Unless you want to drink Prosecco or Cava, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find good bubbly under £15. England and Champagne can’t hit that price point, but South Africa still can. Villiera’s cuvée of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, aged on its lees for 18 months, is my go-to party fizz right now. Made in a dry style with just six grams of dosage, it’s fresh, tangy and slightly toasty with lemon and lime flavours, a creamy mousse and appealing texture.
For all the talk about the latest en primeur releases, it’s worth remembering that good claret can age beautifully. In fact, there are times when mature red Bordeaux stops you in your tracks. This is one of them: a scented, graceful cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot that has classic coffee bean, tobacco leaf and cedar wood top notes, fine-boned, layered tannins and flavours of sweet spices, summer berries and blackcurrant leaf. The wine is sold out on line, but there’s still some available in stores.
Ricardo Baettig produces this stunning Chardonnay with grapes from two sources in Malleco – Baettig (owned by his brother, Pancho) and Kofkeche – both of whom grow the 95 clone. It’s a brilliant first release from Morandé, making the most of one of the most exciting cool climate regions in Chile right now. Chiselled, scented and refined, with effortless balance, concentration and focus, flinty minerality and a pure, tapering citrus and aromatic spice finish. Amazing value.
“Honest and pure” is how Matías Riccitelli likes to describe this equal blend of Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley Malbecs, now produced as a 200,000 bottle blend. Floral, tangy and bright, Hey! is as appealing as its comic book label, with supple tannins and juicy bramble, aniseed and blackberry flavours. Essence of Argentina at a great price.
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.