Sometimes called Pájaro Rojo because of its distinctive red bird label, this entry-point Mencía from Losada’s winemaker Amancio Fernández Gómez is a wonderful example of a distinctive Spanish grape. Produced from old vines on clay soils – not the slate that’s more common in Bierzo – this is plush, lightly oaked and comparatively ripe, with softer tannins and lower acidity than many of its competitors, but showing the variety’s classic red berry fruit and herbal undertone. Appealingly refreshing for a wine with 14.5% alcohol.
Made from old vines grown at 750 metres in the village of La Seca, this is a brilliant value Verdejo from Bodegas Naia, which tastes every bit as good it looks. Combining unoaked and lightly wooded components, both of them aged on their lees for four months, it has a winning combination of pear and citrus fruit framed by subtle oak spice and a taut, chalky, mineral-edged tang.
The really top Grüners can be expensive, but it’s amazing how much flavour and personality Austria’s most widely planted and distinctive grape can deliver at just £12.49. This single vineyard example from Manfred Felsner hails from one of the best sites in Gedersdorf and is fresh, peppery and intense, with pear and citrus peel notes, refreshingly low alcohol and a long, stony, persistent finish. A really good introduction to an under-valued variety.
Muscadet is something of a forgotten area these days, but at its best this Atlantic-influenced Loire region can make truly sublime whites that are both complex and affordable. This example from the Drouard brothers was fermented in chestnut wood – not something you find much in France or elsewhere these days – and is refreshing, textured and layered, with notes of pear and citrus, leesy weight, a hint of wood spice and a dry, tapering, almost salty finish. As good as many Chablis Premiers Crus, this is a Melon de Bourgogne that tastes like a classy white Burgundy. For local stockists, contact Daniel Lambert.
Supplied as an exclusive to the Wine Society – and something of a coup for buyer Toby Morrhall – this is a delicious Pinot Noir from the legendary Chilean winemaker, Ignacio Recabarren. Sold at a very affordable price for a red of this quality, it’s bright, perfumed and gently wooded, with lovely cool climate elegance and zip, black cherry and raspberry fruit and a stony, well-structured finish. Pacific Ocean freshness in a glass.
Unirrigated bush vines planted in 1983 supply the fruit for this intense, focused, naturally fermented Chenin Blanc from this exceptional family-owned business in the Bottelary Hills. Elegantly oaked, it’s balanced and nuanced with pear, citrus and apple fruit and refreshingly low alcohol. Just the thing to drink on #drinkcheninblanc day tomorrow.
GR-10 is named after a hiking trail that connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and runs through the Sierra de Gredos. It’s the entry-point red from 4 Monos (their whole range is worth buying) and is a pale, tangy, refreshing cuvée of Garnacha with 10% Cariñena and 5% Syrah. Mostly aged in foudres, with a touch of new, 500-litre oak, it’s a wonderfully refreshing, high-altitude red from vineyards in Cadalso de los Vidrios, San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Cenicientos showing bramble, red cherry and raspberry flavours and refreshing granitic grip.
Unwooded for the first time in 2018, but as full of bounce and blackberry fruit as ever, Hey! combines grapes from Luján and the Uco Valley in a juicy, supple bundle of fun. Sweet and appealing, this is Malbec at its immediate best: the kind of thing that makes you want to pour a glass into a tumbler and put on some of your favourite music with the sound ramped up to 11.
It may not be a popular opinion with Shiraz lovers, but Master of Wine Giles Cooke, who made this wine, thinks that “Grenache is Australia’s signature grape”. It’s certainly one of its most versatile and, I think, underrated varieties. This very lightly wooded example combines fruit from two sub-regions of McLaren Vale (Clarendon and Blewitt Springs) and the less glamorous Riverland and it’s a belter of a red. Juicy, floral and peppery, with some spices from partial whole bunch-fermentation with stems and a core of raspberry, red cherry and wild strawberry fruit. Try it ever so slightly chilled.
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This impressive wine is sometimes described as a ‘mini Châteauneuf-du-Pape” but it’s much better than that. In fact, it’s superior to many supermarket CNDPs and cheaper, too. Made by the Perrin family who own Château de Beaucastel, it’s a poised, scented, integrated cuvée of mostly Grenache with 15% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, with fine red berry fruit, a dusting of Mediterranean herbs, understated wood and a refreshing, medium-bodied finish.
The wines of Etna are some of Sicily’s – and Italy’s – most distinctive reds. Produced from two grapes – Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio – that are almost Pinot Noir like in colour and texture, this lightly wooded example is a fantastic introduction to a volcanic classic. Floral, ethereal and light with juicy redcurrant and raspberry fruit and some underlying stony grip. On offer at £10.99 from November 13 to December 3.
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.