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.
Textbook stuff from the extensive Muga family, this is a pan-regional cuvée of Tempranillo with 30% Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo, aged in a combination of French and American oak. Youthful, structured and showing the freshness of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2018 vintage, it’s good to drink now but will also reward some extra time in your wine rack. Textured and balanced, with racy acidity and flavours of liquorice, blackberry and vanilla spice.
The Voor Paardeberg is sometimes described as “Swartland Lite”, to distinguish it from the wines made on the other side the mountain, but the region has come into its own in the last five years. This is one of a growing number of stand-alone Grenache Blancs being made around the world, especially in warm regions where the variety retains its acidity. Tangy, pithy and well-structured, with layers of complexity from ageing in barrel, terracotta and stainless steel, as well as 30% malolactic, it has citrus, camomile, aniseed and wet stone flavours and thrilling minerality.
Sourced from the Cantina di Valpantena, the sort of place that could give Italian co-operatives a good name, this is a superb, well-balanced cuvée of Corvina and 30% Rondinella. Made from dried grapes in the classic Amarone fashion, it has plenty of power and depth, just a touch of sweetness, plum, fig, Christmas cake and liquorice flavours and lovely supporting acidity.
One of the best value reds in the Jaboulet range – which also includes the iconic La Chapelle, of course – this organic Syrah reflects the quality and focus of Caroline Frey’s winemaking. Scented and intense, with classic tapenade and white pepper aromas, bright, tangy, richly concentrated blackberry and blueberry fruit, subtle oak influence, smooth tannins and the concentration and freshness to mature nicely in bottle.
It’s rare to find a ten-year-old claret on a supermarket shelf, especially one that sells for just £16, but this second wine from Château des Fougères in the Graves is the real deal. Combining Merlot with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s a graceful, textured, elegant, mature red with subtle wood, tobacco leaf and forest floor top notes, fine-boned tannins, plenty of freshness and a core of sweet, leafy complexity.
Painter of Light is a superb expression of one of Essex’s finest vineyards, made by the talented Sergio Verrillo. With aromas of struck match and popcorn, it’s fresh and elegant, with racy acidity and a cheesy, salty, nutty palate with subtle stone fruit undertones. Weighty without being fat, it’s what great pre-climate change Chablis used to taste like. One of England’s finest whites.