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.
This impressive wine is sometimes described as a ‘mini Châteauneuf-du-Pape” but it’s much better than that. In fact, it’s superior to many supermarket CNDPs and cheaper, too. Made by the Perrin family who own Château de Beaucastel, it’s a poised, scented, integrated cuvée of mostly Grenache with 15% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, with fine red berry fruit, a dusting of Mediterranean herbs, understated wood and a refreshing, medium-bodied finish.
What’s Grauvernatsch supposed to taste like? To be honest, I’m not really sure as it’s a grape I’ve never knowingly encountered before. But if you like elegant, light-bodied Alpine reds – from the Italian Südtirol in this case – you’ll love the understated elegance of this light, scented refreshing red, with its fragrant wild strawberry and redcurrant fruit, silky tannins and aromatic herbs. Juicy and unwooded, it’s a wine that tastes even better chilled.
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.
Grüner Veltliner is rare enough in New Zealand, but one with six years of bottle age is unique. But what a brilliant wine this is. Part of Matt Thomson and Sophie Parker-Thomson’s off-the-wall series of small volume Kiwi whites and reds, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of top Austrian examples of the grape. Partially barrel fermented in larger French oak barrels, it’s bright, focused and remarkably youthful, with notes of bay leaf and white pepper, crunchy minerality and pear and citrus fruit.
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.