Tempranillo may be Spain’s best known red grape, but Garnacha is just as interesting and much better suited to climate change. This is an amazing, old-vine example from Bodegas Nekeas in Navarra that shows the variety at its great value best. Perfumed and enticing, with notes of wild herbs, raspberry and redcurrant, a hint of oak and some underlying savoury tannins. So well balanced that you don’t notice the 15% alcohol.
The Allegrinis make some of the best Valpolicellas in the Veneto, so it’s no surprise that this blend of the local grapes Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella with 10% each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is so impressive. Made with 15% of dried grapes – a technique used to increase concentration and flavour – this is plummy and refreshing with notes of green herbs and black cherry, impressive underlying structure and a classic combination of acidity and fine-grained tannins.
Something of a favourite with Majestic managers, apparently, and I can see why, this is a spectacularly exciting white from the Lugana region close to the southern shore of Lake Garda. Made from the Turbiana grape (the local name for Verdicchio), it’s a pithy, stony delight that’s mid-way between a Spanish Albariño and a Chablis in style. Tangy and well balanced, with notes of citrus peel and gunflint and a hint of stone fruit sweetness. Long, complex and refreshing.
Tertius Boshoff and his team make some of my favourite Cape Chenin Blancs, offering wines of varying levels of price and complexity, right up to some of the best examples in South Africa. This lightly wooded example is a really good introduction to the joys of the variety, with notes of hay and baking spices on the nose, pear, peach and citrus on the palate and a dusting of vanilla. Stellenrust is also Faitrade accredited, tying in with the subject of Jono Le Feuvre’s article this week.
It’s amazing how much Austrian red wines have improved in the last decade, thanks to warmer vintages and much better work in the vineyards and winery. This appealingly mature cuvée of Merlot with three local grapes, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and St Laurent, is a case in point. It’s smooth, complex and well balanced, with subtle wood, black cherry, plum and fresh earth notes, bright, chalky acidity and a funky undertone.
I don’t need an excuse to drink Cabernet Franc – it’s one of my favourite red grapes – but this one from a family domaine in Saumur is the kind of wine that’s worth making a special trip to get hold of. Fresh, bright and entirely unoaked, it’s a medium-bodied delight. Herbal, leafy and tangy, with black cherry and raspberry fruit, top notes of capsicum and pencil shavings, refreshing acidity and the graceful tannins that are typical of variety at its best. A few years in bottle have added some extra complexity.
I wouldn’t normally recommend a Viognier with a few years of bottle age – it’s a grape best consumed in its blossomy, intensely perfumed youth – but this unoaked example comes from a very special site in the Chilean Andes, located at 1,600 metres, and has improved over the last 12 months. There are still plenty of creamy ginger spice and apricot flavours on offer, but they’re balanced by stony freshness and minerality. Delicious.
I thought this seafood friendly Sicilian white was really good value at £8.99, but it’s even better on offer at £6.74. Picked at night to retain acidity and sourced from vineyards at 400 metres in the foothills of Mount Aurelian, it’s suitably tangy and refreshing with no wood to interrupt the precision or vibrancy of the fruit flavours. Salty and briney, with a stony undertone, wild herb and citrus intensity and a refreshing, tapering finish.
Is this the best-value white Burgundy in the high street? It’s certainly in with a very strong shout. Sourced from the village of Rully, which lies just to the south of the more prestigious communes of the Côte de Beaune, it would slot very easily into a tasting of more expensive wines from Puligny- or Chassagne-Montrachet. Subtly wooded, with lemon zest, crème fraîche and vanilla spice flavours, impressive acidity for a 2019 and a long, refined finish.
I wish I’d known about someone like Gilles Bonnefoy when I lived in Clermont-Ferrand back in the 1980s, when good local wines were rare in the Massif Central. This is a wonderfully crunchy, sappy summer red grown on the volcanic soils that are a feature of the region. Made from Gamay, it’s a stony, unwooded delight, with plum and wild strawberry fruit and a satisfying, mineral-edged core.
Sauvignon Blanc can be a one-glass wine, but this is an example that makes you want to share and finish the bottle. Made for Tesco by long-term supplier Fournier Père & Fils, it’s a wonderfully perfumed, pithy, stony Loire white with notes of green herbs, elderflower and lime, zesty acidity and a chalky, almost salty tang. The best sub-£15 Sauvignon on the high street right now.
Part of the impressive Found range of off-the-beaten-track varieties from Marks & Spencer (most of the line up is worth trying), this is a delicious Grenache Blanc from the Perderberg winery, made with dry-farmed grapes by Albertus Louw. Showing the zingy freshness that’s typical of many 2020 Cape whites, this is intense, focused and unwooded, with green apple, citrus and aromatic herb notes and impressive underlying concentration for a wine at £8.