Varietal whites are so popular these days – all those Pinot Grigios, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs – that it’s easy to overlook the charms of blended ones, especially when they’re made from an unusual combination of grapes. This wonderful, unoaked Rhône Valley example from Domaine May combines Clairette with 35% Grenache Blanc and 25% Picpoul and is engagingly fresh, stony and tangy, with citrus, quince and wild herb flavours and lovely mid-palate weight.
A wine of the week for you to sip while listening to my latest cork talk podcast with Jean-Marc Lafage, this remarkable cuvée of mostly Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris and 20% Roussanne is one of the most exciting whites I’ve tasted from the Roussillon region in ages. Citrus, fennel and thyme flavours are embellished by stylish nutmeg oak, with stony intensity adding another dimension of freshness to the finish.
Part of the impressive Found range of off-the-beaten-track varieties from Marks & Spencer (most of the line up is worth trying), this is a delicious Grenache Blanc from the Perderberg winery, made with dry-farmed grapes by Albertus Louw. Showing the zingy freshness that’s typical of many 2020 Cape whites, this is intense, focused and unwooded, with green apple, citrus and aromatic herb notes and impressive underlying concentration for a wine at £8.
South Africa’s white blends are some of its most distinctive wines, even if they remain comparatively difficult to sell, given most consumers’ preference for varietal Chardonnays, Chenins and Sauvignon Blancs. More’s the pity! This is a superb five-way blend from one of the best white wine producers in Stellenbosch, dominated by almost equal parts Roussanne, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc, with lesser amounts of Viognier and Chardonnay Mixing oak and concrete egg-fermented portions, it’s creamy, herbal and citrus-driven, with subtle wood, honeysuckle and baking spice aromas and flavours of peach, pear and quince.
Master of Wine Liam Stevenson wrote his dissertation about Priorat and was inspired by the white wines of the region to produce a Garnacha Blanca in nearby Terra Alta. This is made in partnership with another MW, Mark Pygott, and is excellent value. Leesy, intense and very lightly wooded, it has grapefruit and lemon peel flavours, a dusting of baking spices, stony minerality and top notes of jasmine and hawthorn blossom.
The Roussillon region, which forms part of France’s border with Spain, is best known for its reds and fortified wines, but can make surprisingly impressive whites, too. Jérôme Collas makes small amounts of this deliciously characterful white blend from a combination of old-vine Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Macabeu, grown at a cool 350 metres. The result is a taut, herbal, savoury white with refreshing acidity, a nutty, salty tang and hints of white flowers and fresh pears. One of number of great Roussillon selections from Joie de Vin.
Cairanne whites are something of a rarity – even more so than in nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape – but when they are as impressive as this blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne, you wonder why. Textured, complex and oatmealy, this shows deftly interwoven oak, subtle pear and apricot fruit and a mineral flourish.
At only £15.95 a half bottle, this has to be one of the best value fortifieds on the market at the moment. It’s a mature, salty, rancio-style wine made from Grenache Blanc and Macabeu that’s mid way between a Sherry and a Tawny Port in style. Try it poured over vanilla ice cream or with a walnut tart.