Fans of the mass-produced, bungee jump into a gooseberry style of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc might not appreciate the ambition or the layered complexity of this wooded, wild yeast-fermented style from the Dog Point team. But tough on them. It’s one of the most complex whites in New Zealand, with notes of gunflint, blackcurrant leaf and vanilla spice, lots of racy, mouth-watering acidity and a savoury finish. Deliberately released late by Jamey Healy and Ivan Sutherland’s in oder to challenge received notions about Sauvignon Blanc.
Something a little different this week. Maturano, not to be confused with Spanish Maturana Blanca, is a new Italian white grape variety to me. Sourced from vines at 600 metres inside a national park between Rome and Naples, it’s very much a southern style, with some appealing bottle age adding complexity. Lees fermented and aged in concrete, it’s appealingly unwooded, with musky, baking spice aromas, a palate of pear, honey and orange zest, some underlying, food-friendly grip and much more acidity than you think on first acquaintance.
Hunter Semillon has crept up in price over the last decade – I can still remember the days when Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference cost £6.99 – but it remains a comparative bargain among the great wines of the world. This classically unwooded example comes from the famous Lovedale vineyard, planted back in 1946. Still youthful at seven years of age, it has flavours of lime, lemongrass and custard, a hint of the toastiness that will develop with more time in bottle, and a wonderfully tangy finish.
Loire Valley guru Pascal Jolivet inspired the talented Matt Day to make this wild-fermented, left-field Sauvignon Blanc from two complementary parcels on one of the oldest estates in South Africa’s Constantia Valley. Still youthful, intense and showing some tannic structure, it’s a superb, bone-dry expression of Constantia with notes of grapefruit pith, elderflower and wet stones. How wonderful to see a top Cape producer releasing a white wine with some bottle age.
A wine that blew my mind at the Wine Society’s recent press tasting, this is an excellent new discovery from buyer Pierre Mansour. A Garnacha Blanca that tastes as good as it looks, it hails from 50-year-old vines in Valdejalón, and has incredible intensity and focus. Salty, bone dry and lightly toasty, it has lovely aromas of wet stones, jasmine and thyme and a palate of quinine, sourdough bread and citrus peel.
I’m so busy enjoying Semillons from Argentina, Chile and South Africa that I tend to forget that very good dry examples of the grape can be produced in Bordeaux, not to mention the variety’s starring role in the region’s sweet wines. This lightly wooded example, whose name comes from the Gascon word for a small pile of stones, is a delight, with lots of zip and focus, refreshingly low alcohol, beeswax, citrus and lanolin notes, a hint of vanilla spice and a piercingly refreshing finish. Will go toasty with a bit more bottle age.
Palomino has an undeserved reputation as a neutral grape, a variety that needs the alchemy of the solera system to turn it into something magical in Jerez. But a new generation of winemakers is busy demonstrating that dry, unfortified wines have considerable appeal. Brothers Fran and Fernando Asencio made this “naked” wine with early picked grapes from an organically farmed vineyard on classic, chalky Albarizas soils. Long lees ageing adds some texture to this unfiltered white, which combines aromas of aniseed and wet stones with a palate of lemon and lime. Deliciously refreshing.
Montsant in Catalonia is better known for toothsome reds than whites, but this old-vine blend of mostly Garnacha Blanca with 19% Xarel-lo and 5% Macabeo from Albert Jané is a revelation. Rich, complex, layered and intense, it has plenty of buttery weight from long lees ageing, aromas of fennel and thyme, flavours of pear, quince and nutmeg and a bright, fresh, stony finish. Utterly delicious.
The kind of natural, skin-contact wine that’s a pleasure to drink – not always the case, alas – this is a four-way, pan-Romanian assemblage of Fetească Regală, Muscat Ottonel, Riesling and Pinot Grigio, showing admirable freshness for a wine that was made without added sulphites. Musk, brioche and white flower aromas are a scented introduction to a palate of orange zest, rose water, citrus and quince and a touch of tannic grip.
Altos de Torona’s impressive Albariño hails from the O Rosal sub-region of Rías Baixas, close the River Miño and Spain’s border with Portugal. Aged on its lees for six months, it shows the intensity and concentration of the 2022 vintage balanced by plenty of acidity, zip and minerality. There are aromas of wet stones and lemon zest here, complemented by lime, kiwi fruit and white peach flavours and a salty, refreshing finish.
This is one of three Viogniers that Louisa Rose makes at Yalumba, and it’s my favourite of the trio, despite being the mid-priced offering. Wonderfully pure, enticing aromas of orange blossom and stem ginger segue into a palate of cream, white peach and citrus zest. This has lovely freshness and zip, subtle texture, understated oak and a spicy finish.
One of the most exciting Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs I’ve had in a long while, Matt Thomson and Sophie Parker-Thomson MW’s brilliant white is a nuanced, layered single vineyard expression from Dillons Point. It has lime, gooseberry and pink grapefruit flavours, subtle, stony reduction and sappy, mouth-watering acidity. Satisfyingly dry, focused and long on the palate.