If you love Nebbiolo (and who doesn’t?) but can’t afford to drink top Barolo, this lighter style is a brilliant introduction to one of Italy’s two best red grapes. It’s subtle and fragrant, with a raspberry sweetness that reminds me of red Burgundy, backed up by fine, but not remotely aggressive tannins. Complex, leafy and well balanced, this is delicious now, but will develop for at least another five years.
Paololeo is one of the most exciting producers of Primitivo in Puglia, making stylish, modern, concentrated wines that aspire to match the quality of southern Italy’s best reds, especially at a price like this. Figs and pepper spice on the nose, with sweet vanilla oak, flavours of dark chocolate, plum and fresh tobacco and a refreshing, yet structured finish. The wine looks as good as it tastes, which is saying a good deal. Drink now to 5 years.
I haven’t tasted a generic Chablis as good as this in years, so bérets off to Canadian producer, Patrick Piuze, who rents vineyards in the region to make his hand-crafted wines. This has a little bit of added texture from older oak ageing, but it’s the fruit that sings on the palate: focused,tangy and lemon zesty with a chalky, minerally undertone, a savoury note from wild yeast fermentation, some cream from lees contact and incredible palate length. Imagine a Chablis mixed crossed with a dry Riesling and you have some idea of how good this is.
A delicious, unoaked blend of two under-rated Mediterranean varieties, Roussanne (80%) and Vermentino (20%) from a little known area in the Languedoc. It’s fresh and tangy with notes of wet stone, green olive, fresh herbs, stone fruit and lemon peel. Crisp and refreshing but with underlying weight and concentration in reserve.
Unusually for the Loire, which generally struggles to ripen the grape, this wine is made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with 10% Cabernet Franc. The result is delicious, with aromas of green pepper and graphite, supple fruit flavours and a creamy, smooth texture. In style, it’s mid-way between a claret and Bierzo red, but with a freshness and elegance which is typical of the Loire.
Drinkable Pinot Noir, let alone very drinkable Pinot Noir, under £8 is one of wine’s holier grails. This Chilean example from increasingly fashionable Leyda offers even better value than that. From 22nd of November it will be down to £6.99 each for two months. The wine tastes as good as it looks, with sweet raspberry and red cherry flavours, a touch of oak and refreshing, cool climate acidity. There’s some leafy complexity here, too.
2009 Vasse Felix Semillon, Margaret River (£13.99, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer). If you find some Hunter Valley Semillons a little austere, especially when they’re young, try a bottle of this western Australian example instead. Made by the talented Virginia Wilcock, it’s got lovely notes of toast, honeysuckle and cream soda, with zesty acidity and subtle vanilla oak. It’s very enjoyable now, but I suspect this will reward cellaring too.
If you’re not aware of the remarkable Chardonnays that Michael Brajkovich is producing north of Auckland, you’re missing out on some of the New World’s best white wines. This is very Burgundian indeed with fresh, mineral, butter and citrus fruit flavours, delicate oak and a long, harmonious finish. Great now but will age for at least another five years.
This won the best red wine prize at this year’s IGP Top 100 (not the first time Les Yeuses has been on the podium) and it’s a stunner. Even though it hails from the Languedoc, it tastes as good as many more expensive wines from the nothern Rhône. Perfumed and spicy, with notes of black olive, thyme and blackberry, it’s smoky and subtly oaked. Close you eyes and you could be drinking Côte Rôtie.
My cellar is full of wines from this legendary producer, so I can confrim that they age beautifully in bottle. This one is no exception. It’s impressive now, but will be even better in a year or two. Delicate, restrained, medium sweet, yet balanced by palate-tingling acidity, this is the sort of thing that makes Riesling lovers shudder with pleasure.
After an impressive tenure at Rustenburg, Adi Badenhorst is doing some really exciting things at his new project in the Swartland. This fruit salad white blend of mostly Chenin Blanc with Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is a stunner. There’s a sheen of French oak, but what distinguishes the wine is its fruit depth and complexity: perfumed and blossom-scented with notes of honey, ginger spice, fresh apples, peach and a crunchy, refreshing finish. A producer to watch, given his track record.
Is Mount Etna Italy’s greatest secret when it comes to whites? It certainly makes some amazing wines from the Carricante grape: taut, minerally and refreshing. This is stony and crisp with notes of white flowers and lime blossom and a tangy finish. Sicily’s answer to Chablis. Drink now to 3 years.