La Rioja Alta is one of the most traditional wineries in Haro’s Barrio de la Estación, famous for producing wines that are good to drink on release, but also age beautifully in bottle. This new Gran Reserva, made from Tempranillo with 6% Graciano for added backbone, is very much a reflection of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2014 vintage. La Rioja Alta didn’t make its top two Gran Reservas – 904 and 890 – in 2014, so all of its best grapes were used for Viña Arana. Fine and elegant, with vibrant acidity, notes of coconut and cinnamon from the American oak and a core of savoury, refreshing tobacco leaf and red berry flavours framed by fine, caressing tannins. Old-fashioned Rioja at its glorious best.
Stellenbosch struck gold in 2017, with one of the best ever red wine vintages in the Cape. This refined, well-structured Bordeaux blend, made at one of the most historic properties on the Simonsberg, is unbelievably good value and would wipe the winery floor with similarly priced wines from south-west France. Cassis, black cherry, graphite and cigar box notes are framed by fine, age worthy tannins and bright, refreshing acidity. Some retailers may be on the very good 2018, but the 2017 is the one to go for.
GR-10 is named after a hiking trail that connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and runs through the Sierra de Gredos. It’s the entry-point red from 4 Monos (their whole range is worth buying) and is a pale, tangy, refreshing cuvée of Garnacha with 10% Cariñena and 5% Syrah. Mostly aged in foudres, with a touch of new, 500-litre oak, it’s a wonderfully refreshing, high-altitude red from vineyards in Cadalso de los Vidrios, San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Cenicientos showing bramble, red cherry and raspberry flavours and refreshing granitic grip.
Unwooded for the first time in 2018, but as full of bounce and blackberry fruit as ever, Hey! combines grapes from Luján and the Uco Valley in a juicy, supple bundle of fun. Sweet and appealing, this is Malbec at its immediate best: the kind of thing that makes you want to pour a glass into a tumbler and put on some of your favourite music with the sound ramped up to 11.
Domaine des Tourelles might not be as famous as Château Musar, at least outside Lebanon, but its wines are every bit as good, albeit in a less quirky style. French-educated Faouzi Issa sourced this intense Carignan from old-vine, organically farmed parcels in the Bekaa Valley, making a wine that is plush, concentrated and unoaked. Carignan can be a slightly rustic grape, but that’s not the case here. Wild herb aromas segue into a palate of raspberry and black cherry fruit, complemented by the freshness of a vineyard at 1,000 metres.
“A wine of the vintage”, according to Gabriel Pisano, but this is no Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact, this brilliant, unwooded Tannat from one of Uruguay’s best young winemakers, sourced from 30-year-old vines in the Progreso sub-region, doesn’t have to be drunk in a hurry at all. Youthful, juicy and fresh, with plum and black cherry fruit, a stony undertone and sappy, savoury tannins. Just the thing to drink while you’re reading my 2020 Uruguay Report.
This impressive wine is sometimes described as a ‘mini Châteauneuf-du-Pape” but it’s much better than that. In fact, it’s superior to many supermarket CNDPs and cheaper, too. Made by the Perrin family who own Château de Beaucastel, it’s a poised, scented, integrated cuvée of mostly Grenache with 15% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, with fine red berry fruit, a dusting of Mediterranean herbs, understated wood and a refreshing, medium-bodied finish.
The Araldica co-op makes some of the best inexpensive reds and whites in northern Italy, typified by the quality of this juicy, spicy, sappy Barbera from Piedmont. Plum, black cherry and raspberry fruit are framed by savoury tannins and the tangy acidity that’s typical of the variety. Smooth and full-bodied, it’s a great all-purpose red to ease you gently into autumn.
Beaumes de Venise is still more famous for its fortified Muscats, but canny buyers have always known that if you pick the right wine, the appellation can offer red wines that rival top Châteauneuf-du-Pape at half the price or less. This cuvée of Grenache with 30% Syrah and 10% each of Carignan and Viognier comes from a 50-year-old parcel at 500 metres above the village of Suzette and is wonderfully dense, rich and savoury, showing considerable concentration and weight, flavours of garrigue, black plum and violet and a full-bodied finish. It’s certainly drinkable now, but will reward further cellaring.
Aussie red wines under £7.50 can be something of a lottery, but this is a brilliant value find from the Co-op, sourced from top Shiraz region, Mount Benson. Richly coloured, spicy and very lightly oaked, it has classic blackberry and wild herb flavours, supple tannins and enough acidity to keep the wine perky, fresh and long on the palate.
Is there a better value Rioja Crianza in the UK right now? If there is, I haven’t tasted it. Sourced from Bodegas Muriel, this is a wonderfully traditional style, made entirely from Tempranillo and aged in American oak. Supple, fragrant and sweet, with notes of coconut, fresh tobacco and wild strawberry underpinned by fresh acidity. Delicious.
If you want to drink a Barossa red with very little oak but bags of flavour, this unfiltered, co-fermented cuvée of Mataro (Mourvèdre) and 35% Grenache is well worth tracking down. Spicy and peppery, with some stemmy whole bunch flavours, floral top notes, mint, raspberry and bramble fruit and fine-grained tannins.