Blending components from the steep-sided Sil and Miño Valleys, this wonderfully gluggable, organically farmed red is based on Mencía with bits and pieces of other co-planted grapes, according to Pedro Rodríguez. Engagingly intense and floral, it’s a white wine drinker’s red in some ways, with lots of zip and acidity, violet and rose petal aromas, refined tannins and layers of raspberry, pomegranate and wild strawberry. Drink lightly chilled.
Juliénas has always been one of the more highly regarded of the ten Beaujolais Crus, and rightly so in my book. Showing the structure that often seems to feature in the granite-based wines of the northern Beaujolais, this is a complex, layered, intensely perfumed Gamay that’s all about fruit rather than oak, with plum, bramble and raspberry flavours and enough tannin and backbone to develop further in bottle.Lip-smacking stuff.
One of a dwindling number of top Riojas that combines grapes from the Rioja Alta and Rioja Oriental sub-regions, this impressive Reserva is a blend of Tempranillo with 20% Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. Pairing Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 6% Mazuelo and 4% Graciano, with ageing in a 80/20 mix of French and American oak, it’s spicy, succulent and smartly wooded, with raspberry and blueberry fruit, sinewy tannins and plenty of acidity to freshen the finish. Will develop further in bottle.
Loire Valley guru Pascal Jolivet inspired the talented Matt Day to make this wild-fermented, left-field Sauvignon Blanc from two complementary parcels on one of the oldest estates in South Africa’s Constantia Valley. Still youthful, intense and showing some tannic structure, it’s a superb, bone-dry expression of Constantia with notes of grapefruit pith, elderflower and wet stones. How wonderful to see a top Cape producer releasing a white wine with some bottle age.
A wine that blew my mind at the Wine Society’s recent press tasting, this is an excellent new discovery from buyer Pierre Mansour. A Garnacha Blanca that tastes as good as it looks, it hails from 50-year-old vines in Valdejalón, and has incredible intensity and focus. Salty, bone dry and lightly toasty, it has lovely aromas of wet stones, jasmine and thyme and a palate of quinine, sourdough bread and citrus peel.
Originally founded by a Spanish journalist, Finca Sandoval has been one of the driving forces behind the revival of the high-altitude Manchuela denominación de origen, located close to the Mediterranean on the slopes of the Cuenca mountains. Based on Bobal, the most important local grape, with support from four other rare varieties and a splash of more international Syrah, this is juicy, vibrant and entirely unwooded, with understated old-vine concentration, raspberry, plum and strawberry flavours, granular tannins and a fresh, chalky finish.
This is one of three Viogniers that Louisa Rose makes at Yalumba, and it’s my favourite of the trio, despite being the mid-priced offering. Wonderfully pure, enticing aromas of orange blossom and stem ginger segue into a palate of cream, white peach and citrus zest. This has lovely freshness and zip, subtle texture, understated oak and a spicy finish.
Burgundian winemakers used to be a bit sniffy about Aligoté, but climate change has prompted a shift in attitude to the tangy, famously acidic grape variety, exemplified by the Aligoteurs movement of which Sylvain Pataille is a leading figure. This is a brilliant wine from an outstanding producer that could sell at twice the price, showing a touch of older oak, citrus, wet stone and green apple flavours, nice texture and weight and the concentration that often seems to come from old vines.
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.
Combining grapes from Autol, Alfaro, Aldeanueva and Rincón de Soto, Costumbres is a regional expression of the Rioja Oriental from talented young winemaker, Carlos Mazo. Garnacha based with 20% co-planted Graciano and white grapes, it’s a very lightly wooded red, showing 100% whole bunch clove spices, subtle tannic grip and layers of plum, raspberry and red cherry fruit. The modern face of Rioja’s warmest sub-region.
Santi Deicas uses grapes from Canelones and coastal Maldonado to make this pan-Uruguayan expression of a grape that’s making waves in South America right now. Broad and textured with flavours of tangerine, white peach and lemongrass and a stony, mouthwatering finish. Time in stainless steel on fermentation lees adds appealing mid-palate texture.
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.