The Urbina family’s appealingly traditional Riojas age brilliantly thanks to the acidity that comes with growing Tempranillo in the cool, limestone-dominated Cuzcurrita zone. This isn’t a blockbuster wine, but it’s remarkably complex, savoury and scented with notes of wild strawberries, forest floor and pouch tobacco, filigree tannins and haunting balsamic sweetness.
Not as well known as the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc releases, but every bit as good in my opinion, this is frequently among my favourite South Island Chardonnays. Toasty, savoury and enticing, it has citrus and beeswax notes supported by fresh, palate cleasning acidity and a nutty finish. Just starting to develop bottle-aged complexity.
There’s always something of a rush to list and sell the new vintage of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s good to see a winery (and a retailer in the shape of the Wine Society) that takes a more relaxed approach to vintages, selling wines with a bit of bottle age. Tangy, savoury and dry, this is a complex, flinty, well balanced white with no oak, allowing the quince, greengage and gooseberry fruit to shine.
Grown on basalt soils identified as ideal by the French terroir consultant, Claude Bourguignon, for Mediterranean grapes, this is a stunning blend of mostly Mourvèdre with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. Liquorice, damson, tapenade and blackberry flavours are embellished by bright acidity, savoury, grippy tannins and just a hint of oak.
Spain has grubbed up a depressing amount of its Garnacha plantings in the last 20 years, but the grape is still capable of great things, even at this sort of very affordable price. Hailing from the high altitude Grelos Mountains near Madrid, this is a remarkably fresh, refined wine that nods towards Pinot Noir and Cinsault in style. Tangy acidity, raspberry and redcurrant fruit and a long refreshing finish are complemented by silky tannins. Stunning value.
Englishwoman Katie Jones’ old vine releases from the Maury area are improving with every vintage and are now some of the best in the Roussillon. This Grenache Gris shows the variety’s focus, minerality and herbal edge, complemented by notes of pear and beeswax and the faintest kiss of oak.
Taylor’s isn’t as well known for its Tawnies as some houses are – its LBVs and Vintage Ports are up there with the very best – but it should be, based on the quality of this 20-year-old release. Figgy, sweet and complex, with beautifully integrated spirit and notes of umami and orange zest. One of those Ports that you don’t want to pass to your neighbour.
Once upon a time, I used to own a bit of vineyard land in Fitou. I just wish I’d done something as useful with it as Katie Jones has. This blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah is all about perfume and dark, sun-kissed fruit, constructed around a core of freshness and stony minerality. One of the most exciting Fitous I’ve tasted in years.
Tawny Port doesn’t get a whole lot better than this incredible elixir of a wine. Fig, Christmas cake and rancio notes combine beautifully in this savoury/sweet delight. The fortifiication is perfectly judged, while the finish lingers enticingly on the tongue.
Is Loire Cabernet Franc finally getting the recognition it deserves, partly because of the rise in the grape’s fortunes elsewhere? If so, it’s about time. Where else can you find a wine as complex as this Chinon for under £9? It’s a classically grassy, refreshing red with no apparent oak and remarkable elegance and fruit purity. Drink it chilled, and drink lots of it.
Pinot Blanc tends to get overlooked in Alsace behind Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, but when it’s as good as this biodynamically farmed example, it’s delicious. Textured, rich and focused with a touch of appealing bitterness, presumably from skin contact, and notes of white flowers, honey and beeswax. The wine finishes refeshingly dry.
Anyone who doubts that the Australian Chardonnay revolution is one of the most exciting trends in the world, right now, booting the old “sunshine in a glass” cliché into the Great Southern Ocean, should join The Wine Society and get hold of a bottle of this remarkable wine from the cool climate Adelaide Hills. Burgundy could only dream of providing such value at under £10. Fresh, minerally and yeasty, with subtle oak and a savoury undertone, it tastes like a really good Saint Aubin. Drink over the next five years.