Too many UK retailers are already on the 2009 and even 2010 vintage of CNDP, so it’s good to taste a wine that, while still young, is showing some bottle maturity. This is rich and deeply coloured with dark berry fruits, a hint of clove and a spicy, meaty finish.
Price Range: £20-£30
2008 Iona, One Man Band, Elgin( £23.99, 14%, Enotria & Coe )
There are no fewer than six varieties in this well-crafted red from the high flying Iona winery in Elgin. Syrah dominates to the tune of 80%, with support from Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Mourvèdre and Viognier. The wine has real density, with smoky, bramble and blackberry fruit, toasty oak and the freshness you’d expect from a cooler area. A bright debut.
2007 Laithwaites Theale Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Founder's Reserve( £23, 12%, Laithwaites )
Laithwaites only makes 999 bottles of this wine (spot the marketing spin), but it’s a pretty impressive English take on a Blanc de Blancs Champagne, with small bubbles, creamy autolysis and a bready, refreshing finish. The acidity is just a little raw perhaps.
NV Bertrand de Bessac, Cuvée du Marquis Brut, Champagne( £29.99 down to £24.49, 12%, Waitrose )
A blend of 60% Pinot Noir from the Aube and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, this has a hefty proportion of toasty reserve wine to add to the ripe fruit from the 2009 vintage. The result is a delicious fizz with real complexity, power and depth as well as the backbone to age.
2010 Domaine Joly Puligny-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy( £29.99 down to £24.49, 13%, Sainsbury's )
If you feel like treating your nearest and dearest (or just yourself) on Christmas Day, I’d buy a bottle of this very smart white Burgundy from one of the best vintages of the last 50 years. Focused and rich, with lovely oak integration, mealy, buttery notes and a foundation of minerally, limestone-related acidity. The wine is great now, but will happily sit in your wine rack for another five years or more.
2010 Biondi Cisterna Fuori IGT Sicilia, Etna, Sicily( N/A, 13.5%, Vino Passione )
Ciro Biondi’s new single vineyard Etna Rosso, bottled as an IGT due to a mix-up with this year’s paperwork, is still a baby – but already the attractive, lifted red fruit is approachable, and the tannins are muscular but refined. There’s a gorgeous lemon-candy/salty finish, along with slightly nervy acidity that should ensure a bright future. One to cellar for a couple of years, at least.
2009 Scilio Alta Quota Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily( N/A, 14%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )
Salvatore Scilio has one of the few organically certified estates on Mount Etna, and Alta Quota is his premium expression of Nerello Mascalese. The balance between acidity and structure is impressive, and the muscular, ripe fruit has a herby, rosemary scent running through it. Superbly elegant, and feels like one for the long haul.
2007 Benanti Rovitello Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily( €13.50 Ex-cellar, 14%, Les Caves de Pyrene )
Vinicola Benanti is one of the most established quality producers in the Mount Etna region. Their Rovitello vineyards are on the Northern slopes, and the slightly cooler ripening conditions are reflected in this elegant, mineral and smoky Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Capuccio blend.
2008 Benanti Pietramarina Etna Bianco Superiore, Etna, Sicily( €16.50 Ex-cellar, 13%, Les Caves de Pyrene )
This wine has the kind of taut, fresh yet delicate feel that I associate with high altitude – and Etna Bianco Superiore wines can only be made in the commune of Milo, with Carricante grown between 900-1100m above sea level. This is superior by name, and by nature. Scents of white flowers and acacia lead to generous, rather sauvignon-like fruit. The finish is mineral and flinty with an attractive bitterness that makes it very thirst quenching and rather morish.
2010 Biondi Outis Etna Bianco, Etna, Sicily( N/A, 13%, Vino Passione )
Carricante sometimes has a nutty, savoury feel to it – and this is a good example in that style. Quite weighty, with a typically mineral, bitter finish that works brilliantly to refresh the palate.
2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Calderara Sottana”, Etna, Sicily( £22, 14%, Justerini & Brooks )
Marco de Grazia has two prized single vineyard sites in the Etna region – Calderara is situated near the Northerly town of Randazzo. A seriously structured wine, with rather dusty fruit, and spicy, bitter cocoa flavours. Unsurprisingly for Nerello Mascalese grown on black, volcanic soil, this has terrific minerality and lemon fresh acidity. Organically certified.
2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Santo Spirito”, Etna, Sicily( £22, 14%, Justerini & Brooks )
The Santo Spirito vineyards are situated between 650-700m above sea level. This Nerello Mascalese is bursting with blueberry/black cherry fruit – so much so that the spicy, smoky oak influence takes a back seat. Santo Spirito is a big wine though, and still a baby at four years old. Some might say it’s an international style, yet there’s that typical Salty Etna tang on the finish. Organically certified.