It’s something of a paradox that the best winter reds often come from warm climates that produce throaty, full-bodied wines. This old-vine cuvée from the Portuguese Alentejo region is a case in point. Made with Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelão and Syrah, it’s spicy, intense and textured, unfurling bramble, fig and blackberry flavours in the glass, with a patina of sweet cinnamon oak.
Chile is not as well known for Chardonnay as it is for Sauvignon Blanc, but it should be, given the quality of what’s being produced in places like Casablanca, Malleco and Limarí. This unoaked version from the country’s biggest winery, Concha y Toro, is ludicrously good value, with taut, tangy, chalky freshness, notes of lemongrass and melon and a creamy mid palate from time on its fermentation lees. Watch out, Chablis.
I know I’m running the risk of being accused of favouritism, but I really can’t get enough of the wines made by the brilliant Apostolos Thymiopoulos. The hugely exciting Greek region of Naoussa continues to produce some of the best value reds in Europe from the Xinomavro grape. Mid-way between a Barolo and a Côte de Beaune Pinot Noir in style, this has rose petal and patisserie aromas, red cherry and raspberry fruit, fresh acidity and engaging, granular tannins. A perfect Christmas lunch red.
How does Aldi do it? Very few, if any retailers are as good at sourcing bargain wines from around the world. This is an ambitious Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Alicante Bouschet from coastal Maremma. Rich, serious and dense, with classically savoury tannins, plum, raspberry and tobacco leaf flavours and a dusting of cinnamon sweetness.
Margaret River isn’t usually listed among Australia’s best sources of Shiraz – it’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay country – but this is a very tasty, well-priced example of the grape from the talented Virginia Willcock. Showing some cool climate white pepper notes as well as flavours of bramble and blackberry, it has a touch of oak spice, fresh acidity and subtle, savoury tannins.
Aligoté used to be regarded as something of a second-class grape in Burgundy – fit for Kir Royale or impoverished white wine drinkers on a budget – but climate change is altering its status in a region where Chardonnay sometimes struggles to retain acidity in earlier, hotter vintages like 2020. This unoaked example is wonderfully fresh, taut and mouthwatering with no oak to clutter its pure, citrus and green apple flavours and some added texture from malolactic fermentation.
There’s so much good South African Chenin Blanc on the market these days that it’s easy to forget about the variety’s home turf in the Loire Valley. This comes from what is arguably the best appellation in the region for dry styles – Savennières. Grown on sand and schist, this is a superb, single-parcel wine from Philippe Socheleau, with a lovely combination of weight, freshness and minerality. Very lightly wooded, it has flavours of citrus, cream, green apple and fennel and a long, engaging, bone dry finish.
The youthful Giulia Negri makes this wonderful declassified Barolo from younger vines in the Serradenari vineyard in La Morra, one of the highest sites in the denominazione. Organically farmed and refreshing, it’s a graceful, elegant Nebbiolo showing the freshness of its high-altitude source, beguiling rose petal and old strawberry aromas, a focused, nuanced palate and just the right amount of tannic backbone and acidity. Ludicrously good at the price.
If you think Barossa Shiraz is all about power and intensity, this wine from Tim Smith will come as a welcome surprise. Graceful, elegant and refined, it’s deceptively forward and easy to drink with the faintest touch of oak, fine-grained tannins, bramble and red berry fruit and impressive poise and precision. You could tuck some away for a few years and it will reward patience. There’s still some of the very good 2019 on the market, but wait for the 2020 if you can.
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.