I enthusiastically recommended the 2017 release of this wine, but I make no excuse for doing the same thing with the 2018. Schiava, otherwise known as Vernatsch, is the grape variety behind this wonderful, old-vine red from a brilliant co-operative in the Italian Alto Adige. Showing the Alpine freshness of a vineyard at 400 metres, it has top notes of rose petal and summer pudding, a core of redcurrant and wild strawberry fruit, racy, palate-tingling acidity, stony minerality and a long, textured, refined finish. Something to remind you of the last days of summer.
Rediscovered as recently as 1994 – people used to think it was Merlot in Chile – Carmenère is a controversial grape, often criticised for being a little too green and vegetal. But in the right spots – and Peumo is definitely one of them – it can make very individual wines with a sense of place. This is a fantastic value example from Concha y Toro, which marries Carmenère with 14% Cabernet Sauvignon for extra structure. Deftly wooded in a combination of French and American wood, it’s smooth, plush and well-balanced, with notes of blackberry, graphite and sweet spices and just the right amount of balancing acidity.
Part of the generally impressive new Classics range from Marks & Spencer, this reminded me what cracking value Chianti can deliver under £10. Made by Cecchi, it’s Sangiovese based with 30% Colorino and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon for extra backbone. Very lightly wooded – what do you expect for £8? – it’s bright, aromatic and savoury, with the classic Italian combination of racy acidity and some tannic grip and layers of red cherry and raspberry fruit. Refreshing and well balanced, it’s just the thing for early autumn drinking.
Sometimes called Pájaro Rojo because of its distinctive red bird label, this entry-point Mencía from Losada’s winemaker Amancio Fernández Gómez is a wonderful example of a distinctive Spanish grape. Produced from old vines on clay soils – not the slate that’s more common in Bierzo – this is plush, lightly oaked and comparatively ripe, with softer tannins and lower acidity than many of its competitors, but showing the variety’s classic red berry fruit and herbal undertone. Appealingly refreshing for a wine with 14.5% alcohol.
La Rioja Alta is one of the most traditional wineries in Haro’s Barrio de la Estación, famous for producing wines that are good to drink on release, but also age beautifully in bottle. This new Gran Reserva, made from Tempranillo with 6% Graciano for added backbone, is very much a reflection of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2014 vintage. La Rioja Alta didn’t make its top two Gran Reservas – 904 and 890 – in 2014, so all of its best grapes were used for Viña Arana. Fine and elegant, with vibrant acidity, notes of coconut and cinnamon from the American oak and a core of savoury, refreshing tobacco leaf and red berry flavours framed by fine, caressing tannins. Old-fashioned Rioja at its glorious best.
Stellenbosch struck gold in 2017, with one of the best ever red wine vintages in the Cape. This refined, well-structured Bordeaux blend, made at one of the most historic properties on the Simonsberg, is unbelievably good value and would wipe the winery floor with similarly priced wines from south-west France. Cassis, black cherry, graphite and cigar box notes are framed by fine, age worthy tannins and bright, refreshing acidity. Some retailers may be on the very good 2018, but the 2017 is the one to go for.
Supplied as an exclusive to the Wine Society – and something of a coup for buyer Toby Morrhall – this is a delicious Pinot Noir from the legendary Chilean winemaker, Ignacio Recabarren. Sold at a very affordable price for a red of this quality, it’s bright, perfumed and gently wooded, with lovely cool climate elegance and zip, black cherry and raspberry fruit and a stony, well-structured finish. Pacific Ocean freshness in a glass.
GR-10 is named after a hiking trail that connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and runs through the Sierra de Gredos. It’s the entry-point red from 4 Monos (their whole range is worth buying) and is a pale, tangy, refreshing cuvée of Garnacha with 10% Cariñena and 5% Syrah. Mostly aged in foudres, with a touch of new, 500-litre oak, it’s a wonderfully refreshing, high-altitude red from vineyards in Cadalso de los Vidrios, San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Cenicientos showing bramble, red cherry and raspberry flavours and refreshing granitic grip.
Cinsault comes in a variety of guises, from the light and fruit to the grippy and substantial. Tertius Boshoff sources this example from a 1972 block that also supplies his rare white Cinsault and it definitely belongs in the latter camp. Fermented with 38% whole bunches, it has some meaty concentration, 18% new oak spice, savoury tannins, layers of bramble and red cherry fruit and considerable structure. A lot of wine for £9.99.
Domaine des Tourelles might not be as famous as Château Musar, at least outside Lebanon, but its wines are every bit as good, albeit in a less quirky style. French-educated Faouzi Issa sourced this intense Carignan from old-vine, organically farmed parcels in the Bekaa Valley, making a wine that is plush, concentrated and unoaked. Carignan can be a slightly rustic grape, but that’s not the case here. Wild herb aromas segue into a palate of raspberry and black cherry fruit, complemented by the freshness of a vineyard at 1,000 metres.
It may not be a popular opinion with Shiraz lovers, but Master of Wine Giles Cooke, who made this wine, thinks that “Grenache is Australia’s signature grape”. It’s certainly one of its most versatile and, I think, underrated varieties. This very lightly wooded example combines fruit from two sub-regions of McLaren Vale (Clarendon and Blewitt Springs) and the less glamorous Riverland and it’s a belter of a red. Juicy, floral and peppery, with some spices from partial whole bunch-fermentation with stems and a core of raspberry, red cherry and wild strawberry fruit. Try it ever so slightly chilled.
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País is Chile’s most historic red grape, but it’s also something new and trendy in many ways. Until comparatively recently, País was blended away into basic reds – the original variety that dared not speak its name – but thanks to the dedication of winemakers in the Itata and Maule Valleys, País has become fashionable. This supple, aromatic, unoaked, red berry and rose petal-scented example was made for Waitrose by Eduardo Jordán of Miguel Torres Chile and its wonderfully fresh, bright and juicy. It’s the kind of red you can drink with fish as well as poultry.