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.
Winemaker Jean-Claude Martin calls this his “village wine”, produced from 11 different blocks at Creation, tucked away at the top end of the painterly Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Deftly wooded in 10% new barrels, it has an engaging combination of citrus, pear, nutmeg and beeswax flavours lifted by acidity. A very impressive Cape white from a Chardonnay master.
Every bit as good as the much more vaunted (and expensive) wines of Condrieu in the northern Rhône, this is an appealingly rich, scented, heady Viognier from the Languedoc that still manages to keep its feet on the ground. Peach, citrus and honeysuckle notes are framed by nuanced, spicy oak and supported by acidity. Exotic, palate-coating stuff.
I have to admit that I did a double take after I’d sampled this wine. £9.75 for something as complex as Pepe Mendoza’s equal blend of Monastrell and Giró? The Wine Society must have made a typo, surely? But that is indeed the price of his stunning cuvée. Somewhere between a northern Rhône Syrah and a high-altitude Spanish Garnacha in style, despite being produced next to the Mediterranean, it’s peppery, spicy and intense, with a hint of oak, wonderful red berry zip and freshness, appealing acidity and fine-grained, stony tannins. Ludicrously good at under £10.
My discovery of the day at a recent Sud de France tasting in London, this perfumed, lip smacking wine is made by brothers Eric, Pascal and Vincent Laurens in Clairvaux d’Aveyron, near Marcillac. Produced without added sulphur from the local Mansois grape (also known in these parts as Fer Servadou), it’s smooth, bouncy and unwooded, with lots of colour, racy acidity, refreshingly low alcohol and a core of violet and black cherry. Utterly delicious. And if you quote the code ATKIN10 on the Joie de Vin website, you’ll get 10% off the very reasonable bottle price. While stocks last…
One of those wines that’s so good I still want to stop strangers in the street and tell them about it after all these years, Tingelup Riesling has been one of the very best – and best value – wines in the Tesco lineup for as long as I can remember. Made by ace winemaker Janice McDonald of Howard Park in Western Australia, it’s wonderfully tangy, bone dry Aussie white with lime and waxed lemon peel intensity, stony, mouth-watering acidity and a long tapering finish.
Now that we can start having (legal) parties again, this is just the sort of thing I’d like to serve to my friends and family. Sourced from a family-owned winery near Pescara, it’s a fruity, perfumed, unoaked bundle of joy, with lots of lift and texture, layers of plum and red cherry, lively acidity and just enough tannin to give it some food-friendly grip and structure.
Affordable Barolo, like affordable red Burgundy, tends to cost over £20, unless it’s something that should have been distilled long ago. This deliciously drinkable 2017, which shows none of the heat of the vintage, comes from the Ascheri family’s vineyards in the villages of La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba and Verduno. Scented and enticing, with rose petal and dried herbs aromas, savoury, granular tannins and layers of raspberry, plum and sweet spices. Traditional Barolo with a modern twist.
It’s something of a paradox that the best winter reds often come from warm climates that produce throaty, full-bodied wines. This old-vine cuvée from the Portuguese Alentejo region is a case in point. Made with Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelão and Syrah, it’s spicy, intense and textured, unfurling bramble, fig and blackberry flavours in the glass, with a patina of sweet cinnamon oak.
I know I’m running the risk of being accused of favouritism, but I really can’t get enough of the wines made by the brilliant Apostolos Thymiopoulos. The hugely exciting Greek region of Naoussa continues to produce some of the best value reds in Europe from the Xinomavro grape. Mid-way between a Barolo and a Côte de Beaune Pinot Noir in style, this has rose petal and patisserie aromas, red cherry and raspberry fruit, fresh acidity and engaging, granular tannins. A perfect Christmas lunch red.
How does Aldi do it? Very few, if any retailers are as good at sourcing bargain wines from around the world. This is an ambitious Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Alicante Bouschet from coastal Maremma. Rich, serious and dense, with classically savoury tannins, plum, raspberry and tobacco leaf flavours and a dusting of cinnamon sweetness.