Once again it is time for our “Sunday Best” feature that goes beyond this website’s primary orbit (identifying great value wines for informal everyday drinking) to look at slightly more expensive options.
Once in a while, most of us have a special occasion that calls for wine as special as the event – and which inevitable means prices that reflect that distinctiveness.
Without doubt, though, some unforgettable joys can await when bottles with double figure price labels arrive on the scene
Let’s start with whites
What a joy it is to sample the wines of Domaine Gayda, sourced from fully organic vineyards in Languedoc Roussillon, made by three guys with respect for the region’s traditions but – as this blend of grenache blanc, macabeu, marsanne and roussanne testifies – a readiness to innovate too.
Smooth, skilfully integrated and incredibly long, 2018 Gayda Figure Libre (from £12.99 at Majestic and 13% abv) has zesty apple and quince flavours with a subtle cinnamon and vanilla tart background and a hint of peach juice style sweetness.
Now for something more traditional
While not as weighty, rich (or expensive) as whites from Burgundy Central, the wines of Mȃconnais continue to delight, providing – in the words of The World Atlas of Wine – “strong, stylish, well-made answers to the Chardonnays of the New World [but] with a perceptibly French accent”.
For an excellent example, seek out 2018 Domaine Nadine Ferrand Macon Blanc (£17.70 at Honest Grapes and 12.5%) with its floral, apple, ripe melon and white currant flavours, pithy grapefruit and vibrant lime acidity and light texture containing suggestions of sherbet.
Across to the the New World
North Canterbury is a relatively new name in the list of New Zealand “appellations” but there is a really traditional feel to this off-dry (around 20 gms of residual sugar per litre) riesling which contains a neat amalgam of many of the variety’s classic features.
See what I mean when you savour 2018 Greystone Riesling (£18.15 at www. frontierfinewines.co.uk and 13%) and its bright colour but slightly bashful cooked apple backbone which is supplemented with textured peach and marmalade elements and an unobtrusive trace of that trademark kerosene.
Reds are next
Few people know more about producing amarone and the associated techniques than Veneto’s Masi Agricola and here they forge the usual local grape suspects (with corvina as gang leader) into a tasty wine that I believe used to be labelled as Ripasso.
Whatever the label, enjoy the rich but more modestly textured than I expected 2016 Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese (£12.99 at Waitrose – although stocks do seem to be low – and 13%).
It delivers concentrated, smoky plum and that (typical corvina) bitter cherry flavours that here are coupled with clove, mint and fig touches, a hint of molasses but little tannin.
Classic claret at a great price
Wine from Bordeaux’s Haut-Medoc can be expensive but duly aged Cru Bourgeois versions can often provide us with good value choices – like this one which also successfully captures that region’s (hard to define) leafy, green, vegetal aromas.
Rich with suggestions of cedar and even cola, 2011 Chateau Lamothe-Bergeron (£14 at the Co-op and 12.5%) contains slowly evolving blackcurrant, plum and raspberry flavours accompanied by savoury graphite edges, good acidity, firm tannin and cinnamon hints.
Some stores may have a different vintage.
Here's a real blockbuster
Perhaps it’s because of the rugged altitude (or maybe the curiously different soils) but the wines of Saint Chinian always appear to be a tad more distinctive than those from other parts of Languedoc – and I would never tire of drinking wine as good as this.
2015 L’Apogée Saint Chinian (£21.99 at Fine Wine Direct and 14%) is dark and intense, centred around blackberry, plum and red cherry fruit with firm tannin, good acidity nutty influences and gentle aromas of lavender.
For those with a sweet tooth
Chenin blanc grapes are very much at home in the Middle Loire part of France and are behind some lovely (often just off-dry) whites thereabouts but foggy breakfast time autumns can also be ideal for the botrytis that helps create lovely, truly sweet wines like this.
Honeyed in flavour and golden in colour with musky aromas, 2017 Coteaux du Layon St Aubin Domaine des Forges (£10.99 for 50cl at Waitrose Cellar and 12%) balances its sweetness with good acidity that nicely underpins the wine’s peach, ripe apple and marmalade flavours and its creamy, lemon curd texture.
… And those needing fortification
While sherry has seen a remarkable revival and port continues to enrapture its enthusiasts, madeira somehow seem to miss the party – and that’s a real shame because it can be fantastic fortified wine.
While there are several different styles of madeira, the great value Blandy’s Rich Duke of Clarence Madeira (£9.50 – instead of £12.50 until next Tuesday at Morrisons and 19%) is one of the richer versions with soft fig, dates and maple syrup flavours but with counterbalancing sharp acidity too.
Finally to fizz
A common complaint about prosecco is that it can be a little too sweet for some tastes so a few “zero dosage” versions are becoming available in the UK (although they are not as common as in Italy itself).
Under Italian wine regulations, the residual sugar level for “Dosaggio Zero” prosecco has be below 3 grams per litre – in Extra Dry versions, that figure can be as high as 17 and even Brut can be up to 12 grams per litre.
That low sugar level allows the savoury background to come through clearly in Canevel Vigneto del Fae Dosaggio Zero (£19.49 at All About Wine and 11%) without diminishing either the wine’s freshness or the typical prosecco texture that here incorporates the coconut and lemon sorbet elements that lie behind its subdued mousse.
Ending with a home run
So let’s finish with an English sparkling wine made from an assemblage containing just over 50% chardonnay with pinot noir making up most of the remainder – and created especially for Sainsbury’s.
Weighty and with a sophisticated yeasty nose, Ellercombe English Quality Sparkling Wine (£24 at Sainsbury’s and 11.5%) opens with a lively mousse and goes on to bring us apple and pear flavours, pithy grapefruit acidity and a finish containing both vanilla and brioche influences.
Tune in again on Monday folks for my current Top Tips and news on the latest supermarket promotions
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