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
94

2015 Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Section 94, Marlborough

( £17-22, 13.5% )

A wine that’s consistently a match for all but the very best (and much more expensive) wines of Pessac-Léognan, this deftly oaked Marlborough Sauvignon ages brilliantly too. Leesy, rich yet beautifully balanced, it combines flavours of vanilla spice, gooseberry fool, lanolin and vivid acidity. One of the region’s very best expressions of the grape. 

BuyDrinking window: 2018-24Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, New Zealand, White, Sauvignon Blanc
92

2016 Dog Point Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

( £13.50, 13%, The Wine Society )

There’s always something of a rush to list and sell the new vintage of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s good to see a winery (and a retailer in the shape of the Wine Society) that takes a more relaxed approach to vintages, selling wines with a bit of bottle age. Tangy, savoury and dry, this is a complex, flinty, well balanced white with no oak, allowing the quince, greengage and gooseberry fruit to shine.

BuyDrinking window: 2017-20Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, New Zealand, White, Sauvignon Blanc
93

2012 Neudorf, Moutere Pinot Noir, Moutere, Nelson

( £29, 13.5%, Available from the winery )

Pinots from the clays of Moutere always remind me of the wines of Pommard in Burgundy. They are rich, bold, even slightly sturdy wines that are textured, a little gruff even, and extremely impressive. Structured and concentrated, this is savouery, spicy and intense, with notes of incense and sweet summer berries, supported by tannins. 

BuyDrinking window: 2017-22Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, New Zealand, Red, Pinot Noir
93

2014 La Loba, Ribera del Duero

( €16.20, 14.5%, Desoutter & James )

Serious, youthful, good value Ribera that’s at the lower end of the scale in terms of oaking. Sourced from century old vines in Matanza de Soria, this is part of a new wave of balanced, elegant Tempranillos with lovely freshness and poise. Scented, floral and complex with notes of bramble and balackberry and a refreshing finish. 

BuyDrinking window: 2018-22Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Tempranillo
93

2016 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

( £14.99, 13, New Zealand House of Wine, The New Zealand Cellar )

Kevin Judd is arguably the most famous exponent of Sauvignon Blanc on the planet, thanks to his work at Cloudy Bay and subsequently at his own Marlborough winery, Greywacke. He certainly knows how to invest the variety with considerable complexity, using wild yeasts to add extra nuances to the exotic lime, gooseberry and stone fruit flavours. Long and very satisfying.

BuyDrinking window: 2017-19Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, New Zealand, White, Sauvignon Blanc
93

1998 Fonseca, Guimaraens Vintage Port, Douro Valley

( £27.99, 20.5%, Waitrose )

Mid-way between a single quinta and not-quite-a-vintage Port, this is rich, sweet and easy to drink, but with more structure and concentration than is immediately apparent. Spicy, peppery and showing a little bit of fiery spirit, this has dark, creamy fruit flavours and a complex, chocolatey finish. 

Drinking window: 2016-20Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Portugal, Fortified