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.
One of an excellent line-up of regional delights from an exciting new Spanish venture, this tastes as good as it looks. Made from biodynamically farmed, old vine Verdejo, it’s a savoury, textured white with subtle oak, tangy acidity and just a hint of oak framing the pear and citrus fruit flavours. Almost Burgundian in terms of weight, concentration and complexity, this is a remarkable Verdejo.
If you’re bored of identikit Kiwi Sauvignons that taste as if they’ve emerged from the same enormous tank farm, this complex, Loire Valley-like example from one of Central Otago’s best producers will come as a pleasant respite. The estate is much better known for its superlative Pinot Noirs, but this biodynamic white deserves to be (almost) as famous. Fermented in old oak barrels, it has a mealy undertone to set alongside the flavours of lime, cream, grapefruit and gooseberry. It’s a very subtle number that wouldn’t look out of place in Sancerre, thanks to its chalky, palate-tingling freshness.
Nero di Troia is the least well known of Puglia’s three main red varieties, but to me it’s the one with the most finesse. This is remarkably light and refreshing for a wine from the south of Italy, reminiscent of a Tempranillo, with elegant red fruits, a nip of tannin and impressive length on the palate. It hangs around. And you’re grateful.
French law means that this Vin de France can’t carry a vintage, but the words “11ème année” are a chunky hint. It’s basically a declassified Châteauneuf du Pape, made in a slightly (and I mean slightly) lighter style. Given the high prices of CNDP these days, this is a great way to taste a stylish, full-throated blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre at a more than reasonable price. Spicy and savoury with medium weight tannins, hints of rosemary and thyme and a core of sweet raspberry and bramble fruit. Perfect autumn drinking.
Vermentino, or Rolle, is one of those grapes that should be more widely planted, partly because it retains acidity and freshness in warm climates, but also because it has plenty of flavour. This is typical of the variety, and at a very appealing price: orange peel and citrus zest with an undertone of Mediterranean herbs and a tangy aftertaste. Perfect for the last few days of summer.
If you love Nebbiolo (and who doesn’t?) but can’t afford to drink top Barolo, this lighter style is a brilliant introduction to one of Italy’s two best red grapes. It’s subtle and fragrant, with a raspberry sweetness that reminds me of red Burgundy, backed up by fine, but not remotely aggressive tannins. Complex, leafy and well balanced, this is delicious now, but will develop for at least another five years.
A delicious, unoaked blend of two under-rated Mediterranean varieties, Roussanne (80%) and Vermentino (20%) from a little known area in the Languedoc. It’s fresh and tangy with notes of wet stone, green olive, fresh herbs, stone fruit and lemon peel. Crisp and refreshing but with underlying weight and concentration in reserve.
If the price of Barolo and Barbaresco leaves you spluttering into your pasta, some of the regional wines made from the Nebbiolo grape can be good value alternatives, enabling you to enjoy this most brilliant (and temperamental) of Italian varieties without raiding your savings account. This is very elegant and comparatively forward, showing considerable finesse and poise, medium-weight tannins, a core of sweet and savoury tobacco and red cherry fruit, fresh acidity and a fine tapering finish.