If you’re bored of identikit Kiwi Sauvignons that taste as if they’ve emerged from the same enormous tank farm, this complex, Loire Valley-like example from one of Central Otago’s best producers will come as a pleasant respite. The estate is much better known for its superlative Pinot Noirs, but this biodynamic white deserves to be (almost) as famous. Fermented in old oak barrels, it has a mealy undertone to set alongside the flavours of lime, cream, grapefruit and gooseberry. It’s a very subtle number that wouldn’t look out of place in Sancerre, thanks to its chalky, palate-tingling freshness.
French law means that this Vin de France can’t carry a vintage, but the words “11ème année” are a chunky hint. It’s basically a declassified Châteauneuf du Pape, made in a slightly (and I mean slightly) lighter style. Given the high prices of CNDP these days, this is a great way to taste a stylish, full-throated blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre at a more than reasonable price. Spicy and savoury with medium weight tannins, hints of rosemary and thyme and a core of sweet raspberry and bramble fruit. Perfect autumn drinking.
Alain Graillot and his son, Maxime, make some of the best value wines in the northern Rhône Valley, often on a par with more expensive fare from nearby Hermitage. This blend of mostly Marsanne with 20% Roussanne is a stunner: aromatic, mealy and very complex, with notes of brown toast, fresh flowers, oatmeal, peach and citrus fruit. The oak is very subtle, while the finish is long and staisfying. It will age nicely too under screwcap.
Vermentino, or Rolle, is one of those grapes that should be more widely planted, partly because it retains acidity and freshness in warm climates, but also because it has plenty of flavour. This is typical of the variety, and at a very appealing price: orange peel and citrus zest with an undertone of Mediterranean herbs and a tangy aftertaste. Perfect for the last few days of summer.