It’s a real pleasure to see such impressive wines emerging from Bulgaria, a country that has lost its way over the last 20 years, but is now back on the right path. This wine is the flag bearer of the new wave. It’s a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, made by a group of owners that includes Stephan von Neipperg of Château Canon La Gaffelière, and it has a smooth, international feel to it. Minty, fruit sweet and stylishly oaked, it combines flavours of cassis, fruitcake and red berries with a sheen of vanilla oak. Good now, but will age for another five years with ease.
This is a complex blend of old vine Garnacha with Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan (Samsó) from one of the best cooperatives in Spain. Think of it as a mini-Priorat, but at a slightly lower price. Plum, spice and chocolate-like flavours are appealingly intertwined here, with the Cabernet adding some leafy freshness to the herbal, earthy Mediterranean flavours. The minerality and the acidity keep the wine fresh, despite its comparatively high alcohol.
A Catalan blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cariñena made in small quantities by an impressive garagiste operation. It’s quite Bordeaux-like in style with a warm, Mediterranean twist. It’s a tangy, savoury, youthful red with vibrant cassis and red berry fruit, tangy acidity and fine-grained tannins.
A great value blend of Picapoll Negre, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made in an easy drinking style, with a touch of oak for added structure and complexity. Supple, attractive, raspberry and red cherry fruit with smooth tannins and balancing acidity. A really good quaffing red.
The top red wine from LaFou is an impressive blend of mostly Grenache with lesser amounts of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, again showing judicious oak handling, refreshing minerality and ripe, but not over-ripe flavours of plum, chocolate and red fruits, with hints of tapenade and a brisk, refreshing finish. This is winemaking of a high order.
A cru bourgeois that punches well above its weight, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot typifies the best feautures of the 2010 vintage: freshness and concentration of flavour. It’s ripe, yet well balanced with flavours of cassis and plum, a hint of damson and fine, structured tannins. Needs time.
On a deal for the next week, before it reverts to £16.99 after Christmas, this is a well-balanced, aromatic claret that is more focused and refined than many 2009s, but is still pretty forward and full of flavour: with subtle oak, riple plum and blueberry fruit and medium weight tannins. Very drinkable.
Made by the same team that produces the world famous St Julien second growth, Château Léoville-Las-Cases, this is a Médoc that really punches above its supposedly lightweight status. It’s a Merlot-dominated blend with 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot for company. Elegant and well balanced, it shows the poise that is typical of the best 2010s, with subtle oak, sweet raspberry and cassis fruit and well-defined tannins.
Australian Shiraz tends to get a lot more attention than Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, but at its best, the latter is more than a match for the former. This one from the Bordeaux varieties-focused region of Coonawarra is delicious, showing subtle use of oak from winemaker, Sue Hodder, lovely blackcurrant purity, appealing vanilla spice and fine-grained tannins. Long on the palate, this will reward further cellaring.
Visitors to Bologna will be familiar with drier styles of the local frothy red, Lambrusco. Elsewhere, it tends to be regarded as sweet and a bit too commercial, which is a shame, as wines like this one deserve a wider audience. Juicy, dry and very drinkable, even with food, this has bright plum and black cherry fruit, a nip of tannin and a mouthful of bubbles.
A blend of Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Samsó, this has a strange, pine resin-like nose reminiscent of Retsina. The palate is a little earthy, with some baked, drying tannins and fading fruit.
A stylish, well-balanced blend of Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon couched in an international style. Aromatic, raspberry and bramble fruit with sweet vanilla oak, bright acidity and smooth tannins.