The 2020 release of Concha y Toro’s top Bordeaux red is something of a triumph over the demanding vintage conditions, which were the hottest and driest in Don Melchor’s thirty-four year history. Featuring a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot, it managed to sidestep the torrid conditions, thanks to a combination of early picking – three weeks to a month, depending on the parcel – and the talent and experience of long-term winemaker, Enrique Tirado. Deftly oaked in 71% new oak, it has alluring graphite and dried herb aromas, cassis, fig and red berry fruit, serious but not overwhelming tannins and more finesse and freshness in its youth than the 2017 with which Tirado rightly compares it.
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.
Antinori is one of those producers that rarely, if ever, lets you down, producing everything from good value reds like this Super Tuscan blend to some of the finest wines in Italy. Sangiovese-based with support from 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, it’s wonderfully scented, smooth and sensitively oaked, displaying flavours of cassis, red cherry and Mediterranean herbs supported by fine-boned tannins and refreshing acidity. Really good at the price.
How does Aldi do it? Very few, if any retailers are as good at sourcing bargain wines from around the world. This is an ambitious Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Alicante Bouschet from coastal Maremma. Rich, serious and dense, with classically savoury tannins, plum, raspberry and tobacco leaf flavours and a dusting of cinnamon sweetness.
The Allegrinis make some of the best Valpolicellas in the Veneto, so it’s no surprise that this blend of the local grapes Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella with 10% each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is so impressive. Made with 15% of dried grapes – a technique used to increase concentration and flavour – this is plummy and refreshing with notes of green herbs and black cherry, impressive underlying structure and a classic combination of acidity and fine-grained tannins.
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.
I don’t drink much claret these days, but I had a bottle of this during an online MW Mates tasting with my friend Anne McHale MW and it made me fall in love with Bordeaux all over again. Château du Moulin Rouge, which predates the famous Parisian cabaret with a similar name, is a very well-placed Cru Bourgeois between Margaux and St. Julien making wines of cru classé quality. Unusually for the left bank, this is Merlot dominated, with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. For me, it confirms the class and balance of the 2016 vintage, showing flavours of plum, back cherry and cassis complemented by notes of cedar wood and graphite, appealing freshness and fine, deftly integrated tannins.
You can only applaud a winery – especially one as famous as Kanonkop – that makes 1.7 million bottles of a wine of this quality. Dominated by Pinotage, with the remaining 63% made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it’s a floral, textured, well-structured cuvée with notes of mint and dried herbs and a core of cassis and raspberry fruit.
Based on Garnacha, with the remaining 35% made up of Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Prior is what Ricard Rofes calls a “key in the door of Priorat”, in that it introduces you to the different zones of the denominación. Wild, savoury and intense, with floral black cherry and damson fruit, a herbal undertone, pithy minerality and some clove spice from 30% whole bunch fermentation. One of the most structured wines in the range.
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.
2018 is rightly regarded as one of the best Chilean red wine vintages of the last 30 years, so it’s no surprise that the latest release of Don Melchor is so special. Made from 181 lots covering 151 different vineyard parcels, it’s a pure, refined expression of the Andes-cooled Puente Alto terroir. This is only the second time that the blend has included all four Bordeaux varieties on the estate – it’s 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot – and the wine is suitably nuanced and well balanced. Scented and floral, with some wild herb top notes, it’s an icon that marries energy with power and grip. The tannins are polished, the fruit intense, with cassis and red berry flavours complemented by fresh acidity and scented coffee bean oak.