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.
I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a few of Elías López Monetero’s wines from Argentina, but until this week I was unfamiliar with the magic he’s working in La Mancha, the world’s most extensive wine region, known for bulk plonk rather than wines like this. Production of this amphora-fermented and aged Albillo Real (with a splash of Albillo Mayor) is small at 9,000 bottles, but it’s an intriguing, low-intervention white with some bottle age. Low in alcohol, but not in flavour, it has notes of quince, almonds and fresh pastry with a salty dry finish and the complexity and focus to age further.
This very stylish pale rosé is great value at £8.99, but at the offer price of £6.74 until July 7th (as long as you buy six bottles from the overall Waitrose range), it’s the kind of thing that would have people queuing up on the Côte d’Azur if it were available there. Racy, refreshing and delicate, it’s less than half the price of many more famous names but over-delivers in the glass. Textured and well balanced, with raspberry and redcurrant flavours and a satisfying dry finish.
This pioneering white blend of Semillón with 35% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Torrontés from the brilliant Susana Balbo and her team has rapidly established itself as one of the best in Latin America. Barrel fermented in 60% new wood, it’s leesy, toasty and very fresh, with a lovely combination of beeswax, pink grapefruit and struck match flavours, a dusting of sweet spices and engaging elegance. Contact Las Bodegas for local stockists.
Unirrigated bush vines planted in 1983 supply the fruit for this intense, focused, naturally fermented Chenin Blanc from this exceptional family-owned business in the Bottelary Hills. Elegantly oaked, it’s balanced and nuanced with pear, citrus and apple fruit and refreshingly low alcohol. Just the thing to drink on #drinkcheninblanc day tomorrow.
Terret Blanc is one of those very localised grape varieties that you only find in the Languedoc, mostly in the Hérault department. It comes in three, mutated colours – white, red and pink (gris) – and tends to be blended with other varieties. This white version is great value at its normal price of £8.49, but a steal at £6.49. Grown on the sort of clay and limestone soils you find in Burgundy, it has some of the zip, citrus crunch and steeliness of an unoaked Chablis, but with top notes of wild Mediterranean herbs. Long, tangy and refreshing.
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.
The Roussillon region, which forms part of France’s border with Spain, is best known for its reds and fortified wines, but can make surprisingly impressive whites, too. Jérôme Collas makes small amounts of this deliciously characterful white blend from a combination of old-vine Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Macabeu, grown at a cool 350 metres. The result is a taut, herbal, savoury white with refreshing acidity, a nutty, salty tang and hints of white flowers and fresh pears. One of number of great Roussillon selections from Joie de Vin.
Not as well known as the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc releases, but every bit as good in my opinion, this is frequently among my favourite South Island Chardonnays. Toasty, savoury and enticing, it has citrus and beeswax notes supported by fresh, palate cleasning acidity and a nutty finish. Just starting to develop bottle-aged complexity.
The list of impressive Nebbiolo producers outside north-west Italy isn’t a long one, but Steve Pannell, who has worked in Piedmont to familiarise himself with the grape, would definitely be on it. Suitably pale in colour, with the variety’s unique combination of austerity and voluptuousness, firm tannins and sweet, savoury autumnal fruit, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of Barolos.