ALDI and LIDL Now At Forefront of Supermarket Wine Trend
Supermarkets like LIDL and ALDI are leading the way in bringing low-cost, high-quality wines to the mainstream.
The supermarket wine trend is having a moment right now. Wherever you look, it seems as though the world’s top supermarkets are doubling down on their inventory of store brand wines that can be sold to customers at a much lower price than at a traditional wine speciality store. In the UK, for example, supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are at the forefront of this trend. And now in the United States, both domestic supermarkets (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market) and overseas supermarkets like LIDL and ALDI are leading the way in bringing low-cost, high-quality wines to the mainstream.
The evolution of the supermarket wine model
In past years, supermarkets viewed their private label wines the same way that they viewed their “generic” food items sold under the store label: they were low-cost, low-margin items that were usually designed just to appeal to cost-conscious customers. The thinking was that the same type of consumer looking to save a few bucks each week on food items was the same type of consumer looking for budget-friendly wines. Thus was born the concept of the “supermarket wine” – a low-cost wine that usually didn’t offer much in the way of quality. No wonder wine critics and wine snobs turned up their noses at shopping at a supermarket for wine.
But something very remarkable has happened recently – the wine has gotten a lot better, but the prices haven’t increased to keep pace. And by better, we’re talking about wines now that can win Gold, Silver or Bronze medals at some of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world. And this ability to win over the world’s top wine critics is starting to generate a lot of media buzz and attention. These supermarket wines are now on the radars of wine consumers. Every month, it seems, there’s a story about an unbelievably priced wine (usually under $10) that has been named one of the top wines in the world.
LIDL, ALDI and the art of the award-winning wine
To get an idea at just how much better supermarket wines have become, just take a look at the wine inventory of LIDL. The German discount retailer now lists over 100 bottles of wine that have won a total of more than 250 medals or awards on the global stage. It’s now possible to pick up a 90+ bottle of wine at your local LIDL, all without breaking your family’s budget for the month.
In fact, LIDL has even gone so far as to hire a Master of Wine as its full-time Director of Wine in the United States. In that role, Adam Lapierre is in charge of picking out the best wines from around the world for inclusion in the store’s inventory. Every month, he picks out 6 to 8 exceptional wines that help to showcase a certain wine trend or style. And, throughout the year, he helps to curate a “Wine Fair” that provides a very comprehensive look at a particular country or wine style.
One month, for example, LIDL showcased its South African wines, all priced from $5.99 to $12.99. The selection of wines included a Chardonnay and Cabernet from Stellenbosch, a Shiraz from Franschoek, and a Chenin Blanc from Citrusdal. The idea was to let U.S. consumers experience some amazing wines from a wine region that might not have been approachable in the past. Picking up a high-quality bottle of South African wine, for example, would normally cost $20, and not $10.
LIDL is not alone, though, in helping to broaden the awareness of U.S. consumers to wines from around the world. Its German rival, ALDI, also has created a very successful wine program based around the idea of selling world-class wines at unbeatable prices. Winning medal after medal in international competitions has generated an enormous groundswell of support around the wine program at ALDI, including a host of articles around ALDI low-cost wines that have won big. Wine critics, too, have taken notice. In one case, they highlighted the fact that ALDI was the first UK retailer to stock a private label orange wine.
Walmart gets into the supermarket wine game
Not to be outdone by its foreign rivals, Walmart is also upping its game when it comes to wine. In June 2018, the U.S. retail giant unveiled its new “Winemakers Selection” wine program, designed to highlight a set of $11-$16 wines that taste as if they were $30 or $40 bottles of wine. The wines are from California, Italy and France, and include a Chianti Reserva, Chianti Classico, Tuscan Sangiovese, French sparkling rosé, French Grenache, French Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Cabernet from Paso Robles in California. Over 1,000 Walmart stores across the nation will now have these wines in stock.
The launch of this new wine program immediately drew widespread media attention, mostly due to Walmart’s clout within the retail world. When the nation’s largest retailer is getting in on a trend, it’s sure to bring along everybody else. USA Today, for example, highlighted the launch of the new Winemakers Selection wines, pointing out that Walmart is helping to popularize the idea of “fancy” wines being widely available across the nation for a remarkably low price. People magazine, too, invited a New York City sommelier from The Lambs Club at The Chatwal to try them out, and he found that 4 of the 10 wines really were just as good as advertised.
What is the future of supermarket wine?
Sparked by the success of these private label wine initiatives, other U.S. retailers and supermarkets are getting into the game as well. Target, for example, plans to roll out 5 bottles of wine, priced at $5 each, to more than 1,100 stores around the nation. Whole Foods Market, too, has been ramping up its private label wine program, as has Trader Joe’s, which is generally credited as the original creator of the private label trend for supermarkets. And, of course, Costco has its popular Kirkland’s brand of store wine.
The big question, of course, is whether all of the new entrants can keep pace with the likes of ALDI and LIDL when it comes to quality. What happens, for example, if those new $5 wines are priced at just five bucks for a reason? The big picture concept is that the reason supermarkets like ALDI and LIDL have been so successful is that they have focused so much on quality. And to prove this quality to customers (and, perhaps, to critics), they have focused on entering these wines into international competitions for the honor of being named one of the top wines in the world.
For consumers, the primary allure remains the amazing value proposition of being able to pick up a fantastic bottle of wine for dinner at the same time as you are shopping for food. For that reason, it looks like the supermarket wine trend is one that budget-conscious shoppers and expert wine critics can agree on: it’s widening the scope of wine options, and doing so at a very affordable price.