For all the talk about the latest en primeur releases, it’s worth remembering that good claret can age beautifully. In fact, there are times when mature red Bordeaux stops you in your tracks. This is one of them: a scented, graceful cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot that has classic coffee bean, tobacco leaf and cedar wood top notes, fine-boned, layered tannins and flavours of sweet spices, summer berries and blackcurrant leaf. The wine is sold out on line, but there’s still some available in stores.
Food Match: Lamb
2020 Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta( £23.99, 14.5%, Hedonism, Noel Young Wines, The Secret Cellar )
“Our classic Malbec,” is how Thibaut Delmotte describes this blend of four vineyards at different altitudes – Altura Máxima, Colomé, El Arenal and La Brava. Wonderfully juicy and scented, it’s the perfect introduction to the variety, with intense damson, blueberry and wild thyme flavours, palate-caressing tannins and a tangy finish.
2018 Hill of Grace, Eden Valley( £625, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Tasting Hill of Grace is often a moving experience, especially so in an excellent vintage like 2018. Using vines planted between 1860 and 1965, it’s one of the great wines of Australia as well as the world. Inky, layered and profound, with maturation in an 83/17 combination of French and American barrels, this is a wine that carries its power and concentration comparatively lightly. Five spice, fennel and vanilla pod aromas lead you into a palate that has intensity, focus and, yes, grace, blackberry and blueberry fruit, fleshy, sculpted tannins, deftly handled oak and a lift of freshness and acidity. A world-class wine from a unique site.
2018 Hill of Roses, Eden Valley( £325, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Hill of Roses is made with a Shiraz from the 0.94-hectare Post Office Block 3, located within the Hill of Grace vineyard in the Eden Valley. Replanted by Prue Henschke in 1989 with a much older massal selection from the Grandfathers’ parcel, this is a dense, compact, self-assured Shiraz that’s more Hermitage than Côte Rôtie perhaps. Mint, sage and rose petal aromas segue into a palate of blackberry, damson and dark plums framed by mocha-scented, 25% new French oak. Weighty and intense with the concentration to age convincingly in bottle.
2018 Keyneton Euphonium, Barossa Valley( £44.99, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
A nice homage to the brass bands that still play in the Barossa Valley, Euphonium is a slick, nicely textured cuvée of mostly Shiraz with 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot, using grapes from the Eden Valley and (30%) from the Barossa. Mixing older and younger vines, with ageing in French and 29% American oak, it’s something of a bargain in the Henshcke range. Perfumed and juicy, this displays sweet vanilla and Asian spice top notes, cassis, bramble and blackberry fruit, supple, caressing tannins and the freshness and energy of the 2018 vintage.
2021 Bodega Cerrón Stratum Wines Matas Altas, Jumilla( £15.97, 14%, The Great Wine Co )
Located in Jumilla of all places, Bodega Cerrón is one of my discoveries of 2023. Everything they make is worth buying, but this is arguably their best value red. Made from Monastrell with a 10% field blend of Blanquilla, Bobal, Forcallat and Moravia Agria, it’s a wonderfully vibrant, energetic cuvée from two of the best young winemakers in Spain. Fermented with 15% whole clusters, Matas Altas hails from limestone soils in the high-altitude Fuente-Álamo area and is fresh, focused and stony, with plum and bramble fruit and undertones of clove and white pepper.
2021 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile( £6.50-£7.50, 13.5%, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose )
One of those mass-market wines that rarely, if ever, lets you down, this 26 million bottle blend from Chile’s biggest producer uses grapes from Maule, Rapel and the Maipo Valley. Subtly wooded, with classic blackcurrant pastille, mint and fresh herb flavours and a whisper of oak spices. Outstanding at the price.
2020 Vinos en Voz Baja Costumbres, Rioja Oriental( £16, 14.7%, The Wine Society )
Combining grapes from Autol, Alfaro, Aldeanueva and Rincón de Soto, Costumbres is a regional expression of the Rioja Oriental from talented young winemaker, Carlos Mazo. Garnacha based with 20% co-planted Graciano and white grapes, it’s a very lightly wooded red, showing 100% whole bunch clove spices, subtle tannic grip and layers of plum, raspberry and red cherry fruit. The modern face of Rioja’s warmest sub-region.
2021 Riccitelli Wines Hey! Malbec, Mendoza( £10.99, 14%, Majestic )
“Honest and pure” is how Matías Riccitelli likes to describe this equal blend of Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley Malbecs, now produced as a 200,000 bottle blend. Floral, tangy and bright, Hey! is as appealing as its comic book label, with supple tannins and juicy bramble, aniseed and blackberry flavours. Essence of Argentina at a great price.
NV Tesco Finest Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley( £18, 14.5% )
Tesco has switched to a non-vintage blend for this cuvée of Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault from the pebbly soils of the north-west of the appellation, but the quality is as good as ever. Floral and unwooded, with top notes of sweet spices, appealing power and texture, goji berry, summer pudding and wild herb flavours, this well-judged Châteauneuf-du-Pape is good now but will develop in bottle for a few more years.
2020 The Hedonist Shiraz, McLaren Vale( £11.99, 14%, Waitrose )
If you like your Aussie Shiraz big, ripe and richly wooded, this wine might seem on the light side, but I love its perfume, texture and balance. Subtly oaked in larger French barrels, it has bramble, raspberry and wild herb flavours, supporting freshness, a dusting of five spice and supple, fine-grained tannins. A lot of wine for £11.99.
2020 Vista Castelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Abruzzo( £4.75, 12.5%, Tesco )
For those of us dealing with January credit card bills, not to mention food inflation and energy prices, inexpensive wines like this one are a godsend. Juicy perfumed and crunchy, with lip-smacking bramble, plum, and red cherry fruit, a nip of tannin, fresh acidity. Great with a winter stew.