"Buy my book about the Roussillon region on Amazon UK in colour paperback and eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: colour paperback and eBook or black & white. Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link below above the cover image." Richard Mark James

16 May 2021

South of France: Pays d'Oc IGP part two.

The second instalment of a mini-feature on Pays d'Oc IGP wines from the Languedoc (see part 1 for more about terminology, rationale etc.) focuses on half-a-dozen varietal wines, this time including well-known grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon blanc) and relatively new arrivals to the region or discoveries (Albariño, Marselan). Last time, my notes were mainly centred on a few different styles of Syrah, Carignan, Grenache (and combinations) and Viognier.

Camas Chardonnay Anne de Joyeuse 2019 (13% abv) - Sourced from vineyards in three different sites around the town of Limoux in the Aude, western Languedoc. Tasty well-balanced unoaked Chardy mixing up citrus and mango, buttery and zesty yeast lees-y nuances with crisp yet rounded finish. Chablis without the elevated acidity! Drinks & Co (US) $10.64, Les Vins du Soleil (FR) €6.70, Grapes House of Wine (BE) €6.95, Bel Vino (NL) €6.75, The Living Vine (CA) $14.95.

Sillages Albariño 2019 Les Vignobles Foncalieu (13% abv) - Enticing well-made style of this originally Galician grape (widely planted in this region of Spain and neighbouring part of north-western Portugal where it's called Alvarinho) grown in a vineyard in the village of Puichéric (close to the River Aude and Canal du Midi). Nice combination of zesty grapefruit and richer oilier Riesling-like characters, chalky and fresh palate with some roundness and weight too. Pretty good match with a couple of Malaysian king prawn dishes, Rendang curry and spicy peanut satay. Comptoir de la Cité (FR) €7.50, Le Bon Vin and Drinks & Co (UK) £11.90-£13.50.

Les Quatre Chemins Sauvignon Blanc 2020 Les Vignerons d'Argeliers (13% abv) - I've never been super-convinced that Sauvignon works very well in the Languedoc, but this easy-going example from co-op grower vineyards located inland from Narbonne is an elegant floral style with soft citrus fruits and refreshing dry finish. The winemaking note on their site is rubbish, as it says 'aged in French oak barrels for 12 months' but it had no hint of wood about it and it's 2020 vintage tasted in May '21, so go figure! Mind you, it wasn't the same label as on the site either, so a mix-up maybe? Try with salmon or plaice or on its own with nibbles. Good value at €5 cellar door.

Pinot Noir Le Village 2019 Domaine de la Métairie d'Alon, Abbotts & Delaunay (organic, 13.5% abv) - Sourced from different plots around the blink-and-miss-it village of Magrie in the Limoux hills (vines planted at 280 to 400 metres altitude). Elegant subdued Pinot with light perfumed red fruits and savoury hints, a touch of cedar oak adding dry texture and structure, taut fresh finish. Needs a few months longer in bottle to develop and express itself more? Quite dear though: £15.99 Majestic (UK), €20 Twil and Les Vins de Carole (Fr).
Domaine Girard Pinot Noir 2019 (13.5% abv) - Planted at over 300 metres above sea level, this winery has vineyards in the Malepère and Limoux regions on the far western frontier of the Languedoc. Deceptively light-touch (despite the alcohol) and tightly structured Pinot, fragrant floral berry fruits with enticing savoury edges, closed up subtle finish. Develops more flavour and complexity with a couple of hours' aeration, indicating it should be drinking nicely after a few months' bottle age. UK £12.99-£13.50 Yapp Brothers, The General Wine Company; €17.95 Wicklow Wine Co (IE); Sacred Thirst Selections, San Francisco; €9 cellar door (Fr).
Fat Bastard Pinot Noir 2019 (13%) - Part of this fun-poking range made by Gabriel Meffre winery in the southern Rhone Valley and English wine importer Guy Anderson (who I worked with for a few years in my very early days in the wine business). Relatively deep-coloured with lots of aromatic red fruits and black cherry, has a fair amount of tannin for a Pinot although is ripe and rounded too. Tasty easy-going red even if not very Pinot in character. £8.69 Winemark (NI).

The exciting Marselan variety is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache noir created in the 1960s in the Languedoc, where it has adapted well to different climate zones and landscapes although still not widely planted for some reason. I had a sample of Domaine Lalaurie 2018 but this bottle was badly corked, so I look forward to trying it again sometime...
Other Marselans on WW.com: Domaine C&D Deneufbourg (Top 100 Roussillon reds), Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas update.

From www.worldmarselanday.com (April 27th)

24 April 2021

South of France: IGP and Vin de France

Many wine producers in southern France make wines labelled as Indication Géographique Protégée or IGP, which replaced Vin de Pays over ten years ago as part of a Europe-wide rationalisation of wine laws and 'trademarking' of specified wine areas. Hence in Italy, it's Indicazione Geografica Protetta or Indicación Geográfica Protegida in Spain, although confusingly they still also use the term Vino de la Tierra ('country wine') whereas the French have dropped Vin de Pays.

The largest and most popular in the south of France is Pays d'Oc IGP incorporating much of the new Occitanie region, an amalgamation of the Languedoc, Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées created five years ago, and covers the former two-thirds of this super-region. Some winemakers prefer to use this nomenclature exclusively, deliberately wishing to ignore stricter appellation rules; and it's obviously a useful moniker for producing and selling 100% varietals that don’t qualify for Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP) status.
IGP Pays d'Oc is favoured in the Languedoc, as e.g. Roussillon winemakers tend to use IGP Côtes Catalanes for greater local identity. Any official blurb describing the types of IGP wine made are usually somewhat general (given the freedom and scope offered to winemakers) from being for immediate enjoyment to something much more serious; and the reality is that IGP wines can be found on sale at €5 or even €50 a bottle and anything in between, because sometimes a producer's best wine is labelled this way rather than AOP.
In addition, there's been a surge in interest in the region (and throughout France) in having certain wines categorised simply as Vin de France for those who don't want to play ball and don't care about any possible outdated stigma attached to the name (hints of Vin de Table of the past perhaps). This label terminology legally allows a winemaker to make a cross-regional blend as well, while having a winery based outside of the area where the grapes are grown. Or, on a much smaller scale, for those experimental winemakers who know it's a waste of time trying to get their 'natural' or off-the-wall or other non-conformist wines approved by a sometimes self-interested appellation tasting quango.

Pays d'Oc IGP

L'Ostal Blanc Viognier 2019, Famille J-M Cazes (13%) - Floral apricot and honeysuckle, quite voluptuous mouth-feel although restrained too for a Viognier, chalky and zesty to finish (the wine was left on the fine yeast-lees for a several weeks before bottling). Good with smoked haddock with gnocchi, green beans and pesto. £12-£13 UK.

