A Pencopolitano is a native of Pedro Parra’s native city of Concepción, where it is surprisingly difficult to find examples of the local wines in restaurants. (I know, I’ve tried.) This is a blend of Cinsault with 33% País and has more structure and acidity than the pure Cinsaults in which Parra specialises. Dry-farmed vineyards in Guarilihue and Portezuelo supply the grapes here, with 30% whole bunches adding some spice and structure to the raspberry, redcurrant and red plum flavours. The finish has some sinewy grip.
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.
Pedro Parra is best known as a French-trained ‘terroir specialist’ who consults to many of the top wineries in South America, but he is increasingly turning his weathered hands to producing his own wines. This deliciously refined País comes from a 100-year-old vineyard on granite soils in Portezuelo and will definitely appeal to fans of Pinot Noir. Pale, playful and refreshing, it has pomegranate and raspberry fruit, a hint of savoury tannin and a long, tangy finish.
I enthusiastically recommended the 2017 release of this wine, but I make no excuse for doing the same thing with the 2018. Schiava, otherwise known as Vernatsch, is the grape variety behind this wonderful, old-vine red from a brilliant co-operative in the Italian Alto Adige. Showing the Alpine freshness of a vineyard at 400 metres, it has top notes of rose petal and summer pudding, a core of redcurrant and wild strawberry fruit, racy, palate-tingling acidity, stony minerality and a long, textured, refined finish. Something to remind you of the last days of summer.
I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a few of Elías López Monetero’s wines from Argentina, but until this week I was unfamiliar with the magic he’s working in La Mancha, the world’s most extensive wine region, known for bulk plonk rather than wines like this. Production of this amphora-fermented and aged Albillo Real (with a splash of Albillo Mayor) is small at 9,000 bottles, but it’s an intriguing, low-intervention white with some bottle age. Low in alcohol, but not in flavour, it has notes of quince, almonds and fresh pastry with a salty dry finish and the complexity and focus to age further.
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.
Stellenbosch struck gold in 2017, with one of the best ever red wine vintages in the Cape. This refined, well-structured Bordeaux blend, made at one of the most historic properties on the Simonsberg, is unbelievably good value and would wipe the winery floor with similarly priced wines from south-west France. Cassis, black cherry, graphite and cigar box notes are framed by fine, age worthy tannins and bright, refreshing acidity. Some retailers may be on the very good 2018, but the 2017 is the one to go for.
This pioneering white blend of Semillón with 35% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Torrontés from the brilliant Susana Balbo and her team has rapidly established itself as one of the best in Latin America. Barrel fermented in 60% new wood, it’s leesy, toasty and very fresh, with a lovely combination of beeswax, pink grapefruit and struck match flavours, a dusting of sweet spices and engaging elegance. Contact Las Bodegas for local stockists.
It’s amazing how much flavour good winemakers can extract from white grapes without recourse to oak if the site is special and yields are kept low. This wonderful Pecorino (nothing to do with the cheese of the same name) from Federico Faraone’s Collepietro vineyard has lovely pear and apple flavours, racy acidity, some skin tannins from cryo-maceration and appealing texture from ageing on fermentation lees. Fresh, intense and full of character.
Gerd Stepp used to work at Marks & Spencer before he went back to his native Germany to make wine again. Our loss was the Pfalz’s gain, as this is one of the best dry Rieslings on the market for £15 or under. Sourced from the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard on soils with a high percentage of limestone, it’s wonderfully racy, taut and complex with some creamy weight from six months on its fermentation lees, pithy minerality, lime, jasmine and wet stone notes and a thrilling finish.
Sergio Verrillo is a brilliant American who works out of an urban winery in Battersea, London. His Chardonnay is England’s best interpretation of the grape and this quirky cuvée, or mix up, of Bacchus and Ortega isn’t far behind. Partially skin-fermented and aged in neutral oak, it’s an unfined, unfiltered, low-alcohol white with notes of nettle, elderflower and subtle vanilla spice, with stony minerality and a tangy, racy, Chablis-like finish.
Grüner Veltliner is rare enough in New Zealand, but one with six years of bottle age is unique. But what a brilliant wine this is. Part of Matt Thomson and Sophie Parker-Thomson’s off-the-wall series of small volume Kiwi whites and reds, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of top Austrian examples of the grape. Partially barrel fermented in larger French oak barrels, it’s bright, focused and remarkably youthful, with notes of bay leaf and white pepper, crunchy minerality and pear and citrus fruit.