A wine of the week for you to sip while listening to my latest cork talk podcast with Jean-Marc Lafage, this remarkable cuvée of mostly Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris and 20% Roussanne is one of the most exciting whites I’ve tasted from the Roussillon region in ages. Citrus, fennel and thyme flavours are embellished by stylish nutmeg oak, with stony intensity adding another dimension of freshness to the finish.
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.
I thought this seafood friendly Sicilian white was really good value at £8.99, but it’s even better on offer at £6.74. Picked at night to retain acidity and sourced from vineyards at 400 metres in the foothills of Mount Aurelian, it’s suitably tangy and refreshing with no wood to interrupt the precision or vibrancy of the fruit flavours. Salty and briney, with a stony undertone, wild herb and citrus intensity and a refreshing, tapering finish.
Sauvignon Blanc can be a one-glass wine, but this is an example that makes you want to share and finish the bottle. Made for Tesco by long-term supplier Fournier Père & Fils, it’s a wonderfully perfumed, pithy, stony Loire white with notes of green herbs, elderflower and lime, zesty acidity and a chalky, almost salty tang. The best sub-£15 Sauvignon on the high street right now.
Vermentino, or Rolle as its known in France, is one of those grapes that retains acidity in warm climates, like Assyrtiko or Chenin Blanc. So expect to see a lot more of it planted as the impact of climate change is felt around the globe. This crunchy, youthful, white pepper, lime and wild herb-scented Aussie example is bracingly fresh and low in alcohol with a touch of Pinot Grigio and Fiano adding extra weight and perfume.
This Grenache Gris vineyard was the first that Katie Jones bought back in 2009 before she set up her brilliant business in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Every bit as good as the 2017, it’s wonderfully herbal and fresh, with notes of greengage, aniseed, thyme and lemon zest, benefiting from the concentration of old vines and finishing with length and elegance.
So much Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tastes as if it’s come out of the same bottomless tank, that it’s a pleasure to come across something that restores your faith in the quality of New Zealand’s most popular wine style. Made by Master of Wine Liam Stevenson, this was picked early (by hand, not machine) and fermented with lots of solids in old French oak barrels. Dry, savoury and complex, it has appealing notes of gunflint and elderflower with subtle oak and a hint of passion fruit. Very smart.
Master of Wine Liam Stevenson wrote his dissertation about Priorat and was inspired by the white wines of the region to produce a Garnacha Blanca in nearby Terra Alta. This is made in partnership with another MW, Mark Pygott, and is excellent value. Leesy, intense and very lightly wooded, it has grapefruit and lemon peel flavours, a dusting of baking spices, stony minerality and top notes of jasmine and hawthorn blossom.
Production is small on these Pequeñas Vinícolas wines, alas, but the quality is very impressive indeed. This is an experimental cuvée of Macabeo and Merseguera, aged in amphora under a veil of the flor yeast. It’s an engagingly complex white with notes of wild flowers, camomile tea, tangerine peel and a hint of sea salt. Yeasty and long, it’s one of Spain’s greatest Mediterranean whites. Utterly delicious.
Gascony used to be regarded as foie gras and Armagnac country (not necessarily at the same time) until the Producers Plaimont co-operative came along and changed the image of the region’s dry reds and whites. Le Faîte is their top white blend, made from a trio of local grapes – Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu – and is a stunning cuvée, somewhere between a Spanish Albariño and a Greek Assyrtiko in style. Pithy, saline and very complex, with quince, apple and grapefruit flavours, mouth-watering acidity and the concentration to age brilliantly in bottle.
At its most basic, Vinho Verde is Portugal’s quaffing white, but it can also aspire to more profound things. This is a case in point. Made solely from the Loureiro grape, it combines freshness and lightness of touch with concentration and profundity. Crisp, saline and wonderfully aromatic, with notes of fresh pine, gala melon and lemon zest, no spritz, and a long, chiselled finish. The perfect drink for a hot summer’s day.
This very stylish pale rosé is great value at £8.99, but at the offer price of £6.74 until July 7th (as long as you buy six bottles from the overall Waitrose range), it’s the kind of thing that would have people queuing up on the Côte d’Azur if it were available there. Racy, refreshing and delicate, it’s less than half the price of many more famous names but over-delivers in the glass. Textured and well balanced, with raspberry and redcurrant flavours and a satisfying dry finish.