Chablis has had a run of warmer vintages over the last eight years, robbing it of the things that make it so distinctive – sea breeze freshness and chiselled acidity. But 2021 was a partial return to the later, cooler harvests of the past, and all the better as a result. This unwooded Chardonnay from the impressive La Chablisienne co-operative is tangy and textured, with citrus and oyster shell flavours and a pithy finish.
Gerd Stepp, the winemaker behind the very tasty Found Pfalz Pinot Blanc (aka Weißburgunder) used to be a buyer at Marks & Spencer but is now back in his native Germany sourcing wines like this one. Creamy and textured, with some weight from lees contact in tank, flavours of pear, quince and wet stones and a fresh, palate-cleansing finish.
Part of the impressive Found range of off-the-beaten-track varieties from Marks & Spencer (most of the line up is worth trying), this is a delicious Grenache Blanc from the Perderberg winery, made with dry-farmed grapes by Albertus Louw. Showing the zingy freshness that’s typical of many 2020 Cape whites, this is intense, focused and unwooded, with green apple, citrus and aromatic herb notes and impressive underlying concentration for a wine at £8.
With its distinctive Haka label, Earth’s End Pinot Noir has long been one of the stand out wines in the Marks & Spencer range and is on coruscating form right now. Made by the talented Duncan Forsyth, a man whose flamboyant suits match the brilliance of his wines, this is sappy, savoury and focused, with wild strawberry and red cherry fruit, some underlying stony grip and a whisper of wood spices.
Frenchman Hervé Joyaux Fabre makes some of the best value Malbecs in Argentina, as well as some equally smart top-end wines in Mendoza, Patagonia and back in Cahors. This red from the excellent 2019 vintage is entirely unoaked, leaving the variety to sing at the top of its lungs. Floral, enticing and juicy, it has supple, undulating tannins, zesty acidity and a core of bramble and blackberry fruit. Just the thing to cheer you up now that the clocks have gone back.
Part of the generally impressive new Classics range from Marks & Spencer, this reminded me what cracking value Chianti can deliver under £10. Made by Cecchi, it’s Sangiovese based with 30% Colorino and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon for extra backbone. Very lightly wooded – what do you expect for £8? – it’s bright, aromatic and savoury, with the classic Italian combination of racy acidity and some tannic grip and layers of red cherry and raspberry fruit. Refreshing and well balanced, it’s just the thing for early autumn drinking.
Gerd Stepp used to work at Marks & Spencer before he went back to his native Germany to make wine again. Our loss was the Pfalz’s gain, as this is one of the best dry Rieslings on the market for £15 or under. Sourced from the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard on soils with a high percentage of limestone, it’s wonderfully racy, taut and complex with some creamy weight from six months on its fermentation lees, pithy minerality, lime, jasmine and wet stone notes and a thrilling finish.
Gerd Stepp used to be a buyer at Marks & Spencer, but has now gone back to his original career as a winemaker in the Pfalz. People are often surprised to learn how much Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder) Germany produces and just how good it can be. For Pinot lovers who’ve almost given up on finding enjoyable expressions of their beloved grape under £10, this unoaked example is a godsend: smooth, supple and strawberry fruity with crunchy acidity and a sweet core.
Marks & Spencer have culled a lot of the quirkier wines in their range of late, so I’m delighted that this left-field, skin-fermented white from Georgia, the so-called cradle of wine, is still on its shelves. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape in the limestone-dominated area of Kakheti, it has funky, earthy, quince and orange peel flavours and some tannic grip. Dry and unusual, it’s a textbook introduction to wines fermented in clay pots, or qvevri.
Currently on a deal that has reduced its price by £4, this was worth buying at £12, but is especially so now. Made from Greece’s increasingly trendy Assyrtiko, with 5% each of Aidani and Athiri for company, this is a brilliant seafood white that’s crunchy, pithy and slightly salty, with lemon and lime zest fruit, an undertone of wild herbs and a long and very refreshing finish. If the summer ever starts again, drink a bottle outside in the sun. If not, imagine you’re on a Greek island. Drink young and well chilled.
One of a number of wines at Marks & Spencer to have benefited from a new lower price, this is just the thing for the warmer weather: a light, tangy, spritzy white made from three local Portuguese grapes – Loureiro, Arinto and a splash of Trajadura – and showing lip smacking flavours of green apple, citrus peel and white pepper. Wonderfully crisp and refreshing.
An impressive example of the new, cool climate style of Australian Chardonnay that takes Burgundy as its inspiration. Tangy, bright and crunchy, with citrus-fresh acidity, subtle oak and lovely focus and length, this is a classy New World white that will age further in bottle.