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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Superb, lightly wooded Verdejo from 100-year-old vines that shows both concentration and freshness. Pink grapefruit and wild herb notes combine thrillingly on the palate with a salty finish and a hint of vanilla spice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.