Gerd Stepp used to be a buyer at Marks & Spencer, but has now gone back to his original career as a winemaker in the Pfalz. People are often surprised to learn how much Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder) Germany produces and just how good it can be. For Pinot lovers who’ve almost given up on finding enjoyable expressions of their beloved grape under £10, this unoaked example is a godsend: smooth, supple and strawberry fruity with crunchy acidity and a sweet core.
The wines of Etna are some of Sicily’s – and Italy’s – most distinctive reds. Produced from two grapes – Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio – that are almost Pinot Noir like in colour and texture, this lightly wooded example is a fantastic introduction to a volcanic classic. Floral, ethereal and light with juicy redcurrant and raspberry fruit and some underlying stony grip. On offer at £10.99 from November 13 to December 3.
The Araldica co-op makes some of the best inexpensive reds and whites in northern Italy, typified by the quality of this juicy, spicy, sappy Barbera from Piedmont. Plum, black cherry and raspberry fruit are framed by savoury tannins and the tangy acidity that’s typical of the variety. Smooth and full-bodied, it’s a great all-purpose red to ease you gently into autumn.
Beaumes de Venise is still more famous for its fortified Muscats, but canny buyers have always known that if you pick the right wine, the appellation can offer red wines that rival top Châteauneuf-du-Pape at half the price or less. This cuvée of Grenache with 30% Syrah and 10% each of Carignan and Viognier comes from a 50-year-old parcel at 500 metres above the village of Suzette and is wonderfully dense, rich and savoury, showing considerable concentration and weight, flavours of garrigue, black plum and violet and a full-bodied finish. It’s certainly drinkable now, but will reward further cellaring.
Aussie red wines under £7.50 can be something of a lottery, but this is a brilliant value find from the Co-op, sourced from top Shiraz region, Mount Benson. Richly coloured, spicy and very lightly oaked, it has classic blackberry and wild herb flavours, supple tannins and enough acidity to keep the wine perky, fresh and long on the palate.
Is there a better value Rioja Crianza in the UK right now? If there is, I haven’t tasted it. Sourced from Bodegas Muriel, this is a wonderfully traditional style, made entirely from Tempranillo and aged in American oak. Supple, fragrant and sweet, with notes of coconut, fresh tobacco and wild strawberry underpinned by fresh acidity. Delicious.
If you want to drink a Barossa red with very little oak but bags of flavour, this unfiltered, co-fermented cuvée of Mataro (Mourvèdre) and 35% Grenache is well worth tracking down. Spicy and peppery, with some stemmy whole bunch flavours, floral top notes, mint, raspberry and bramble fruit and fine-grained tannins.
The Urbina family’s appealingly traditional Riojas age brilliantly thanks to the acidity that comes with growing Tempranillo in the cool, limestone-dominated Cuzcurrita zone. This isn’t a blockbuster wine, but it’s remarkably complex, savoury and scented with notes of wild strawberries, forest floor and pouch tobacco, filigree tannins and haunting balsamic sweetness.
Hey! is a wine that grabs your attention with its super hero label as it caresses your palate with the supple tannins of a delicious Argentinean Malbec. Made with old vine fruit from Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo sub-region, it’s a plush, perfumed juicy red with violet perfume, a kiss of oak and lashings of bramble and blackberry fruit. Wonderfully gluggable.
Made with six different varieties – nothing compared with Châteuneuf-du-Pape’s 14, but still quite a large number – this is a superb, modern, Grenache-dominated Cairanne, which carries its comparatlvely high alcohol lightly, thanks to the structure and acidity of the 2015 vintage. Spicy tapenade and wild herb aromas segue into a smooth, deftly oaked palate with very fine tannins and a core of sweet, tarry blackberry and blueberry fruit. Outstanding value.
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.
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.