This impressive Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the foothills of the Andes rather than the flatter expanses of the Maipo Valley and it shows in the quality and definition of the wine. It’s a dense, compact, ageworthy red with rich flavours of plum, cassis and blackberry, sweet, toasty oak, structured tannins and excellent concentration. Built to last, it should develop further complexity over the next five to eight years.
Te Koko is made in much smaller quantities than Cloudy Bay’s regular Sauvignon Blanc, and it’s a much more interesting wine, benefiting from wild yeast fermentation in French oak. Some people find the funky flavours a little challenging, but I love them. This is smoky and complex, with yeasty, doughy aromas, pithy grapefruit-like acidity, a touch of wax and gunflint and long, lingering finish. A wine that wouldn’t look out of place in Pessac-Léognan.
Things have changed for the better, now that Telmo Rodriguez is back at Remelluri, one of Rioja’s first estates. This is a more forward expression of Tempranillo than the bodega’s more expensive releases, with bags of bright, brambly, red berry fruit, medium weight tannins and a sweet, succulent finish that emphasises gluggability.
The price of this eminently gluggable Vinho Verde has crept up in recent years (although it’s sometimes on a deal at Majestic), but it was almost too cheap before, given its quality. It’s light and refreshing, with appealing spritz, a whiff of the Atlantic and delicious peach, guava and citrus notes. Just as good as many more expensive Spanish Albariños produced on the other side of the border.
This is a complex blend of old vine Garnacha with Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan (Samsó) from one of the best cooperatives in Spain. Think of it as a mini-Priorat, but at a slightly lower price. Plum, spice and chocolate-like flavours are appealingly intertwined here, with the Cabernet adding some leafy freshness to the herbal, earthy Mediterranean flavours. The minerality and the acidity keep the wine fresh, despite its comparatively high alcohol.
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo from Valencia? Not exactly run of the mill stuff, but this white duo from Spain’s eastern coast is very tasty stuff. It’s ripe and spicy, with sweet vanilla oak, flavours of pear and honeysuckle and a hint of ginger for good measure. Highly unusual, and further confirmation that Spain’s white wines are on a roll.
A Catalan blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cariñena made in small quantities by an impressive garagiste operation. It’s quite Bordeaux-like in style with a warm, Mediterranean twist. It’s a tangy, savoury, youthful red with vibrant cassis and red berry fruit, tangy acidity and fine-grained tannins.
I was sent this wine direct from France, so I don’t have a UK stockist for it, but it surely won’t be long before someone imports it, because it’s one of the best red wines I’ve ever had from the Roussillon region. Made from a combination of Grenace and Syrah, grown on three different soil types, it’s a marvel. Deeply coloured, concentrated, yet not over-ripe or pruney in the least (something that’s not true of a lot of dry Maury reds) it’s mineral and tangy, with a chalky undertone and flavours of balckberry, plum and sweet Asian spices. A remarkable red wine.
An off-the-wall blend of Riesling and the Cava grape, Xarel-lo, this is something to challenge your friends with in a blind tasting. It’s got that slight earthiness of Xarel-lo, leavened by the acidity and lime blossom notes of Riesling, made in a dry style that works really well with food. Stony, mineral and ocean-influenced.
João Portugal (yes, that’s his name) Ramos makes some of the best value reds in Iberia. This southerrn Portuguese blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira and Castelão is well up to his usual high standards, combining flavours of blackberry, bramble and orange zest in a wine that’s fruity, refreshing, yet substantial enough to serve with red meat.
An ambitious, Xarel-lo-based Cava that spent 30 months on lees before disgorgement, this is rich, toasty and savoury, with creamy bubbles, a dry finish and bags of nutty, honeyed complexity. A first class alternative to cheap Champagne.
Made by Leonardo Erazo, whose day job is as winemaker at Altos Las Hormigas in Mendoze, this is one of a series of outstanding Chilean wines made from specific sites in Itata. The grape vareity here Carignan, which deserves to be considered as one of Chile’s best varieties. It’s a refreshing, minerally, savoury red with bottle-aged characters of game and sweet spices, fine, but firm tannins and bright, cool climate acidity.