If you are a wine lover who has lusted after France’s most wanted labels but been thwarted by the price tag then look no further.
Both Aldi and Lidl claim to have found a solution for Christmas – buy at a vineyard down the road.
Lidl says cheaper bottles whose grapes were grown a few miles away taste as good as those produced at the expensive estates.
The German discounter is putting its theory to the test with the launch of its Cote du Rhone wine tour but says “budget needn’t stand in the way of quality”.
Its £8.99 Vacqueyras, AOC, 2016 is made from the same grape varieties and in the same region as Châteauneuf-du-Pape “but without the hefty price tag”, says Master of Wine Richard Bampfield, Lidl’s wine expert.
It is a similar story at rival Aldi. Sam Caporn, a Master of Wine and Aldi’s wine expert, explained how “wines produced in the same terroir, which refers to soil type, geography and climate, share many similar qualities as wine produced from the ‘big names’, which are much more expensive.”
The chain’s Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut, which costs just over £11, has been named one of the best in the world – routinely beating off more expensive houses at blind-tasting competitions.
It is made by Philizot et Fils in the village of Reuil, in the Champagne region. His vineyard is next to a plot that belonged to Madame Veuve Clicquot – a house which charges at least three times the price of Aldi for a standard bottle – and which was recently sold off to an Armenian buyer.
Stéphane Philizot started producing his own Champagne in 2002. Recently he has had a helping hand from his wine-making uncle, Gérard l’Herondelle, who spent 40 years as head of wine-making at Champagne Lanson, where a bottle can cost at least £30.
Aldi’s relationship with Philizot began in 2012 with 120,000 bottles peaking last year with 1.25 million bottles sold to shoppers.
A new production site, which will make it three times as big, is in operation in order to keep up with the demand from customers.
Champagne is one of the most regulated products in the world – ranging for how many grapes can be picked each year to how much each tonne will fetch from.
David Elliot, Aldi’s wine buyer, said: “The real skill comes in blending the three grape varieties to make the same great tasting Champagne each year.”
There have been signs the big four supermarkets are trying to replicate the discounters’ success.
Tesco’s new discount chain Jack’s is an attempt to create a rival to Aldi and Lidl, which have both enjoyed double-digit growth this year.
Analyst Natalie Berg, founder of NBK Retail, said: “Shopping habits have fundamentally changed, and discounters cater well to today’s shopper who expects consistently low prices without sacrificing quality.
“One of the ways they keep costs down is by limiting the number of products, which means they can achieve better terms with fewer suppliers. The discount model is about simplicity and ruthless efficiency.”
For vineyards across Europe – and increasingly those in the south of England, which has the same climate as the Champagne region, a long-standing relationship with supermarkets is crucial.
In France, eight out of 10 bottles of wine are sold through supermarkets, and the wine industry can contribute as much as 90% to local economies.
I visited growers in the midst of harvesting in September in the south of the Cote du Rhone, who are expecting a vintage year thanks to a long, hot summer.
But not all their bottles will be heading to the cellars of Michelin-starred restaurants – many will be heading to a German supermarket near you.
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