There’s always something of a rush to list and sell the new vintage of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s good to see a winery (and a retailer in the shape of the Wine Society) that takes a more relaxed approach to vintages, selling wines with a bit of bottle age. Tangy, savoury and dry, this is a complex, flinty, well balanced white with no oak, allowing the quince, greengage and gooseberry fruit to shine.
Some may baulk at the hefty, body-builder bottle, but there’s no denying the balance, freshness and sheer class of this polished Carmenère from Chile. It’s ripe, textured and not remotely vegetal, with fine tannins, subtle use of oak and notes of mint, cassis and damson. The sort of wine that makes you see Carmenère in a new light.
Bready, tangy and well balanced, this great value bubbly from the Cape’s leading fizz producer would give a lot of basic Champagnes a run for their euros. Leesy, complex and frehsh with the Chardonnay providing acidic backbone and structure.
Pinots from the clays of Moutere always remind me of the wines of Pommard in Burgundy. They are rich, bold, even slightly sturdy wines that are textured, a little gruff even, and extremely impressive. Structured and concentrated, this is savouery, spicy and intense, with notes of incense and sweet summer berries, supported by tannins.
Neudorf makes some of the most characterful Chardonnays in New Zealand. This is their unoaked, Kiwi-meets-Chablis style that sess no oak, but seven months on lees to pick up some extra texture and weight. Supple and fruity, with notes of white peach and pear, taut acidity and a long, satisfying finish.
Consistently one of New Zealand’s best Chardonnays, this is a rich, leesy, barrel-fermented style that treads the line (successfully, I might add) between opulence and pithy freshness. Citrus, oatmeal and honeyed notes are complemented by subtle vanilla sweetness and lovely, understated concentration.
A youthful, easy-drinking, well-priced Cabernet Franc grown on clay and limestone soils on the Champ de Liveau plateau, this is grassy and refreshing with supple tannins, plenty of the perfume that’s typical of the variety and a twist of graphite. Very attractive at the price.
A wine that tastes as good as it looks, this is made by my fellow Master of Wine, Giles Cooke (we passed in the same year), who donates all of the profits to charity. Sourced from the Ebenezer sub-region of the Barossa Valley, it’s rich, but well balanced, with subtle oak, refreshing acidity, fine-grained tannins and sweet bramble and bluberry fruit. Long and refreshing with a savoury tang.
Youthful, pithy and still quite tight, this barrel-fermented Chenin needs more time in bottle to show what it’s really capable of. Apple, citrus and pear flavours are complemented by stony minerality, some vanilla spice and a tangy, focused finish.
Serious, youthful, good value Ribera that’s at the lower end of the scale in terms of oaking. Sourced from century old vines in Matanza de Soria, this is part of a new wave of balanced, elegant Tempranillos with lovely freshness and poise. Scented, floral and complex with notes of bramble and balackberry and a refreshing finish.
The list of impressive Nebbiolo producers outside north-west Italy isn’t a long one, but Steve Pannell, who has worked in Piedmont to familiarise himself with the grape, would definitely be on it. Suitably pale in colour, with the variety’s unique combination of austerity and voluptuousness, firm tannins and sweet, savoury autumnal fruit, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of Barolos.
Steve Pannell was making great Grenache in McLaren Vale before the variety began to enjoy its modern renaissance as the so-called “Pinot of the south”. This combines plum and raspberry fruit sweetness with a backbone of tannin and refreshing acidity, supporting the concentration of the old vine fruit. The oaking is almost imperceptible here.