Ahead of Sauvignon Blanc day tomorrow, I’ve been enjoying a few glasses of this Kiwi example from the brilliant Craggy Range. Most New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc comes from Marlborough, so this is something a little different, not least because a part of the wine was fermented in foudres and smaller oak barrels, but also because it comes from Martinborough, a region best known for its Pinot Noirs. Tangy, zesty and complex, with lime, passion fruit and nectarine flavours, racy acidity and a dry finish. The mid-palate is textured and slightly salty.
Light-bodied Alpine reds are some of my favourite wines: bright, tangy and intense with tremendous perfume and vitality. This pure Mondeuse from Jean-François Quénard is a case in point. Fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel and concrete eggs, it’s pithy, zesty and lip-smackingly fresh, all violet, rose petal and white pepper aromas, intense bramble and raspberry fruit, tangy acidity and more underlying tannin and structure than you expect.
Grown on its own roots, organically farmed and fermented and aged in traditional clay pots, or tinadas, this is an old-vine wine that could almost give the normally bland, good-for-distillation-but-not-a-lot-else Airén a good name. It’s a brilliant white from Elías López Montero, the subject of one my recent #corktalk podcasts incidentally, showing notes of pear, orange zest and citrus, with creamy lees, wonderful texture and a taut, refreshing finish.
Part of an exciting new range of little known grape varieties from Marks & Spencer, most of which are at very reasonable prices, this is a cuvée of Moschofilero with 20% Roditis from two separate vineyards in the Peloponnese peninsula. Winemaker Leonidas Nassiakos of Semeli has produced a tangy, scented, seafood friendly white with lime, lemongrass and wild herb flavours and a long, refreshing finish. Bring on the summer!
Louisa Rose is the queen of Australian Viognier and probably makes larger volumes of the variety – to a commendably high standard – than anyone else in the world. This unoaked example, made from organically grown grapes, is everything you want from the grape: honeysuckle and stem ginger aromas, lots of creamy, pillowy weight, flavours of peach and apricot and a lively, refreshing finish. The Ocado price is the best right now, but the wine is widely available elsewhere.
Chilean Chardonay is on a roll right now, especially when it’s from vineyards in the cooler areas of the country close to the Pacific or way down south, which is the case here. The brilliant Marcelo Retamal buys the grapes for this world-class white from Francisco Baettig’s increasingly famous vineyard in Malleco. There was a little rain during the growing season, so the wine has a little bit of “noble rot” (botrytis) character, which adds a drizzle of honeyed complexity to its chiselled, racy, well-balanced palate, exhibiting flavours of cashew nut, citrus and wet stones. The oak is very understated, which is the case with all the De Martino wines.
St. Antoni is on of the oldest vineyards at Scala Dei, dating back to the late 17th century and planted in a natural amphitheatre at 600 metres. First made as a single release in 2010, it’s the essence of higher altitude Priorat Garnacha, justifying the variety’s name as the “Pinot Noir of the south”. Fermented with 100% whole bunches before ageing in founders, it’s a refined, delicate red, despite its 14.5% alcohol, with raspberry and wild strawberry fruit, graceful tannins and a stony flourish.
Formerly sold as plainer Blanc de Scala Dei, this rare and unusual white hails from an east-facing site at 700 metres, planted with Garnacha Blanca and Chenin Blanc in the late 1960s and 1980s, when the idea of climate change was unheard of. Co-fermented in cement tanks, before ageing in wooden foudres, this 80/20 blend is taut, refreshing and leesy, with stony intensity, citrus and wild flower notes, a drizzle of beeswax and a long intense finish. Should age well too.
Viognier is a tricky grape to get right. Pick it too late and it can be flabby, pick it too early and it lacks the texture and richness that are its hallmarks. Laurent Miquel is one of only a handful of people outside the northern Rhône Valley who consistently gets the variety spot on. This single parcel expression from the lieu-dit of La Vérité has textbook flavours of ginger, apricots and cream with a hint of oak spice and perfectly judged acidity for balance.
South Africa’s white blends are some of its most distinctive wines, even if they remain comparatively difficult to sell, given most consumers’ preference for varietal Chardonnays, Chenins and Sauvignon Blancs. More’s the pity! This is a superb five-way blend from one of the best white wine producers in Stellenbosch, dominated by almost equal parts Roussanne, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc, with lesser amounts of Viognier and Chardonnay Mixing oak and concrete egg-fermented portions, it’s creamy, herbal and citrus-driven, with subtle wood, honeysuckle and baking spice aromas and flavours of peach, pear and quince.
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.