Has summer finally landed in the UK? Fingers crossed. If so, this wonderful organic Frappato from the Vittoria area in south-eastern Sicily is just the thing to serve straight from an ice bucket. Pale and ethereal, it has aromas of rosehip and Turkish Delight complemented by a light, tangy, refreshing palate with gentle, savoury tannins and flavours of pomegranate and wild strawberry. Perfect for Pinot Noir drinkers on a budget.
Wine Type: Red
2014 Château Fontesteau, Haut-Médoc( £12.99 in store only, 13%, Majestic )
For all the talk about the latest en primeur releases, it’s worth remembering that good claret can age beautifully. In fact, there are times when mature red Bordeaux stops you in your tracks. This is one of them: a scented, graceful cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot that has classic coffee bean, tobacco leaf and cedar wood top notes, fine-boned, layered tannins and flavours of sweet spices, summer berries and blackcurrant leaf. The wine is sold out on line, but there’s still some available in stores.
2020 Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta( £23.99, 14.5%, Hedonism, Noel Young Wines, The Secret Cellar )
“Our classic Malbec,” is how Thibaut Delmotte describes this blend of four vineyards at different altitudes – Altura Máxima, Colomé, El Arenal and La Brava. Wonderfully juicy and scented, it’s the perfect introduction to the variety, with intense damson, blueberry and wild thyme flavours, palate-caressing tannins and a tangy finish.
2018 Hill of Grace, Eden Valley( £625, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Tasting Hill of Grace is often a moving experience, especially so in an excellent vintage like 2018. Using vines planted between 1860 and 1965, it’s one of the great wines of Australia as well as the world. Inky, layered and profound, with maturation in an 83/17 combination of French and American barrels, this is a wine that carries its power and concentration comparatively lightly. Five spice, fennel and vanilla pod aromas lead you into a palate that has intensity, focus and, yes, grace, blackberry and blueberry fruit, fleshy, sculpted tannins, deftly handled oak and a lift of freshness and acidity. A world-class wine from a unique site.
2018 Hill of Roses, Eden Valley( £325, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Hill of Roses is made with a Shiraz from the 0.94-hectare Post Office Block 3, located within the Hill of Grace vineyard in the Eden Valley. Replanted by Prue Henschke in 1989 with a much older massal selection from the Grandfathers’ parcel, this is a dense, compact, self-assured Shiraz that’s more Hermitage than Côte Rôtie perhaps. Mint, sage and rose petal aromas segue into a palate of blackberry, damson and dark plums framed by mocha-scented, 25% new French oak. Weighty and intense with the concentration to age convincingly in bottle.
2018 Mount Edelstone, Eden Valley( £150, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
It might not have the power and density of Hill of Grace, but Mount Edelstone is one hell of a wine in its own right. Vibrant, fresh and energetic, it’s the most northern Rhône like of the Henschke releases. Sourced from vines planted on red clay loam soils, the 2018 is a dry-grown, ungrafted delight. Matured in a 77/23 split of French and American oak, this is effortlessly complex and nuanced, with plum, black fig and blueberry fruit, lots of zip and acidity, a sheen of vanilla and potpourri spice, lots of understated concentration and a lingering kiss of a finish.
2018 The Wheelwright, Eden Valley( £115, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
First produced in 2015, The Wheelwright is a tribute to Johann Christian Henschke, who founded the winery in the mid-19th century and is entirely produced with old-vine Shiraz planted in 1968 in the Eden Valley. Very floral, alluring and seductive, it’s the most perfumed of the winery’s Shiraz releases, with raspberry, strawberry and summer pudding flavours, nicely integrated vanilla and nutmeg spices, smooth tannins, subtle French and American oak and more structure and backbone than you think at first, building layers of flavour on the palate.
2018 Cyril Henschke, Eden Valley( £125, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
Cyril Henschke has been a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon in the past – the last time was in 2016 – but benefited from the addition of 2% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc in 2018. Named after Stephen Henschke’s father, it hails from a single north-facing parcel that was planted in the 1960s. Gracefully aged in 10% new French oak, it’s a deceptively forward wine that will reward cellaring. Svelte, elegant and focused, with layered tannins, mint, bramble and blackcurrant leaf flavours, a whiff of violet and the granular tannins that are a Henschke hallmark.
2018 Keyneton Euphonium, Barossa Valley( £44.99, 14.5%, Liberty Wines )
A nice homage to the brass bands that still play in the Barossa Valley, Euphonium is a slick, nicely textured cuvée of mostly Shiraz with 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot, using grapes from the Eden Valley and (30%) from the Barossa. Mixing older and younger vines, with ageing in French and 29% American oak, it’s something of a bargain in the Henshcke range. Perfumed and juicy, this displays sweet vanilla and Asian spice top notes, cassis, bramble and blackberry fruit, supple, caressing tannins and the freshness and energy of the 2018 vintage.
2021 Bodega Cerrón Stratum Wines Matas Altas, Jumilla( £15.97, 14%, The Great Wine Co )
Located in Jumilla of all places, Bodega Cerrón is one of my discoveries of 2023. Everything they make is worth buying, but this is arguably their best value red. Made from Monastrell with a 10% field blend of Blanquilla, Bobal, Forcallat and Moravia Agria, it’s a wonderfully vibrant, energetic cuvée from two of the best young winemakers in Spain. Fermented with 15% whole clusters, Matas Altas hails from limestone soils in the high-altitude Fuente-Álamo area and is fresh, focused and stony, with plum and bramble fruit and undertones of clove and white pepper.
2021 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile( £6.50-£7.50, 13.5%, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose )
One of those mass-market wines that rarely, if ever, lets you down, this 26 million bottle blend from Chile’s biggest producer uses grapes from Maule, Rapel and the Maipo Valley. Subtly wooded, with classic blackcurrant pastille, mint and fresh herb flavours and a whisper of oak spices. Outstanding at the price.
2020 Vinos en Voz Baja Costumbres, Rioja Oriental( £16, 14.7%, The Wine Society )
Combining grapes from Autol, Alfaro, Aldeanueva and Rincón de Soto, Costumbres is a regional expression of the Rioja Oriental from talented young winemaker, Carlos Mazo. Garnacha based with 20% co-planted Graciano and white grapes, it’s a very lightly wooded red, showing 100% whole bunch clove spices, subtle tannic grip and layers of plum, raspberry and red cherry fruit. The modern face of Rioja’s warmest sub-region.