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.
Gerd Stepp used to be a buyer at Marks & Spencer, but has now gone back to his original career as a winemaker in the Pfalz. People are often surprised to learn how much Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder) Germany produces and just how good it can be. For Pinot lovers who’ve almost given up on finding enjoyable expressions of their beloved grape under £10, this unoaked example is a godsend: smooth, supple and strawberry fruity with crunchy acidity and a sweet core.
The wines of Etna are some of Sicily’s – and Italy’s – most distinctive reds. Produced from two grapes – Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio – that are almost Pinot Noir like in colour and texture, this lightly wooded example is a fantastic introduction to a volcanic classic. Floral, ethereal and light with juicy redcurrant and raspberry fruit and some underlying stony grip. On offer at £10.99 from November 13 to December 3.
Grüner Veltliner is rare enough in New Zealand, but one with six years of bottle age is unique. But what a brilliant wine this is. Part of Matt Thomson and Sophie Parker-Thomson’s off-the-wall series of small volume Kiwi whites and reds, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of top Austrian examples of the grape. Partially barrel fermented in larger French oak barrels, it’s bright, focused and remarkably youthful, with notes of bay leaf and white pepper, crunchy minerality and pear and citrus fruit.
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.
Consistently among New Zealand’s best Chardonnays and a wine that ages extremely well under screwcap, this wild-yeast fermented white hails from the Home and Rosie’s Blocks at Neudorf’s vineyards in Upper Moutere. Fresh, elegant and savoury, it has deftly interwoven (12% new) French oak, flavours of citrus and cinnamon, impressive focus and a tangy, mineral-edged core. A very classy, well-judged white.
The kind of thing that wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of New Wave South African Chenin Blancs, this superb organic Loire Valley example from Alexandre Cady has a winning combination of richness, lees-derived complexity, subtle 30% new oak and thrilling acidity. Flavours of pear, apple and quince combine beautifully on the palate with undertones of baking spices and a long, refreshing finish.
One of a number of wines at Marks & Spencer to have benefited from a new lower price, this is just the thing for the warmer weather: a light, tangy, spritzy white made from three local Portuguese grapes – Loureiro, Arinto and a splash of Trajadura – and showing lip smacking flavours of green apple, citrus peel and white pepper. Wonderfully crisp and refreshing.
The Roussillon region, which forms part of France’s border with Spain, is best known for its reds and fortified wines, but can make surprisingly impressive whites, too. Jérôme Collas makes small amounts of this deliciously characterful white blend from a combination of old-vine Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Macabeu, grown at a cool 350 metres. The result is a taut, herbal, savoury white with refreshing acidity, a nutty, salty tang and hints of white flowers and fresh pears. One of number of great Roussillon selections from Joie de Vin.
Not as well known as the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc releases, but every bit as good in my opinion, this is frequently among my favourite South Island Chardonnays. Toasty, savoury and enticing, it has citrus and beeswax notes supported by fresh, palate cleasning acidity and a nutty finish. Just starting to develop bottle-aged complexity.
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.
Neudorf makes some of the most characterful Chardonnays in New Zealand. This is their unoaked, Kiwi-meets-Chablis style that sess no oak, but seven months on lees to pick up some extra texture and weight. Supple and fruity, with notes of white peach and pear, taut acidity and a long, satisfying finish.