94

2014 La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Gran Reserva, Rioja

( £35, 14.5%, Armit Wines )

La Rioja Alta is one of the most traditional wineries in Haro’s Barrio de la Estación, famous for producing wines that are good to drink on release, but also age beautifully in bottle. This new Gran Reserva, made from Tempranillo with 6% Graciano for added backbone, is very much a reflection of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2014 vintage. La Rioja Alta didn’t make its top two Gran Reservas – 904 and 890 – in 2014, so all of its best grapes were used for Viña Arana. Fine and elegant, with vibrant acidity, notes of coconut and cinnamon from the American oak and a core of savoury, refreshing tobacco leaf and red berry flavours framed by fine, caressing tannins. Old-fashioned Rioja at its glorious best.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-28Similar Wines: £30-40, 90-94, Spain, Red, Graciano, Tempranillo
94

2016 Le Faîte Producteurs Plaimont, Saint Mont, Gascony

( £20.95, 13.5% )

Gascony used to be regarded as foie gras and Armagnac country (not necessarily at the same time) until the Producers Plaimont co-operative came along and changed the image of the region’s dry reds and whites. Le Faîte is their top white blend, made from a trio of local grapes – Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu – and is a stunning cuvée, somewhere between a Spanish Albariño and a Greek Assyrtiko in style. Pithy, saline and very complex, with quince, apple and grapefruit flavours, mouth-watering acidity and the concentration to age brilliantly in bottle.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-25Similar Wines: 90-94, France, White, Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, Petit Manseng
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

2017 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro, Ponte de Lima, Vinho Verde

( £17.50, 11.5%, The Good Wine Shop, Vin Cognito, Vinatis, Vinoteca )

At its most basic, Vinho Verde is Portugal’s quaffing white, but it can also aspire to more profound things. This is a case in point. Made solely from the Loureiro grape, it combines freshness and lightness of touch with concentration and profundity. Crisp, saline and wonderfully aromatic, with notes of fresh pine, gala melon and lemon zest, no spritz, and a long, chiselled finish. The perfect drink for a hot summer’s day.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-22Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, Portugal, White, Loureiro
91

2018 Felsner Moosburgerin Single Vineyard Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal, Niederösterreich

( £12.49, 12.5%, Waitrose )

The really top Grüners can be expensive, but it’s amazing how much flavour and personality Austria’s most widely planted and distinctive grape can deliver at just £12.49. This single vineyard example from Manfred Felsner hails from one of the best sites in Gedersdorf and is fresh, peppery and intense, with pear and citrus peel notes, refreshingly low alcohol and a long, stony, persistent finish. A really good introduction to an under-valued variety.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-23Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Austria, White, Grüner Veltliner
92

2019 Domaine de la Noë Vignoble Drouard Fief de l'Ancruère Muscadet Fût de Châtaignier, Loire Valley

( £12.99, 12%, Daniel Lambert )

Muscadet is something of a forgotten area these days, but at its best this Atlantic-influenced Loire region can make truly sublime whites that are both complex and affordable. This example from the Drouard brothers was fermented in chestnut wood – not something you find much in France or elsewhere these days – and is refreshing, textured and layered, with notes of pear and citrus, leesy weight, a hint of wood spice and a dry, tapering, almost salty finish. As good as many Chablis Premiers Crus, this is a Melon de Bourgogne that tastes like a classy white Burgundy. For local stockists, contact Daniel Lambert.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-23Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, France, White, Melon de Bourgogne, Melon de Bourgogne
91

2019 Ignacio Recabarren Pinot Noir, Casablanca

( £15, 13%, The Wine Society )

Supplied as an exclusive to the Wine Society – and something of a coup for buyer Toby Morrhall – this is a delicious Pinot Noir from the legendary Chilean winemaker, Ignacio Recabarren. Sold at a very affordable price for a red of this quality, it’s bright, perfumed and gently wooded, with lovely cool climate elegance and zip, black cherry and raspberry fruit and a stony, well-structured finish. Pacific Ocean freshness in a glass.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-25Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Chile, Red, Pinot Noir
91

2018 Waitrose Blueprint Provence Rosé, Côtes de Provence

( £8.99, 12.5%, Waitrose )

This very stylish pale rosé is great value at £8.99, but at the offer price of £6.74 until July 7th (as long as you buy six bottles from the overall Waitrose range), it’s the kind of thing that would have people queuing up on the Côte d’Azur if it were available there. Racy, refreshing and delicate, it’s less than half the price of many more famous names but over-delivers in the glass. Textured and well balanced, with raspberry and redcurrant flavours and a satisfying dry finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-21Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-95, France, Rose, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah
95

2019 Susana Balbo Signature White Blend, Uco Valley, Mendoza

( £17.99, 13% )

This pioneering white blend of Semillón with 35% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Torrontés from the brilliant Susana Balbo and her team has rapidly established itself as one of the best in Latin America. Barrel fermented in 60% new wood, it’s leesy, toasty and very fresh, with a lovely combination of beeswax, pink grapefruit and struck match flavours, a dusting of sweet spices and engaging elegance. Contact Las Bodegas for local stockists.

 

BuyDrinking window: 2020-25Similar Wines: £15-20, 95-100, Argentina, White, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Torrontés
93

2018 Stepp Riesling S, Kallstadter Saumagen, Pfalz

( £15, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Gerd Stepp used to work at Marks & Spencer before he went back to his native Germany to make wine again. Our loss was the Pfalz’s gain, as this is one of the best dry Rieslings on the market for £15 or under. Sourced from the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard on soils with a high percentage of limestone, it’s wonderfully racy, taut and complex with some creamy weight from six months on its fermentation lees, pithy minerality, lime, jasmine and wet stone notes and a thrilling finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-25Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, Germany, White, Riesling
92

2018 Stellenrust Old Bush Vine Cinsault, Bottelary Hills, Stellenbosch

( £9.99, 13% )

Cinsault comes in a variety of guises, from the light and fruit to the grippy and substantial. Tertius Boshoff sources this example from a 1972 block that also supplies his rare white Cinsault and it definitely belongs in the latter camp. Fermented with 38% whole bunches, it has some meaty concentration, 18% new oak spice, savoury tannins, layers of bramble and red cherry fruit and considerable structure. A lot of wine for £9.99.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-24Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, South Africa, Red, Cinsault
90

2018 Waitrose País, Maule

( £7.99, 12.5%, Waitrose )

País is Chile’s most historic red grape, but it’s also something new and trendy in many ways. Until comparatively recently, País was blended away into basic reds – the original variety that dared not speak its name – but thanks to the dedication of winemakers in the Itata and Maule Valleys, País has become fashionable. This supple, aromatic, unoaked, red berry and rose petal-scented example was made for Waitrose by Eduardo Jordán of Miguel Torres Chile and its wonderfully fresh, bright and juicy. It’s the kind of red you can drink with fish as well as poultry.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-22Similar Wines: £7.99-£9.99, 90-94, Chile, Red, País