Olivier Coste Old Star Carignan Noir 2020 (13%) - From old bush vines grown on pebbly soils, it tastes a little like it was made in a Beaujolais Nouveau style (but frankly much better and more interesting), although the winemaking blurb says 'three-week maceration with pumping over' of the must. Very aromatic and floral with ripe blueberry and blackcurrant notes, tasty juicy palate with lots of fruit and subtle depth, refreshing light tannins and lingering soft elegant fruity finish. And no oak. Delicious. I like the man's style too: Olivier's email address is bonjour at faitavecamour.love (hello @ 'made with love' . love). About €10-€11 France, £10-£11 UK, $21-$22 Canada.
Les Jamelles Carignan Le Beillou 2018 (15%) - This attention-grabbing Carignan is totally different in style, made from 'century-old vines planted in the southwestern Minervois region' and picked later very ripe. Half of the harvest is vinified uncrushed with the stems in wooden vats, the rest in vats in the usual way, and the wine is aged in 228-litre oak barrels and 550-litre casks for 6+ months.
Bit of a monster in several ways - it comes in an unfashionably big heavy bottle measuring 15% abv and showing natural-leaning wild-side touches - but this very tasty red isn't all front by any means. Enticing perfumed wild blueberry and cherry nose with balsamic and maturing savoury edges, huge punchy palate (at first) but has subtle concentration of lingering savoury black olive flavours, sweet and sour fruit with peppery herbs all wrapped in dry-coated although rounded oak-dusted tannins, lively and long finish. Wow: not for the fainthearted. Coped fairly well with spicy lamb samosas, or pesto mash on another occasion. One of their Sélection Parcellaire range sourced from a single site. £15-£20 UK, €20 France.

Domaine Gayda Collection Grenache 2019 (14%) - Delicious unoaked Grenache from this go-getting Languedoc winery with kirsch and dark chocolate tones, fairly soft cherry and liquorice finish, just a hint of tannin and well-hidden oomph. Good with duck. £9.99 James Nicholson (JN) Wines (10% off mixed case).

Domaine de Sauzet Syrah 'Jeanne & André' 2018, organic wine with no added sulphites (14.5%) - Fermented in concrete vats, no oak. Lovely wild nose of mint, rosemary, smoked bacon and very ripe dark cherry and olive, meaty and liquorice flavours too with peppery edges; dense, concentrated and firm mouth-feel although maturing and rounded too, complex smoky finish with rich sweet / savoury notes. Superb 'natural' type Syrah that matched a lamb Balti admirably. €16 cellar door.
Les Collines du Bourdic Syrah 2019 (13.5%) - More straightforward perhaps, or less wild at least, but nevertheless another very tasty Syrah showing fragrant violet and black cherry notes with spicy herby tinges, powerful palate rounded out by pure black fruits and a firm yet attractive coating of tannin with light bitter liquorice twist. £8.50 UK, €6-€8 Netherlands and Germany. US importer as well.
Secret de Lunès Syrah 2019, Vignobles Jeanjean (organic, 13.5%) - Black cherry and liquorice with spicy tones, fairly punchy mouth-feel with dusty tannins (30% of the wine is aged 3 months in oak), some lingering dark fruit with baked olive and leather nuances; attractive enough although a little unbalanced considering the quality of Syrah at this lost-in-the-wilds wine estate somewhere north of Montpellier.

Côtes Catalanes IGP

L'effet papillon Grenache noir & Syrah 2019 (14.2%) - One of a less expensive trio made by the owners of Domaine Roc des Anges in the Roussillon, this solid lightly rustic Grenache and Syrah blend offers lush spicy plum fruit and chunky framework. JN Wine £12 / £10.80 (with case discount).
L'effet papillon Grenache blanc & Macabeu 2019 (13%) - This flavoursome aromatic white offers enticing juicy pear fruit with yeast-lees and almost wild herbal notes, elegant soft lingering flavours. JN Wine  £11.50 / £10.35.
Tons more Côtes Catalanes wines are recommended here (red) and here (white), all extracted from the extensive tasting research behind my book on the Roussillon (follow link to purchase your copy if you're inclined).

Méditerranée IGP

Petit Mazuret Viognier 2019 (14%) - Thought-provoking style of Viognier from southern Provence that downplays the overt apricot/peach characters, although it's certainly aromatic with rich spicy honeyed fruit, rounded oily texture and quite concentrated finish. Try with smoked haddock. £9.50 JN Wines (10% off mixed case).

Vin de France

Le Petit Chat Malin blanc 2019, Boutinot (13%) - Aromatic zesty unoaked blend of Grenache Blanc (60%) with Marsanne (20%) and Roussanne 10%, chalky yeast-lees tones mingle with lightly exotic fruit, medium bodied with lingering refreshing finish. £8.49 DC Wines (Belfast).
Le Petit Chat Malin rosé 2019, Boutinot (12%) - Elegant Languedoc blend of Grenache Noir (60%), Cinsault (30%) and Syrah (10%) giving a delicate rose petal tinged rosé with light red fruits and almond notes, dry and crisp. £8.49 DC Wines (Belfast).
La Vieille Ferme rosé 2020, the Perrin Family (13%) - Also produced from Grenache (60%), Cinsault (30%) and Syrah (10%) but sourced from the southern Rhone Valley, this tasty dry rosé is floral and fruity with zingy finish and a little mouth-weight. £7.50 Asda, Tesco.

07 April 2021

Varietal wines of the moment (except Sauvignon blanc)

Finest Valle de Leyda Chardonnay 2020, Chile - Luis Felipe Edwards (13.5% abv): As soon as this delicious fruity Chardy was discovered among Tesco's large 'Finest' range, it went out of stock; hopefully just temporarily. Ripe peach and melon fruit with creamy tones then zestier citrus on its weighty but balanced finished. Oak is suggested in the blurb but you can't taste it thankfully, perhaps adding to its rounded texture and cashew flavours. £8 or £9 Tesco ('currently unavailable').
La Burgondie Bourgogne Chardonnay 2019, France - Vignerons de Buxy (13.5%): Seems riper and fuller than the last time I bought it (see here); white peach turning buttery with Brazil nut aromas and flavours, elegant dry and fruity mouth-feel with refreshing acidity although a touch of oily roundness and oomph too. Quite stylish Chardy, a good all-rounder. Tesco £10 although now out of stock too!
Cape Heights Chardonnay 2019, Western Cape - Boutinot South Africa (13.5%): Ripe creamy unoaked Chardy with light tropical fruit and enticing yeast-lees tones, steelier and chalkier on the finish. £7.99 DC Wines (south Belfast).

Yalumba Organic Viognier 2020, South Australia (13.5%): Surprisingly restrained style of Viognier with floral honeysuckle, apricot and peach, yeasty edges, full-bodied but balanced and dry. £10 Tesco.
Cape Heights Viognier 2019, Western Cape - Boutinot South Africa (14%): Very expressive Viognier with super ripe apricot fruit and weighty mouth-feel, ends up a little flabby though like it's aged quickly (look out for the 2020 perhaps). £7.99 DC Wines (south Belfast).

Finest Marlborough Riesling 2020, South Island New Zealand - Indevin (11.5%): I don't think many state on the label which island, north or south, a NZ wine from a certain region comes from, but it's a good idea perhaps helping people to locate and better appreciate this dual island country's regions and climate zones. Lovely lively and light dry-ish Riesling style, floral and lemony with chalky acidity lifting it nicely, delicate zingy finish. £8 (?) at Tesco but also 'currently unavailable' I'm afraid!

Cape Heights Chenin Blanc 2020, Western Cape - Boutinot South Africa (12.5%): Refreshing dry style with apple citrus and melon, yeasty touches and lightly oily roundness although crisp and fresh in the end. £7.99 DC Wines (south Belfast).

