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.
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.
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.
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.
“Honest and pure” is how Matías Riccitelli likes to describe this equal blend of Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley Malbecs, now produced as a 200,000 bottle blend. Floral, tangy and bright, Hey! is as appealing as its comic book label, with supple tannins and juicy bramble, aniseed and blackberry flavours. Essence of Argentina at a great price.
Tesco has switched to a non-vintage blend for this cuvée of Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault from the pebbly soils of the north-west of the appellation, but the quality is as good as ever. Floral and unwooded, with top notes of sweet spices, appealing power and texture, goji berry, summer pudding and wild herb flavours, this well-judged Châteauneuf-du-Pape is good now but will develop in bottle for a few more years.
If you like your Aussie Shiraz big, ripe and richly wooded, this wine might seem on the light side, but I love its perfume, texture and balance. Subtly oaked in larger French barrels, it has bramble, raspberry and wild herb flavours, supporting freshness, a dusting of five spice and supple, fine-grained tannins. A lot of wine for £11.99.
For those of us dealing with January credit card bills, not to mention food inflation and energy prices, inexpensive wines like this one are a godsend. Juicy perfumed and crunchy, with lip-smacking bramble, plum, and red cherry fruit, a nip of tannin, fresh acidity. Great with a winter stew.
Textbook stuff from the extensive Muga family, this is a pan-regional cuvée of Tempranillo with 30% Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo, aged in a combination of French and American oak. Youthful, structured and showing the freshness of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2018 vintage, it’s good to drink now but will also reward some extra time in your wine rack. Textured and balanced, with racy acidity and flavours of liquorice, blackberry and vanilla spice.
This delicious Alpine red comes from close to the source of the Rhône river, but has more in common with Burgundy than, say, Crozes-Hermitage. Made with Pinot Noir and 40% Gamay, it’s a Swiss version of a Bourgogne Passetoutgrains, using fruit from some of the highest vineyards in Europe. Racy, juicy and lip-smackingly fresh, with red cherry and pomegranate flavours and fine-grained tannins.
Sourced from the Cantina di Valpantena, the sort of place that could give Italian co-operatives a good name, this is a superb, well-balanced cuvée of Corvina and 30% Rondinella. Made from dried grapes in the classic Amarone fashion, it has plenty of power and depth, just a touch of sweetness, plum, fig, Christmas cake and liquorice flavours and lovely supporting acidity.
At the reduced price – hurry because the offer ends next week – this is the best value Chianti Classico in the UK right now. Made with the help of veteran consultant Attilio Pagli, it’s a spicy, floral, perfumed Sangiovese, with impressive underlying structure, violet, plum and red cherry notes and subtle hints of clove, tobacco and oregano. Very tasty.