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.
Sourced from the flatlands of the Salento peninsula, where Primitivo (aka Zinfandel) is at its best in Puglia, this is a toothsome, barrel-aged red at a very appealing price, showing flavours of plum, blackebrry and spice, with some peppery lift, a touch of tobacco and well-integrated oak. At its best with robust food.
Aglianico is arguably southern Italy’s outstanding red grape (Nerello Mascalese and Nero d’Avola are the other contenders) and it makes some of its best wines on the volcanic slopes of the Vulture DOC. This is a rich and robust wine, with firmish tannins offset by plenty of spicy, peppery black fruits and minerally, refreshing acidity.
So-called Cape red blends are controversial, largely because of the inclusion of Pinotage, which can dominate other varieties to a remarkable degree. But that’s not the case here, despite the presence of 57% Pinotage, offset by Merlot and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc. This is a classy, nauanced red, with well judged oak, fine tannins and leafy, grassy Cabernet combined with sweeter, raspberry notes from the Pinotage.
Delicious Barolo, like delicious red Burgundy, is hard to find under £20, let alone at closer to £10, but Matteo Ascheri is brilliant at finding parcels of Italy’s most tempertmental grape that deliver flavour as well as value for money. This is a riper style (it was a warm vintage), but combines aromas of rose petal and red fruits with savoury, smoky tannins and a classically firm, even austere finish. A great introduction to the joys of Nebbiolo.
Made by the talented Johannes Leitz, this is a modern Rheingau Riesling from a very good vintage, with classic sweet and sour flavours of apple and stone fruit, 47 grams of sugar, some extra weight from lees contact and a long, crunchy finish. Very refreshing, despite the residual sugar.
The wonderfully theatrical Chester Osborn is better known for his reds than his whites, but he has a suprisingly subtle touch with the latter, as this very lightly oaked blend of Viognier with 32% Marsanne demonstrates. It’s a spicy, pithy, understated white, with good crunch and zest, a hint of apricot and a mealy, balanced finish.
Taittinger is in a rich vein of form at the moment, from this its non vintage blend right up the Olympian heghts of Comtes de Champagne. This is dry, toasty and well balanced with Chardonnay providing the freshness and lift on the palate. Appealingly dry for non vintage blend, using bottle age rather than sweetness for balance.
It’s worth paying a little extra to secure a bottle of this special Premier Cru from Domaines Brocard, as it has even more weight and concentration. There’s great texture here, with notes of citrus fruit and fresh cream and a stony, chalky finish. Fantastic value and a brilliant expression of a very good Chablis vintage.