The 2020 release of Concha y Toro’s top Bordeaux red is something of a triumph over the demanding vintage conditions, which were the hottest and driest in Don Melchor’s thirty-four year history. Featuring a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot, it managed to sidestep the torrid conditions, thanks to a combination of early picking – three weeks to a month, depending on the parcel – and the talent and experience of long-term winemaker, Enrique Tirado. Deftly oaked in 71% new oak, it has alluring graphite and dried herb aromas, cassis, fig and red berry fruit, serious but not overwhelming tannins and more finesse and freshness in its youth than the 2017 with which Tirado rightly compares it.
Now that we can start having (legal) parties again, this is just the sort of thing I’d like to serve to my friends and family. Sourced from a family-owned winery near Pescara, it’s a fruity, perfumed, unoaked bundle of joy, with lots of lift and texture, layers of plum and red cherry, lively acidity and just enough tannin to give it some food-friendly grip and structure.
Oh to be sitting in a bar in Santorini drinking a glass of this amazing wine. But sipping it in London’s still a pleasure, reminding me of the lure of the Greek islands. Made from old, ungrafted bush vines grown on volcanic soils, it’s a stunning white from Matthew Argyros, demonstrating Assyrtiko’s classic combination of salty, briney aromatics, crunchy minerality and flavours of preserved lemons and wild herbs. Long, focused and beautifully balanced.
Neuburger is an extremely rare grape, even in its native Austria, with only 550 of the country’s 44,000 hectares, but Feiler-Artinger have made something of a specialty of the variety. This is wonderfully perfumed, with very understated oak, peachy, savoury, spicy flavours, plenty of weight and texture. It gives the impression of slight sweetness, but finishes dry, refreshing and well balanced. A wonderful curiosity.
Produced for Tanners by the impressive winemaking duo of João Portugal Ramos and José-Maria Soares Franco (who used to make Portugal’s most famous red, Barca Velha) this is an impressively well balanced Douro red at an attractive price, with subtle, spicy oak, good minerality and acidity and tarry, brambly fruit. Half bottles at £4.45.
The supplier for Tanners’ impressive own-label Mosel Riesling Kabinett is none other than the Max Ferd. Richter winery, which is something of a coup. The result is delicious. It’s at the lower end of the sweetness scale (at 27 grams per litre), showing 11% alcohol and a comparatviely “dry” finish. Youthful and zingy, with a touch of carbon dioxide and racy, palate-tingling acidity.
The received wisdom (at least round my gaff) is that 20-year-old Tawnies are better than the 10-year-old versions, but this wine challenges that. It will improve further in bottle, but it’s remarkable now, an intense, nutty, figgy fortified with more tannin and concentration than commerical Tawnies at lower price points. In short, it’s worth the extra cash: a sweet, yet structured, wood-matured Port with impressive palate length.
Who says Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t age? When it’s made by Denis Dubourdieu, an academic and hands on winemaker who specialises in the variety, it can be spectacularly good. This is like a mini white Graves, with toasty, bottle-aged complexity, zesty acidity, tangy grapefruit-like flaovurs and a smoky undertone. The wine is delicious now but has more ageing potential if previous releases are a guide.
If you’re not aware of the remarkable Chardonnays that Michael Brajkovich is producing north of Auckland, you’re missing out on some of the New World’s best white wines. This is very Burgundian indeed with fresh, mineral, butter and citrus fruit flavours, delicate oak and a long, harmonious finish. Great now but will age for at least another five years.