There’s so much mediocre Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc around (bland, sweet, overcropped and sometimes all three) that it’s a pleasure to recommend one that has real personality. This comes from the cooler Awatere Valley and is beautifuly taut and refined: a focused, almost minerally white with one foot in the Loire Valley, stylistically speaking. Fresh, crisp and tangy with notes of elderflower, wet stones and kiwi fruit, it lingers tantalisingly on the palate.
Food Match: Fish
2011 Sinols Blanc, Empordalia, Empordà( E4, 12%, El Celler Petit )
Brilliant value, unoaked white blend of Garnatxa Blanca and Macabeu from one of the region’s best co-ops. Herbal, tangy and lightly spicy, with notes of jasmine and orange peel and a fresh, medium weight finish. A regular holiday pick for me.
2011 Arché Pagès Satirs Blanc, Empordà( E6, 13%, El Celler Petit )
Made by one of the best young growers in Empordà using only Macabeu, this is outstanding value at only E6 a bottle. It’s quite weighty for an unoaked style, capable of bottle age and great with food. Pear and some honey with refreshing lift from aciity a minerally undertone and a whiff of Mediterranean herbs.
2011 Gelamà Macabeu, Empordà( E6, 13.5%, El Celler Petit )
The 20% oak ageing is quite prominent on the nose and palate here, reminding me of a white Rioja (same grape, but more concentration in Empordà), but there’s enough texture and concentration for it to integrate over time. Another young producer who has rejuvenated old family vines to fashion something with real personality: minerality, wild herbs and some vanilla sweetness.
2011 Oliver Conti Treyu, Empordà( E7, 12.5%, El Celler Petit )
It’s easy to judge the white wines from Oliver Conti too young, even this unoaked cuvée of Macebeu and Gewürztraminer. This combines perfume, spice, fresh acidity and a touch of grapeskin bitterness on the palate, underpinned by some creamy, lees-derived fatness. It’s an unusual wine, with the Gewürz adding some ginger spice to the Macabeu. Try cellaring it.
2011 Clos d'Agon Amic, Empordà( E14, 13%, El Celler Petit )
Made by Peter Sisseck of Pingus in Ribera del Duero fame, this is a pure Garnatxa Blanca that justifies its growing reputation. This is a value for money partner to his more grown up Clos d’Agon Catalunya wines. Focused, intense, unoaked and very fresh, this chalky, almost Burgundian white is the perfect foil for the local Palamos seafood.
2010 Terra Remota Caminante, Empordà( E15, 14%, El Celler Petit )
One of the most exciting white wines in Empordà, made by French couple Marc and Emma Bournazeau from a blend of Garnatxa Blanca, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Deftly oaked, beautifully defined, with the three grapes stylishly intertwined. Honeysuckle, some spice, a dash of thyme and pear and long, granite-derived minerality. Right up there with some of the best white wines in Spain. An estate to watch.
2010 Marti Fabra Masia Carreras Blanc, Empordà( E13, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
There’s clearly something special about the village of San Clement Sescebes (and not just as the place where lots of Spaniards did their military service) as it’s home to two of the region’s best producers (Terra Remota being the other one). This highly unusual blend of Garnatxa Blanca, Picapoll and Samsó (aka Carignan) is a big, umami-rich white with a dry finish, some tannin on the palate and masses of grip, density and flavour. A very serious bottle of white.
2011 Mas Llunes Nívia, Empordà( E8, 13.5%, El Celler Petit )
A wine that is a little too marked by oak at the moment, but has good underlying texture and concentration. Floral, saline and concentrated with toasty oak and good minerality. Needs a year or two in bottle, but I love the notes of fennel and wild rosemary and the strucuture and muscularity of the finish.
2011 Vinyes dels Aspres, Empordà( E13, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
Sourced from the frontier village of Cantallops, this is a rich, powerful, wild wine that is almost unruly on the nose and palate. Even for a young wine, this is starting to show secondary notes of honey and marzipan, but there’s massive concentration and acidity to back it up. A slow burner of a wine, very dense, minerally and herbal with a salty, food welcoming finish.
2011 CVNE Viña Real Rioja Blanco, Alavesa, Rioja( £9.99, 13%, Majestic )
By the very oaky standards of some white Riojas, this is comparatively light on the barrel influence. It’s a subtle, lightly smoky Viura with a herbal touch and well integrated vanilla oak. The palate is fresh, yet textured, with good length and a savoury finish.
2011 Monemvasia Kidonitsa, Laconia( £11.50, 13%, Bowes Wine )
The Kidonitsa grape may be new to you (you’re not alone there), but don’t worry about that because it’s a great drink. Spritzy and slightly honeyed, with the texture of a Pinot Gris but an extra dimension of flavour. A touch of straw, some ginger spice, a whisper of thyme. You can almost smell the Med.