Cinsault comes in a variety of guises, from the light and fruit to the grippy and substantial. Tertius Boshoff sources this example from a 1972 block that also supplies his rare white Cinsault and it definitely belongs in the latter camp. Fermented with 38% whole bunches, it has some meaty concentration, 18% new oak spice, savoury tannins, layers of bramble and red cherry fruit and considerable structure. A lot of wine for £9.99.
Terret Blanc is one of those very localised grape varieties that you only find in the Languedoc, mostly in the Hérault department. It comes in three, mutated colours – white, red and pink (gris) – and tends to be blended with other varieties. This white version is great value at its normal price of £8.49, but a steal at £6.49. Grown on the sort of clay and limestone soils you find in Burgundy, it has some of the zip, citrus crunch and steeliness of an unoaked Chablis, but with top notes of wild Mediterranean herbs. Long, tangy and refreshing.
Unwooded for the first time in 2018, but as full of bounce and blackberry fruit as ever, Hey! combines grapes from Luján and the Uco Valley in a juicy, supple bundle of fun. Sweet and appealing, this is Malbec at its immediate best: the kind of thing that makes you want to pour a glass into a tumbler and put on some of your favourite music with the sound ramped up to 11.
It may not be a popular opinion with Shiraz lovers, but Master of Wine Giles Cooke, who made this wine, thinks that “Grenache is Australia’s signature grape”. It’s certainly one of its most versatile and, I think, underrated varieties. This very lightly wooded example combines fruit from two sub-regions of McLaren Vale (Clarendon and Blewitt Springs) and the less glamorous Riverland and it’s a belter of a red. Juicy, floral and peppery, with some spices from partial whole bunch-fermentation with stems and a core of raspberry, red cherry and wild strawberry fruit. Try it ever so slightly chilled.
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“A wine of the vintage”, according to Gabriel Pisano, but this is no Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact, this brilliant, unwooded Tannat from one of Uruguay’s best young winemakers, sourced from 30-year-old vines in the Progreso sub-region, doesn’t have to be drunk in a hurry at all. Youthful, juicy and fresh, with plum and black cherry fruit, a stony undertone and sappy, savoury tannins. Just the thing to drink while you’re reading my 2020 Uruguay Report.
Sergio Verrillo is a brilliant American who works out of an urban winery in Battersea, London. His Chardonnay is England’s best interpretation of the grape and this quirky cuvée, or mix up, of Bacchus and Ortega isn’t far behind. Partially skin-fermented and aged in neutral oak, it’s an unfined, unfiltered, low-alcohol white with notes of nettle, elderflower and subtle vanilla spice, with stony minerality and a tangy, racy, Chablis-like finish.
País is Chile’s most historic red grape, but it’s also something new and trendy in many ways. Until comparatively recently, País was blended away into basic reds – the original variety that dared not speak its name – but thanks to the dedication of winemakers in the Itata and Maule Valleys, País has become fashionable. This supple, aromatic, unoaked, red berry and rose petal-scented example was made for Waitrose by Eduardo Jordán of Miguel Torres Chile and its wonderfully fresh, bright and juicy. It’s the kind of red you can drink with fish as well as poultry.
Gerd Stepp used to be a buyer at Marks & Spencer, but has now gone back to his original career as a winemaker in the Pfalz. People are often surprised to learn how much Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder) Germany produces and just how good it can be. For Pinot lovers who’ve almost given up on finding enjoyable expressions of their beloved grape under £10, this unoaked example is a godsend: smooth, supple and strawberry fruity with crunchy acidity and a sweet core.
The wines of Etna are some of Sicily’s – and Italy’s – most distinctive reds. Produced from two grapes – Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio – that are almost Pinot Noir like in colour and texture, this lightly wooded example is a fantastic introduction to a volcanic classic. Floral, ethereal and light with juicy redcurrant and raspberry fruit and some underlying stony grip. On offer at £10.99 from November 13 to December 3.
The Araldica co-op makes some of the best inexpensive reds and whites in northern Italy, typified by the quality of this juicy, spicy, sappy Barbera from Piedmont. Plum, black cherry and raspberry fruit are framed by savoury tannins and the tangy acidity that’s typical of the variety. Smooth and full-bodied, it’s a great all-purpose red to ease you gently into autumn.
Marks & Spencer have culled a lot of the quirkier wines in their range of late, so I’m delighted that this left-field, skin-fermented white from Georgia, the so-called cradle of wine, is still on its shelves. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape in the limestone-dominated area of Kakheti, it has funky, earthy, quince and orange peel flavours and some tannic grip. Dry and unusual, it’s a textbook introduction to wines fermented in clay pots, or qvevri.
Whether I’m on holiday in Spain or at home in London, this is my favourite summer white. Come to think of it, I drink it pretty much all year round. As crisp and refreshing as an early morning swim in the Atlantic, it’s the quintessential seafood tipple, with tangy, citrus and lime flavours, a hint of stone fruit and a zesty, spritzy finish. A delicious unoaked white that tingles your palate.