Furmint is one of the world’s greatest white grapes, although very few people are familiar with it. They might have heard of – or even tasted – a sweet Tokaji (the wine is spelled with an i, the region without) – but dry versions of the grape are harder to track down. So well done Sainsbury’s for listing this taut, racy, stony example with fine texture, citrus and white pepper flavours and a long, refreshing finish.
Bellingham’s Roussanne is one of the few stand alone examples of the grape in South Africa, and it’s getting better with every vintage, showing impressive weight, texture and finesse. This deftly-oaked, full-bodied white is rich but not unctuous, with notes of baking spices, citrus and green tea, a hint of tropical fruit sweetness and a grippy, almost tannic finish that works really well with food.
Kleine Zalze deserves to be more famous than it is in South Africa. It consistently turns out a very good range of commercial wines, as well as smaller quantities of top end stuff. This belongs in the latter category and it’s a great example of ripe, tropically fruity Cape Chenin. Pineapple and melon notes are balanced by the refreshing acidity that’s the variety’s calling card and rounded out by subtle oak fermentation.
Despite its warm climate origins in the Campania region close to Naples, this wine is made from grapes grown at 450 metres and it shows, giving the wine lovely focus and zip. It’s a spicy, savoury white with a creamy texture from lees contact and plenty of weight and concentration. It was already on a deal (down from £10.49), so you get a double saving here. Bargain!
This wine has been on Sainsbury’s shelves for a while (a reflection of Semillon’s lack of popularity, rather than the quality of this example, which is outstanding), but now is still a great time to buy this aged Hunter white. Toasty, fresh and mature with focused acidity and notes of lemongrass and cream soda and a long, unoaked finish. Go on, give it a go!
Another Aussie white that may appear a little long in the dental department, but has actually benefited from the extra bottle age. This is just off-dry, showing delicious, lemon, lime and toasty flavours with a hint of kerosene. Focused and long, this is great with Asian food.
Why isn’t there more Roussanne planted in the hotter parts of the Cape, such as Paarl? Beats me, because it seems to do really well there, especially in the hands of Niel Groenewald at Bellingham. This lightly oaked, lees-influenced white is savoury and complex with notes of oatmeal, vanilla and cinnamon and a long, yeasty finish.
If you’re looking for a tasty claret to enjoy now, but that will keep for another six or seven years, this is the perfect candidate. Made by the team at Fifth Growth Pauillac estate, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, it’s a light, perfumed, refined, Merlot-based blend with notes of graphite and blackcurrant leaf and impressive balance and poise.
2010 was a great vintage in the Rhône, as it was elsewhere in France, and this is a Crozes that wouldn’t look out of place in more prestigious Hermitage, up river. Smoky, tapenade notes on the nose segue into flavours of black pepper, clove and blackberry, with no oak to interfere with the fruit purity. Deliciously poised and complex.
A top Rioja Reserva for less than £20? Sounds very appealing to me. This is very much a modern style Rioja, with the emphasis on Tempranillo (97% of the blend here, with 3% Graciano for added backbone) and the ability to age further in bottle rather than drinkability on release. This is sweetly oaked, with fine tannins, fresh, minerally acidity and a core of red and black fruits. Long, textured and very complex, it’s still a very young wine, so hold off if you can.
It’s surprisingly hard to find wines made solely from Grenache (such is its predigree as a blending grape), but McLaren Vale in South Australia is often a good bet. This has all the variety’s hallmarks – high alcohol, bags of red fruits and full, but smooth tannins – with well integrated vanilla oak and plenty of perfume and concentration. Very tasty.
Taming the heat of the Douro Valley is the key to making balanced red table wines (as opposed to more fiery, fortified Ports) and Manuel Lobo of Quinta do Crasto has done that with consummate skill here. The wine is rich and flavoursome, all right, with notes of violet, blackberry and spice, supple tannins and youthful vigour, but it has good acidity and freshness, too.