(2019) I've often found the Verdjo wines from the Rueda region in northern Spain to be a bit too imitatative of New World Sauvignon Blanc, but here Ramón Bilbao is trying to do something different with the grape and the region. Made from the estate's oldest vines, it was fermented in concrete 'tulip-shaped' vats then aged in French and Hungarian oak, with regular batonnage. That has resulted in an obvious creaminess on the nose (unexpected in Rueda Verdejo), subtle nut and honey notes to tropical fruit with a more subdued elderflower and passion fruit character. In the mouth the sweet ripeness of the fruit is the first impression, but that nutty and creamy underpinning of both flavour and texture adds an extra layer. Acidity is well-judged, a gentle lime and red apple presence to extend the finish. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2019) Made from old vine Grenache, this is yet another peachy-pink and very pale style, very un-typically Spanish compared to more traditional rosados, and very much about bright fruit aromas and flavours, though dry in the finish. As well as the stone fruits, thre's a touch of passion fruit and elderflower, then the palate is juicy and filled with peach and an apple juice acid freshness. Tasty and has a bit of character.
(2019) Though I am a big fan of Chenin Blanc, a recent focus has also been on South Africa, a great Chenin producing country. But of course the spiritual home of Chenin Blanc is the central Loire Valley, with appellations like this one, Vouvray. Here, a 'Sec' or dry example shimmers with pristine apple fruit, a summer meadow note of hay and dry grass, and on the palate terrific focus with its sheer, salty, mineral character and acidity. There is a slippery, weighty texture, but clean and intense with all that saline, mouth-watering appeal. Watch the video for food-matching ideas and more information.
(2019) Made in foudre with a small proportion in barriques, natural ferment and barrels at least eight years old, on the lees for 11 months. A creamy and nutty, gently toasty character, a deep golden glow. Massive fruit sweetness, hinting at tropical and banana, but theres a lovely acid structure here, driving through with salty and fresh lemon zest.
(2018) Margaret River is a small, high-quality appellation in Western Australia. Its ocean-influenced climate is one secret to its renowned Cabernet Sauvignon wines, which often makes a nod towards a European style. Howard Park's 2012 from the Leston single vineyard is a beauty. Eighteen months in French oak has given a polished sheen to the deep pool of glossy blackcurrant fruit, with a hint of mint and cocoa, but also a little dusty briar and olive so typical of Cabernet Sauvignon. In the mouth that really lovely combination of the supple, plush black fruit with creaminess of oak, but firm tannin and the whole picture tensioned by keen acidity to give structure and extra length. Finishing on fruit, spice and fine-grained tannins, a really terrific Cabernet. Watch the video for more information, and note that by the case the price falls to around £20 per bottle.
(2018) There is a lot to like about this premium Prosecco from Ruggeri, another Brut wine with 9g/l of residual sugar, from selected hillside vineyards. It is intense and has a dry mineral character, clear pear and golden delicious apple fruit, and a perfectly balanced, fresh finish. Somehow it did not absolutely distinguish itself in the way some in this tasting did, but it is a clearly superior Prosecco, and gets a wholesome recommendation from me.
(2018) The MacMurray Ranch is former home of Hollywood film star Fred MacMurray, now a wine estate in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma in California, and today owned by the Gallo family. The region is most famed for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but this Pinot Gris is very attractive, the nose suffused with a fig and quince richness, and a warming layer of baked apple as well as some spiciness. In the mouth it has loads of sweet, ripe fruit, a little toasty underpinning suggesting some lees ageing, but very good orange acidity that gives the wine's considerible length and concentration very good balance to the finish. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2017) Owned and operated by the Baker family, sourced mainly from the western side of the valley, easterly facing and does not get quite so much sun. Less aromatic than the Rieslingfreak No 3, some delicate white currant notes, a touch of white flowers and the palate has a slightly less strident acidity. Price and stockist quoted at time of review is for the 2014 vintage.
(2016) Though Château Musar has put Lebanon firmly on the map for wine lovers around the globe, there are several producers of terrific quality in the country, including the relatively new estate of IXSIR. This is an unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Caledoc and Tempranillo, and the influence of IXSIR's French and Spanish winemaking team is obvious: the nose is redolent of creamy black berries, but with some graphite and a nice note of finesse with a cherry-ish, violet touch. In the mouth it is well-balanced and medium-bodied, the ripe fruit weighed against firm, tight tannins and a good acid structure. A wine that will also age for a few years. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2015) Mostly Grenache, with 10% each of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, only 30% of this was aged in oak, in old, large 600-litre barrels, and it was fermented with ambient yeasts. It has a herb-touched, cherry freshness on the nose, a similar alert and mineral tone to the bigger Les Hauts de Montmirail below, but perhaps without quite the layered complexity. On the palate it is softer and more forward, a really explosive juiciness to this, mouth-watering and fresh, the softer tannin structure and just a mellowing coating of smooth oak character giving a fresh but lively finish. A lovely wine to drink now whilst big brother matures.