Adobe Reserva Gewurztraminer 2019 organic wine, Rapel Valley, Chile - Emiliana (13%): Well-made Gewurz mixing up lush lychee and rose water with a zestier drier side. £9.99 DC Wines (south Belfast).
Gewurztraminer de Colmar 2019, Alsace, France - Domaine de la Ville de Colmar (14%): First bought and reviewed this delicious Gewurz at the beginning of the year, it's now turning richer and more honeyed with smooth-drinking oomph, perfumed rose water and spicy lychee, off-dry finish with unctuous mouth-feel. Good with prawn and veg Madras made biriyani style. £9 Tesco.

Alsace Pinot Gris 2019 M&S Classics No. 31, France - Cave de Turckheim (13%): Lush honeyed fruit with spices and stewed pears, ends up a little sweet and bland but also good with curry. £10

Merinas Organic Rosé Tempranillo 2019, Spain (12%): Deep-coloured easy-drinking berry fruity rosé from M&S with rounded, off-dry yet crisp finish. Not super-exciting but good value at £7.

Tank No. 26 Nero d'Avola Appassimento, Sicilia DOC (13.5%): Made from Sicily's signature red variety, which is left to dry out or shrivel slightly on the vine before picking. Earthy, spicy and wild herby with sunny black fruits, kirsch, liquorice and raisins, warm and rich with soft fruity finish, balsamic undertones and dark chocolate twist. £8.99 DC Wines (south Belfast).

Bruce Jack Pinotage Malbec 2020, Western Cape (14.5%): Sweet black cherry and black olive aromas / flavours with wild herb and red pepper undertones, fairly soft but with full-on fruity finish. £7 / £6 'rollback' Asda.

05 March 2021

Sicily: Ragusa and Agrigento

Aruci Aruci caffetteria & gelateria / 'Casa Siciliana' Trattoria
Scicli, Ragusa province, Sicily.

A few reminiscences, sightseeing tips, places to stay, photos and a little food and wine condensed from a lucky-break week spent in Sicily last September in between Covid restriction lockdowns. The plan was to avoid big towns and cities (so no Palermo or Catania this time unfortunately), hire a car, stay in the middle of nowhere and not tour around too much (pretty much the opposite of a 'normal' holiday), which part of the south of the gorgeous island provided a perfect backdrop for (Ragusa province and Agrigento a couple of hours up the coast).
The blurred picture above, taken through a glass cabinet wearing a face covering, would be a familiar one seen everywhere in Italy, but at this shop, Aruci Aruci gelateria in Scicli (pronounced 'shee-clee'), the selection included the most sensational dark chocolate ice cream imaginable made from the local Cioccolato di Modica (front middle), which has a celebrated history and was granted IGP status in 2018 (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) covering a controlled production zone around the town of Modica lying about ten kilometres southeast of the provincial capital Ragusa. Find out more on the official site: www.cioccolatomodica.it.

On arriving in Scicli, catching your breath back after the spectacular drive coming from the north on the winding road that ascends and descends very dramatically, it may first come across as a small sleepy historical town. But it's home to nearly 30,000 people and spreads over a deceptively large area surrounded by and partly built across tall hills rolling in different directions ('nestled at the intersection of three valleys' is how the official website describes it). It's a great place to slowly explore and absorb all that history, architecture and elegant worn-out feel, inevitably tempting you to continue climbing higher up yet another steep old-stone lane or path taking you to a breath-taking vantage point. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002, the town's mediaeval base was added to in the late Baroque period and into the 18th century after a terrible earthquake in 1693. More info: www.visitsicily.info.
Photos above and below: Scicli, an awesomely old town a few kms from the sea (Donnalucata). More shots around Scicli are on my Facebook page as well as Agrigento (read on).

Agrigento is one of if not the most obvious tourist choice destination(s) but shouldn't be shied away from just because of that, in fact it's an unmissable site and sight. The Hellenic monumental remains at the Valle dei Templi in any case, as the town of Agrigento just off in the distance to the north doesn't look that remarkable (but it could be). It's about 130 km or 2 hrs plus from Ragusa to Agrigento; the fastest way is along the mostly coastal road heading east and lightly northeast, although, like most of the roads around there, it's hard to keep track of the speed limits on any stretch as they keep varying with confusing regularity. You are signposted into a fairly expensive car park, but there's no getting around it because you can't really park anywhere else and easily access the site. It sprawls over a vast exposed area taking in the majestic and almost-intact Tempio della Concordia to the 'only four columns left' structure of Tempio dei Dioscuri, which looks curiously like an ancient Imperial Walker from the early Star Wars films (photo below)! There's further detail on the Visit Sicily website linked above.

Back in Ragusa province, Chiaramonte Gulfi is a fair size town for this area (8100 population) perched up strikingly at over 600 metres above sea level (hence the fab view in the photo below), which over time witnessed the arrival and departure of Ancient Greek, Roman and Arab invaders among others until the 'new' town was rebuilt up on high and fortified at the end of the 13th century by count Manfredi Chiaramonte. Parking near the old centre is a bit tight, so it makes for a pleasant and energetic walk by leaving the car on the way up and walking slowly up successive looping streets or, to cut the corners, a series of steep steps. There are several lovely old churches to have a look at as well as plenty of places to eat and enticing food stores and bakeries. More @ www.comune.chiaramonte-gulfi.gov.it.

Nearby, Agriturismo Villa Zottopera is a wonderful place to stay even if tricky to find - luckily, getting lost for the third time travelling to it from Catania airport, we once again encountered some charming locals who insisted on driving out of their way (with the whole family on board) to lead us right to the unobvious entrance off a hard-to-find country track (gateway pictured below)! And what a place. This old working farm - olive groves, vines, fruit trees, vegetable plots, animals - has a massive farmhouse property (dating from the 1800s) at its centre with adjoining buildings forming a big walled courtyard on either side, where most of the upper floors, former stables below and other outbuildings have been converted into a variety of sizes of well-equipped apartments and suites.
The owners and staff are very convivial and helpful, and the place appeared to be mostly run by Anna who also cooked all the meals. Breakfast was copious and varied (extra charge) - you could have pretty much what you wanted - and the four or five course dinner served on the terrace cost €25 including wine. With delicious olive oil fresh from the mill of course. Some of the apartments have a spacious kitchen so you could cater for yourself too, although a mix of both was a good idea (and Anna didn't cook every evening). There's a nice wee swimming pool in the garden below the restaurant, and bikes are available for free for guests: just help yourself. There are more of my photos of Zottopera in this Google album. For booking check out Agriturismo Villa Zottopera Facebook or www.villazottopera.it or on Booking.com. And talking of tasty olive oil, I've since discovered that Tesco's Finest Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (£6.50) is produced somewhere close to Zottopera!

Flying there: Comiso airport is just a few kilometres down the road although there are limited flights; otherwise Catania is the nearest. Obviously there are several ferry options from the mainland too. If you have time to kill waiting on the way to the latter airport, to the south of Catania there's a series of wildlife and bird reserves along beautiful untamed beaches and coves. And not forgetting Etna of course to the north of the city, which naturally hogs the background vista in that direction much of the time (it erupted a little again recently). By the way, driving in Sicily can be a tad stressful; there's always somebody sitting right on your tail impatient to pass whatever your speed and the road is doing ahead, often in twos and threes. Perhaps take some advice from the 1976 movie The Gumball Rally: "The first rule of Italian driving: what's behind me is not important!" as he pulls off the rear view mirror (quotation found on www.pinterest.com).

Don't forget the espresso! So-Italian coffee machine @ Zottopera.

