I wish I’d known about someone like Gilles Bonnefoy when I lived in Clermont-Ferrand back in the 1980s, when good local wines were rare in the Massif Central. This is a wonderfully crunchy, sappy summer red grown on the volcanic soils that are a feature of the region. Made from Gamay, it’s a stony, unwooded delight, with plum and wild strawberry fruit and a satisfying, mineral-edged core.
Here’s a paradox: Bobal is Spain’s second most planted red grape, but doesn’t have much of an image outside the country. Maybe that’s starting to change, thanks to wines like this one from the talented Roselia Molina in the high-altitude Manchuela appellation, where she makes a range of low-intervention reds and whites from organically farmed vineyards at 1,100 metres. Wonderfully peppery, juicy and fresh with amazing vibrancy, plum, wild strawberry and black cherry fruit and a long, zingy finish. Stunning value at around £12.
Bandol rosé isn’t as hip as the pinks from the nearby Côtes de Provence appellation, but it can be every bit as good and often cheaper than celebrity-owned or endorsed brands. This pale, co-fermented cuvée of Grenache with 30% each of Mourvèdre and Cinsault from Philippe Barthès has lovely texture and weight, with a little more grip than many Provençal rosés, juicy watermelon and raspberry fruit and a faint nip of tannin. Boy, would I like to be drinking this in the south of France right now.
Vermentino, or Rolle as its known in France, is one of those grapes that retains acidity in warm climates, like Assyrtiko or Chenin Blanc. So expect to see a lot more of it planted as the impact of climate change is felt around the globe. This crunchy, youthful, white pepper, lime and wild herb-scented Aussie example is bracingly fresh and low in alcohol with a touch of Pinot Grigio and Fiano adding extra weight and perfume.
As well as being a beautiful place to visit, Saint-Chinian is one of the most exciting appellations in the south of France. This is an unoaked SGCM blend of Syrah with 35% Grenache, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre that shows the freshness and grip of the local schist and limestone soils, classic “garrigue” aromas of rosemary, thyme and lavender, supple tannins and layers of blackberry and black olive.
Mathieu Vallée is better known for his spectacular white wines, but the reds aren’t far behind. Since he took over in 2007, he’s established Château Yonne as one of the top producers in Saumur. Organically farmed on limestone soils across seven parcels in the village of Champigny, La Folie is his most approachable red wine cuvée. Fresh, juicy and tangy, with notes of black cherry and mint, chalky acidity and vitality and a bright, energetic finish. Loire Cabernet Franc at its refreshing best.
Grown on its own roots, organically farmed and fermented and aged in traditional clay pots, or tinadas, this is an old-vine wine that could almost give the normally bland, good-for-distillation-but-not-a-lot-else Airén a good name. It’s a brilliant white from Elías López Montero, the subject of one my recent #corktalk podcasts incidentally, showing notes of pear, orange zest and citrus, with creamy lees, wonderful texture and a taut, refreshing finish.
I don’t drink much claret these days, but I had a bottle of this during an online MW Mates tasting with my friend Anne McHale MW and it made me fall in love with Bordeaux all over again. Château du Moulin Rouge, which predates the famous Parisian cabaret with a similar name, is a very well-placed Cru Bourgeois between Margaux and St. Julien making wines of cru classé quality. Unusually for the left bank, this is Merlot dominated, with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. For me, it confirms the class and balance of the 2016 vintage, showing flavours of plum, back cherry and cassis complemented by notes of cedar wood and graphite, appealing freshness and fine, deftly integrated tannins.
Calling all Burgundy and Barolo drinkers in search of a bargain! Greek Xinomavro has become one of my go-to wine styles over the last year and this is a delicious example of its charms from a traditional producer. Benefiting from a few years in bottle before release, it’s pale, scented and enticing, with aromas of rose petal and rosemary, savoury red cherry and tobacco leaf flavours, sinewy tannins, understated wood and thrilling freshness and minerality.
Chilean Chardonay is on a roll right now, especially when it’s from vineyards in the cooler areas of the country close to the Pacific or way down south, which is the case here. The brilliant Marcelo Retamal buys the grapes for this world-class white from Francisco Baettig’s increasingly famous vineyard in Malleco. There was a little rain during the growing season, so the wine has a little bit of “noble rot” (botrytis) character, which adds a drizzle of honeyed complexity to its chiselled, racy, well-balanced palate, exhibiting flavours of cashew nut, citrus and wet stones. The oak is very understated, which is the case with all the De Martino wines.
Viognier is a tricky grape to get right. Pick it too late and it can be flabby, pick it too early and it lacks the texture and richness that are its hallmarks. Laurent Miquel is one of only a handful of people outside the northern Rhône Valley who consistently gets the variety spot on. This single parcel expression from the lieu-dit of La Vérité has textbook flavours of ginger, apricots and cream with a hint of oak spice and perfectly judged acidity for balance.
The four friends who run this small, yet hugely exciting winery in the hills of Ribeira Sacra specialise in hunting down tiny vineyard plots and turning them into refreshing, refined, palate-cleansing reds. This is potpourri of at least five local grapes – Mencía, Mouratón, Garnacha Tintorera, Caiño and Bastardo – and is a like a Spanish take on Beaujolais mixed with a little Syrah and Cabernet Franc, albeit with a personality that is all its own. Scented, peppery and elegant, it has notes of rose petal, tangerine and red berries with crunchy acidity, granular tannins and a long, spicy finish. Utterly delicious.