For those of us dealing with January credit card bills, not to mention food inflation and energy prices, inexpensive wines like this one are a godsend. Juicy perfumed and crunchy, with lip-smacking bramble, plum, and red cherry fruit, a nip of tannin, fresh acidity. Great with a winter stew.
The Voor Paardeberg is sometimes described as “Swartland Lite”, to distinguish it from the wines made on the other side the mountain, but the region has come into its own in the last five years. This is one of a growing number of stand-alone Grenache Blancs being made around the world, especially in warm regions where the variety retains its acidity. Tangy, pithy and well-structured, with layers of complexity from ageing in barrel, terracotta and stainless steel, as well as 30% malolactic, it has citrus, camomile, aniseed and wet stone flavours and thrilling minerality.
Sourced from the Cantina di Valpantena, the sort of place that could give Italian co-operatives a good name, this is a superb, well-balanced cuvée of Corvina and 30% Rondinella. Made from dried grapes in the classic Amarone fashion, it has plenty of power and depth, just a touch of sweetness, plum, fig, Christmas cake and liquorice flavours and lovely supporting acidity.
At the reduced price – hurry because the offer ends next week – this is the best value Chianti Classico in the UK right now. Made with the help of veteran consultant Attilio Pagli, it’s a spicy, floral, perfumed Sangiovese, with impressive underlying structure, violet, plum and red cherry notes and subtle hints of clove, tobacco and oregano. Very tasty.
Way less funky or evolved than some of the Georgian reds that are fermented and aged in traditional clay pots (qvevri), this delicious red confirms Saperavi’s reputation as a world-class grape. Dark and brooding, with bramble, liquorice, damson and five spice flavours, plenty of refreshing acidity and well-managed, layered tannins. A delightful modern twist on an historic unwooded style.
The 2020 release of Concha y Toro’s top Bordeaux red is something of a triumph over the demanding vintage conditions, which were the hottest and driest in Don Melchor’s thirty-four year history. Featuring a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot, it managed to sidestep the torrid conditions, thanks to a combination of early picking – three weeks to a month, depending on the parcel – and the talent and experience of long-term winemaker, Enrique Tirado. Deftly oaked in 71% new oak, it has alluring graphite and dried herb aromas, cassis, fig and red berry fruit, serious but not overwhelming tannins and more finesse and freshness in its youth than the 2017 with which Tirado rightly compares it.
Waitrose’s Loved & Found range is a great value source of lesser known varieties. This one is made from the very rare French grape Loin de l’Oeil – easier to drink than it is to pronounce – and packs a lot of flavour for a sub-£10 white. Tangy and juicy, with layers of pink grapefruit and nectarine, some weight from ageing on its fermentation lees and a bright, chalky finish. Delicious stuff from Jean-Noël Barrau.
Painter of Light is a superb expression of one of Essex’s finest vineyards, made by the talented Sergio Verrillo. With aromas of struck match and popcorn, it’s fresh and elegant, with racy acidity and a cheesy, salty, nutty palate with subtle stone fruit undertones. Weighty without being fat, it’s what great pre-climate change Chablis used to taste like. One of England’s finest whites.
If you love Pinot Noir, then the chances are that you’ll appreciate its slightly more rustic Sicilian cousin, Nerello Mascalese. This comes from volcanic soils at 800 metres on the northern slopes of Mount Etna and is appealingly floral and intense, with rose petal and a hint of earth on the nose, lots of tangy focus and grip, very subtle integration and a lovely combination of sinewy tannins, wild strawberry and red cherry fruit and a dusting of Mediterranean herbs.
It’s rare to find really good Californian Pinot Noir under £20 a bottle, especially if it comes from the ultra-trendy Russian River area. This is elegant, precise and very lightly oaked, with aromas of fennel and sweet baking spices, a palate of wild strawberry and goji berries, silky tannins and the supporting acidity that you’d expect from a region with cool Pacific influence. Fantastic value.
It’s something of a paradox. How can a region as hot as Portugal’s Douro Valley, home of full-throttle Ports, also produce elegant, graceful white wines? The answer lies in site selection, picking dates and the acidity of the local grapes. This cuvée of Rabigato, Gouveio, Viosinho and Arinto is a delicious example from winemaker Rodrigo Martins. It’s both lightly tropical and refreshing, with notes of caramelised pineapple, pear and green apple, fresh, almost salty acidity and a hint of kerosene that’s reminiscent of an aged Riesling. Remarkable at the price.
Antinori is one of those producers that rarely, if ever, lets you down, producing everything from good value reds like this Super Tuscan blend to some of the finest wines in Italy. Sangiovese-based with support from 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, it’s wonderfully scented, smooth and sensitively oaked, displaying flavours of cassis, red cherry and Mediterranean herbs supported by fine-boned tannins and refreshing acidity. Really good at the price.