If Michael Brajkovich MW were a Burgundian rather than a New Zealander, he would be among the most celebrated white winemakers in the Côte de Beaune, right up there with the likes of Dominique Lafon, Pierre-Vves Colin Morey and Jean-Marc Roulot. The good news for us is that we can buy his amazing Chardonnays at ludicrously cheap prices. This is only his entry-point wine, but is typically well balanced, refreshing and focused, with just a hint of oak spice, leesy complexity, some struck match undertones and a chiselled, refreshing finish. A Kiwi wine that’s better than many Puligny-Montrachets.
Supplied as an exclusive to the Wine Society – and something of a coup for buyer Toby Morrhall – this is a delicious Pinot Noir from the legendary Chilean winemaker, Ignacio Recabarren. Sold at a very affordable price for a red of this quality, it’s bright, perfumed and gently wooded, with lovely cool climate elegance and zip, black cherry and raspberry fruit and a stony, well-structured finish. Pacific Ocean freshness in a glass.
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.