So it’s been a while since I’ve run a guest post on this site. But, I still do accept them if you want to write for us (yes, it’s got to be about wine!) please don’t hesitate to reach out. I thought this was an interesting pitch on a few levels, partially because I don’t have an Aldi near me, nor have I ever been inside one. But, the German based grocery chain has already announced plans to not only venture into the California market, but to open at least 200 stores in the next decade while doing so.
I was interested in hearing about their wine selection because, during Covid, so many wine sales have transferred from on premise locations like restaurants and bars and into off premise spots like grocery stores. Plus, while the amount of wine sold has gone up significantly, the average price per bottle has dropped under $7 for the first time in about a decade. Aldi has the reputation of a discount grocer, something akin to Trader Joe’s and we all know how successful $2 Chuck has been at TJ’s.
Ok, let’s get to it…..as always, I’ll have some comments throughout. Here’s Hannah’s piece which is one of the best, most complete guest post pitches I’ve received:
As I wandered around my local Aldi supermarket, I couldn’t help but notice a wine brand with a cute owl listed for $2.95 a bottle. Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinots, and Cabs…All for under $3.00 each…Could it be? Or maybe more accurately, could it be too good to be true? Being the detective I am, I immediately whipped out my phone to read google reviews of this insanely inexpensive vino. There’s nothing like the internet to give you the good, the bad, and the ugly. The problem was most of the reviews were all over the place. On a frequented wine rating website, 57 people gave the Chardonnay 5 stars, while 62 others gave it a 1-star rating. That’s a bit of a difference. Most varietals averaged around a 3.2 out of 5 stars, but with the discrepancy between reviewer opinions, I decided I’d have to investigate for myself. Below are the results and notes of an unsophisticated wino.
ABV: 11.5 %
Color: Nearly transparent with a tinge of ivory, the most transparent of all the Winking Owl wines
Smells like: A pleasant, sweet champagne
Rating: 10 out of 10
This one is my overall favorite of the Winking Owl collection. It is extremely smooth and drinkable without being overly sugary. It has the perfect balance of sweet vs. tangy, and I could easily drink several ice-cold glasses of this on a hot summer day. It has the perfect amount of carbonation, a crisp apple flavor, and is wonderfully refreshing. For less than three dollars, this is worth every penny and then some.
ABV: 8 % (Mark’s note: Yup 8%…this makes for an aperitif in much of Europe and frankly, wine country here!)
Color: An extremely pale yellow, similar to a lemon drop martini
Smells like: Honey, ripe oranges, and sweet hibiscus
Rating: 9 out of 10
Of all the Winking Owl varieties, Moscato averages the highest, according to vivino.com. And with a 3.8 out of 5-star rating, it isn’t hard to see why. The flavor is that of a light honey mead, but without a sickeningly syrupy taste. Due to the inherent sweetness that all Moscato’s have, I probably wouldn’t want to drink more than a glass or two, but it would be delightful served chilled as an after-dinner dessert treat. Most Moscato wines are around 5-7% ABV, and this being 8%, I was slightly hesitant there might be a cheap alcohol taste; however, I was happily surprised that you really can’t taste the alcohol in this.
ABV: 13 %
Color: Yellowish Beige
Smells like: A half dried lemon Clorox wipe
Rating: 4 out of 10
I really wanted to like this wine, but it just wasn’t my favorite. The flavor is overwhelmingly sour, and you get an immediate burn that reminds me of a lemon drop shooter. It’s 13% alcohol, and I could taste every percent. Although light-bodied, the flavor reminds me of a watered-down cleaning solution. I recommend spending a few extra dollars for a slightly better brand, as this one you (sadly) do get what you pay for.
Mark’s Note: In a lot of ways, this is unfortunate. I find that the bulk market for Sauvignon Blanc, is often the cheapest, with the least difference between quality and price. I bet that this ends up improving in the future. There’s just so much great, cheap Sauv Blanc especially with New Zealand now having found the California market in a big way.
ABV: 12 %
Color: Greenish straw gold
Smells like: Hints of lemon, not very aromatic compared to the other Winking Owl white wines
Ranking: 2 out of 10
This wine is by far my least favorite of the Winking Owls. I would rather drink boxed Chardonnay over this bottle. The flavor just screams caustic and cheap. It tastes like an extremely pungent sour apple jolly rancher. I’ve drunk a lot of cheap Chardonnay in my life, but this one has to be the worst. The only reason it gets a two is that I may potentially be able to cook with it. You will not get $3.00 of enjoyment by drinking this; I assure you.
ABV: 8.5 %
Color: Light Rose, resembles a Shirley temple
Smells like: Peaches and faint raspberries
Rating: 7 out of 10
I was pleasantly surprised by how refreshing and easy to drink this wine is. It has a very nice fruity and tangy flavor and would be excellent as a brunch drink in lieu of a mimosa. It is super smooth and tastes like a non-alcoholic Washington apple. I love the hints of pineapple, strawberries, and how well-balanced/not overly sweet it is. This wine is a great value for the price.
Mark’s Notes: White Zin. It’s cool to see folks still making this, even with the reputation being what it is. For so many, winemakers included, White Zin was a gateway wine to the rest of the wine world. We’re smarter as an industry to not be so stuffy about first glasses, but instead to focus on bringing more people in. Especially as we compete for lifetime customers with Craft Beer, I’m on board for more White Zin and not less.
ABV: 13.5 %
Color: Midnight purple
Smells like: A super aromatic red wine blend
Rating: 8 out of 10
This is the most full-bodied of any of the Winking Owl wines. It has hints of blackberries and plum with a slightly spicy kick. It is exceptionally flavorful, especially compared to the other Winking Owl red wines. It is easy to sip and would be delicious paired with a hard cheese on a cold winter night. If you want the most complex of the W.O red wines, this is your winner.
ABV: 12 %
Color: Black cherry red
Smells like: Slightly floral but not overly aromatic, especially for a typical Cab
Rating: 7 out of 10
I must admit that I believe most Cab drinkers would not give this wine a 7 out of 10. It is extremely weak- bodied, and most would probably describe it as watery. I personally don’t mind the toned-down flavor and thought it was extremely drinkable for this reason. It is not very complex and has a very fruity, sweet flavor. If you don’t like sweet, weak-bodied cabs, this is not the wine for you.
ABV: 12 %
Color: Very opaque, deep ruby red
Smells like: Barrel-aged whiskey, very oaky smell
Rating: 6 out of 10
The merlot was very dry with an oaky, alcohol-forward taste. It isn’t terrible, but it is my least favorite of the Winking Owl red wines. It has quite a tart flavor profile and is also thin-bodied as far as merlots go. It seems reasonable for the price point, and I’d best enjoy this with a tomato-based pasta dish. If you don’t mind a merlot that lacks body or finish, this might be the one for you!
Overall, I think most of these wines are pretty dang wonderful for the price. The only ones that are questionable, in my opinion, are the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and I recommend saving those specifically for cooking. For less than three dollars each, the Pinot Grigio, Moscato, and Shiraz are an impressive budget wine to sip and enjoy with your family or friends. If you’re curious, I recommend giving your favorite type a try; it’s only three dollars after all.
Hannah Morelli is an English teacher and travel writer from Farmington, Michigan. When she isn’t traveling the world or writing travel related articles, she enjoys budget friendly wine and reliving her world travels through her book “Hantom’s Odyssey” available on Amazon.