A Pencopolitano is a native of Pedro Parra’s native city of Concepción, where it is surprisingly difficult to find examples of the local wines in restaurants. (I know, I’ve tried.) This is a blend of Cinsault with 33% País and has more structure and acidity than the pure Cinsaults in which Parra specialises. Dry-farmed vineyards in Guarilihue and Portezuelo supply the grapes here, with 30% whole bunches adding some spice and structure to the raspberry, redcurrant and red plum flavours. The finish has some sinewy grip.
Made from the extremely rare Giró grape, which probably came to Alicante from Sardinia in the 17th century, this is part of a brilliant range from the ever-creative Pepe Mendoza. Sourced from a bush vine site planted on red clay soils in 1943, it has a wonderful combination of freshness and presence, with savoury tannins, red cherry and will herb flavours and levels of acidity that are reminiscent of Italy rather than Spain.
Made with a selection of the co-operative’s most venerable vineyards, this hails from plots that are all over 100 years’ old. It’s an oxidatively handled style that will appeal to fans of traditional white Rioja, with a mix of French and American oak, lots of toast and spices and flavours of pear, saffron and beeswax underpinned by salinity. Developing nicely in bottle.
Xinomavro is one of those grape varieties that ought to be wider known, but isn’t because it’s mostly confined to northern Greece. Crafted by the talented Apostolos Thymiopoulos, this example from Naoussa is way less toothsome than some examples, partly because it’s made with fruit from young vines. Peppery, spicy and scented, it’s like a cross between a Gamay and a Nebbiolo. with rose petal aromas, red cherry and raspberry fruit, tangy acidity, hints of liquorice and mint and a nip of underlying tannin. Ludicrously good value at only £10.95.
Rediscovered as recently as 1994 – people used to think it was Merlot in Chile – Carmenère is a controversial grape, often criticised for being a little too green and vegetal. But in the right spots – and Peumo is definitely one of them – it can make very individual wines with a sense of place. This is a fantastic value example from Concha y Toro, which marries Carmenère with 14% Cabernet Sauvignon for extra structure. Deftly wooded in a combination of French and American wood, it’s smooth, plush and well-balanced, with notes of blackberry, graphite and sweet spices and just the right amount of balancing acidity.
Aldi has a deserved reputation for sourcing very drinkable wines under £5 – much harder than you think given exorbitant duty rates in the UK – but this is something else altogether. I’ve tasted much less exciting Viogniers at three times the price. Classically smooth and voluptuous, with flavours of peaches, cream and nectarine and just the right amount of supporting acidity. Outrageously good at the price.
Gerd Stepp used to work at Marks & Spencer before he went back to his native Germany to make wine again. Our loss was the Pfalz’s gain, as this is one of the best dry Rieslings on the market for £15 or under. Sourced from the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard on soils with a high percentage of limestone, it’s wonderfully racy, taut and complex with some creamy weight from six months on its fermentation lees, pithy minerality, lime, jasmine and wet stone notes and a thrilling finish.
Made with six different varieties – nothing compared with Châteuneuf-du-Pape’s 14, but still quite a large number – this is a superb, modern, Grenache-dominated Cairanne, which carries its comparatlvely high alcohol lightly, thanks to the structure and acidity of the 2015 vintage. Spicy tapenade and wild herb aromas segue into a smooth, deftly oaked palate with very fine tannins and a core of sweet, tarry blackberry and blueberry fruit. Outstanding value.
A wine that tastes as good as it looks, this is made by my fellow Master of Wine, Giles Cooke (we passed in the same year), who donates all of the profits to charity. Sourced from the Ebenezer sub-region of the Barossa Valley, it’s rich, but well balanced, with subtle oak, refreshing acidity, fine-grained tannins and sweet bramble and bluberry fruit. Long and refreshing with a savoury tang.
Spain has grubbed up a depressing amount of its Garnacha plantings in the last 20 years, but the grape is still capable of great things, even at this sort of very affordable price. Hailing from the high altitude Grelos Mountains near Madrid, this is a remarkably fresh, refined wine that nods towards Pinot Noir and Cinsault in style. Tangy acidity, raspberry and redcurrant fruit and a long refreshing finish are complemented by silky tannins. Stunning value.
Steve Pannell was making great Grenache in McLaren Vale before the variety began to enjoy its modern renaissance as the so-called “Pinot of the south”. This combines plum and raspberry fruit sweetness with a backbone of tannin and refreshing acidity, supporting the concentration of the old vine fruit. The oaking is almost imperceptible here.
Who would imagine that the unfancied Côtes du Vivarais could produce a 50/50 Syrah/Grenache blend that tastes as good as anything at this price in the Rhône Valley. Spice and fresh tobacco notes, with some stemmy, whole bunch flavours, focused, mineral-edged red fruits, fine tannins and delicious perfume and balance. One of my discoveries of the summer.