Marks & Spencer have culled a lot of the quirkier wines in their range of late, so I’m delighted that this left-field, skin-fermented white from Georgia, the so-called cradle of wine, is still on its shelves. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape in the limestone-dominated area of Kakheti, it has funky, earthy, quince and orange peel flavours and some tannic grip. Dry and unusual, it’s a textbook introduction to wines fermented in clay pots, or qvevri.
Neuburger is an extremely rare grape, even in its native Austria, with only 550 of the country’s 44,000 hectares, but Feiler-Artinger have made something of a specialty of the variety. This is wonderfully perfumed, with very understated oak, peachy, savoury, spicy flavours, plenty of weight and texture. It gives the impression of slight sweetness, but finishes dry, refreshing and well balanced. A wonderful curiosity.
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.
A wine that’s consistently a match for all but the very best (and much more expensive) wines of Pessac-Léognan, this deftly oaked Marlborough Sauvignon ages brilliantly too. Leesy, rich yet beautifully balanced, it combines flavours of vanilla spice, gooseberry fool, lanolin and vivid acidity. One of the region’s very best expressions of the grape.
Neudorf makes some of the most characterful Chardonnays in New Zealand. This is their unoaked, Kiwi-meets-Chablis style that sess no oak, but seven months on lees to pick up some extra texture and weight. Supple and fruity, with notes of white peach and pear, taut acidity and a long, satisfying finish.
Consistently one of New Zealand’s best Chardonnays, this is a rich, leesy, barrel-fermented style that treads the line (successfully, I might add) between opulence and pithy freshness. Citrus, oatmeal and honeyed notes are complemented by subtle vanilla sweetness and lovely, understated concentration.
Youthful, pithy and still quite tight, this barrel-fermented Chenin needs more time in bottle to show what it’s really capable of. Apple, citrus and pear flavours are complemented by stony minerality, some vanilla spice and a tangy, focused finish.
Englishwoman Katie Jones’ old vine releases from the Maury area are improving with every vintage and are now some of the best in the Roussillon. This Grenache Gris shows the variety’s focus, minerality and herbal edge, complemented by notes of pear and beeswax and the faintest kiss of oak.
Mid-way between a single quinta and not-quite-a-vintage Port, this is rich, sweet and easy to drink, but with more structure and concentration than is immediately apparent. Spicy, peppery and showing a little bit of fiery spirit, this has dark, creamy fruit flavours and a complex, chocolatey finish.
A little less concentrated than the Spätlese release (as you’d expect) but this has ghe focus and freshness that are typical of all of Sybille Kuntz’s 2015s. Citrus, green tea and spring flower notes are underpinned by minerally acidity and stony, mouthwatering crispness. As pure as Riesling gets.
Cairanne whites are something of a rarity – even more so than in nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape – but when they are as impressive as this blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne, you wonder why. Textured, complex and oatmealy, this shows deftly interwoven oak, subtle pear and apricot fruit and a mineral flourish.