By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 30 Sept 2017
This week we look at ten new wine releases from across the world including a debut varietal from ancient French grape, Terret Blanc, an exclusive Cape blend from one of the most sought-after winemakers, Marc Kent, a bargain Austrian white and a superb Rioja Reserva:
Languedoc, France: VILLA BLANCHE TERRET BLANC 2016 Calmel & Joseph ***STAR VALUE BUY***
(12%; £8.49 Waitrose; Vino Wines, Edinburgh)
The first varietal wine made from this grape. The ancient Languedoc Terret Blanc grape was once used for Vermouth and Eaux-de-Vie in the 1960’s, but then abandoned when they fell out of favour. Now revived by the crafty negociant duo Jerome Joseph and Laurent Calmel who have been nurturing this grape in the Cevennes foothills of Faugeres. The result is a zippy herby dry white with plenty of fresh acidity and moderate alcohol.
Spain: LAGAR DE CERVERA ALBARINO 2016
(12.5%; £14.95 www.tanners-wines.co.uk; www.armitwines.co.uk)
A beautifully styled Albarino from a Spanish bodegas with almost cult status, owned by La Rioja Alta; our tasters loved the peach, apricot and white blossom scents, tropical fruit notes, minerally character and rich textured palate from the grape’s thick skins. A great match for rich textured seafood like monkfish or scallops.
California: TERRE ROUGE VIOGNIER 2015
(14.5%; £20 www.domainedirect.co.uk)
Our tasters loved this zesty fresh floral American Viognier, a new release from talented Californian winemaker Bill Easton, who used to be a retailer in San Francisco before he headed east to find his fortune in the old gold mining country of Fiddletown in Amador County. Using organic methods, his Viognier vines thrives on the granite soils of the Sierra foothills. For the first time in 2015, Easton matured his Viognier in special barrels shipped from Condrieu in the Rhone. It works well giving the wine added complexity.
Austria: AUSTRIAN PEPPER GRUNER VELTLINER 2016 R & A Pfaffl ***STAR BUY***
(12%; £10.99 Vino Wines, Edinburgh; St Andrews Wine)
So named as the Gruner Veltliner grape has plenty of peppery spice alongside its appley fruits, zestiness and rich textural palate. A well-priced introduction to Austria’s famous grape grown in Niederosterreich, lower Austria, by the Pfaffls, awarded European winery of the Year 2016 by Wine Enthusiast magazine. A clever attempt to simplify Austria’s labels– also try their Dot Peach (Riesling) and Dot Cherry (Zweigelt).
Sardinia: VERMENTINO DI SARDEGNA ALA BLANCA 2016 Poderi Parpinello
(13.5%; £12.73 www.strictlywine.co.uk)
You can find Vermentino in Provence, Liguria, Tuscany, Corsica and even in California, but the most elegant examples hail from gently sloping vineyards facing the sea on the rugged north-west coast of Sardinia between Alghero and Sassari, where it has been grown since C14. Chalky soils and sea breezes give this fresh floral unoaked white a definite saline note alongside its bright tropical fruit and almond flavours.
France: COTES DU RHONE BLANC 2015 GUIGAL
(13.5%; £9.95 The Wine Society; £13.99 Fenwick Ltd; Swift Wines; Direct Wines; Amazon)
Marcel Guigal has overseen 55 vintages and he rates 2015 as one of the best. Even though Cotes du Rhone makes very little white, 25% of its white production comes from the Guigal stable. As a northern Rhone producer, Guigal focuses on Viognier, so his attractive white Cotes du Rhone has a high 65% Viognier to add exotic aromas and freshness, alongside Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc.
S France: SOUS LE SOLEIL DU MIDI MERLOT 2016
(13.5%; £5.99 Waitrose)
A lowly Vin de France, but extremely soft, approachable and moreish. It is exactly what you expect from a humble Merlot with its sweetness, easy going cherry fruited flavours and smooth creamy texture – a red to quaff on its own or with a mid-week pizza.
South Africa: THE RED WINEMAKER SERIES 2016 Marc Kent ***STAR VALUE BUY***
(14%; £9.99/£12.99 Majestic Wine)
Scary label, but a delicious wine. Marc Kent is the man behind one of my all-time favourite Cape reds, Boekenhoutskloof Syrah and creator of the popular Chocolate Block. This maverick winemaker has created this Majestic exclusive with Swartland fruit: a spicy blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault it reminds me of a spicy smooth structured Rhone.
Spain: RIOJA VINA ARDANZA RESERVA 2008 ***STAR BUY***
(13.5%; £22 The Wine Society; £21.99/£25.99 Majestic Wine)
One of my favourite Rioja bodegas, based in Barrio de Estacion in Haro is La Rioja Alta; true traditionalists with a policy of ageing of Riojas longer than most. Now celebrating the 75th birthday of famous Ardanza, a wine made exclusively from La Rioja Alta’s own vines. It is labelled Reserva, but aged long enough to be a Gran Reserva. Generous percentage of Grenache adds pepper and spice notes to this deliciously smoky cherry and raspberry fruited Rioja.
New Zealand: LOWBURN PINOT NOIR 2015
(13.5%; £34 Vino wines, Edinburgh; St Andrews Wine; Richard Granger, Newcastle; Whalley Wine)
This Central Otago winery has been a favourite of mine since meeting founders, two soils scientists Jean and Roger Gibson. Last year they scooped Air New Zealand Champion Wine in Show for their Pinot Noir. The newly released 2015 is in the same vein with red cherry, smoky, herby flavours, underlying leather and tobacco notes and savoury oak. The latest news is that the Gibsons have sold their winery, so I hope Lowburn’s new owners keep focused on their Pinots.
Join Rose Murray Brown MW’s Spain v Portugal wine & charcuterie tasting on Thursday 19 October at Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh £45 www.rosemurraybrown.com