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.
Given the high prices of top red Burgundy these days, we Pinot Noir lovers are always on the lookout for more affordable examples of our favourite red grape. Chile is a good place to start, but I don’t think it can compete with the quality of this Romanian red. Sourced as an exclusive parcel for Majestic, it tastes as good as it looks. Racy, supple and perfumed, with raspberry, pomegranate and wild strawberry flavours, tangy acidity and fine-grained tannins. Remarkable at £6.49.
Albariño is fast becoming one of my favourite grapes, not only in its native Portugal and north-west Spain, but in Uruguay and Argentina too. It’s a variety that’s drinkable young but ages really well too. This wine from Katia Álvarez and Martín Códax is a single vineyard expression that looks as good it tastes. Tangy, crisp and wonderfully focused, with citrus, green apple and sea salt flavours, wonderful texture and enduring palate length. Seafood heaven.
We Pinot Noir lovers are always looking for great value examples of our favourite red grape, but I think it’s fair to say that we don’t often find them in California. That’s what makes this example from Schug Cellars in the sprawling Sonoma Coast appellation such an exciting discovery. Bright, spicy and enticingly perfumed, with a hint of oak, red cherry and wild strawberry fruit, tangy acidity and textured, fine-grained tannins.
Portugal’s Douro Valley is best known for Port, of course, and increasingly for the quality of its dry reds, but its best whites can be every bit as exciting. This brilliant value blend combines four local grapes – Viosinho, Arinto, Rabigato and Gouveio – from vineyards at over 600 metres and is a stony, tangy, aromatic delight. Gracefully wooded in 500-litre barrels, it has notes of honeysuckle, lime and citrus peel, with a dusting of vanilla spice and a zingy finish.
My friend Anita served this wine blind to me yesterday and asked me to guess the price? “£20?” I replied. “Try £6.99 from Aldi,” she said. So I have no hesitation in recommending this remarkable bottle as my wine of the week. It’s the kind of thing that deserves to sell by the container load. Peach, pear and fresh lime flavours are complemented by tangy acidity and a herbal undertone. The bottle looks great too. What are you waiting for?
Chile is not as well known for Chardonnay as it is for Sauvignon Blanc, but it should be, given the quality of what’s being produced in places like Casablanca, Malleco and Limarí. This unoaked version from the country’s biggest winery, Concha y Toro, is ludicrously good value, with taut, tangy, chalky freshness, notes of lemongrass and melon and a creamy mid palate from time on its fermentation lees. Watch out, Chablis.
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.
Aligoté used to be regarded as something of a second-class grape in Burgundy – fit for Kir Royale or impoverished white wine drinkers on a budget – but climate change is altering its status in a region where Chardonnay sometimes struggles to retain acidity in earlier, hotter vintages like 2020. This unoaked example is wonderfully fresh, taut and mouthwatering with no oak to clutter its pure, citrus and green apple flavours and some added texture from malolactic fermentation.
Falanghina is one of southern Italy’s oldest grape varieties – its name derives from the Latin word falangae (phalanx) as vineyards were said to resemble the military formation used by the Romans – and deserves to be better known outside its country of origin. This unwooded example comes from one of the best producers in the region and is a lovely combination of musk, white flower and wild herb aromas, racy, palate-cleansing acidity and some lees-aged derived richness.
The youthful Giulia Negri makes this wonderful declassified Barolo from younger vines in the Serradenari vineyard in La Morra, one of the highest sites in the denominazione. Organically farmed and refreshing, it’s a graceful, elegant Nebbiolo showing the freshness of its high-altitude source, beguiling rose petal and old strawberry aromas, a focused, nuanced palate and just the right amount of tannic backbone and acidity. Ludicrously good at the price.