Finally, a little wine talk. Here's a handful of highlights, or at least the ones photoed and remembered, sipped with food and pleasure on the elevated terrace outside or in the apartment, as on this occasion we didn't eat out in a restaurant apart from at Zottopera outside on their simple terrace. A mix of supermarket wines and a couple from the winegrower on the estate there (Antiche Cantine Rosso): the organic 'natural' styled Grillo (majority) and a tasty Frappato red not mentioned here, as I didn't photo the label, which was similar to the one noted below yet a bit richer and earthier from memory. Plus a 'new wave' Nero d'Avola red purchased recently from a local wine merchant in Belfast (see below too). Generally, there's a good amount of vineyards in the province of Ragusa in the south, mostly around Vittoria, although not as much as in the west of Sicily.

There's more on Sicilian wines on this blog here (Lidl Italian wines August 2017), here (Syrah/Shiraz tasting March 2017), here (Italy south & north July 2016), here (Italian 'wines of the mo' November 2014), here (Bosco Falconeria August 2013), here (Italy south July 2013), here (Italian reds July 2012), here (Valdibella Camporeale June 2012), here (Spotlight on Sicily update November 2011) and here (Italy page including Spotlight on Sicily).

Isoletta Vermentino 2019, Cantine Settesoli (organic) - Fragrant and zesty/lees-y dry white with citrus and aniseed undertones.
Aura 2019, Antiche Cantine Rosso, IGT Terre Siciliane (13.5%) - Made mostly from the sumptuous Sicilian white grape variety Grillo (85%) blended with a little Fiano by a small organic producer based outside Chiaramonte Gulfi, this natural-edged deep-coloured wine is rich and exotic with quirky stewed apple and yeast notes, long dry finish.
Barone di Bernaj Grillo 2019, Cantine Madaudo - A different style of varietal Grillo bought in a supermarket showing more typical aromatic Grillo character with perfumed apricot and peach, full rounded palate and fresh finish.
Barone di Bernaj Frappato 2019, Cantine Madaudo - Sicilian red variety Frappato produces relatively light spicy and fruity wines, this one was delicious ever so lightly chilled.
Tank No. 26 Nero d'Avola Appassimento, Sicilia DOC (13.5%) - Made from Sicily's signature red variety, which is left to dry out or shrivel slightly on the vine before picking. Earthy, spicy and wild herby with sunny black fruits, kirsch, liquorice and raisins, warm and rich with soft fruity finish, balsamic undertones and dark chocolate twist. £8.99 DC Wines (south Belfast).
Isoletta Nero d'Avola Rosato 2019, Cantine Settesoli - Nero d'Avola can be turned into various types of red wine, usually rich ripe and earthy, and full-bodied dry fruity rosés like this very nice example from the well-known co-op winery Settesoli.
'Aura' photo from sicibia.it.

24 February 2021

Zeitgeisty wines

Zeitgeisty is admittedly a little literary and pretentious, and I wasn't aware it was a word as such, in the adjective form with a 'y' ending, until I saw it recently in a one-line review on the back cover of a new book (quoting a well-known writer so it must be okay). Any road, this latest batch of wine buy tips kicks off with a handful of tasty drops of bubbly, which always has a certain 'spirit of the times' feel about it on any occasion and any time of year, especially to toast in winter drawing to a close sooner rather than later.

From https://www.facebook.com/vinoltrepo

Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Nero Metodo Classico Brut - I didn't make a note of the producer, or whether it was vintage or non-vintage, of this delightful bottle bought in a supermarket in Sicily several months ago. Nevertheless, it serves as a great 'generic' example of one of Italy's best 'traditional method' sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir in the north. Classy bubbles with rich toasty brioche notes, maturing savoury sourdough flavours and fresh acidity still running through the lively finish.
Photo above from the Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese's Facebook page (hover over image).

Catalunya, Spain
Mas Miralda Cava Rosado Vintage 2017 and 2016 (12% abv) - One of Asda's 'Extra Special' labels and almost always on offer at a bargain £6 or £7 (£8 'usually'), this superior rosé Cava is produced by the Marques de la Concordia group although not sure if it always was? As the latest 2017 vintage tastes quite different from the previous 2016 (also reviewed last year) - this could just be an age thing as the '16 was richer toastier and fruitier, and the '17 is fresher and more appley although still a nice buy and may well deepen in flavour in bottle.
Marques del Norte Cava Vintage 2018, Jaume Serra (11.5%) - Another good Asda buy at £6, this reliable Cava offers nutty and apple notes with refreshing frothy finish.
Emendis Nu Allongé Cava Brut Nature (11.5%) - Made by Anna and Jordi Valles from the Xarel-lo grape variety, this classy Catalan fizz treads the fine line well between toasty yeasty and roasted almond with aromatic freshness and very dry finish. £11.99 Virgin Wines (excluding any wine club members' discount).

Andoni Sparkling Wine Sec NV (11.5%) - It says 'blended from four of Hungary's native grape varieties' on Virgin Wines' website, so your guess is as good as mine: easy-going fizz modelled in the style of 'Hungarian Prosecco' with a light touch and off-dry finish (£10.99 although I paid a good bit under a tenner).

La Burgondie Bourgogne Chardonnay 2019, Vignerons de Buxy (13%) - White peach and citrus turning creamier with nutty aromas and flavours too, elegant dry and fruity mouth-feel with fresh acidity yet a touch of oily roundness. Quite stylish Chardy, a good all-rounder. Tesco £10/£9 on offer.
Gayda Collection Grenache 2019, IGP Pays d'Oc (14%) - Delicious unoaked Grenache from this go-getting Languedoc winery (I'll spare you the gay sixth sense giggle concerning its name) with kirsch and dark chocolate tones, fairly soft cherry and liquorice finish, just a hint of tannin and oomph too. £9.99 James Nicholson (JN) Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case). Good with duck.
Petit Mazuret Viognier 2019, IGP Méditerranée (14%) - Thought-provoking style of Viognier from southern Provence that downplays the overt apricot/peach characters, although it's certainly aromatic with rich spicy honeyed fruit, rounded oily texture and quite concentrated finish. Try with smoked haddock. £9.50 JN Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case).

Villa Bianchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2019, Umani Ronchi, Marche (12.5%) - Typical example of this popular central-eastern Italian dry white: peachy floral and flavoursome with crisp chalky and elegant aftertaste. Apparently from organic vineyards although I don't remember seeing a certification symbol on the bottle? £9.99 JN Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case).

Porta 6 Vinho Regional Lisboa 2019, Vidigal Wines (50% Tinta Roriz, 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional, 13.5% abv) - Very attractive smooth red with ripe black cherry/berry fruit, violets liquorice and spice, a hint of dry tannin in the mouth with powerful but balanced finish. £7.50 Tesco (the funky label was based on a Lisbon street painting, copied from Tesco's site).

South Africa
Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2019, Swaartland, Badenhorst Family (13.5%) - Shaped by 50+ year-old bush vines giving lush concentrated very ripe fruit, this wine was partly fermented in large old casks lending rounded oily texture, as well as extended ageing on the yeast-less adding complex flavours. Rich honeyed pineapple/apricot with tangy nutty edges lending a sweet-sour twist, lingering weighty mouthfeel. £11.50 JN Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case).

