Apostolos Thymiopoulos is one of the hottest properties in Greece at the moment, making some of that country’s very best reds and rosés. His top wines fetch steep prices, but you can get a glimpse of what all the brouhaha is about by buying a bottle of this young-vine cuvée of Xinomvaro from the Naoussa region. Effortlessly juicy, sappy and thirst quenching, it has redcurrant and raspberry fruit flavours, a hint of rhubarb and a whisper of wild Mediterranean herbs. My happy juice.
Originally founded by a Spanish journalist, Finca Sandoval has been one of the driving forces behind the revival of the high-altitude Manchuela denominación de origen, located close to the Mediterranean on the slopes of the Cuenca mountains. Based on Bobal, the most important local grape, with support from four other rare varieties and a splash of more international Syrah, this is juicy, vibrant and entirely unwooded, with understated old-vine concentration, raspberry, plum and strawberry flavours, granular tannins and a fresh, chalky finish.
It’s unusual to come across a Châteauneuf-du-Pape that’s a blend of vintages, but this one from Julie Rouffignac uses wines from four different harvests – 2017, 2017, 2020 and 2021 – to weave its magic. Pairing Grenache with 40% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre and 1% Cinsault, it’s an unwooded delight that’s perfect for an autumn meal, with notes of fig, bramble and red berries, layers of pepper and clove spice and a savoury finish.
The Wine Society sources this delicious introduction to the delights of Nebbiolo from Rizzi’s younger vine parcels in the Barbaresco appellation. Entirely fermented in stainless steel, with no oak ageing, it’s a floral, almost graceful expression of the variety, with comparatively smooth tannins, notes of potpourri, cranberry and red cherry and a long, bright, tapering finish.
Pepe Mendoza is Alicante’s most celebrated winemaker, well known for the quality of his reds and whites as well as their outstanding value for money. This lightly wooded cuvée marries equal amounts of Monastrell and the rare Giró grape and is a charming, enticing delight. Aromas of rose petal and Turkish Delight segue into a palate that’s savoury and spicy, all white pepper, thyme and summer berries and a nip of tannin.
Is Cabernet Franc getting the recognition it deserves? I think so. As its stock rises in New World countries like Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa, so consumers are also catching on to what this wonderful variety can produce in its home base, France’s Loire Valley. Entirely unwooded, this has engaging freshness, violet and capsicum aromas, racy plum and black cherry fruit, lots of vibrant acidity and finely judged tannins. A red wine that you can chill.
The middle of a trio of so-called Mediterranean vintages, 2016 generally produced wines with good concentration and ageing potential. That’s certainly the case with the impressive Viña Arana release, which shows impressive depth, energy and presence. Aged in La Rioja Alta’s signature American oak barrels, it’s a well judged blend of Tempranillo from three vineyards in Rodezno with grippy 5% Graciano from Fuenmayor. It has classic aromas of dried coconut, cinnamon and baking spices, plenty of acidity, undertones of baked earth and wild herbs, plum and reds berry fruit flavours and graceful, fine-grained tannins. Very drinkable now, but will cellar well, as La Rioja Alta’s wines so often do.
I’m regularly impressed by the Discovery Collection label at Sainsbury’s, as it offers unusual wines at decent prices. This is an unoaked south-west French blend of local Négrette with more widely planted Malbec. Youthful, sappy and refreshing, it has lovely bramble and black cherry fruit flavours, spicy, savoury tannins and the underlying concentration and structure to stand up to the smokiness of a summer barbecue.
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.
“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.
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.
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.