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.
Here’s a paradox: Bobal is Spain’s second most planted red grape, but doesn’t have much of an image outside the country. Maybe that’s starting to change, thanks to wines like this one from the talented Roselia Molina in the high-altitude Manchuela appellation, where she makes a range of low-intervention reds and whites from organically farmed vineyards at 1,100 metres. Wonderfully peppery, juicy and fresh with amazing vibrancy, plum, wild strawberry and black cherry fruit and a long, zingy finish. Stunning value at around £12.
Bandol rosé isn’t as hip as the pinks from the nearby Côtes de Provence appellation, but it can be every bit as good and often cheaper than celebrity-owned or endorsed brands. This pale, co-fermented cuvée of Grenache with 30% each of Mourvèdre and Cinsault from Philippe Barthès has lovely texture and weight, with a little more grip than many Provençal rosés, juicy watermelon and raspberry fruit and a faint nip of tannin. Boy, would I like to be drinking this in the south of France right now.
Vermentino, or Rolle as its known in France, is one of those grapes that retains acidity in warm climates, like Assyrtiko or Chenin Blanc. So expect to see a lot more of it planted as the impact of climate change is felt around the globe. This crunchy, youthful, white pepper, lime and wild herb-scented Aussie example is bracingly fresh and low in alcohol with a touch of Pinot Grigio and Fiano adding extra weight and perfume.
Vinho Verde gets a bad rap sometimes, deservedly so in its sweeter iterations, but can be wonderful if it’s made in a pithy, dry style. This great value Loureiro from Aldi is appealingly fresh and focused, with low alcohol, lime and lemon zest flavours, a hint of carbon dioxide and a pure, tangy, Atlantic Ocean-influenced finish. Just the thing for a seafood supper.
With its distinctive Haka label, Earth’s End Pinot Noir has long been one of the stand out wines in the Marks & Spencer range and is on coruscating form right now. Made by the talented Duncan Forsyth, a man whose flamboyant suits match the brilliance of his wines, this is sappy, savoury and focused, with wild strawberry and red cherry fruit, some underlying stony grip and a whisper of wood spices.
As well as being a beautiful place to visit, Saint-Chinian is one of the most exciting appellations in the south of France. This is an unoaked SGCM blend of Syrah with 35% Grenache, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre that shows the freshness and grip of the local schist and limestone soils, classic “garrigue” aromas of rosemary, thyme and lavender, supple tannins and layers of blackberry and black olive.
When Aldi’s on form, no other UK retailer can match its value-for-money wines. This is almost ludicrously good at the price – a high-altitude Malbec from top Uco Valley producer Salentein at only £5.79 a bottle. Smooth, scented and very lightly wooded, with classic Mendoza freshness, texture and intensity of colour. Violet and fennel aromas segue into a palate of plum, blackberry and liquorice, with supple tannins and a bright, lingering finish. The perfect barbecue red under £6. Bring on the summer.
Mathieu Vallée is better known for his spectacular white wines, but the reds aren’t far behind. Since he took over in 2007, he’s established Château Yonne as one of the top producers in Saumur. Organically farmed on limestone soils across seven parcels in the village of Champigny, La Folie is his most approachable red wine cuvée. Fresh, juicy and tangy, with notes of black cherry and mint, chalky acidity and vitality and a bright, energetic finish. Loire Cabernet Franc at its refreshing best.
Ahead of Sauvignon Blanc day tomorrow, I’ve been enjoying a few glasses of this Kiwi example from the brilliant Craggy Range. Most New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc comes from Marlborough, so this is something a little different, not least because a part of the wine was fermented in foudres and smaller oak barrels, but also because it comes from Martinborough, a region best known for its Pinot Noirs. Tangy, zesty and complex, with lime, passion fruit and nectarine flavours, racy acidity and a dry finish. The mid-palate is textured and slightly salty.