With its distinctive Haka label, Earth’s End Pinot Noir has long been one of the stand out wines in the Marks & Spencer range and is on coruscating form right now. Made by the talented Duncan Forsyth, a man whose flamboyant suits match the brilliance of his wines, this is sappy, savoury and focused, with wild strawberry and red cherry fruit, some underlying stony grip and a whisper of wood spices.
Mathieu Vallée is better known for his spectacular white wines, but the reds aren’t far behind. Since he took over in 2007, he’s established Château Yonne as one of the top producers in Saumur. Organically farmed on limestone soils across seven parcels in the village of Champigny, La Folie is his most approachable red wine cuvée. Fresh, juicy and tangy, with notes of black cherry and mint, chalky acidity and vitality and a bright, energetic finish. Loire Cabernet Franc at its refreshing best.
Light-bodied Alpine reds are some of my favourite wines: bright, tangy and intense with tremendous perfume and vitality. This pure Mondeuse from Jean-François Quénard is a case in point. Fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel and concrete eggs, it’s pithy, zesty and lip-smackingly fresh, all violet, rose petal and white pepper aromas, intense bramble and raspberry fruit, tangy acidity and more underlying tannin and structure than you expect.
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.
I have a deserved reputation as someone who doesn’t like Pinot Gris, but there is Pinot Gris and Pinot Gris, or rather Pinot Grigio and Pinot Grigio. The ones I avoid are those that taste of nothing, but that’s certainly not a charge you could level at this full-flavoured, just off-dry example from superstar winemaker Olivier Humbrecht MW. It’s weighty, textured and perfumed, with notes of quince, peach and pear and more than enough acidity to freshen and lengthen the finish. Great with lightly spicy food.
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.
You can only applaud a winery – especially one as famous as Kanonkop – that makes 1.7 million bottles of a wine of this quality. Dominated by Pinotage, with the remaining 63% made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it’s a floral, textured, well-structured cuvée with notes of mint and dried herbs and a core of cassis and raspberry fruit.
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.