The Handbook
The Handbook

Now’s the time to stock up for Christmas as wine critic Jilly Goolden rates Aldi’s affordable £12.99 champagne as being worth double its price tag. 

She may be known for her unusual descriptions of wine – “like sweaty trainers on hot tarmac” or “smooth as a baby’s bottom” – but Jilly Goolden is perhaps the most recognisable TV wine critic in the country. She’s made our ears prick up once again this week, announcing that Aldi’s famous cheap and cheerful wines aren’t just good but worth far more than their frugal price tags. 

Coming in at just £12.99, Aldi’s award-winning Veuve Monsigny Champagne is said to be worth £25 according to Jilly, when she tasted it as part of an independent blind taste test. 

It’s no secret that Aldi wines are a hit on the palate and the purse strings, as every Christmas there’s a rush to snap up as many bottles as possible before the shelves run dry. And Jilly, whose TV career has spanned 20 years on top BBC show Food and Drink, also raved about some of Aldi’s white and reds in the taste test and you won’t believe some of the prices she guessed.

On Jilly’s recommendations you could be saving an average of 34% on your Christmas wine shop, but it’s worth noting the wines she really raved about. In addition to the Champagne, there’s the Pierre Jaurant French Viognier 2019 – a steal at £4.49 in store but valued at £6.49 by Jilly; the Specially Selected New Zealand Chardonnay 2019 – £6.49 in store but guessed at £10 by Jilly; the Specially Selected Coteaux Varois En Provence 2019 – £6.49 in store but £9.99 by Jilly’s estimate; and the Silandeiro Rias Baixas Albariño 2019 – just a snip at £6.99 in Aldi but valued at £10.99 by Jilly. 

If you’re into your Pinot Noir you’re in luck as Jilly plucked out two star bottles. There’s the Estevez Chilean Pinot Noir 2019 – priced at just £3.99 in store, but rated £7.99 per bottle by Jilly; and the Specially Selected Chilean Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2019 – priced at £6.99 in store but rated £10.99 by the expert. 

The price tags might seem too good to be true and many wine critics say anything less than £8 per bottle isn’t worth touching once you factor in duty, VAT, etc., but there’s no denying Jilly’s reviews will make Christmas more affordable in the food and drink department. 

Jilly has said, “I drink a lot of wines that are £8 and under, and I believe you can find some fantastic wines that don’t cost the earth – you just need to know how to find them.”

And the proof is in the pudding, that place looks like it’s Aldi.

Jilly’s Top Tips For Buying Wine On A Budget

1. Go off the beaten track – Often price tags are hiked due to the renown or pedigree of a region or producer, but if you look to lesser known regions, you can often find great quality at lower prices. Portugal, for example, has some fantastic wine regions, bursting with over 250 different local grape varieties, but isn’t nearly as well known as France, Italy or Spain – and that’s often reflected in the price.

2. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous – with grape varieties too. The big hitting varietals, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon are well known, but it’s very rewarding (and can be money saving) to side step those mass market types and try less familiar grape varieties instead.

They can also deliver delicious wines. A case in point is Albariño – it’s a top Spanish white wine that until recently has flown quite under the radar. You can’t expect to be a walking wine encyclopaedia when it comes to choosing so trust the team who selected the wines – and the back labels will guide you on the right style for you.

3. Don’t be swayed by price drops – Prices are regularly slashed, and it’s easy to be tempted… but, wait a minute, was the wine ever worth the higher price? Unfortunately, almost certainly not. Go for a wine with a consistent honest price rather than one that leaps up and down just to tease you.

4. Once it’s time to drink your bottle of wine, take time to smell and really taste it – Don’t just gulp it down, pause for a moment. Swirl the wine in the glass to release aromas and smell before you sip.  Savour the wine in your mouth to really taste it before swallowing – you’re looking for character, positive flavours you can remember that work harmoniously together in an inviting way and linger in your mouth. A lingering wine is a quality wine. 


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