From Rhone to Rioja: Advice on buying wine this festive season from Lidl’s master of wine

From a half price Châteauneuf-du-Pape to award-winning champagne, a discount supermarket is not where many of us would expect a brilliant wine selection. But price isn’t everything...

Published 24th Dec 2019
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Lidl has made the headlines in recent years for its wine range that - last Christmas - has included an £8.99 Vacqueyras red wine made with the same grape variety as a much pricier Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

As well as the quarterly wine tours and festive range, which this year includes a Forget Me Not Sparkling Sauvignon, The Second Fleet Tasmanian Riesling, The Second Fleet Tasmanian Riesling and Tavel Rosé, the core range has an award-winning champagne and an excellent selection of bottles from the old and new world for much cheaper than you might expect given the quality.

This is mainly due to Lidl’s buying team who set out to find some hidden gems from smaller producers, or those which have formed a collective, which then lead to customer savings.

The supermarket also has a master of wine, who has given us his top tips for choosing wines this festive season, starting with his favourite tipple.

“My favourite wine from Lidl’s core range has to be the Mosel Riesling, says Lidl’s master of wine Richard Bampfield.

“It’s a really lovely, easy-drinking wine that’s incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with a meal. I like it most because I’m keen to champion great quality wines that have fallen out of fashion, as is the case with German Riesling.

buying wine

Picture: Lidl

“At just £4.99, it’s a fantastic wine at an extremely reasonable price.”

When it comes to price, it’s a confusing one for consumers, as the supermarket pointed out earlier this year with research into how and why people choose wine.

The research revealed that half (50 per cent) of Scots say they don’t know what makes a wine ‘good quality’; more than a third (31 per cent) think you have to spend at least £9 for a good quality bottle of wine, while a third would spend a whopping £13 or more for a bottle of wine for a Christmas party or festive social occasion.

Bottle and label design also swayed buying opinion  - Scots are relying on what the bottle looks like, rather than focusing on what’s inside – almost a third (28 per cent) will choose their wine based on the design of the bottle, and across the UK, more than a quarter (27 per cent) will choose wine based on a luxury or premium label.

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Choosing a wine in the supermarket

So how can you tell you’re choosing a good wine while in the supermarket?

“It’s certainly not easy to choose a wine in a supermarket – the language can be confusing and neither the label or the price tag are really indicative of the quality, says Rchard.

“There are several myths that people fall into the trap of using as a quality indicator when shopping for wine such as a heavy bottle must mean a better wine and the deeper the punt at the bottom of the bottle, the higher the quality – all utter nonsense!

“My top tip? Don’t buy purely on price. As with Lidl’s Mosel Riesling, genuinely good wine doesn’t have to cost the earth. 

“Look out for grapes, regions or particular countries that you’ve enjoyed wine from in the past.

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“Lidl’s quarterly Wine Tour is a fantastic way to explore and find out what sort of wines you enjoy, taking the stress out of shopping. The selection provides cues, tasting notes and guidance on the type of occasion each wine suits as well as an overall score out of 100.”

And when it comes to price, Richard says: “Lidl’s wine range offers excellent value for money and, ultimately, you shouldn’t choose a wine based solely on its price.

“Our recent tour of the UK with Lidl’s Chateaux Noir event saw customers taste the wine range in the dark. Many people were surprised that the wines they enjoyed the most were the least expensive.

“Ultimately, price is just one cue of the quality of a wine and it’s not always the most reliable.”

The current range

buying wine

Picture: Lidl

Finally if you’re yet to choose wines for Christmas, or are making notes for a big Sunday roast then Richard has this advice from the current range: “If you’re indulging in a traditional turkey dinner this Christmas, I’d highly recommend the Outlook Bay Central Otago Pinot Noir (£9.99), which is the perfect delicate red to accompany a rich festive roast.

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“People often forget about rosé at Christmas but the Wine Tour also includes a gutsy rosé that’s great all year round.

"A full-bodied, dry rosé from the South of France, Tavel Rosé (£7.99) would be also be a very good match for Christmas lunch. Not for the faint-hearted, this is a traditional French rosé that packs quite a punch.

“Finally, sweet wines really come into their own at this time of year and I highly recommend the Pacherenc de Vic- Bilh (£7.99) which is sweet, luscious and exceptionally good with Christmas pudding or a mince pie – it’s hard to imagine a better value wine for Christmas!”

For more information on the festive and core range of wines, please click here.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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