Verónica Ortega worked in Burgundy (at Domaine de la Romance-Conti, no less) before she set up her own winery in Bierzo in 2010. This hauntingly delicate wine isn’t made from Pinot Noir, but it wouldn’t look out of place in a line up from Chambolle-Musigny. Sourced from seven parcels at 750 metres on slate soils, it sees no wood (only amphoras) and is wonderfully poised and balletic. Raspberry, tobacco pouch and wild strawberry flavours are complemented by rose petal aromas and a nip of sinewy tannin. You may have trouble tracking this down right now, although I’m assured that UK agent Vine Trail will have some next spring.
The intriguingly named Kinki is a very unusual Bierzo for several reasons. First, it’s a co-fermenteation of Mencía with Alicante Bouschet and 30% white grapes (Godello, Palomino and Doña Blanca); second it has only 11.2% alcohol; and third it is fermented and aged in a combination of amphoras and larger barrels. Pale, delicate and elegant, with some clove spice from 100% whole bunch fermentation, flavours of watermelon, wild strawberry and pomegranate, racy acidity and a hint of reduction. Bierzo meets the Côte de Beaune.
This Grenache Gris vineyard was the first that Katie Jones bought back in 2009 before she set up her brilliant business in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Every bit as good as the 2017, it’s wonderfully herbal and fresh, with notes of greengage, aniseed, thyme and lemon zest, benefiting from the concentration of old vines and finishing with length and elegance.
Imaginador comes from four different sites in the coastal-influenced sub-region of Guarilihue and encapsulates everything that is most appealing about Itata Valley Cinsault. Spicy, fresh and stony, with classic granitic focus and tannins, it has a hint of Asian spices from partial whole cluster fermentation and a core of raspberry and summer pudding fruit sustained by acidity and zip.
A Pencopolitano is a native of Pedro Parra’s native city of Concepción, where it is surprisingly difficult to find examples of the local wines in restaurants. (I know, I’ve tried.) This is a blend of Cinsault with 33% País and has more structure and acidity than the pure Cinsaults in which Parra specialises. Dry-farmed vineyards in Guarilihue and Portezuelo supply the grapes here, with 30% whole bunches adding some spice and structure to the raspberry, redcurrant and red plum flavours. The finish has some sinewy grip.
Trane, named after jazz legend John Coltrane, comes from a 70-year-old vineyard at 300 metres on shallow granite soils with silt and stones. Fermented with 30% whole bunches, it has medium colour, aromas of wild strawberry and Turkish Delight, juicy red berry fruit of raspberry and bramble, subtle reduction and classic Itata grip and understated intensity.
Master of Wine Liam Stevenson wrote his dissertation about Priorat and was inspired by the white wines of the region to produce a Garnacha Blanca in nearby Terra Alta. This is made in partnership with another MW, Mark Pygott, and is excellent value. Leesy, intense and very lightly wooded, it has grapefruit and lemon peel flavours, a dusting of baking spices, stony minerality and top notes of jasmine and hawthorn blossom.
Production is small on these Pequeñas Vinícolas wines, alas, but the quality is very impressive indeed. This is an experimental cuvée of Macabeo and Merseguera, aged in amphora under a veil of the flor yeast. It’s an engagingly complex white with notes of wild flowers, camomile tea, tangerine peel and a hint of sea salt. Yeasty and long, it’s one of Spain’s greatest Mediterranean whites. Utterly delicious.
Made with organic grapes grown on granite soils in the little-known Sierra de Salamanca at 700 metres, this is a very rare Spanish white with incredible texture, focus and minerality, especially at only 12.5% alcohol. Salty, yeasty and beeswaxy, with a bracing, mouthwatering finish. No oak, just fruit intensity and texture.
The vines used to produce this impressive, well-priced Verdejo from the go-ahead Cuatro Rayas co-operative are “only” 40 years old, but that would be considered ancient in some parts of the world. Rich and almost exotic, with notes of lychee and white peach, some subtle oak from 20% barrel fermentation in 500-litre barrels and zesty, crunchy acidity.
Made with a selection of the co-operative’s most venerable vineyards, this hails from plots that are all over 100 years’ old. It’s an oxidatively handled style that will appeal to fans of traditional white Rioja, with a mix of French and American oak, lots of toast and spices and flavours of pear, saffron and beeswax underpinned by salinity. Developing nicely in bottle.
One of the most ambitious Rueda whites, this comes from a selection of pre-phylloxera vineyards and is built to age. The oak is better integrated than on the 2015, which is also available in the market right now, supporting a wine with amazing intensity and focus. Nutty and intense, it has flavours of pear, citrus and marzipan, with undertones of fennel and cinnamon, good structure and racy, palate-cleansing acidity.