93

2018 Fincher & Co The Dividing Line, Marlborough

( £18.95, 13%, The Pop Up Deli )

So much Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tastes as if it’s come out of the same bottomless tank, that it’s a pleasure to come across something that restores your faith in the quality of New Zealand’s most popular wine style. Made by Master of Wine Liam Stevenson, this was picked early (by hand, not machine) and fermented with lots of solids in old French oak barrels. Dry, savoury and complex, it has appealing notes of gunflint and elderflower with subtle oak and a hint of passion fruit. Very smart.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-23Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, New Zealand, White, Sauvignon Blanc
96

2018 Pedro Parra Hub Cinsault, Itata Valley

( £29.99, 13%, Liberty Wines )

Hub is named after jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and is my favourite in the Pedro Parra range. The 80-year-old vines here are at 300 metres and face north-west on very poor granitic soils, yielding a wine with more colour than the rest of the line up, wonderful, sappy vivacity and intensity, a spicy undertone and vibrant red cherry, blackberry and raspberry coulis flavours. Fresh, long and satisfying, it’s a Grand Cru expression of Itata Valley Cinsault.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-27Similar Wines: £25-30, 95-100, Chile, Red, Cinsault
91

Douro Valley Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Reserva White

( £31.30, 13.5%, Wine Buyers )

For local grape varieties make up the blend here – Arinto, Folgazão, Rabigato and Viosinho – sourced from vineyards on the southern side of the Douro Valley in their Quintas de Ervamoira and Bons Ares. An appealing counterpoint to the more powerful reds and fortifieds of the region, this has lovely freshness, aromas of fennel, citrus and oatmeal and a youthful, tangy, deftly wooded palate. Should develop further in bottle.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-24Similar Wines: £30-35, 90-94, Portugal, White, Arinto, Folgazão, Rabigato, Viosinho
94

2017 Viñas del Cámbrico Rufete Blanco Granito, Sierra de Salamanca

( £24.99, 12.5%, All About Wine )

Made with organic grapes grown on granite soils in the little-known Sierra de Salamanca at 700 metres, this is a very rare Spanish white with incredible texture, focus and minerality, especially at only 12.5% alcohol. Salty, yeasty and beeswaxy, with a bracing, mouthwatering finish. No oak, just fruit intensity and texture. 

BuyDrinking window: 2020-24Similar Wines: £20-25, 90-94, Spain, White, Rufete Blanco
92

NV Cuatro Rayas 61 Dorado En Rama, Rueda

( €19.90, 17%, Available from the winery )

Something of a tribute to the fortified wines that were traditionally produced in Rueda – and dominated the region’s production until the 1980s – this is a Sherry-style, solera-aged cuvée of Palomino and Verdejo. Pale, nutty and dry, it’s like a lighter version of a Palo Cortado, with yeasty complexity and a salty, refreshingly tangy finish. Unusual and complex.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-30Similar Wines: €15-20, 90-94, Spain, Fortified, Palomino Fino, Verdejo
91

2017 Losada Vinos de Finca, Bierzo

( £13.98, 14.5%, Jascots )

Sometimes called Pájaro Rojo because of its distinctive red bird label, this entry-point Mencía from Losada’s winemaker Amancio Fernández Gómez is a wonderful example of a distinctive Spanish grape. Produced from old vines on clay soils – not the slate that’s more common in Bierzo – this is plush, lightly oaked and comparatively ripe, with softer tannins and lower acidity than many of its competitors, but showing the variety’s classic red berry fruit and herbal undertone. Appealingly refreshing for a wine with 14.5% alcohol.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-27Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Spain, Red, Mencia
91

2016 Verum Ulterior Parcela 7 y 9 Albillo Real, Tomelloso, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla

( £17.95, 12%, The Great Wine Company )

I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a few of Elías López Monetero’s wines from Argentina, but until this week I was unfamiliar with the magic he’s working in La Mancha, the world’s most extensive wine region, known for bulk plonk rather than wines like this. Production of this amphora-fermented and aged Albillo Real (with a splash of Albillo Mayor) is small at 9,000 bottles, but it’s an intriguing, low-intervention white with some bottle age. Low in alcohol, but not in flavour, it has notes of quince, almonds and fresh pastry with a salty dry finish and the complexity and focus to age further.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-22Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, Spain, White, Albillo Mayor, Albillo Real
92

2018 Faraone Collepietro Pecorino del Colli Aprutini, Abruzzo

( £18.50, 13.5%, Berry Brothers & Rudd )

It’s amazing how much flavour good winemakers can extract from white grapes without recourse to oak if the site is special and yields are kept low. This wonderful Pecorino (nothing to do with the cheese of the same name) from Federico Faraone’s Collepietro vineyard has lovely pear and apple flavours, racy acidity, some skin tannins from cryo-maceration and appealing texture from ageing on fermentation lees. Fresh, intense and full of character.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-23Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, Italy, White, Pecorino
93

2017 Kellerei Kurtatsch Sonntaler Grauvernatsch, Südtirol

( £20.60, 12%, Alpine Wines )

What’s Grauvernatsch supposed to taste like? To be honest, I’m not really sure as it’s a grape I’ve never knowingly encountered before. But if you like elegant, light-bodied Alpine reds – from the Italian Südtirol in this case – you’ll love the understated elegance of this light, scented refreshing red, with its fragrant wild strawberry and redcurrant fruit, silky tannins and aromatic herbs. Juicy and unwooded, it’s a wine that tastes even better chilled.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-23Similar Wines: £20-£30, 92-94, Italy, Red, Grauvernatsch
90

2016 Morrisons The Best Barbera d'Asti, Piedmont

( £6.50 down to £5.75, 14.5%, Morrisons )

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.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-22Similar Wines: £5-8, 90-94, Italy, Red, Barbera
90

2016 Tbilvino Qvevris, Kakheti

( £10.00, 12%, Marks & Spencer )

Marks & Spencer have culled a lot of the quirkier wines in their range of late, so I’m delighted that this left-field, skin-fermented white from Georgia, the so-called cradle of wine, is still on its shelves. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape in the limestone-dominated area of Kakheti, it has funky, earthy, quince and orange peel flavours and some tannic grip. Dry and unusual, it’s a textbook introduction to wines fermented in clay pots, or qvevri.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-23Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Georgia, Dry, White, Rkatsiteli