Loire Valley guru Pascal Jolivet inspired the talented Matt Day to make this wild-fermented, left-field Sauvignon Blanc from two complementary parcels on one of the oldest estates in South Africa’s Constantia Valley. Still youthful, intense and showing some tannic structure, it’s a superb, bone-dry expression of Constantia with notes of grapefruit pith, elderflower and wet stones. How wonderful to see a top Cape producer releasing a white wine with some bottle age.
A rosé in the depths of winter, when we haven’t even reached the shortest day of the year? Why not? It’s fine to drink pink wines all year round these days, not just in summer, especially when they’re as good as this flavoursome, full-bodied, richly coloured example from the southern Rhône Valley. Juicy yet serious, it has layers of summer pudding, goji berry and wild strawberry, plenty of supporting acidity and a nip of tannin.
Apostolos Thymiopoulos is one of the hottest properties in Greece at the moment, making some of that country’s very best reds and rosés. His top wines fetch steep prices, but you can get a glimpse of what all the brouhaha is about by buying a bottle of this young-vine cuvée of Xinomvaro from the Naoussa region. Effortlessly juicy, sappy and thirst quenching, it has redcurrant and raspberry fruit flavours, a hint of rhubarb and a whisper of wild Mediterranean herbs. My happy juice.
A wine that blew my mind at the Wine Society’s recent press tasting, this is an excellent new discovery from buyer Pierre Mansour. A Garnacha Blanca that tastes as good as it looks, it hails from 50-year-old vines in Valdejalón, and has incredible intensity and focus. Salty, bone dry and lightly toasty, it has lovely aromas of wet stones, jasmine and thyme and a palate of quinine, sourdough bread and citrus peel.
Montsant in Catalonia is better known for toothsome reds than whites, but this old-vine blend of mostly Garnacha Blanca with 19% Xarel-lo and 5% Macabeo from Albert Jané is a revelation. Rich, complex, layered and intense, it has plenty of buttery weight from long lees ageing, aromas of fennel and thyme, flavours of pear, quince and nutmeg and a bright, fresh, stony finish. Utterly delicious.
Is Cabernet Franc getting the recognition it deserves? I think so. As its stock rises in New World countries like Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa, so consumers are also catching on to what this wonderful variety can produce in its home base, France’s Loire Valley. Entirely unwooded, this has engaging freshness, violet and capsicum aromas, racy plum and black cherry fruit, lots of vibrant acidity and finely judged tannins. A red wine that you can chill.
The middle of a trio of so-called Mediterranean vintages, 2016 generally produced wines with good concentration and ageing potential. That’s certainly the case with the impressive Viña Arana release, which shows impressive depth, energy and presence. Aged in La Rioja Alta’s signature American oak barrels, it’s a well judged blend of Tempranillo from three vineyards in Rodezno with grippy 5% Graciano from Fuenmayor. It has classic aromas of dried coconut, cinnamon and baking spices, plenty of acidity, undertones of baked earth and wild herbs, plum and reds berry fruit flavours and graceful, fine-grained tannins. Very drinkable now, but will cellar well, as La Rioja Alta’s wines so often do.
Burgundian winemakers used to be a bit sniffy about Aligoté, but climate change has prompted a shift in attitude to the tangy, famously acidic grape variety, exemplified by the Aligoteurs movement of which Sylvain Pataille is a leading figure. This is a brilliant wine from an outstanding producer that could sell at twice the price, showing a touch of older oak, citrus, wet stone and green apple flavours, nice texture and weight and the concentration that often seems to come from old vines.
Jean-Claude Mas is making some of the best wines in the south of France right now and is next to unbeatable for value under £10. This brilliant white blend is a more or less equal cuvée of Vermentino, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc with a splash of Viognier for extra perfume. Lightly but stylishly wooded, it has jasmine and rose petal aromas and a palate that combines flavours of peach, pear and citrus and a twist of Mediterranean herbs.
New World countries like Chile, New Zealand and South Africa are so good at making Sauvignon Blanc that it’s easy to forget about the variety’s home base in the Loire Valley. And yet, at their best, wines from place like Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are unbeatable. This example from long-term Tesco supplier Fournier Père et Fils is well worth trading up for. Pithy, nettley and mouth-wateringly fresh, it has good texture from time on lees, stony minerality and flavours of elderflower, lime, celery and white pepper. Delicious.
I had to check the price of this amazing Cape bargain twice to make sure that it was correct. Made by the talented Riandri Visser of Cape Point Vineyards, who also spends a lot of time producing wine in the Loire Valley, it’s a brilliant Fairtrade certified cuvée of Sauvignon Blanc and 14% Semillon. Sappy, crunchy and mouth-wateringly fresh, it has lemongrass, gooseberry and grapefruit flavours and a waxy, herbal undertone.
For all the talk about the latest en primeur releases, it’s worth remembering that good claret can age beautifully. In fact, there are times when mature red Bordeaux stops you in your tracks. This is one of them: a scented, graceful cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot that has classic coffee bean, tobacco leaf and cedar wood top notes, fine-boned, layered tannins and flavours of sweet spices, summer berries and blackcurrant leaf. The wine is sold out on line, but there’s still some available in stores.