Hounslow. And have you even tried to park in the Hounslow Aldi? It's always full, cars trailing out into the street like the rearguard of a defeated army. I mean it's hopeless.

However: here we are with a twinkly new wine website, in fact suspiciously sleek-looking, not the atmosphere of rent cardboard boxes and naked wooden pallets that I really want from Aldi as tokens of its good faith, but in we go, past something called the Exquisite Collection (a bunch of New Zealand Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Valpolicellas, all predictably sporting shingles from the IWSC) costing around £35 a half-dozen, a bit steep for my purposes, and onwards to a Kooliburra Australian Shiraz, much more like it at effectively £4 a bottle, plus some very fair customer reviews ('Cracking', 'Excellent', 'Reliable', 'A little rough round the edges, usually as an after effect') but what the hell is this? A 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape at £17 a bottle? Is this some kind of joke? Aldi?

Horrified, I run to the mixed cases, where I know there will be all kinds of muck going begging and, thank God, something calling itself Easy Drinking Reds jumps out, a bran-tub of Chilean Merlot, knock-off Chianti, tanker Pinot Noir, all sorts, £4 a bottle. Clearly, I am not going to get down to the magic £2.99 a throw, which would have been perfect (although now I think of it, the £2.99 Aldi Baron St Jean Vin De Pays I drank years ago was authentically disgusting), but we are where we are and I am determined to give the website a try.

The only thing which really causes me to hesitate is the fact that nearly every time I order wine to be delivered to my perfectly accesible house, something happens, an over-delivery, a non-delivery, an unwanted repeat delivery, it can't be predicted, but it will happen and it will make me vow never to buy mailorder again, at least until the next moment of slack-jawed inattention, seasoned with a kind of glib parsimony, steals over me and I make the same mistake, the same wilful confusion of the opportunistic and the short-sighted -

No: Aldi are going to be different, as well as cheap.

Ten minutes later: there it is, fixed up, a mixed half-case of Crisp and Refreshing Whites, price per bottle £5.11, yes, a bit grand, but you don't want to take too many chances with your Muscadet Sur Lie or your New Zealand Pinot Gris ('Just had it with a spicy pizza,' comments Mollymoo of Winchester, my kind of wine connoisseur), plus a six-pack of the Koliburra Shiraz. Total: £54.58, including free delivery, a clear inducement to get me to join the big Aldi community, the community which lives to give, an inducement which I have blithely accepted. Had I paid for delivery, that would have added another £3, at which point I might have started wondering if the convenience of having the stuff mis-delivered to my house wasn't outweighed by the price hit, and shouldn't I trudge down to Hounslow and the chaos of the carpark to see if there wasn't anything more affordable instore? But then that question has answered itself already, in the form of my refusal to get up and look for the car.

Actually, the only other thing which causes me to hesitate is that 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Admittedly Aldi's stuff is going for less than other 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape offers I dig up on the internet, but it may just be a worse iteration of that vintage, I have no idea. No, the problem is the concept of Aldi selling anything for £17 - wine, an electric lawnmower, packet ham: no single item at Aldi should cost more than a tenner, or what's the point? It is a matter of trust, and trust, as we know, is the most precious component in any human interaction, especially when it comes to willing things to be better than they actually are. Still. I can't, in an apprehensive sort of way, wait to see how it turns out.


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