Exciting drinkable and affordable wines

It has been quite a couple of weeks for finding new and exciting wines and I find that is what makes wine really interesting. It might seem strange to some people, but to me wine is only partly a drink, it is also a constant voyage of discovery into places, people, culture and traditions – as well as seeking out delicious flavours.

Most of the time that does not mean that the wines are weird, whacky or odd in any way, just that they are slightly off the beaten track, made in places and from grapes that are a little less well known than they ought to be. It is for those very reasons they often reward trying as they can frequently offer better value than more well known wines, as well as an enormous amount of pleasure.

I have written before about how the majority of consumers seem to only drink wines from a very narrow range of wine styles and grape varieties, which is a real shame when there is so much good wine out there that often passes people by.

So in the spirit of adventurism and sharing, here are a few terrific wines that are new to me, absolutely delicious, a little bit unusual and widely available – in the UK anyway – and they all give great value for money.

Exciting Whites:

2010 Green Fish Verdejo
Castilla y León, Spain
This is splendid stuff for the price, fresh and bursting with life. It is not complex, but is a very enjoyable dry white wine in a zesty, limey, Sauvignon Blanc kind of style. It is made from Verdejo which is one of Spain’s best white grapes and deserves to be much better known than it is. Green Fish is not the greatest example out there and I am sure you have had more complex wine, but I also bet you have paid much, much more for worse wine before now. Serve it chilled on warm days in the garden and everyone will have fun, it will go with pretty much anything – 85/100 points.

Around £6 a bottle in the UK from Oddbins and Geoff Walker Wine Shop.

2010 Côtes du Rhône Le Vent Blanc
Jean-Luc Colombo
Rhône Valley, France
Like many of us it hardly ever occurs to me to drink white wines from the Rhône, which I now realise is a great shame. This unoaked white is made from two relatively unusual grapes: 80% Clairette with 20% Rousanne.
Jean-Luc Colombo has become one of the real stars of the Rhône as he manages to make wines that seem classically French while at the same time being supple and full of fruit.
The nose is fresh and delicately aromatic with some attractive floral and citrus notes. The palate is almost crisp, but slightly soft with gorgeous herbal characters, a touch of minerality and some balancing fresh acidity.
This is a terrific dry white wine with lots of flavour and it would go very well with a wide array of food as well as earning you points for originality when serving it to your guests – 87/100 points.

I really ought to point out that the matching red Côtes du Rhône Le Vent is rather good too.

Around £10 a bottle in the UK from Oddbins and The Drink Shop.
Jean-Luc Colombo wines are distributed in the US by Palm Bay International.

Exciting Reds:

The rugged Montsant landscape

2006 Latria Montsant
Celler Malondro, Montsant
Catalunya, Spain
Many of you will know that I am very keen on Spanish wines and I think this wine shows why I rate Spain so highly. Montsant is a beautiful, wild, rugged and mountainous region that surrounds the much more famous and expensive Priorat. This supple and enjoyable wine is not a Priorat, but it gives a superb insight into that region’s style and if you like red wines from the Rhône you will enjoy this.
Latria is 50% each of Garnatxa and CarinyenaGarnacha and Cariñena in Spanish, these grapes are more famous with their French names of Grenache and Carignan, but they originate in Spain. It is aged in oak, which softens it out and enhances the grape’s natural spicy qualities.
The big thing about this wine is the deep, ripe black fruit, which is opulent, smooth and rich with the oak adding a lovely savoury smoky note. This is a wonderful wine and hugely enjoyable – 89/100 points.

Around £10 a bottle in the UK from Oddbins and The Wine Society.
Available in the US from KL Wine Merchants & Bernard’s Wine Gallery.

2010 Crios Tannat
Susana Balbo, Dominio del Plata
Mendoza, Argentina
Susana is a great winemaker and lovely person who makes some of the most exciting wines in Argentina’s Mendoza region – I seem to remember from my visit there that she also makes superb empanadas. Tannat is a grape that originates in France, where it is famously used in Madiran, but it is also the speciality grape of Uruguay in South America. Unfortunately most Uruguayan wine is quite expensive as the wineries are normally very small. This example comes from the warmer climes of Mendoza, which is much more famous for Malbec – also a grape from south west France.
The colour is dense and opaque – it looks like cassis liqueur. The palate is full, soft and smooth, positively bursting with ripe plums and blueberry fruit that seems to have been lightly dusted with icing sugar and white pepper. Delicious stuff that makes for a pretty, hedonistic bottle of wine. It is beautifully made and superbly balanced, but is sinfully easy to drink – 89/100 points.

Around £10 a bottle in the UK from Oddbins.

Victor Arroyo (far left) of Bodegas Castro Bergidum on my Circle of Wine Writers trip there in 2010

2010 Legio Bierzo
Bodegas Castro Bergidum
Castilla y León, Spain
Another lovely wine from Spain, but this is very different from the Montsant. Bierzo is technically in Castilla y León, but is historically and culturally in Gallicia, so it is part of Green Spain. The reds from this part of the world are made from Mencia, which is a grape that only grows around here and makes all the great Gallician red wines. If you have never tried one this is a perfect place to start and, if you were wondering, it could not be more different in style from a Rioja.

Again this wine is dense and opaque with rich brambley fruit and black cherry aromas mingling with some savoury notes.
The palate is round and sumptuously smooth with soft tannins, loads of black fruit and a hint of chocolate and plums. This is not a wine to think about too much, just to enjoy as it slips down a treat – 87/100 points.

Around £9 a bottle – down to £5.99 during May 2012 – in the UK from Waitrose.

The amazing landscape of Las Médulas in Bierzo

So there you are, a great line up of really enjoyable wines that should all bring a smile to any wine lover’s face. The Verdejo because it is such a bargain and the others because they are good quality wines that do not break the bank too much. In fact they seem to pull of that wonderful trick of being serious wines, well made and balanced with something to say, but are also very, very drinkable.

If they interest you and you cannot find them, my best advice is to seek out an independent wine shop and ask advice about these wine styles. Everyone should push the boundaries of what they drink once in a while and buy some wine from a wine shop where there is someone knowledgeable who can help you.

2 thoughts on “Exciting drinkable and affordable wines

  1. Thank you for exposing me to the Crios Tannat. I am a big fan of the Uruguian variety but did not realize it was available from Argentina. Also a fan of Susana Balbo. Sounds like a winning combination!

  2. Pingback: Wine of the Week 69 – a sumptuous red for winter | Quentin Sadler's Wine Page

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