22 February 2021

'Noir, blanc or gris: Grenache is at home in the wild south' - The Wine Merchant magazine

Screenshot from the latest digital edition:

This short paragraph from an article in the February 2021 edition of The Wine Merchant magazine (UK business publication) is a taster of a few combined extracts from my book on the Roussillon region themed around the Grenache variety. Follow the link above to read the feature (and the full digital issue) or scan the QR code below. Or go to winemerchantmag.com to find out more and buy a printed copy.

"There seems to be a minor buzz about the Grenache variety whether from the south of France, the better-established southern Rhone Valley regions, northeast Spain or South Australia. Best known as a red or ‘black’ variety, Grenache noir in French, in fact it’s a family of grape varieties in three different shades. There’s a strong heritage of old vine Grenache in the Roussillon for making Port-style Vins Doux Naturels, but it has become the region’s defining grape for red (and rosé) wines giving them power (sometimes an unfashionably elevated alcohol level) and lush spicy fruit, although not necessarily such a deep colour or firm tannins. There were 6000 hectares of Grenache in 2016 falling from over 7000 ha ten years earlier; if it continued to diminish while not being replaced sufficiently, that heritage could be lost for ever at the expense of newer arrivals such as Syrah..."

20 January 2021

Red & rosé wines of trying times

Whereas the 50-odd 'white wines of the cosmos' in my previous feature were arranged by store, these 40 red and rosé tips have been grouped by good old-fashioned grape variety (or combinations of). Once again no apologies offered for, this time, an irrational amount of Grenache, including GSM (Grenache / Garnacha, Shiraz / Syrah and Mourvèdre blends), and Pinot Noir.

Grenache / Garnacha with GSM and similar combos

Finest GSM 2017, D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia (14.5% abv) - Made by Grenache supremo D'Arenberg (they have some very very old Grenache and Shiraz vines planted), this alluring red shows maturing colour and nose with spicy kirsch and black cherry, punchy palate but quite soft with peppery sweet berries and pruney earthy olive. Tesco £9.
Willunga 100 Grenache 2016, McLaren Vale, South Australia - Pricier but classy red from another McLaren Grenache specialist: concentrated, meaty and powerful with lingering savoury and spicy fruit flavours. £13-£14 independent wine stores (imported by Liberty Wines in London, where the photo was downloaded from).
McWilliam's Markview Shiraz 2018, New South Wales, Australia - Okay, this is a straight 'S' rather than GSM but I wasn't going to leave it on its own. Very good value and better than many Oz reds at this price, it delivers soft dark peppery fruit and simple quaffing. WineMark £6.99 (I think - their website is crap) and sometimes Tesco.
Monfil Garnacha 2018, Cariñena, Spain (13.5%) - From Aragon, the home of Garnacha / Grenache (it's official apparently), this easy-going soft-ish although powerful and floral cherry fruited little number does what it says on the label (in big letters): a taste of sunny Garnacha. JN Wine £8.99 / £8.09 (with 10% case discount).
Águila Chillando Garnacha 2018, Cariñena, Spain (14.5%) - A Garnacha for chilling out perhaps (chill + Spanish gerund?) although it's pretty weighty; this one is similar in style to the Monfil with upfront peppery berry fruits and no obvious oak. Virgin Wines £8.49 was £9.99 (now 2019 vintage).
Campo Viejo Rioja Rosé 2019 (100% Garnacha, 13.5%) - Strawberry and roses, ripe and full-bodied with crisp finish. Widely available £7-£8 (Asda, Tesco, JS, Morrisons et al).
Finca Manzanos Rioja Rosado 2019 (Garnacha & Tempranillo, 13%) - Similar to above, perhaps a tad more elegant and with a bit more depth of flavour. Virgin Wines £9.89 was £10.99.
Sangre de Toro Original 2018, Catalunya, Spain, Bodegas Torres (13.5%) - Pitches Garnacha with some Cariñena (the variety not the region = Carignan) and sporting a tiny black plastic bull attached to the neck (classy touch), this is a seminal easy-going Torres classic red with wild berry fruits and chunky yet rounded palate. WineMark, Tesco, Asda £6.50-£7.50.
L'effet papillon Grenache noir & Syrah 2019, Côtes Catalanes, France (14.2%) - Part of a less expensive trio made by the owners of Roc des Anges in the Roussillon, this solid lightly rustic Grenache and Syrah blend offers lush spicy plum fruit and chunky framework. JN Wine £12 / £10.80. There's a Grenache rosé too: the 2018 I bought was tasty and rounded although looking a little old (JN appears to be out of stock so perhaps some of the 2019 is on the way).
Le Petit Mod'Amour 2018, Côtes du Roussillon rouge, Domaine Modat, France (unoaked Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, 14.5%) - Appealing wild-edged red with rustic berries and liquorice, weighty and quite concentrated although a tad pricey. JN Wine £14.50 / £13.05. Pictured below with my book (hover over image).
Chateau Pesquié Terrasses Rosé 2019, Ventoux, France (Cinsault 50%, Grenache 40%, Syrah 10%) - Either a replacement for the rosé I ordered or a mistake - should have been Domaine Negly's Les Terrasses Languedoc rosé made from Malbec - but a result for me in the end, as Pesquié costs £12.99 / £11.69 and the Negly £9.99 / £8.99 which is what I paid (JN Wine). Stylish dry southern rosé with gooseberry, raspberry and long lively finish.
Gold Label Rosé 2019, Pays d'Oc, France (Syrah & Grenache) - Attractive simple fruity and well-made rosé from M&S: a good option as part of their meal deal. £7
Les Arbousiers Coteaux du Languedoc rosé 2019 (Cinsault & Grenache, 13.5%) - Refreshing but quite full-bodied, another good quality versatile dry Med rosé. Virgin Wines £9.99.
Domaine Gayda Grenache 2017, IGP Pays d'Oc, France - Bought this in my local Chinese, Malaysian and Thai restaurant (Lemongrass) but as a lockdown carry-out in a half-price sale (can't remember how much now): it was lovely and mature with savoury liquorice notes to its soft spicy fruit.
Finest Saint-Chinian 2018, Languedoc, France, Maison Fortant (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, 13.5%) - Probably a slight majority Syrah this time, its spicy black fruity wild herby character offered a good mouthful for the price. Tesco £9 (now 2019).

And more Grenache / Garnacha HERE (Maury sec vs South Australia vs Catalunya).

Domaine Modat: it's in the book!

