Textbook stuff from the extensive Muga family, this is a pan-regional cuvée of Tempranillo with 30% Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo, aged in a combination of French and American oak. Youthful, structured and showing the freshness of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2018 vintage, it’s good to drink now but will also reward some extra time in your wine rack. Textured and balanced, with racy acidity and flavours of liquorice, blackberry and vanilla spice.
This delicious Alpine red comes from close to the source of the Rhône river, but has more in common with Burgundy than, say, Crozes-Hermitage. Made with Pinot Noir and 40% Gamay, it’s a Swiss version of a Bourgogne Passetoutgrains, using fruit from some of the highest vineyards in Europe. Racy, juicy and lip-smackingly fresh, with red cherry and pomegranate flavours and fine-grained tannins.
One of the best value reds in the Jaboulet range – which also includes the iconic La Chapelle, of course – this organic Syrah reflects the quality and focus of Caroline Frey’s winemaking. Scented and intense, with classic tapenade and white pepper aromas, bright, tangy, richly concentrated blackberry and blueberry fruit, subtle oak influence, smooth tannins and the concentration and freshness to mature nicely in bottle.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is what (almost) everyone seems to want to drink from the so-called Land of the Long White Cloud these days, but why not try this amazing Riesling from Matt Donaldson’s Pegasus Bay Winery in the South Island instead? Rich, textured, perfumed and slightly exotic, it’s a medium-dry style with flavours of honey, lime juice and nectarine, lots of racy acidity and wonderful structure and depth. Brilliant with spicy food.
If you want to taste a red that expresses the quintessence of high-altitude Gualtallary in the Uco Valley, look no further than this stunning assemblage of Cabernet Franc with 35% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the best-ever vintages in Argentina. Aged in deftly handled 50% new wood, it’s wonderfully fresh and well-balanced, with thyme and wet stone aromas, racy acidity and tangy red plum and black cherry fruit.
Given the high prices of top red Burgundy these days, we Pinot Noir lovers are always on the lookout for more affordable examples of our favourite red grape. Chile is a good place to start, but I don’t think it can compete with the quality of this Romanian red. Sourced as an exclusive parcel for Majestic, it tastes as good as it looks. Racy, supple and perfumed, with raspberry, pomegranate and wild strawberry flavours, tangy acidity and fine-grained tannins. Remarkable at £6.49.
Winemaker Jean-Claude Martin calls this his “village wine”, produced from 11 different blocks at Creation, tucked away at the top end of the painterly Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Deftly wooded in 10% new barrels, it has an engaging combination of citrus, pear, nutmeg and beeswax flavours lifted by acidity. A very impressive Cape white from a Chardonnay master.
Albariño is fast becoming one of my favourite grapes, not only in its native Portugal and north-west Spain, but in Uruguay and Argentina too. It’s a variety that’s drinkable young but ages really well too. This wine from Katia Álvarez and Martín Códax is a single vineyard expression that looks as good it tastes. Tangy, crisp and wonderfully focused, with citrus, green apple and sea salt flavours, wonderful texture and enduring palate length. Seafood heaven.
It’s something of a paradox that the best winter reds often come from warm climates that produce throaty, full-bodied wines. This old-vine cuvée from the Portuguese Alentejo region is a case in point. Made with Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelão and Syrah, it’s spicy, intense and textured, unfurling bramble, fig and blackberry flavours in the glass, with a patina of sweet cinnamon oak.
I know I’m running the risk of being accused of favouritism, but I really can’t get enough of the wines made by the brilliant Apostolos Thymiopoulos. The hugely exciting Greek region of Naoussa continues to produce some of the best value reds in Europe from the Xinomavro grape. Mid-way between a Barolo and a Côte de Beaune Pinot Noir in style, this has rose petal and patisserie aromas, red cherry and raspberry fruit, fresh acidity and engaging, granular tannins. A perfect Christmas lunch red.
Tempranillo may be Spain’s best known red grape, but Garnacha is just as interesting and much better suited to climate change. This is an amazing, old-vine example from Bodegas Nekeas in Navarra that shows the variety at its great value best. Perfumed and enticing, with notes of wild herbs, raspberry and redcurrant, a hint of oak and some underlying savoury tannins. So well balanced that you don’t notice the 15% alcohol.
Something of a favourite with Majestic managers, apparently, and I can see why, this is a spectacularly exciting white from the Lugana region close to the southern shore of Lake Garda. Made from the Turbiana grape (the local name for Verdicchio), it’s a pithy, stony delight that’s mid-way between a Spanish Albariño and a Chablis in style. Tangy and well balanced, with notes of citrus peel and gunflint and a hint of stone fruit sweetness. Long, complex and refreshing.