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Is someone who doesn't buy his wine in the supermarket, or better, in the discount store, really stupid? Is he an incorrigible snob? Can the big discounters - above all ALDI - really offer good quality at the lowest price through their purchasing and marketing policy?

At least that's how a good part of the wine drinkers in Germany apparently see it, and judging by many letters to the editor, this conviction already has religious status among some. Some discount customers react extremely sensitively to any criticism of the wines offered in their bargain temples.

But the testers are rarely interested in condemning a shopping source across the board, let alone telling people what and where they have to buy. Our tests, too, are simply about subjecting the quality of the products on offer to close scrutiny.

But we also take criticism to heart. Not least for this reason, we have not only considered the wines of ALDI North and South in our current test, but also the assortments of two competitors: a Nuremberg importer and retailer and a winery from the Nahe. From both - just like at ALDI - all wines under 5 euros were purchased. The samples were procured by test buyers and made unrecognisable so that none of the tasters could have any idea what they just had in their glass.

In order to avoid the suspicion that the whole enterprise was being judged by detached snobs about wines that they do not consider worthy of being drunk in the first place, the jury was also made up of private wine lovers who themselves regularly consume wines in the aforementioned price range. Apart from the author, only one other participant is professionally involved in wine tasting.

The result of the tasting is relatively clear. While ALDI North and South, with an average score of just over 68 points, remained well below the limit for recommendable wines (which is around 75 points), the products of the Nuremberg retailer were on average almost 7 points higher, those of the winery even almost 10 points higher. However, we do not want to conceal the clear difference in price. While wines under 4 euros are rarely found in specialised shops and at reliable winegrowers (not at all in our examples), prices in discount stores start at around one euro. But even one euro is too much if the wine is miserable. A significant proportion of the wines offered at ALDI are still of inadequate or barely acceptable quality. We could not find any significant difference between the two ALDI chains North and South.

There is no question that even among considerably more expensive wines from the specialist trade or directly from the winegrower, one repeatedly encounters very weak to unpalatable wines, but the average quality is usually considerably higher and this is also in price ranges that do not ruin anyone, as our test also proves. And there is a price limit below which decent quality wines cannot be produced with the best will in the world, even if some people don't want to admit it.

So it is all the more pleasing that some wines for less than 2 euros stood out with at least decent qualities. Most of these are wines from the current vintage, which have only recently come onto the market and were therefore not yet represented at our last tasting. In the near future, you can definitely find a bargain or two here, but probably only if you hurry. Rarely is there only one single bottling of these wines, and experience shows that the next one can be considerably weaker. The development potential of most wines is also extremely limited; they usually have to be drunk young. Even in midsummer, a Müller-Thurgau that tastes clean and drinkable now can become old and frail.

Yet German growths often still have a longer life expectancy than their Italian competitors. With Soave, Pinot Grigio and co. you are not immune to disappointment even with higher-priced wines if you keep them too long. Since these wines are usually made to be drunk young, you are well advised to go for the most recent vintage, or at least to taste it first. The situation is quite different with wines directly from the vintner, provided you have a good one on hand. The 2001 Rieslings from Adelseck were by far the freshest and purest white wines of the sample.

It is not uncommon for the corks used to play a part in the rapid decline of many wines. Cheap wines in particular are often sealed with simple conglomerate corks, whose failure rate is much higher than with normal corks. The safest way to go here is with the screw cap, which at least protects you from unpleasant surprises from the closure side.

The tasting took place on 16 April in the editorial offices of Wein-Plus in Erlangen. The wines were tasted blind, ascending by type of wine and alcohol content. The scores correspond to the average of all scores given. Where these differed greatly from each other, no average was calculated but the point range was given. All tasting notes are from the author.

The following wines were included in the test:

  1. All wines up to 5 Euros from ALDI Nord, Bitterfeld, Niemegker Str. on 10.4.2003 (test shopper).
  2. All wines up to 5 Euro from ALDI Süd, Erlangen, Gundstr. on 15.4.2003 (mystery shopper)
  3. All wines Karl Kerler up to 5 Euro, Nuremberg, on 15.4.2003 (mystery shopper)
  4. All wines Carl Adelseck up to 5 Euro, ordered directly from the producer by mystery shoppers on 9.4.2003.

The participants were:

Cork defects: 2
Wines not published due to other distorting defects: 4

When describing taste impressions, analogies are often used that do not allow conclusions to be drawn about actual ingredients.

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