Fans of the mass-produced, bungee jump into a gooseberry style of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc might not appreciate the ambition or the layered complexity of this wooded, wild yeast-fermented style from the Dog Point team. But tough on them. It’s one of the most complex whites in New Zealand, with notes of gunflint, blackcurrant leaf and vanilla spice, lots of racy, mouth-watering acidity and a savoury finish. Deliberately released late by Jamey Healy and Ivan Sutherland’s in oder to challenge received notions about Sauvignon Blanc.
Blending components from the steep-sided Sil and Miño Valleys, this wonderfully gluggable, organically farmed red is based on Mencía with bits and pieces of other co-planted grapes, according to Pedro Rodríguez. Engagingly intense and floral, it’s a white wine drinker’s red in some ways, with lots of zip and acidity, violet and rose petal aromas, refined tannins and layers of raspberry, pomegranate and wild strawberry. Drink lightly chilled.
Something a little different this week. Maturano, not to be confused with Spanish Maturana Blanca, is a new Italian white grape variety to me. Sourced from vines at 600 metres inside a national park between Rome and Naples, it’s very much a southern style, with some appealing bottle age adding complexity. Lees fermented and aged in concrete, it’s appealingly unwooded, with musky, baking spice aromas, a palate of pear, honey and orange zest, some underlying, food-friendly grip and much more acidity than you think on first acquaintance.
Hunter Semillon has crept up in price over the last decade – I can still remember the days when Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference cost £6.99 – but it remains a comparative bargain among the great wines of the world. This classically unwooded example comes from the famous Lovedale vineyard, planted back in 1946. Still youthful at seven years of age, it has flavours of lime, lemongrass and custard, a hint of the toastiness that will develop with more time in bottle, and a wonderfully tangy finish.
Wines from the southern Italian region of Calabria are comparatively rare in the UK, but this great value, unwooded Gaglioppo from organic vineyards close to the Ionian Sea makes you wonder why. Spicy, earthy and bright, it has has bramble, black tea and red cherry flavours, supple tannins and a dusting of wild herbs. A wine that massively overdelivers at its price point.
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.
I’m so busy enjoying Semillons from Argentina, Chile and South Africa that I tend to forget that very good dry examples of the grape can be produced in Bordeaux, not to mention the variety’s starring role in the region’s sweet wines. This lightly wooded example, whose name comes from the Gascon word for a small pile of stones, is a delight, with lots of zip and focus, refreshingly low alcohol, beeswax, citrus and lanolin notes, a hint of vanilla spice and a piercingly refreshing finish. Will go toasty with a bit more bottle age.
Palomino has an undeserved reputation as a neutral grape, a variety that needs the alchemy of the solera system to turn it into something magical in Jerez. But a new generation of winemakers is busy demonstrating that dry, unfortified wines have considerable appeal. Brothers Fran and Fernando Asencio made this “naked” wine with early picked grapes from an organically farmed vineyard on classic, chalky Albarizas soils. Long lees ageing adds some texture to this unfiltered white, which combines aromas of aniseed and wet stones with a palate of lemon and lime. Deliciously refreshing.
The kind of natural, skin-contact wine that’s a pleasure to drink – not always the case, alas – this is a four-way, pan-Romanian assemblage of Fetească Regală, Muscat Ottonel, Riesling and Pinot Grigio, showing admirable freshness for a wine that was made without added sulphites. Musk, brioche and white flower aromas are a scented introduction to a palate of orange zest, rose water, citrus and quince and a touch of tannic grip.