Fritz Keller, current owner of one of Baden's pioneer wineries and a gourmet restaurant in the Kaiserstuhl (http://www.franz-keller.de/), has collaborated with Aldi (Süd), Germany's legendary discount food retailer. Under the Brand name "Edition Fritz Keller", he has produced both a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Blanc from Baden, contracting with a great many smaller growers of the region for grapes. In this quest to bring top-quality wine to as many people as possible, Fritz has, as the back label pompously informs us, found inspiration in the "Bauhaus" school of architecture and art.
Aldi is an issue of some debate in Germany, as it has come to stand for the discount marketing of food, and for miserliness as a social value held by rich and poor alike. I, for one, am no friend of Aldi, because I think their cheap prices come at a great cost, although, unlike the heinous Lidl and Schlecker chains, their treatment of their employees seems to be within the boundaries of the law. For purely ideological reasons, then, I would have been happy to bash those two bottles pitilessly - but they are actually fairly nice:
The Pinot Blanc (5,99 €) is a food wine on the fresh side, seriously made, reminiscent of a very good Italian white. (full review)
The Pinot Noir (6,99 €) has more personality: an authentically regional, light red wine. (full review)
As to their price-quality ratio, I find they are what they are - no bargains by any means, but no letdowns either
Assuming this project is based on a business model that is fair to the growers, it is not only a cleverly marketed and stylishly packaged, but also a worthy undertaking: Creating a brand for reliable regional, varietal wines that have decent character and substance is not an evil thing. I hope that, ironically, it also serves to show the famously tight-pursed Aldi crowd that quality wine does come at a price after all.
The far-fetched Bauhaus analogy seems to suggest much more, though: Through it, Aldi claims that it has brought something to "normal" consumers that was quite out of their reach before. This is disingenuous, when in fact wine of this quality is and has been widely available from german wineries, indeed has been at people's fingertips, at prices like these, but often at cheaper prices.
A quick search of the reputable Wein-Plus guide of german wine (http://www.wein-plus.de/deutschland/deutschland_D.html) found 45 Pinot Noirs of the 07 and 08 vintages from different producers that have been rated "very good" (80 to 84 points) or better, at less than 7 € per bottle (Okay, that excludes shipping costs...)
Here are the top three that - according to winery websites - are still available:
2007 Spätburgunder Spätlese trocken, from Jens Christmann of the Pfalz (http://www.rotwoi.de/)
2007 Ellerstadter Bubeneck Spätlese trocken, from Fritz Braun, also of the Pfalz (http://braun-wein-sekt.de/)
2007 Talheimer Schloßberg "S", from Weingut Kurz-Wagner of Württemberg (http://www.kurz-wagner.com/)
As to Pinot Blancs for less than 6 €, I found 111.
The top three:
2007 Umstädter Stachelberg, from the Odenwälder Winzergenossenschaft of the Hessische Bergstraße (http://www.owg-umstadt-shop.de/)
2007 Edenkobener Kirchberg, from Ernst Minges of the Pfalz (http://www.minges-wein.de/)
2007 Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, from Weingut Scholler, also of the Pfalz (http://www.weingut-scholler.de/index.php?id=10)