Waitrose’s Loved & Found range is a great value source of lesser known varieties. This one is made from the very rare French grape Loin de l’Oeil – easier to drink than it is to pronounce – and packs a lot of flavour for a sub-£10 white. Tangy and juicy, with layers of pink grapefruit and nectarine, some weight from ageing on its fermentation lees and a bright, chalky finish. Delicious stuff from Jean-Noël Barrau.
“Wow!” was my one-word tasting note when I initially sipped this remarkable dry Furmint from Hungary. The Tokaji region is best known for its delicious sweet wines, but that’s changing thanks to producers like Balassa Bor. Intense, stony and lightly wooded, this jauntily named white has citrus, fresh dough and aniseed flavours, wonderful purity and focus and racy, palate-cleansing acidity.
Young Frappato is Sicily’s answer to a juicy Beaujolais, bursting with perfume and bouncy fruit flavours. This impressive find from Waitrose comes from vineyards in Trapani and Marsala and is a very well-priced example of the grape’s charms, with flavours of wild strawberry, pomegranate and candy floss, tangy acidity and a nip of tannin. The perfect end-of-summer chilled red.
Fed up with paying high season Côte d’Azur prices to drink your favourite Côtes de Provence rosé? Then try this from the Languedoc instead. At the £3 off price until the end of the month, it’s one of the best pink bargains in the high street. Marrying Grenache with 40% Cinsault and 10% of a much rarer grape called Caladoc, this tastes as good as it looks, with raspberry, redcurrant and wild strawberry fruit, a hint of Medieterranean herbs and impressive depth and concentration. Perfect for the last two weeks of summer.
Painter of Light is a superb expression of one of Essex’s finest vineyards, made by the talented Sergio Verrillo. With aromas of struck match and popcorn, it’s fresh and elegant, with racy acidity and a cheesy, salty, nutty palate with subtle stone fruit undertones. Weighty without being fat, it’s what great pre-climate change Chablis used to taste like. One of England’s finest whites.
It’s rare to find really good Californian Pinot Noir under £20 a bottle, especially if it comes from the ultra-trendy Russian River area. This is elegant, precise and very lightly oaked, with aromas of fennel and sweet baking spices, a palate of wild strawberry and goji berries, silky tannins and the supporting acidity that you’d expect from a region with cool Pacific influence. Fantastic value.
It’s something of a paradox. How can a region as hot as Portugal’s Douro Valley, home of full-throttle Ports, also produce elegant, graceful white wines? The answer lies in site selection, picking dates and the acidity of the local grapes. This cuvée of Rabigato, Gouveio, Viosinho and Arinto is a delicious example from winemaker Rodrigo Martins. It’s both lightly tropical and refreshing, with notes of caramelised pineapple, pear and green apple, fresh, almost salty acidity and a hint of kerosene that’s reminiscent of an aged Riesling. Remarkable at the price.
Coteaux du Giennois is not as famous as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, the two great Sauvignon Blanc-producing appellations of the Loire Valley but it often offers better value for money, partly because of its lower profile. This one from Vignobles Berthier, sold under Sainsbury’s reliable Taste The Difference label is tangy, stony and refreshing with a lovely interplay between citrus and passion fruit flavours.
It’s not often that I get excited about a rosé – too many of them are like pale pink spots on a pink wall – but this is the real deal from the south of France. Made by Julie Rouffignac and Gérald Lafont, it’s an intense, deeply coloured number with lots of flavour and concentration to match. Structured and intense, Arbousset is almost a red wine, made from a harmonious cuvée of mostly Grenache with 20% each of Syrah and Cinsault. Juicy redcurrant, strawberry and red cherry fruit is complemented by a nip of savoury tannin.
A white wine for Pouilly-Fumé lovers on a budget, especially at the reduced price until next month, this brilliant Sauvignon Blanc comes from the German Pfalz region of all places. Combining aromas of elderflower and nettles, it has a stony, gunflint-scented nose, flavours of kiwi fruit and gooseberry and a dry, racy, low-alcohol finish.
Varietal whites are so popular these days – all those Pinot Grigios, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs – that it’s easy to overlook the charms of blended ones, especially when they’re made from an unusual combination of grapes. This wonderful, unoaked Rhône Valley example from Domaine May combines Clairette with 35% Grenache Blanc and 25% Picpoul and is engagingly fresh, stony and tangy, with citrus, quince and wild herb flavours and lovely mid-palate weight.
I’m old enough to remember the days when most Australian Chardonnays were ripe, buttery and oaky. But the last decade or so has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the style of the country’s most famous white grape. This very lightly wooded, great value example from Howard Park shows you what I mean. Textured yet refreshing, with struck match and vanilla spice aromas, waxed lemon and grapefruit flavours and a taut, appealingly refreshing finish.