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.
Currently on a deal that has reduced its price by £4, this was worth buying at £12, but is especially so now. Made from Greece’s increasingly trendy Assyrtiko, with 5% each of Aidani and Athiri for company, this is a brilliant seafood white that’s crunchy, pithy and slightly salty, with lemon and lime zest fruit, an undertone of wild herbs and a long and very refreshing finish. If the summer ever starts again, drink a bottle outside in the sun. If not, imagine you’re on a Greek island. Drink young and well chilled.
Neuburger is an extremely rare grape, even in its native Austria, with only 550 of the country’s 44,000 hectares, but Feiler-Artinger have made something of a specialty of the variety. This is wonderfully perfumed, with very understated oak, peachy, savoury, spicy flavours, plenty of weight and texture. It gives the impression of slight sweetness, but finishes dry, refreshing and well balanced. A wonderful curiosity.
I get a small glow of pride reviewing this wine as I tasted it at a Three Wine Men event and told the Rude Wines team how good it was. I’m delighted to say they agreed with me and listed it. Cottonworth is not one of the best-known English bubbly producers, but it’s definitely a name to keep an eye on if this is typical of future releases. Balanced, elegant and refined, with small bubbles, notes of summer berries and candy floss, a creamy, textured, mid palate and a long, satisfying finish. Great as an aperitif or with a bowl of strawberries.
White Grenache might not be everyone’s idea of a summer white wine, but this Catalan example is remarkably refreshing, demonstrating the variety’s ability to maintain acidity in a hot Mediterranean climate. Lees-aged with some skin contact and the addition of 5% Macabeu (Macabeo in Spanish), this is stony, waxy and intense with a combination of coastal-influenced salinity and undertones of pear and lime.
Beaumes de Venise is still more famous for its fortified Muscats, but canny buyers have always known that if you pick the right wine, the appellation can offer red wines that rival top Châteauneuf-du-Pape at half the price or less. This cuvée of Grenache with 30% Syrah and 10% each of Carignan and Viognier comes from a 50-year-old parcel at 500 metres above the village of Suzette and is wonderfully dense, rich and savoury, showing considerable concentration and weight, flavours of garrigue, black plum and violet and a full-bodied finish. It’s certainly drinkable now, but will reward further cellaring.
Furmint is one of the world’s greatest white grapes, although very few people are familiar with it. They might have heard of – or even tasted – a sweet Tokaji (the wine is spelled with an i, the region without) – but dry versions of the grape are harder to track down. So well done Sainsbury’s for listing this taut, racy, stony example with fine texture, citrus and white pepper flavours and a long, refreshing finish.
The kind of thing that wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of New Wave South African Chenin Blancs, this superb organic Loire Valley example from Alexandre Cady has a winning combination of richness, lees-derived complexity, subtle 30% new oak and thrilling acidity. Flavours of pear, apple and quince combine beautifully on the palate with undertones of baking spices and a long, refreshing finish.