Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘Les Safres’, Le Clos du Caillou’
The much-lauded Le Clos du Caillou produces classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines that just keep getting better, year-on-year. The domaine is situated on the edge of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is unique in that, in 1936, the owner (who was then away at a hunting retreat) refused to allow the experts who were drawing up the boundaries of the appellation to visit his domaine. Thus, it was not included in the delimited area and remains to this day an enclave within the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The domaine practices biodynamic farming techniques and was certified "Agriculture Biologique" in 2010 and "Vin Biologique" in 2012. Their trademark style lies in full-bodied wines with rich red fruit flavours, velvety texture and fine tannins.Les Safres is 95% Grenache with the rest Mourvedre, Cinsault & Vaccarese. Not too heavy for a Chateauneuf but great intensity of pure spicy dark fruit. Really impressive.
Musella make very special wines! What makes them unique is that they look for harmony and balance in the wine, not just power and intensity. Don't get me wrong, this is still a full-bodied wine, made with dried grapes in the usual way, but it isn't too intense or too alcoholic like a lot of modern Amarone. This is deliciously drinkable; more than one glass won't knock you out! Maddalena Pasqua is passionate about her vineyards and the land on which she lives; she makes wines that shine with this love. All the vineyards and farmed Biodynamically and the wines made by hand. A great wine to finish the meal and can accompany a range of cheeses including complex Cheddars such as Montgomery or Pitchfork, or soft blues like Beauvale.
Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco, Piemonte
In 1958, the priest of the village of Barbaresco, recognizing that the only way the small properties could survive was by joining their efforts, gathered together nineteen small growers and founded the Produttori del Barbaresco. The first three vintages were made in the church basement, and then in the winery built across the square from where the Produttori is still located. United once again, the small growers continued the work started by Domizio Cavazza, producing only Barbaresco wine and enhancing both the reputation of the wine and the village. The Produttori del Barbaresco now has 50 members and 100 hectares (250 acres) of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost a sixth of the vineyards of the area. The most important thing, however, is that quality is always the highest priority and in Aldo Vacca, they have one of the World's most respected winemakers. We buy this wine every year and it never disappoints; every vintage is different, reflecting the year itself, but has the hallmark of class and quality. The thing I like most about this is the amazing perfume; great Nebbiolo has a unique nose that is hard to beat! These wines age gracefully for decades and really represent great value in the context of Piemonte's top producers. A great wine for the cheeseboard but also, venison and duck; when young the tannins are firm, so the food does need some richness and fat. As they age, the tannins soften but strong, hard cheeses (Old Winchester, Double Barrel, Cornish Kern...) are still my favourite match.
Redoma Tinto, Niepoort
The Redoma wines are perhaps the flagship of Dirk Niepoort's range. The Tinto is rich and full-bodied with layers of dark fruit flavour and complex spice. 2017 was such a fantastic vintage for Niepoort, the wine is approachable now, but having tried older vintages over the years, it will definitely repay some years in the bottle. Perfect with the full roast beef dinner, or something gamey like venison stew.
Vina Arana Gran Reserva, La Rioja Alta
La Rioja Alta is one of the great names in the world of wine, making truly magnificent wines. Vina Arana was always made as a Reserva, but from the 2012 vintage, they have extended the ageing to elevate it to Gran Reserva. The result is impressive – very smooth and complex; drinking well now but will improve for decades to come!
Givry Rouge 1er Cru ‘Grande Vignes’, Domaine Parize
From the heart of this appellation in the southerly Cote Chalonnaise sub-region of Burgundy, this is a gorgeous wine with delicious primary aromas of spiced cherries, berries and rhubarb, notes of clove and cigarbox – lovely refinement and complexity. Burgundy can be frustrating and very expensive but this is a great example of finding quality and value from lesser-known villages. If this was slightly further north it would be considerably more expensive!A great wine for roast lamb or pork, or even chicken.
Chateau Larose Perganson
Lush and ripe, with aromas of blackberries, cassis, sweet spices and vanilla. Velvety tannins are balanced with excellent acidity. A delicious Bordeaux blend ready to drink now.
Hilltop Shiraz, Clonakilla
Clonakilla are one of Australia’s most iconic Shiraz producers. Their flagship Shiraz/Viognier is amongst the countries best (available on request), however, this wine gives you a real insight into the genius of winemaker Tim Kirk at a fraction of the price. In fact, for drinking now, this wine is more approachable and rewarding than its big brother. Not as big and jammy as Barossa Shiraz, this has a slightly more Rhône-y edge to it, making it much more food friendly in my book. Still juicy and full of delicious dark, spicy fruit but with balance and restraint.
Chateau Grand Pey Lescours, St. Emilion Grand Cru
Acquired in 1924 by the Escure family, the Château Grand-Pey-Lescours is located at the foot of the slopes of Saint-Emilion itself. They also own the renowned Chateau Bellegrave in Pomerol. The vineyards are planted with 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon – on gravelly and sandy soils and cover nearly 26 hectares.A classic example of St.Emilion; medium-bodied, wood-scented with notes of plum and the perfect accompaniment to roast lamb!
Musella Valpolicella Ripasso
Musella make some of the most elegant wines in the Valpolicella region; where most wineries are looking for power and intensity in their Ripasso and Amarone, Maddalena Pasqua makes wines of elegance and focus. Her love of nature and respect for the land have led her to become one of the leading proponents of Biodynamic winemaking in Italy. This Ripasso certainly has depth of flavour and richness but the overriding effect is one of drinkability. And that is a good, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s not a showing off wine but a really pleasurable drinking wine. Perfect with lasagne and other meaty pasta dishes as well as grilled meats.
Vina Alberdi Reserva, La Rioja Alta
La rioja Alta is one of Spain's most iconic producers, producing some of the country's best wines since 1890.The Vina Alberdi Reserva is perhaps their most accessible and immediately impressive wine and delivers that quitessential Rioja flavour profile in spades.Perfect with roast meats and strong hard cheeses, this is drinking well now but will continue to improve for at least a decade.
‘Lo Vielh’ Old Vine Carignan, Clos de Gravillas
Clos de Gravillas is an organic estate based in the tiny hamlet of St Jean de Minervois, deepin the Languedoc countryside. Here, John and Nicole Bojanowski make some of the region's most interesting wines. The Carignan vines that make this wine are from a high gravelly vineyard and are over 100 years old. This gives the wine real character, as if the vines have soaked up the minerals of the earth and the flavours of the surrounding Garrigue. This is a dark, powerful wine that is a perfect match for slow roasted, herby meats. Unique and beautiful, this is Southern French wine at it's best.