Oh to be sitting in a bar in Santorini drinking a glass of this amazing wine. But sipping it in London’s still a pleasure, reminding me of the lure of the Greek islands. Made from old, ungrafted bush vines grown on volcanic soils, it’s a stunning white from Matthew Argyros, demonstrating Assyrtiko’s classic combination of salty, briney aromatics, crunchy minerality and flavours of preserved lemons and wild herbs. Long, focused and beautifully balanced.
Gascony used to be regarded as foie gras and Armagnac country (not necessarily at the same time) until the Producers Plaimont co-operative came along and changed the image of the region’s dry reds and whites. Le Faîte is their top white blend, made from a trio of local grapes – Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu – and is a stunning cuvée, somewhere between a Spanish Albariño and a Greek Assyrtiko in style. Pithy, saline and very complex, with quince, apple and grapefruit flavours, mouth-watering acidity and the concentration to age brilliantly in bottle.
I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a few of Elías López Monetero’s wines from Argentina, but until this week I was unfamiliar with the magic he’s working in La Mancha, the world’s most extensive wine region, known for bulk plonk rather than wines like this. Production of this amphora-fermented and aged Albillo Real (with a splash of Albillo Mayor) is small at 9,000 bottles, but it’s an intriguing, low-intervention white with some bottle age. Low in alcohol, but not in flavour, it has notes of quince, almonds and fresh pastry with a salty dry finish and the complexity and focus to age further.
At its most basic, Vinho Verde is Portugal’s quaffing white, but it can also aspire to more profound things. This is a case in point. Made solely from the Loureiro grape, it combines freshness and lightness of touch with concentration and profundity. Crisp, saline and wonderfully aromatic, with notes of fresh pine, gala melon and lemon zest, no spritz, and a long, chiselled finish. The perfect drink for a hot summer’s day.
Made from old vines grown at 750 metres in the village of La Seca, this is a brilliant value Verdejo from Bodegas Naia, which tastes every bit as good it looks. Combining unoaked and lightly wooded components, both of them aged on their lees for four months, it has a winning combination of pear and citrus fruit framed by subtle oak spice and a taut, chalky, mineral-edged tang.
The really top Grüners can be expensive, but it’s amazing how much flavour and personality Austria’s most widely planted and distinctive grape can deliver at just £12.49. This single vineyard example from Manfred Felsner hails from one of the best sites in Gedersdorf and is fresh, peppery and intense, with pear and citrus peel notes, refreshingly low alcohol and a long, stony, persistent finish. A really good introduction to an under-valued variety.
Muscadet is something of a forgotten area these days, but at its best this Atlantic-influenced Loire region can make truly sublime whites that are both complex and affordable. This example from the Drouard brothers was fermented in chestnut wood – not something you find much in France or elsewhere these days – and is refreshing, textured and layered, with notes of pear and citrus, leesy weight, a hint of wood spice and a dry, tapering, almost salty finish. As good as many Chablis Premiers Crus, this is a Melon de Bourgogne that tastes like a classy white Burgundy. For local stockists, contact Daniel Lambert.
This pioneering white blend of Semillón with 35% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Torrontés from the brilliant Susana Balbo and her team has rapidly established itself as one of the best in Latin America. Barrel fermented in 60% new wood, it’s leesy, toasty and very fresh, with a lovely combination of beeswax, pink grapefruit and struck match flavours, a dusting of sweet spices and engaging elegance. Contact Las Bodegas for local stockists.
Unirrigated bush vines planted in 1983 supply the fruit for this intense, focused, naturally fermented Chenin Blanc from this exceptional family-owned business in the Bottelary Hills. Elegantly oaked, it’s balanced and nuanced with pear, citrus and apple fruit and refreshingly low alcohol. Just the thing to drink on #drinkcheninblanc day tomorrow.
It’s amazing how much flavour good winemakers can extract from white grapes without recourse to oak if the site is special and yields are kept low. This wonderful Pecorino (nothing to do with the cheese of the same name) from Federico Faraone’s Collepietro vineyard has lovely pear and apple flavours, racy acidity, some skin tannins from cryo-maceration and appealing texture from ageing on fermentation lees. Fresh, intense and full of character.
Gerd Stepp used to work at Marks & Spencer before he went back to his native Germany to make wine again. Our loss was the Pfalz’s gain, as this is one of the best dry Rieslings on the market for £15 or under. Sourced from the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard on soils with a high percentage of limestone, it’s wonderfully racy, taut and complex with some creamy weight from six months on its fermentation lees, pithy minerality, lime, jasmine and wet stone notes and a thrilling finish.
Terret Blanc is one of those very localised grape varieties that you only find in the Languedoc, mostly in the Hérault department. It comes in three, mutated colours – white, red and pink (gris) – and tends to be blended with other varieties. This white version is great value at its normal price of £8.49, but a steal at £6.49. Grown on the sort of clay and limestone soils you find in Burgundy, it has some of the zip, citrus crunch and steeliness of an unoaked Chablis, but with top notes of wild Mediterranean herbs. Long, tangy and refreshing.