If you want to taste a red that expresses the quintessence of high-altitude Gualtallary in the Uco Valley, look no further than this stunning assemblage of Cabernet Franc with 35% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the best-ever vintages in Argentina. Aged in deftly handled 50% new wood, it’s wonderfully fresh and well-balanced, with thyme and wet stone aromas, racy acidity and tangy red plum and black cherry fruit.
This remarkable Salta blend may not come from the highest vineyards in the world, but they’re still pretty elevated at 2,300 metres. Malbec based with 10% Tannat and 5% Cabernet Franc, it’s a delicious northern Argentinian red from French winemaker Thibaut Delmotte, with lovely laurel and rosemary perfume, ripe fig and mulberry fruit, a dusting of aromatic spices from subtle oak ageing, plenty of body and texture and more than enough acidity to freshen and brighten the finish. Just the thing for the first barbecue of the year.
It’s a long time since I’ve tasted an £8 Australian red as good as this Cabernet Sauvignon from Western Australia, a wine that outperforms anything Bordeaux can produce at the same price point. Leafy, elegant and well-balanced, with fine-grained tannins, subtle tobacco pouch and cassis flavours, a patina of oak spice and a fresh, herbal finish.
I have to admit that I did a double take after I’d sampled this wine. £9.75 for something as complex as Pepe Mendoza’s equal blend of Monastrell and Giró? The Wine Society must have made a typo, surely? But that is indeed the price of his stunning cuvée. Somewhere between a northern Rhône Syrah and a high-altitude Spanish Garnacha in style, despite being produced next to the Mediterranean, it’s peppery, spicy and intense, with a hint of oak, wonderful red berry zip and freshness, appealing acidity and fine-grained, stony tannins. Ludicrously good at under £10.
My discovery of the day at a recent Sud de France tasting in London, this perfumed, lip smacking wine is made by brothers Eric, Pascal and Vincent Laurens in Clairvaux d’Aveyron, near Marcillac. Produced without added sulphur from the local Mansois grape (also known in these parts as Fer Servadou), it’s smooth, bouncy and unwooded, with lots of colour, racy acidity, refreshingly low alcohol and a core of violet and black cherry. Utterly delicious. And if you quote the code ATKIN10 on the Joie de Vin website, you’ll get 10% off the very reasonable bottle price. While stocks last…
Affordable Barolo, like affordable red Burgundy, tends to cost over £20, unless it’s something that should have been distilled long ago. This deliciously drinkable 2017, which shows none of the heat of the vintage, comes from the Ascheri family’s vineyards in the villages of La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba and Verduno. Scented and enticing, with rose petal and dried herbs aromas, savoury, granular tannins and layers of raspberry, plum and sweet spices. Traditional Barolo with a modern twist.
It’s something of a paradox that the best winter reds often come from warm climates that produce throaty, full-bodied wines. This old-vine cuvée from the Portuguese Alentejo region is a case in point. Made with Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelão and Syrah, it’s spicy, intense and textured, unfurling bramble, fig and blackberry flavours in the glass, with a patina of sweet cinnamon oak.
How does Aldi do it? Very few, if any retailers are as good at sourcing bargain wines from around the world. This is an ambitious Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Alicante Bouschet from coastal Maremma. Rich, serious and dense, with classically savoury tannins, plum, raspberry and tobacco leaf flavours and a dusting of cinnamon sweetness.
Margaret River isn’t usually listed among Australia’s best sources of Shiraz – it’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay country – but this is a very tasty, well-priced example of the grape from the talented Virginia Willcock. Showing some cool climate white pepper notes as well as flavours of bramble and blackberry, it has a touch of oak spice, fresh acidity and subtle, savoury tannins.
The youthful Giulia Negri makes this wonderful declassified Barolo from younger vines in the Serradenari vineyard in La Morra, one of the highest sites in the denominazione. Organically farmed and refreshing, it’s a graceful, elegant Nebbiolo showing the freshness of its high-altitude source, beguiling rose petal and old strawberry aromas, a focused, nuanced palate and just the right amount of tannic backbone and acidity. Ludicrously good at the price.
If you think Barossa Shiraz is all about power and intensity, this wine from Tim Smith will come as a welcome surprise. Graceful, elegant and refined, it’s deceptively forward and easy to drink with the faintest touch of oak, fine-grained tannins, bramble and red berry fruit and impressive poise and precision. You could tuck some away for a few years and it will reward patience. There’s still some of the very good 2019 on the market, but wait for the 2020 if you can.
The Allegrinis make some of the best Valpolicellas in the Veneto, so it’s no surprise that this blend of the local grapes Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella with 10% each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is so impressive. Made with 15% of dried grapes – a technique used to increase concentration and flavour – this is plummy and refreshing with notes of green herbs and black cherry, impressive underlying structure and a classic combination of acidity and fine-grained tannins.