For all the talk about the latest en primeur releases, it’s worth remembering that good claret can age beautifully. In fact, there are times when mature red Bordeaux stops you in your tracks. This is one of them: a scented, graceful cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot that has classic coffee bean, tobacco leaf and cedar wood top notes, fine-boned, layered tannins and flavours of sweet spices, summer berries and blackcurrant leaf. The wine is sold out on line, but there’s still some available in stores.
Food Match: Spicy
2020 Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta( £23.99, 14.5%, Hedonism, Noel Young Wines, The Secret Cellar )
“Our classic Malbec,” is how Thibaut Delmotte describes this blend of four vineyards at different altitudes – Altura Máxima, Colomé, El Arenal and La Brava. Wonderfully juicy and scented, it’s the perfect introduction to the variety, with intense damson, blueberry and wild thyme flavours, palate-caressing tannins and a tangy finish.
2018 Hill of Grace, Eden Valley( £625, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Tasting Hill of Grace is often a moving experience, especially so in an excellent vintage like 2018. Using vines planted between 1860 and 1965, it’s one of the great wines of Australia as well as the world. Inky, layered and profound, with maturation in an 83/17 combination of French and American barrels, this is a wine that carries its power and concentration comparatively lightly. Five spice, fennel and vanilla pod aromas lead you into a palate that has intensity, focus and, yes, grace, blackberry and blueberry fruit, fleshy, sculpted tannins, deftly handled oak and a lift of freshness and acidity. A world-class wine from a unique site.
2018 Hill of Roses, Eden Valley( £325, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Hill of Roses is made with a Shiraz from the 0.94-hectare Post Office Block 3, located within the Hill of Grace vineyard in the Eden Valley. Replanted by Prue Henschke in 1989 with a much older massal selection from the Grandfathers’ parcel, this is a dense, compact, self-assured Shiraz that’s more Hermitage than Côte Rôtie perhaps. Mint, sage and rose petal aromas segue into a palate of blackberry, damson and dark plums framed by mocha-scented, 25% new French oak. Weighty and intense with the concentration to age convincingly in bottle.
2018 Mount Edelstone, Eden Valley( £150, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
It might not have the power and density of Hill of Grace, but Mount Edelstone is one hell of a wine in its own right. Vibrant, fresh and energetic, it’s the most northern Rhône like of the Henschke releases. Sourced from vines planted on red clay loam soils, the 2018 is a dry-grown, ungrafted delight. Matured in a 77/23 split of French and American oak, this is effortlessly complex and nuanced, with plum, black fig and blueberry fruit, lots of zip and acidity, a sheen of vanilla and potpourri spice, lots of understated concentration and a lingering kiss of a finish.
2018 Cyril Henschke, Eden Valley( £125, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Cyril Henschke has been a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon in the past – the last time was in 2016 – but benefited from the addition of 2% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc in 2018. Named after Stephen Henschke’s father, it hails from a single north-facing parcel that was planted in the 1960s. Gracefully aged in 10% new French oak, it’s a deceptively forward wine that will reward cellaring. Svelte, elegant and focused, with layered tannins, mint, bramble and blackcurrant leaf flavours, a whiff of violet and the granular tannins that are a Henschke hallmark.
2018 Keyneton Euphonium, Barossa Valley( £44.99, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
A nice homage to the brass bands that still play in the Barossa Valley, Euphonium is a slick, nicely textured cuvée of mostly Shiraz with 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot, using grapes from the Eden Valley and (30%) from the Barossa. Mixing older and younger vines, with ageing in French and 29% American oak, it’s something of a bargain in the Henshcke range. Perfumed and juicy, this displays sweet vanilla and Asian spice top notes, cassis, bramble and blackberry fruit, supple, caressing tannins and the freshness and energy of the 2018 vintage.
2021 Bodega Cerrón Stratum Wines Matas Altas, Jumilla( £15.97, 14%, The Great Wine Co )
Located in Jumilla of all places, Bodega Cerrón is one of my discoveries of 2023. Everything they make is worth buying, but this is arguably their best value red. Made from Monastrell with a 10% field blend of Blanquilla, Bobal, Forcallat and Moravia Agria, it’s a wonderfully vibrant, energetic cuvée from two of the best young winemakers in Spain. Fermented with 15% whole clusters, Matas Altas hails from limestone soils in the high-altitude Fuente-Álamo area and is fresh, focused and stony, with plum and bramble fruit and undertones of clove and white pepper.
2021 Riccitelli Wines Hey! Malbec, Mendoza( £10.99, 14%, Majestic )
“Honest and pure” is how Matías Riccitelli likes to describe this equal blend of Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley Malbecs, now produced as a 200,000 bottle blend. Floral, tangy and bright, Hey! is as appealing as its comic book label, with supple tannins and juicy bramble, aniseed and blackberry flavours. Essence of Argentina at a great price.
NV Tesco Finest Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley( £18, 14.5% )
Tesco has switched to a non-vintage blend for this cuvée of Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault from the pebbly soils of the north-west of the appellation, but the quality is as good as ever. Floral and unwooded, with top notes of sweet spices, appealing power and texture, goji berry, summer pudding and wild herb flavours, this well-judged Châteauneuf-du-Pape is good now but will develop in bottle for a few more years.
2020 The Hedonist Shiraz, McLaren Vale( £11.99, 14%, Waitrose )
If you like your Aussie Shiraz big, ripe and richly wooded, this wine might seem on the light side, but I love its perfume, texture and balance. Subtly oaked in larger French barrels, it has bramble, raspberry and wild herb flavours, supporting freshness, a dusting of five spice and supple, fine-grained tannins. A lot of wine for £11.99.
2021 Pepe Mendoza Pureza Moscatel, Alicante( £15.50, 12.5%, The Wine Society )
Pepe Mendoza is one the best producers in the Alicante region, using old methods – fermentation in amphoras in this case – and local grapes such as Moscatel de Alejandría to produce wines of great character, elegance and refinement. This engagingly scented white has jasmine and orange peel aromas, good concentration and structure and flavours of quince, lemon zest and tangerine, complemented by a tangy, dry finish.