Pinot Noir

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand (13.5%) - Although a little oakier and firmer than the more obviously tasty 2018 vintage (quite rounded and mature), this popular brand still has plenty of appealing Pinot Noir fruit and character with a sweet/savoury side. Widely available in the UK from £10 to £11, £9 or so on offer.
Finest Marlborough Pinot Noir 2018, Indevin, New Zealand (13%) - Perfumed and silky with delicate maturing fruit, still quite refreshing though. Tesco £9 (now 2019).
Errázuriz Cuvée Aconcagua Pinot Noir 2019, Aconcagua, Chile (13.5%) - Aged in French oak barrels for 9 months (it says) but nicely done (Errázuriz's chief winemaker Francisco Baettig knows what he's doing), as it adds texture rather than overt oak; chunky and youthful at the moment (I found it better after being open for a day or two) although supple and concentrated. Not sure if the striking black, gold and red label denotes a new wine or simply different packaging for what is called Estate Series, Reserve or Aconcagua Costa elsewhere (Majestic, WineMark, Ocado), as all their Pinots come from Aconcagua vineyards. Tesco £11.
Errázuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2019, Aconcagua, Chile (13%) - A special batch Pinot fermented in open top vats using indigenous yeasts, which add wilder funkier edges to its lovely floral berry and spice fruit, concentrated and quite fine. I think I bought it at bin-end like price at Asda (no longer available), otherwise it costs about £14 at independent merchants and Majestic.
Viña Casablanca Céfiro Pinot Noir Cool Reserve 2018, Casablanca Valley, Chile - Another good quality and value Chilean Pinot with attractive maturing savoury fruit, subtle intensity even if drinking well now; good match with leg of lamb (deboned and rolled) on Christmas day. JN Wine £10.50 / £9.45.
De Martino Lote 02 Pinot Noir 2019, Limarí Valley, Chile (13.5%) - Classy Pinot from this leading 'natural'-leaning winery combining body and delicacy with fragrant red fruits and an earthier more savoury side. Virgin has a tempting offer running: £10.99 (was £14.99).
Extra Special Pinot Noir 2018, Leyda Valley, Chile (14%) - Not the most polished of Chilean Pinots, but for this price you can't go wrong. Lightly balsamic tones with savoury red fruits, punchy yet rounded; good with Chinese style duck. Asda £6.50.
By the way, what happened to a previous Asda Extra Special Pinot Noir, from the Yarra Valley Australia made by De Bortoli? The 2018 was very tasty indeed. Showing as unavailable on their site so hopefully it will return.
Finest Pinot Noir 2018, Casablanca, Chile, Cono Sur (13.5%) - We liked this smooth Pinot at first, but recent bottles seem to have changed in style a little becoming a bit oaky. Otherwise a good buy on offer! Tesco £9.
Grand Conseiller Pinot Noir 2018, France, Bouchard Ainé & Fils (12.5%) - A leaner type of Pinot but still tasty enough. Tesco £7 on offer / £9.
Bradshaw Pinot Noir The Peacock Series, Romania (12.5%) - Not exactly 'fine' but distinctly Pinot in character with easy-going cherry fruit and elegant finish. Crazy price: Asda £5.50.
Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé 2019, Pfalz, Germany, Ernst Loosen (11.5%) - Stylish light and zesty rosé from Germany with elegant raspberry and yeast-lees notes. JN Wine £11.00 / £9.90.
Lergenmüller Saigner Spätburgunder Rosé Trocken 2019, Pfalz (11.5%) - Another classy delicate German Pinot Noir rosé, although expensive. Similar to above though perhaps livelier and leesier with creamy red fruits and zingy mouth-feel. £12.99 Virgin.

Limarí Valley, Chile


Finest Malbec Rosé 2020, Mendoza, Argentina, Bodegas Catena (13.5%) -  Oozes spot-on balance of strawberry fruit, full-bodied mouth-feel and zesty freshness; an all-year-round rosé (like any decent dry rosé as far as I'm concerned) that's very versatile with food. Tesco £8 / £6 on offer (bargain). Updated February 2021: the latest batch of this rosé was disappointing, not sure if it's just not the same wine or possibly because of intrusive sulphites?
Santa Julia Malbec Rosé 2019/20, Mendoza, Argentina (14%) - Another flavoursome crisp yet full-on rosé from Argentina (Malbec seems to work well in this big style) produced by quality winery Zuccardi. Sainsbury's £9.

Tempranillo (and combos)

Campo Viejo Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain (Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, 13.5%) - Very consistent traditional cask-aged Rioja from vintage to vintage, this huge winery knows how to bottle that seductive smoky style with dried fruits and spices, a little bit of dry tannin but otherwise smooth and ready to drink. Widely available for £10-£11 but routinely on promotion somewhere for a couple of quid less.
M&S No. 21 Lomas del Marqués Rioja Reserva 2014, Spain (Tempranillo with Graciano, 14%) - I wouldn't argue with Mark's about this sumptuous red's standing in their new 'classics' range. Lovely mature Rioja styling with spicy oak (2 years in cask) melting into lush and meaty dark fruit, some tannin lingering on the palate but it's essentially ready to drink; with lamb or beef I guess, although a good quality mature cheese would do nicely too. Excellent value at £9.
Gym Dão 2017, Agricola Boas Quintas, Portugal (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro & Tinta Roriz, 13%) - Tinta Roriz is what viticulturalists call a 'clone' of Tempranillo, so they're like twins; it's also called Aragonês in southern Portugal. Juicy damson and liquorice with spicy violets, chunky but attractive tannins. From Aldi although it might all be gone now.

Merlot & Cabernet

Château Peymouton Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2016, Bordeaux, France (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, 14%) - Stylish maturing red with lush smoky fruit and still a little structure on the palate. Was on offer at WineMark a while ago for about £10-£12 (great price), otherwise it's £15.99 from Ocado (2014 or 2017 but 'out of stock') or more depending on vintage. Looks like Aldi stores once had some too.

Other grapes - Italy

Barone di Bernaj Frappato 2019, Cantine Madaudo, Sicily - Sicilian red variety Frappato produces relatively light spicy and fruity wines, this one was delicious ever so lightly chilled.
Isoletta Nero d'Avola Rosato 2019, Cantine Settesoli, Sicily - Nero d'Avola makes a variety of types of red wine, usually rich ripe and earthy, and full-bodied dry fruity rosés like this very nice example from this well-known co-op winery.
Valpolicella Ripasso Extra Special 2016, Lake Garda, Verona (Corvina & Rondinella, 14%) - The 2016 may no longer be available, but buy the oldest vintage you can find as the savoury maturity that comes with it is a bonus. Smoky balsamic dried fruits and firm yet ageing mouth-feel, a tasty mini-Amarone in style and price. Asda £9.50.

15 January 2021

White wines of the cosmos

'Here we are in the ship of the imagination...' Remember that awe-inspiring space travel programme 'Cosmos' back in the 80s by Carl Sagan (paraphrasing one of his most cosmological lines)? Don't know why I thought of that though: stellar white wines of the split-atom millisecond perhaps? Sounds more out-there than international or global, especially as these words are usually stranded with media-nouns like crisis, conflict or pandemic; or similar marketing babble.

Photo from amazon.co.uk

Just for a change of scenery, these 50-something white wine recommendations sampled over the past several months are listed by retailer (mostly UK with some in Ireland, Germany and the US) rather than grape variety or country. By the way, this is a Sauvignon Blanc-free zone and features an unapologetic amount of Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, as well as a few sexy Italian, Mediterranean and Eastern European varieties! Rosés, reds and cider to follow.

