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 not easy to find really good glugging reds under £5 any more, but the Campo de Borja region in northern Spain would be my first port of call. This unoaked example from Bodegas Borsao is juicy, brambly and full of raspberry and redcurrant fruit. Soft and supple: pure, uncomplicated pleasure.
Bonarda could be one of Argentina’s USPs if only more producers made the wine as well as this rich, savoury, liquorice and blackberry-like red, with its sweet vanilla oak, medium weight tannins and spicy concentration. Serious stuff with an Italianate twist.
Mature Rioja is one of my favourite wines, especially from a top vintage like 2004. This pure Tempranillo from the ever-reliable Barón de Ley winery will appeal to lovers of traditional Rioja, even though it is a varietal, rather than a blend with Garnacha. It’s savoury and sweet, with supple wild strawberry and game-like flavours, lovely vanilla oak and a complex, nuanced finish. At its best with lamb, but it’s a very versatile red.
I sometimes feel as if I’m the president, founder and only member of the Carignan appreciation society, which is strange, given how good this grape can taste, especially when its vines are old. That’s the case here in this chunky Roussillon red, sourced from bush vines close to the Pyrenees. It’s a big, bold, appropriately rustic number with notes of thyme, rosemary and pepper spice, a touch of sweetness, bags of black fruits and a volatile lift. In short, classic Carignan.
On offer from April 2nd to the 30th (the price comes down to a very attractive £5.79), this is a textbook example of the Languedoc’s best seafood white. Citrus and white pepper on the nose, with a hint of white peach, this is zesty, medium-bodied and unoaked, with a fresh, tangy finish. Try it with a plate of oysters or mussels.