Bill Downie is best known for his extraordinary Pinot Noirs, which rank among the best in Australia, but he’s no slouch when it comes to making Syrah either, as this Southern Yarra Valley example demonstrates. Spicy, refreshing and subtly oaked this is made using what Downie calls “enhanced biodynamics”. The acidity, structure and perfume of the wine, with a savoury undertone from whole bunch fermentation, are deliciously well integrated.
Oddbins pioneered Greeek wines in the UK and continues to do a great job of promoting its individual, invariably good value wines. Try this pale, complex Xynomavro, which tastes like a cross between a red Burgundy and a Barolo. The tannins need food to show at their best.
The “white coats” in the name refers to the limestone soils that give this remarkable Cabernet Franc its refreshing minerality. Pure, almost transparent winemaking allows the terroir to speak. Grassy, elegant and refined with a long, polished finish and filigree tannins.
It’s not the easiest grape in the world to love (those tannins can be a little firm, like a Greek version of the Portuguese Baga grape) but Agiorgitiko is that country’s best variety. This is a very fruity example, but it’s still got backbone and acidity behind the chalky red cherry and pomegranate flavours. Make sure you eat this with robust food or cheese.
Fascinating to taste this wine under screwcap and cork and perform a contrast and compare job. They are both excellent, as you’d expect from a top producer in an outstanding vintage, but I slightly prefer the brightness and purity of the screwcapped wine. Fresh and elegant, with pure raspberry and cherrystone fruit, subtle oak and the chalky minerality that’s so typical of Serralunga.
Is this New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir? It’s certainly in the top half dozen examples of the grape, a wine that nods towards Chambolle-Musigny as much as its native North Island. It’s a subtle, fragrant red with silky tannins, sustaining acidity, chalky minerality and a stylishly judged balance of oak, fruit and tannin. Winemaking of a high order.
What do you get when you cross Paul Hobbs, one of the leading New World wine consultants and a man who makes his own wines in Argetina, with a Frenchman producing wine in Cahors? The answer is something pretty special, a rich, ripe, but well balanced Malbec that sits midway between France and Argentina in style, with some of the perfume and plushness of the former and the structure of the latter. Inky, floral and refined with notes of plum and black cherry and sweet oak.
A lightly oaked Chardonnay that still shows all the Neudorf hallmarks: weight, power, spice and complexity, with sweet stone and tropical fruit underpinned by acidity. The oak, as ever, is deftly handled here, showing notes of cinnamon and nutmeg spice.
“Martinborough in a cool year on a razor’s edge,” is how Lance Redgwell describes the growing season that produced this impressive Syrah from the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s got the classic, cool climate notes of black pepper and smoked meat, combined with notes of incense, iodine and subtle oak. Spicy and intense, yet refreshing at the same time, it’s the kind of wine that makes you wonder why the Kiwis don’t plant more Syrah.
I was sent this wine direct from France, so I don’t have a UK stockist for it, but it surely won’t be long before someone imports it, because it’s one of the best red wines I’ve ever had from the Roussillon region. Made from a combination of Grenace and Syrah, grown on three different soil types, it’s a marvel. Deeply coloured, concentrated, yet not over-ripe or pruney in the least (something that’s not true of a lot of dry Maury reds) it’s mineral and tangy, with a chalky undertone and flavours of balckberry, plum and sweet Asian spices. A remarkable red wine.
João Portugal (yes, that’s his name) Ramos makes some of the best value reds in Iberia. This southerrn Portuguese blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira and Castelão is well up to his usual high standards, combining flavours of blackberry, bramble and orange zest in a wine that’s fruity, refreshing, yet substantial enough to serve with red meat.
Like the 2008 vintage of El Inosolente, this is made entirely from bush vine Carignan grown in the Itata Valley. If anything, it’s a step up in quality, which is saying a good deal. Deeply coloured and concentrated, yet not heavy or ponderous in any way, this is a wine that’s all about fruit and balance rather than oak and extraction. Perfumed, savoury and refreshing, with bramble and balckberry fruit, firm but harmonious tannins and a long, refreshing finish.