Pepe Mendoza is one of the best producers in the historic region of Alicante, bringing bags of energy and creativity to the denominación de origen. Called “poison” because of the strong character of the bush vine vineyard that supplied it, this pure Monastrell is fresh, bright and intense, with plum and black cherry fruit, some spices from 50% whole bunches, very subtle wood and tannins that are grippy but not overwhelmingly so.
Made from the extremely rare Giró grape, which probably came to Alicante from Sardinia in the 17th century, this is part of a brilliant range from the ever-creative Pepe Mendoza. Sourced from a bush vine site planted on red clay soils in 1943, it has a wonderful combination of freshness and presence, with savoury tannins, red cherry and will herb flavours and levels of acidity that are reminiscent of Italy rather than Spain.
Made with organic grapes grown on granite soils in the little-known Sierra de Salamanca at 700 metres, this is a very rare Spanish white with incredible texture, focus and minerality, especially at only 12.5% alcohol. Salty, yeasty and beeswaxy, with a bracing, mouthwatering finish. No oak, just fruit intensity and texture.
The vines used to produce this impressive, well-priced Verdejo from the go-ahead Cuatro Rayas co-operative are “only” 40 years old, but that would be considered ancient in some parts of the world. Rich and almost exotic, with notes of lychee and white peach, some subtle oak from 20% barrel fermentation in 500-litre barrels and zesty, crunchy acidity.
Made with a selection of the co-operative’s most venerable vineyards, this hails from plots that are all over 100 years’ old. It’s an oxidatively handled style that will appeal to fans of traditional white Rioja, with a mix of French and American oak, lots of toast and spices and flavours of pear, saffron and beeswax underpinned by salinity. Developing nicely in bottle.
One of the most ambitious Rueda whites, this comes from a selection of pre-phylloxera vineyards and is built to age. The oak is better integrated than on the 2015, which is also available in the market right now, supporting a wine with amazing intensity and focus. Nutty and intense, it has flavours of pear, citrus and marzipan, with undertones of fennel and cinnamon, good structure and racy, palate-cleansing acidity.
Something of a tribute to the fortified wines that were traditionally produced in Rueda – and dominated the region’s production until the 1980s – this is a Sherry-style, solera-aged cuvée of Palomino and Verdejo. Pale, nutty and dry, it’s like a lighter version of a Palo Cortado, with yeasty complexity and a salty, refreshingly tangy finish. Unusual and complex.
Superb, lightly wooded Verdejo from 100-year-old vines that shows both concentration and freshness. Pink grapefruit and wild herb notes combine thrillingly on the palate with a salty finish and a hint of vanilla spice.
Pedro Parra is best known as a French-trained ‘terroir specialist’ who consults to many of the top wineries in South America, but he is increasingly turning his weathered hands to producing his own wines. This deliciously refined País comes from a 100-year-old vineyard on granite soils in Portezuelo and will definitely appeal to fans of Pinot Noir. Pale, playful and refreshing, it has pomegranate and raspberry fruit, a hint of savoury tannin and a long, tangy finish.
Xinomavro is one of those grape varieties that ought to be wider known, but isn’t because it’s mostly confined to northern Greece. Crafted by the talented Apostolos Thymiopoulos, this example from Naoussa is way less toothsome than some examples, partly because it’s made with fruit from young vines. Peppery, spicy and scented, it’s like a cross between a Gamay and a Nebbiolo. with rose petal aromas, red cherry and raspberry fruit, tangy acidity, hints of liquorice and mint and a nip of underlying tannin. Ludicrously good value at only £10.95.
Frenchman Hervé Joyaux Fabre makes some of the best value Malbecs in Argentina, as well as some equally smart top-end wines in Mendoza, Patagonia and back in Cahors. This red from the excellent 2019 vintage is entirely unoaked, leaving the variety to sing at the top of its lungs. Floral, enticing and juicy, it has supple, undulating tannins, zesty acidity and a core of bramble and blackberry fruit. Just the thing to cheer you up now that the clocks have gone back.
I enthusiastically recommended the 2017 release of this wine, but I make no excuse for doing the same thing with the 2018. Schiava, otherwise known as Vernatsch, is the grape variety behind this wonderful, old-vine red from a brilliant co-operative in the Italian Alto Adige. Showing the Alpine freshness of a vineyard at 400 metres, it has top notes of rose petal and summer pudding, a core of redcurrant and wild strawberry fruit, racy, palate-tingling acidity, stony minerality and a long, textured, refined finish. Something to remind you of the last days of summer.