Skipper’s Knot Zinfandel 2013, Lodi
Que Sera Sera Merlot 2016, Chile

Cost: $5.79, $4.49
R emember the old TV comedy show “Cheers?” The action all happened in a bar named Cheers in Boston and featured a cast of regulars who knew each other through their daily meetings at the bar.
The theme song even had a line about “where everybody knows your name.” When Norm walked in, everyone said “Norm.” I loved that show.
I’ve known bars like that and loved them. But time changes things. Sadly, I’m at the age where I don’t hang out in bars much. But I feel like when I go to a couple of grocery stores everyone knows my name.
So when I try a new one it’s a big deal. I tried the new store in Augusta this week, Lidl, the new discount grocery from Germany. It has more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries in Europe, and this year it came to the United States. It’s on Alexander Drive near Washington Road.
Skipper’s Knot Zin
Before I bury the lead on this column I have to tell you that the wines I’m writing about here are terrific wines for the prices. They are incredible bargains.
Someone described a Lidl store to me as like a Trader Joe’s. I wish we had a Trader Joe’s in Augusta, but since that’s not likely to happen soon, I could be very happy with Lidl. The first U.S. stores were built in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and now they’re in Georgia. By the end of the year they plan to have 100 stores on the East Coast.
Lidl (pronounced LEE-duhl) stores have just six aisles and 90 percent of what it carries are its own brands. The first U.S. stores are 21,000 square feet (much smaller than the usual supermarket), but about the size of many Trader Joe’s. The idea is to keep everything easy to find.
In addition to meat, fruits and vegetables, canned goods, wine and beer Lidl also offers a rotation of “in and out specials” that are released every Monday and Thursday. But you have to act fast. This might include housewares, kitchen appliances, toys, shoes, flashlights or pots and pans, or other items priced to sell quickly.
I did a quick shopping excursion there on their first day last Thursday, hoping to find a few bargains and hoping some nice wine would pop up. I was pleasantly surprised on all accounts.
This is primarily a column about wine, but since food always is essential to wine, I think it’s appropriate to look at food to go with that wine. There seemed to be good bargains all around.
Chicken strips and chicken wings had low prices, steaks looked good and dairy was inexpensive. I bought a couple of blocks of cheese at a good price and they tasted great. A fresh baguette was only 95 cents and tasted great.
Canned goods were mostly cheaper than other stores, though not in all cases. Tastes of the canned goods was comparable to other stores. Most of the grocery items were house brands, but there were a few national brands. And produce looked great, with some bargains. There even were organic and gluten-free products.
OK, so the groceries were good, but how about the wine? That’s where some of the best surprises showed up.
I bought six bottles of wine ranging in price from $3.89 to $15.99. The first two we tried were real bargains and tasted just fine. They came with easy-to-use twist off caps.
When I spend less than $6 for a bottle of wine, I don’t expect much. If it just tastes like wine, I figure I’m ahead of the game. Both the zinfandel and the merlot in Lidl’s Everyday Collection were better than just OK. They really added to the meal.
Before we get too giddy, I’ve got to say you would not mistake these for $20 wines. There wasn’t a lot of depth or complexity. But the zin tasted like zin and the merlot tasted like merlot. If you tasted them blind, you could pick out the varietals. You can’t say that about all bargain basement wines.
We had the zinfandel as the primary wine with dinner, and it was a perfect example of a zinfandel, dry with juicy red fruit flavors and hints of black pepper. It was medium bodied, not overly jammy, and with a smooth, pleasant finish.
The merlot might have been even better. I could pick out black plum flavors with hints of chocolate. It had a great mouthfeel and a nice, lingering finish.
I will be checking out more Lidl wines in the weeks ahead. I’m especially looking forward to trying the $15.99 Pouilly Fuisse and the $9.99 Cremant de Loire (both made in France). As I finished writing this piece I started drinking the $3.89 Shiraz from Australia, and I’m loving it. I’ll write more about it soon.
Skipper’s Knot Zin
Winery: In this section I usually tell you the history of the winery that makes the wine I’m writing about, but Lidl doesn’t make its own wine. It works with well-known wineries around the world to produce special wines just for Lidl.
The Everyday Collection already has won awards at wine competitions. The LA International Wine Competition and the INDY International Wine Competition are two recent ones where Lidl cleaned up. Lidl was awarded 101 medals, including 16 gold medals, five best of class, 52 silver medals and 33 bronze medals at the LA contest.
The company has its own Master Of Wine, Adam Lapierre, one of about 350 in the world. He says he has tasted more than 10,000 wines to select the 120 wines in Lidl stores.
The biggest and fastest-growing segment of wine drinkers in the United States is millennials, and wine sellers are all chasing them. One recent study said millennials bought 42 percent of wines sold in the U.S. in 2015.
Lidl hopes to get them with its inexpensive lineup starting at $2.89 and ranging up to about $25. I saw mostly wines bottled especially for Lidl, but there also were national brands at very good prices.
The store will have a promotional range of wines each month called Wine Discoveries. In the past that has included Rosé Discoveries, Summer Whites Discoveries and most recently South African Discoveries.
Michael loved the wine with the fried chicken.
Goes with: We had the zinfandel and merlot with fried chicken fingers and fried chicken wings with spiral cut french fries and a fruit salad. We also had the baguette. Just about everything came from Lidl, and everything was delicious.
I soaked the chicken wings and chicken strips in milk for about 30 minutes and then dragged each through a mix of House Autry chicken breading, five-pepper blend, red pepper flakes, Morton Nature’s Seasons and salt.
I then fried them in two batches in a small deep fryer at 375 degrees. The wings took about 10 minutes and the strips about 8 minutes. They were crisp on the outside but tender and moist inside. We all loved them.
The frozen seasoned curly fried were $1.99 for a large bag, and we used about half a bag for four of us. They, too, were delicious.
Teri added some fresh fruit to the canned fruit cocktail I bought at Lidl for $1.59.
For all the food I spent about $12. Add $6 for the zin, and we had a feast for four for under $20. Opening the second bottle of wine for $4.50 hardly seemed like a splurge.
I won’t be giving up premium wines, nor will I give up more expensive cuts of meat. But I love to cook, and it’s great to know we can have a fabulous meal at a bargain price.
Both of these wines tasted considerably better when they were chilled slightly. They would pair with all kinds of grilled meat, wild game, pasta with tomato sauce, pizza and a wide assortment of cheeses.

1 Comment

  1. Jerry Emerson Reply

    Really agree. We bought the 2016 Chile Everyday Collection Merlot at Lidl around Dulles International Airport. Something like 3 to 4 Dollars. Delicious Merlot and we know our wines after living in Germany and Italy. What a deal. Interesting in that bottled in Moers Germany imported by Riverside Imports, Brooklyn. We may have to drive back and do a case.

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