Finest Torrontés 2018, Salta, Argentina (13% abv) - A little old but still surprising in an aromatic yet mature oily Riesling-esque way. Good but look out for the 2019 or 2020 vintage. Made from this underrated unknown variety by the usually very good Catena family winery grown in high altitude vineyards. The vines I mean, not the family. £7 (£ = GBP).
Finest Gewurztraminer 2018, Alsace, France (14%) - From the Maison Arthur Metz co-op winery, this vintage probably needs drinking up but it offers all the rich Turkish Delight and lychee flavours you might like. It's medium-dry so try with spicy food.
Gewurztraminer de Colmar 2019 (14%) - This 2019 Gewurz has replaced the above being fairly new at Tesco: plenty of smooth drinking oomph, rose water honey and spicy lychee notes but maybe drier than the old Finest one although with unctuous mouth-feel. Too easy to drink although essentially a food wine e.g. King Prawn Nasi Goreng. Made by Domaine de la Ville de Colmar, and full marks to them as it seems to be getting harder to make good Alsace Gewurz for under a tenner: £9.
Finest Greco di Tufo 2019, Campania, Italy (12.5%) - Superior Italian dry white made from a superior southern grape, Greco, by the well-known Feudi winery. Nutty and zingy with oily yet crisp mouth-feel. £9
Finest Gavi 2019, Piemonte, Italy, Fratelli Martini Secondo Luigi (12.5%) - Produced from Cortese in northwest Italy, this was perhaps a little less zesty and exciting than previous vintages but still worth a go. £8.50
Finest Pinot Grigio 2019, Trentino, Italy (12.5%) - Produced by the very reliable co-op winery Ca'Vit in the far north of Italy (Austria is the other side of the mountains, and some of the locals there even speak a dialect of German), whose Pinot Grigio is always more flavoursome than many other wishy-washy ones from Italy. £7
Finest Passerina 2019, Abruzzo, Italy (13%) - The winery is Codice Citra whoever that is based in this central-southern region next door to Lazio on the Adriatic side. You don't see the Passerina variety (apparently named after the wee bird featured on the label) much outside of there and perhaps in the Marche to the north, and it delivers a tasty white balancing ripe and peachy with honeyed edges and refreshing finish. £7
Finest Soave Superiore Classico 2018, Veneto, Italy, Cantina di Monteforte (Garganega variety, 13.5%) - Another good example (and this accomplished co-op cellar too) of well-known with knobs on; for not much more money, what's the point in buying cheap Soave. This was quite lush and full-bodied in fact with nutty oily texture (supposedly part-aged in oak but it doesn't taste of it luckily) and very ripe fruit; nice and mature: watch out for any older badly rotated vintage (we were delivered a 2017 which was past it), or better still the 2019. £7.50
Fiano 2019, Sicily, Italy (Fiano, 12.5%) - A constant bargain at £5.75: aromatic and fresh with attractive rounded texture and white peach fruit.
Verdicchio di Matelica 2019, Marche, Italy (12.5%) - Easy-drinking Verdicchio from the eastern central hills (this variety is often seen from the more famous neighbouring Castelli dei Jesi area, and in the same distinctive amphora bottle, which is probably more expensive hence Tesco switching supply?) with peach and pear fruit and refreshing finish. £6.50
Wairau Cove Chardonnay 2019, Gisborne, New Zealand (13%) - Not the most spectacular southern hemisphere Chardy you can find, but this is one of a range from NZ that Tesco has shipped and bottled in the UK. Good for the price though and refreshingly unoaked with light buttery notes crossed with zingy citrus. £7
Viñalba Chardonnay 2019, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, Bodegas Fabre (13%) - Classy 'Argie Chablis' (oops) mixing up elegance and restrained winemaking with pure unoaked and lightly creamy pineapple fruit. £10
Bellingham Chardonnay 2018 Stellenbosch, South Africa (13.5%) - Partly barrel-fermented with lees-stirring but not too oaky at all adding butterscotch and spice to its ripe fruit and weighty palate. £8 on offer / £10. Bellingham's stylishly different Bernard Series Chenin Blanc is also available in selected stores and at the same offer price at the moment.
Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2019, Chile (12.5%) - Not as rich, lighter and perhaps less dry than previous vintages but still a nice quaffer for those who like the exotic flavours of Gewurz at a lesser price! £7.50 / £6 on offer. It's often £6 on promotion at Asda too, usually £7.25. Their Viognier 2020 vintage is now out though, and a return to form with perfumed spicy apricot, quite lush and oily moth-feel (with weightier 13.5% abv too) and zesty finish.
Cono Sur Riesling 2018 Reserva Especial Valley Collection, Bío Bío, Chile (12.5%) - Lovely example of where Chile is at with the Riesling variety: aromatic intricate and oily with chalky lime notes on the finish. Currently out of stock (?) but was about £9-£10: or perhaps they've switched to Cono Sur's regular Riesling, a not-bad substitute (£7.50 / £6 on promo).

Marks & Spencer
Merinas Organic White Wine Airen - Viura - Verdejo 2019, Spain (12.5%) - A new good-value white from Spain, not very demanding with zesty citrus and pear. Could be one of the options in their meal deal? £7
Macon-Villages 2018, Burgundy, France, Vignerons des Grandes Vignes Prissé (12.5%) - Very reliable tasty unoaked Chardy from southern Burgundy, ripe and creamy with juicy finish. £9
Coteaux Bourguignon 2018, Burgundy, France, Collin-Bourisset - Another good Chardy in similar style to above, perhaps a little steelier and classier. Couldn't find it on Mark's site though, so perhaps they don't stock it any more.
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2019, Marche, Italy (13%) - Another one that's 'no longer available' but that could just mean online. Again, a tasty well-made example of this Italian dry white as detailed above.
Mineralstein Riesling 2019, Pfalz, Germany, Gerd Stepp - This lovely modern and fairly dry German Riesling is now labelled with Mark's new M&S Classics label: zesty and stylish. £9.50
Baron de Hoen Gewurztraminer 2018 Grande Réserve, Alsace, France - This wine has also been revamped under the M&S Classics moniker (that Baron de Hoen label was fairly ghastly in any case), and the 2019 now on shelf is produced by Cave de Turckheim, so it should be perfectly sound. £10

Farmers of Wine Organic white wine, Italy (12.5%) - The virtually information-free packaging comes in the form of a suitably earthy recycled brown paper bag: all it says is Vino Bianco from Italy and it's bottled in Bardolino in the north. Not the most exciting of several Asda dry whites from Italy purchased in recent times, but perfectly enjoyable for only £5 a bottle!
Lugana 2019, Lake Garda, Italy, Tenuta Roveglia (13%) - On the other hand, this delicious Lugana is one of Asda's best Italian whites, if not the best given how many bottles we've had delivered over the past few months! Made from the Turbiana variety, which is the local name for Trebbiano di Lugana that apparently is a very close relative of Verdicchio rather than the usually rather insipid Trebbiano found elsewhere in Italy in huge volumes. Concentrated ripe peachy fruit, quite full and rounded with nutty citrus finish. £9.50
Languedoc Blanc 2018, Languedoc, France (12.5%) - Produced by the huge Vignerons de la Méditerranée co-op group based in Narbonne, this tasty quite richly textured dry white is made from the southern grapes Grenache blanc, Marsanne and Bourboulenc. However, the recently arrived 2019 is a bit oaky though in an intrusive way. £7
La Chasse Chardonnay Viognier 2019, Languedoc, France, Gabriel Meffre (12.5%) - Another super-consistent easy-drinking southern French wine (Meffre is gifted at that) blending lively citrus with more tropical fruit and roundness too. £6
Chablis 2018, Burgundy, France (12.5%) - Lovely example from the Chablis co-op winery of steely yet buttery unoaked Chardy. Appears to be temporarily out of stock (disappeared from their website), but it was something like £12 a bottle or £9-£10 on offer. Hopefully not a post-Brexit casualty.
Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2019, Western Cape, South Africa (13%) - Chenin always makes a change from Chardy or Sauvignon: tropical melon fruit, chalky and refreshing mouth-feel. £6
Zuncho Chardonnay Viognier 2019, Colchagua Costa, Chile, Luis Felipe Edwards (13.5%) - Weightier and more tropical than the Meffre but similarly unoaked and lively; it disappeared off Asda's site for a while but is back again. £7
Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2019/2020 - See Tesco above.
The Wine Atlas Feteasca Regala 2019, Romania (11.5%) - This well-made version of an obscure native grape variety is very good value and a refreshing zesty and light alternative to Sauvignon blanc, although more interesting frankly! Versatile with food too. £5.25

Vina Esmeralda 2018, Catalunya, Spain, Torres (11.5%) - A light aromatic and off-dry blend of Muscat and Gewurztraminer offering grapey lychee notes and fairly zingy aftertaste.
Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2018, Les Petites Pierres, Burgundy, France (13%) - This reliable quality unoaked French Chardonnay is widely available in fact including Tesco, Majestic, Asda and independent stores, and only worth getting at Winemark (NI) if you buy two bottles as part of a money-off deal otherwise it's too dear (like most of their single bottle prices). Soft creamy and quite concentrated with balanced fresh finish. The 2019 is now on-shelf and nicely retains its pure Chardy-fruit class in a 'cheaper and less acidic than Chablis' way. Have since purchased several bottles of the 2019, simply a very tasty unoaked Chardonnay. About £9-£10.

