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.
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.
Unwooded for the first time in 2018, but as full of bounce and blackberry fruit as ever, Hey! combines grapes from Luján and the Uco Valley in a juicy, supple bundle of fun. Sweet and appealing, this is Malbec at its immediate best: the kind of thing that makes you want to pour a glass into a tumbler and put on some of your favourite music with the sound ramped up to 11.
Hey! is a wine that grabs your attention with its super hero label as it caresses your palate with the supple tannins of a delicious Argentinean Malbec. Made with old vine fruit from Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo sub-region, it’s a plush, perfumed juicy red with violet perfume, a kiss of oak and lashings of bramble and blackberry fruit. Wonderfully gluggable.
Bready, tangy and well balanced, this great value bubbly from the Cape’s leading fizz producer would give a lot of basic Champagnes a run for their euros. Leesy, complex and frehsh with the Chardonnay providing acidic backbone and structure.
Montsant is not as famous as neighbouring Priorat, but generally offers much better value. Blending Garnacha and Carignan, this isn’t short of alcohol (we’re close to the Med after all), but it has plenty of spice, plum and bramble fruit concentration and stony minerality for balance. In summer, it would make a great barbecue red. Right now, try it with winter stew.
If you’re looking for an easy drinking pink to quaff over the next few weeks, this pale rosé made from “typical Tuscan varieties” is a snip at under £7 (as long as you buy five other bottles at Majestic). There’s a spicy, wild herb-like note to the raspberry fruit that’s backed up by a nip of tannin.
One of those wines that you’re just dying to slip into a blind tasting, this comes from cool (for the Cape) Durbanville and wouldn’t be outclassed by many Austrian Grüners at the same price level. Spices, green apple and bay leaf notes are underpinned by zesty, crunchy acidity and plenty of mid-palate texture. Promising stuff.
Pascal Marchand made his name at Domaine des Epeneaux in Pommard, but is now producing some equally impressive wines under his own label. This is a pale, even delicate Pinot, especially by the standards of Gevrey-Chambertin. Aromatic, nuanced and floral, it shows crunchy redcurrant and pomegranate flavours, plenty opf zip and focus and the faintest whisper of oak.
Is this the best value red in the high street at the moment? It’s certainly the best value Syrah in my view. Yesterday, it was presented with the “Best Red of Show” gong at the Languedoc Roussillon Top 100 Awards in London beating lots of more expensive wines. Wild thyme and rosemary notes, blackberry and bramble fruit, smooth tannins and enough perfume to keep your nostrils twitching for half an hour, this finishes with an intense, savoury flourish.
If I were tasting this blind, I’d put it in Ribera del Duero, rather than the hotter Castilla y León region, such is its freshness and perfume. There’s quite a bit of oak on offer here, but it’s more than balanced by fruit weight and acidity. The tannins are extremely smooth for a wine at this price, complemented by notes of bramble and blackberry, subtle vanilla sweetness and a cool, almost grassy finish.