I have ridden my bike past countless signs for Lidl (rhymes with “needle”) grocery stores over the years in Europe, but only ventured in once. I was in a desperate search for water (yes, they had plenty) and my favorite need-a-quick-sugar-hit snack, Haribo Gummi Crocodiles (nope, nary a one). So I hastily settled on some tasty cookies instead, and was quickly back en route after going through the checkout lane.
Thus, I am far from an expert on the stores, but when I saw that the German-based company was opening a slew of new stores this year on the East Coast., I was intrigued. My curiosity was further piqued when they sent me a smattering of the wines that are currently on offer in the store. (The wines were selected by Lidl’s in-house Master of Wine, Adam Lapierre.)
The chain’s concept is to have relatively smaller stores (about six aisles) loaded with high quality products, often bearing one of their own labels–similar, at least on the surface, to Trader Joe’s. The company is committed to providing products that emphasize sustainability while also promoting a healthy lifestyle. There are currently just a smattering of stores in three states (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina), with the goal of having 100 new stores along the East Coast by the end of next year.
If the wines they sent me are any indication, the stores will fare just fine.
2014 Château d’Arsac Cru Bourgeois Margaux: Retail $20. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. For a few years now, I have been receiving some Cru Bourgeois wine. Without exception, the wines have been fantastic and incredible values. Add this wine to that list. Aromas of deep red berry fruit, black pepper, forest floor. This is a wonderfully fruity wine, but it is far from a one note wonder, with earth, tart cherry, and a touch of tannin on the lengthy finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2016 Berger Grüner Veltliner Niederösterreich: Retail $13. From One Liter. The moment I glanced at the label, I immediately saw “Imported by Skurnik Wines.” Frankly once I see that, I am put at ease–Skurnik does most of the work for us–they have a near impeccable track record of selecting fantastic wines to import. This wine? Bright citrus on the nose, with a touch of creaminess, and just the slightest funk (I love the funk). On the palate, much the same–great acidity and even a slight verve. Nice. And who does not love the one liter format? Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Le Chemin Baillis Pouilly-Fumé AOP: Retail $13. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The Loire is punctuated with many regions that make spectacular Sauvignon Blanc, but perhaps the first that gained a world-renowned name was Pouilly-Fumé (so renowned, in fact, that Mondavi co-opted part of the name for his own Sauvignon however many years ago). This is a fine example of the region’s style with plenty of grapefruit, lemon rind, with wet flint. This wine does not disappoint–plenty of tartness, but rounded out nicely with zesty fruit. Nicely done. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Le Grands Vignobles du Sud Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Retail $15. Châteauneuf du Pape has a reputation of complex, spice driven wines. While I would not say that this is “spice-driven” there is some nice mellow fruit and glimpses of that spice. Perfectly quaffable, with good balance, but it is lacking a bit of the zip that I have come to expect from the appellation. Still, for $15? Grab a bottle or two for Thanksgiving when your wanna-be-wine-snob brother-in-law comes over. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Hans Michel Gewurtztraminer Alsace: Retail $9. I have a ton of biases. A ton. Near the top of the list concerns Gewurztraminer. Basically, unless it is made in Alsace or really close to the Alsatian style, I really have no time for it. The variety is naturally quite aromatic with an emphasis on floral aspects, usually white flowers (acacia) and a variety of fruit (grapefruit, lychee, pineapple). Most “New World” attempts at the variety focus too heavily on the aromatics and the wine comes off as unbalanced, even pungent. Alsatian efforts, though, seem to keep this aspect of the variety in check and most, like this wine, balance out that aggressive side with just enough sweetness to mellow it out. Here, there is plenty of pineapple and a bit of stone fruit on the nose, while the palate is simply delightful: luscious fruit, balanced acidity, and just a hint of sweetness. This is not profound. This is not overly complex. But it is tasty and I would not hesitate to serve it in any situation. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Sol Y Mar Albariño Paso Robles: Retail $8. This country is replete with European wine grapes, many of which thrive in the varied climates of California. Most are well-established in this country and have been here for a century or more, but some have only relatively recently been introduced to the Golden State (at least for commercial production, anyway). Among those that I am most excited about is Albariño. Native to the Iberian peninsula, it is now planted in many regions in the West, including Paso Robles in the Central Coast. This is a solid representation with citrus, minerality, and a salinity that would make this a fine pairing with oysters. Solid effort. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Vins de Terroirs de Loire Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie: Retail $7. There is a ton to unpack here in this $7 wine. First, it is made from Muscadet, which is otherwise known as Melon de Bourgogne. It can only be called Muscadet from this region in the Loire, and despite its other name, it can’t really be found in Burgundy. The “Sur Lie” on the label indicates that the wine spent the winter (at least) on the lees (the dead yeast cells) with the intent to add a bit of creaminess to a wine that is otherwise quite tart and acidic. Well, this wine could have used a bit more time on said lees. The grapefruit on the nose carries through to the palate and this is really tart, which is why I often use this wine to make Kirs (a mixture of Crème de Cassis and tart white wine). As a straight up wine? Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points. As a Kir wine? Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Chateau la Reyne Cahors: Retail $8. Malbec dominant blend. Even though Bordeaux is the technical “home” of Malbec, Cahors is now the de facto center in France for the grape variety, and as with all Cahors I have had, this is inky dark in the glass with dark berry fruit, clove, and a hint of coffee grounds. On the palate, this is surprisingly fruity, since the region’s wines have a reputation for being rather austere. Often, the wines of Cahors are big and tannic, but this is juicy, spicy, tart, and slightly earthy. A really fun wine that I would not hold onto very long–pop it at the next barbecue. Very Good. 87-89 Points.