Taste the Difference Gewurztraminer 2019, Alsace, France (13.5%) - As usual, talented co-op winery Cave de Turckheim comes up trumps with a spot-on Gewurz mixing up zestiness, lychee and rose water flavours and a bit of oomph. Try with smoked salmon risotto. £8.50
Rocca Murer Pinot Grigio 2019, Trentino, Italy (12.5%) - Superior PG from the Ca'Vit winery (same producer as the Tesco Finest wine) with more depth and flavour than most and juicy honeysuckle tones. £7
The Bernard Series Whole Bunch Roussanne Limited Release 2019, Wellington, South Africa, Bellingham (13.5%) - Special occasion full-bodied white from top producer Bellingham (see Tesco) with subtle oak handling adding weight and yeasty edges to its distinctive floral herbal notes, then richer lingering spicy pineapple and peach flavours. £10.25
Montagny Signé Bourgogne 2016, Burgundy, France - I doubt they have any 2016 left but buy the oldest vintage you can find, honestly: it has lovely mature buttery fruit, although don't keep it long. £10
Not too many wines from Sainsbury's recommended here because they forgot to bring all of the wine (disaster) as part of a screwed-up online delivery! Pity as the JS range is good. Plus we got chocolate bars dated Christmas Day 2019 and sausages (Tesco's in fact can you believe!) two days past the sell-by date. Well done JS, never again. It doesn't help either that my nearest store's staff is generally un-customer-friendly and seemingly Covid oblivious.

Giuseppe & Luigi Traminer Aromatico 2018, Veneto, Italy (12.5%) - Appealing lighter drier type of Gewurz from north-eastern Italy with floral zesty finish. €9 or €10 at Lidl Ireland (€6.99 in Germany).
Gewurztraminer Reserva Especial 2019, Valle Central, Chile (14%) - Bargain at €7.50 reduced to clear, with plenty of aromatic tropical Gewurz style although dry as well.
Casal Montani Frascati Superiore 2018, Lazio, Italy - Another one-off in their Irish stores I think (looks available in Germany and the Netherlands though), this was a surprising example of a sometimes neutral wine with fair amount of character and depth of flavour for the price.

Exquisite Collection Padthaway Chardonnay 2019 (Taylor's Wines aka Wakefield?), South Australia (13.5%) - Consistent favourite unoaked Chardy offering ripe juicy melon peach and pineapple with creamy fruity palate while deceptively full-on yet well-balanced. Lidl Ireland €7.99, UK £5.99.
Pinot Gris 2020, Gisborne, New Zealand (13%) - Not sure if this was in the same range or a different label, but it cost €8.15 and was juicy and Brazil nutty with dry-ish finish; good with Chinese or Thai king prawn dishes.

Virgin Wines
I've included each wine's (my favourite whites from a pick and mix type case ordered) full price here but did have a big discount voucher making them very reasonable (you probably wouldn't pay their full slightly inflated prices in any case); and apparently you'd get a discount if you became a Discovery Club member. Virgin has a US wine site too with a similar range.
Vitalita Falanghina 2018, Puglia, Italy (12.5%) - Has some attractive character and maturing fruit with fresh mineral finish. £9.99
The Last Stand Chardonnay 2018, Victoria, Australia (12.5%) - Appealing start with lightly creamy and ripe juicy fruit, not too heavy although the overly zippy finish jars a little. Good price though £8.99.
Kuehn Muscat 2019, Alsace, France (12.5%) - One of the best in my case, this elegant perfumed DRY Muscat is great with Malaysian dishes. £11.99
Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer 2019, Ernst Loosen, Pfalz, Germany (12%) - Pricey but flavoursome Gewurz, more subtle lighter leaner and drier than its French counterparts although still aromatic with 'sweet' spice. £12.99
Velea Malvasia 2017, Salento, Italy (12.5%) - Malvasia is a secret star variety: complex oily mature tones (but it wasn't too old though surprisingly) with floral peachy fruit and a 'salty' tang, different. Reduced to £9.99.

James Nicholson Wines
The prices stated include 10% off the full list price for a 12 bottle delivery. JN Wine also sells in the Republic of Ireland (see website for Euro prices).
Quinta de Chocapalha Arinto 2019, Lisboa, Portugal - Arinto is one of several fab Portuguese white grapes: intense with yeast-lees notes, floral grapefruit and crisp dry finish. £10.35
Domaine Gayda Flying Solo Grenache Blanc Viognier 2019, Languedoc, France - Probably not the most exciting white from the talented Gayda winery, but attractive and easy-going with freshness and a little weight too. £8.10
JN stocks Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer as well (see Virgin above) but for less: £10.35 including the 10% case discount.
L’Effet Papillon Grenache blanc & Macabeu, IGP Côtes Catalanes (13%) - This tasty aromatic white is one of a less expensive trio made by Domaine Roc des Anges in the Roussillon, southern France: read all about them in my book. Enticing juicy pear fruit with yeast-lees and almost wild herbal notes, subtle soft lingering flavours. £10.35
Pajzos T Hárslevelű 2018, Tokaji, Hungary (12.5%) - Something really original, this flavoursome dry white is made from one of the Tokay region's classic sweet wine grapes (the tricky to pronounce one). Fragrant floral with oily aniseed undertones, juicy intense and dry. £9.45

A trio of dry whites enjoyed, noted and photo-ed while on the beautiful island:
Isoletta Vermentino 2019, Cantine Settesoli (organic) - Fragrant and zesty/lees-y with citrus and aniseed undertones.
Aura Antiche Cantine Rosso 2019, IGT Terre Siciliane (13.5%) - Made mostly from sumptuous Sicilian grape variety Grillo (with a splash of Fiano) by a small organic producer in Ragusa province, this natural-edged deep-coloured wine is rich exotic and quirky with stewed apple and yeast notes, long dry finish.
Barone di Bernaj Grillo 2019, Cantine Madaudo - A different style of Grillo bought in a supermarket: more typical Grillo character with perfumed apricot, full rounded palate and fresh finish.

Finally, yet another Gewurz found in a wine store in Leamington Spa (England), although I can't remember which one.
Kuhlmann-Platz Gewürztraminer Cuvée Prestige 2017, Cave de Hunawihr, Alsace - Aromatic lush fruity and spicy, pretty classic off-dry style. The 2018 is available at Majestic for £12.99/£10.99 (if you buy 6 bottles).