The man behind Aldi wines, Mike James, picks his special wines for you

MANY of my friends say that Aldi wines have changed their lives. Friday nights begin with a “rush to the shops” to stock up for the weekend.

Mike James, Aldi’s wine buyer, since 2010, has overseen the team which has made Aldi a must-go destination for reliable, affordable wines.

I spoke to Mike, and asked what gave him the “stop and think” moment that began to drive his wine passion?

Mike James, Aldi's wine buyer
Mike James, Aldi’s wine buyer

He says: “It was at the caves of Domaine Filliatreau in the Loire.

“As soon as I smelled and tasted their wonderful cabernet franc wines, I had an instant flashback to my first visit, which was 20 years earlier.

“It really made me contemplate the provenance, uniqueness, typicity, drama and passion that are encapsulated by well-made wines.”

Mike clearly loves the role he has in bringing new wines to people like you and me.

He says: “Wine is there to be enjoyed, and most definitely not to be frightened about. Everyone has a palate. Everyone knows what styles they like. There are no right or wrong answers.”

He says Aldi strives to shift elitist misconceptions about wines.

There’s no better example of that, than Aldi’s limited Lot range.

Four wines were released; a Pézenas made with the excellent French winemaker Jean-Claude Mas, a Tasmanian chardonnay; a Leyda sauvignon blanc (this Chilean wine was stunning!!) and a malbec cabernet blend.

All were £9.99 and released in limited batches of 25,000 – 30,000 bottles from spring to the end of May.

I snapped up quite a few myself, with several after-work detours to make a hole in the “limited batch”. Most have sold out but there is still a good stock of the malbec cabernet, made in conjunction with Jean Pepé Galante.

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Was this a brave move for Aldi? Mike says: “The continued success of The Exquisite Collection shows that Aldi shoppers aren’t afraid to pay slightly more for great quality products. Our customers have begun to trust our wine range and have started to spend more; the Lot Series was designed to reflect that.”

I asked Mike to recommend some wines for you. Here we go.

A Wednesday night “don’t break the bank”

The Exquisite Collection Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, £5.99

Mike says: Goes well with shellfish, fish and chips.

I say: The wine is from the Loire, made from the melon de bourgogne grape. After fermentation, the wine spends time “sur lie”. This is the “lees”, the dead yeast, which adds a slight waxy, bitey texture to the flavours of lemon, apples and pear.

A Friday night “relax”

The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling, £6.99

Mike says: Goes well with Chinese dishes and Thai food.

I say: This is a delicious wine. The Clare Valley in Australia produces some fantastic riesling. This one is juicy, crisp and tropical and a steal at the price. It has just won the International Wine Challenge’s Great Value White under £7 award, and a gold medal too.

A Sunday Lunch special dinner with family

The Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir, £6.99

Mike says: Great with roast turkey, game, chargrilled tuna, salmon.

I say: New Zealand pinot noir is a dream; this one isn’t over complicated. It has bright red fruits, wild herbs and smokey earth on the nose; with red fruits to taste.

A celebration

That has to be our Veuve  Monsigny Champagne  Brut (£9.97)

Mike says: We’ve been working with the small champagne house Philizot et Fils for nearly four years now and this collaboration really shows in the consistently excellent quality of their Champagne. Perfect for a toast!

I say: Cheers! (I agree)

Published in the saturday extra magazine June 27, 2015

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