It’s amazing how much Austrian red wines have improved in the last decade, thanks to warmer vintages and much better work in the vineyards and winery. This appealingly mature cuvée of Merlot with three local grapes, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and St Laurent, is a case in point. It’s smooth, complex and well balanced, with subtle wood, black cherry, plum and fresh earth notes, bright, chalky acidity and a funky undertone.
I don’t need an excuse to drink Cabernet Franc – it’s one of my favourite red grapes – but this one from a family domaine in Saumur is the kind of wine that’s worth making a special trip to get hold of. Fresh, bright and entirely unoaked, it’s a medium-bodied delight. Herbal, leafy and tangy, with black cherry and raspberry fruit, top notes of capsicum and pencil shavings, refreshing acidity and the graceful tannins that are typical of variety at its best. A few years in bottle have added some extra complexity.
As well as being a beautiful place to visit, Saint-Chinian is one of the most exciting appellations in the south of France. This is an unoaked SGCM blend of Syrah with 35% Grenache, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre that shows the freshness and grip of the local schist and limestone soils, classic “garrigue” aromas of rosemary, thyme and lavender, supple tannins and layers of blackberry and black olive.
When Aldi’s on form, no other UK retailer can match its value-for-money wines. This is almost ludicrously good at the price – a high-altitude Malbec from top Uco Valley producer Salentein at only £5.79 a bottle. Smooth, scented and very lightly wooded, with classic Mendoza freshness, texture and intensity of colour. Violet and fennel aromas segue into a palate of plum, blackberry and liquorice, with supple tannins and a bright, lingering finish. The perfect barbecue red under £6. Bring on the summer.
Any wine that I could drink listening to a Johnny Clegg song gets my vote, but this wine is doubly welcome – and worth buying – because it’s a staff empowerment project from Mullineux & Leeu, one of the Cape’s best producers. Syrah based with 34% Tinta Barocca and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Great Heart is fresh, spicy and stony, with appealing minerality and grip, pomegranate, raspberry and red cherry fruit and fine-grained tannins.
I don’t drink much claret these days, but I had a bottle of this during an online MW Mates tasting with my friend Anne McHale MW and it made me fall in love with Bordeaux all over again. Château du Moulin Rouge, which predates the famous Parisian cabaret with a similar name, is a very well-placed Cru Bourgeois between Margaux and St. Julien making wines of cru classé quality. Unusually for the left bank, this is Merlot dominated, with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. For me, it confirms the class and balance of the 2016 vintage, showing flavours of plum, back cherry and cassis complemented by notes of cedar wood and graphite, appealing freshness and fine, deftly integrated tannins.
Calling all Burgundy and Barolo drinkers in search of a bargain! Greek Xinomavro has become one of my go-to wine styles over the last year and this is a delicious example of its charms from a traditional producer. Benefiting from a few years in bottle before release, it’s pale, scented and enticing, with aromas of rose petal and rosemary, savoury red cherry and tobacco leaf flavours, sinewy tannins, understated wood and thrilling freshness and minerality.
Bosman Family Vineyards have always been great innovators, so it’s no surprise that they’ve pioneered the planting of Sicily’s Nero d’Avola grape in the Cape. It’s also no surprise that a variety that does so well in Italy has adapted to the heat of Wellington too. This is medium ruby in colour, with sweet spices on the nose, subtle oak and flavours of bramble, raspberry and red cherry. The tannins are savoury and fine, the acidity brisk and refreshing. And the wine even has its own soundtrack on Spotify.
Carmen is among the oldest wineries in Chile, but has one of the most dynamic young winemakers in Emily Faulconer. This is a classic Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that has benefited from a few years in bottle but will age and develop for a while yet. Serious, structured and intense, it has appealing notes of bramble, eucalyptus and blackcurrant leaf, sinewy, savoury tannins, deftly handled oak and impressive freshness and acidity for a hot vintage.
Faugères is one of the Languedoc’s great secrets, a small appellation that deserves to be much better known. Julien Seydoux makes this superb organic red from a blend of Syrah with 35% Grenache, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre, ageing the result in large wooden foudres and stainless steel tanks. Named after a local stream, it’s appeallingly subtle, floral and refined, with notes of pine and lavender, sweet bramble and red berry fruit, sinewy tannins and a long, mineral-edged finish. Perfect winter drinking.
Mas Deu comes from a single vineyard at 800 metres planted on clay and limestone soils and is a stunning expression of Mediterranean Garnacha. Floral and alluring, with notes of thyme, rosemary and white pepper, chalky minerality, redcurrant and raspberry flavours and a long, tapering finish. One of the best wines in Catalunya.
Based on Garnacha, with the remaining 35% made up of Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Prior is what Ricard Rofes calls a “key in the door of Priorat”, in that it introduces you to the different zones of the denominación. Wild, savoury and intense, with floral black cherry and damson fruit, a herbal undertone, pithy minerality and some clove spice from 30% whole bunch fermentation. One of the most structured wines in the range.