If you want to taste a red that expresses the quintessence of high-altitude Gualtallary in the Uco Valley, look no further than this stunning assemblage of Cabernet Franc with 35% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the best-ever vintages in Argentina. Aged in deftly handled 50% new wood, it’s wonderfully fresh and well-balanced, with thyme and wet stone aromas, racy acidity and tangy red plum and black cherry fruit.
Every bit as good as the much more vaunted (and expensive) wines of Condrieu in the northern Rhône, this is an appealingly rich, scented, heady Viognier from the Languedoc that still manages to keep its feet on the ground. Peach, citrus and honeysuckle notes are framed by nuanced, spicy oak and supported by acidity. Exotic, palate-coating stuff.
Albariño is fast becoming one of my favourite grapes, not only in its native Portugal and north-west Spain, but in Uruguay and Argentina too. It’s a variety that’s drinkable young but ages really well too. This wine from Katia Álvarez and Martín Códax is a single vineyard expression that looks as good it tastes. Tangy, crisp and wonderfully focused, with citrus, green apple and sea salt flavours, wonderful texture and enduring palate length. Seafood heaven.
A stunning white from the tip of Africa. Marrying Sauvignon Blanc with 31% Semillon to brilliant effect, this has a combination (grape) skin contact, lees contact, barrel fermentation and stainless steel ageing, all designed to add more layers of flavour to a remarkable white. Saline, herbal and understated, with vanilla and pink grapefruit flavours and a stony bite.
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.
The youthful Giulia Negri makes this wonderful declassified Barolo from younger vines in the Serradenari vineyard in La Morra, one of the highest sites in the denominazione. Organically farmed and refreshing, it’s a graceful, elegant Nebbiolo showing the freshness of its high-altitude source, beguiling rose petal and old strawberry aromas, a focused, nuanced palate and just the right amount of tannic backbone and acidity. Ludicrously good at the price.
If you think Barossa Shiraz is all about power and intensity, this wine from Tim Smith will come as a welcome surprise. Graceful, elegant and refined, it’s deceptively forward and easy to drink with the faintest touch of oak, fine-grained tannins, bramble and red berry fruit and impressive poise and precision. You could tuck some away for a few years and it will reward patience. There’s still some of the very good 2019 on the market, but wait for the 2020 if you can.
It’s amazing how much Austrian red wines have improved in the last decade, thanks to warmer vintages and much better work in the vineyards and winery. This appealingly mature cuvée of Merlot with three local grapes, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and St Laurent, is a case in point. It’s smooth, complex and well balanced, with subtle wood, black cherry, plum and fresh earth notes, bright, chalky acidity and a funky undertone.
Is this the best-value white Burgundy in the high street? It’s certainly in with a very strong shout. Sourced from the village of Rully, which lies just to the south of the more prestigious communes of the Côte de Beaune, it would slot very easily into a tasting of more expensive wines from Puligny- or Chassagne-Montrachet. Subtly wooded, with lemon zest, crème fraîche and vanilla spice flavours, impressive acidity for a 2019 and a long, refined finish.
Sourced from parcels on slate and red clay soils, this entry-point Garnacha is all about what Ricard Rofes calls “fruit, freshness and easy drinkability”. Fermented with 15% whole bunches, it’s a juicy, bouncy, unoaked delight, with stony minerality, cranberry and raspberry flavours and a whiff of wild Mediterranean herbs.
Viognier is a tricky grape to get right. Pick it too late and it can be flabby, pick it too early and it lacks the texture and richness that are its hallmarks. Laurent Miquel is one of only a handful of people outside the northern Rhône Valley who consistently gets the variety spot on. This single parcel expression from the lieu-dit of La Vérité has textbook flavours of ginger, apricots and cream with a hint of oak spice and perfectly judged acidity for balance.
There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to drink claret. I’m generally far too busy enjoying less classic fare to think about the Gironde, but red Bordeaux is just the thing with the turkey. This marriage of Merlot with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, curated by ace consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, is entirely unoaked, relying on fruit purity, fine tannins and supporting acidity. It’s just tipping over into middle age, with tobacco and autumn leaf aromas and fleshy red berry and fruitcake flavours. Really delicious at the price.