By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 1 May 2021
These are my latest finds from growers around the world, including South Africa, Greece, Hungary, Germany & Australia.
Swartland, South Africa: LUBANZI CHENIN BLANC 2020 (12.5%) ***STAR VALUE***
£3.95 can (250ml); £9.95 bt The Wine Society
Looking for good value Cape Chenin with good social and environmental credentials, this brand new find by wine buyer Joanne Locke MW is one of the best Chenin Blancs I have tasted under £10. Clean primary fruits, gorgeous fleshy ripeness with creamy leesy notes. If you are heading off on a picnic, it is also sold in sleekly packaged cans - and the Lubanzi’s red Shiraz blend is equally good too.
Peloponnese, Greece: MANTINIA MOSCHOFILERO 2019 Semeli (12.5%)
£15.95 Corney & Barrow Scotland; Borders Wines; Novel Wines
The Master of Moschofilero has done it again. Winemaker Leonidas Nassiakos of Semeli crafts superb aromatic spicy dry whites from this tricky grape grown high up at 650m on Mantinia plateau in Arcadia in central Peloponnese – not far from where mythical stories of Hercules abound. A high scorer in our recent Greek tasting, tasters loved its floral and rosepetal aromas, citric fruit, moderate alcohol and long aromatic finish.
Western Australia: ESTATE RIESLING 2019 Frankland Estate (13.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£18.99 Bancroft Wines
Superb Riesling from little-known Frankland Estate (vineyard pictured above), best known for their Isolation Ridge wines – this really shows the potential in this isolated corner of Western Australia. 250km east of Margaret River, nestled inland from the Great Southern coastline, the Smith family make outstandingly good Riesling grown on a high ironstone rocky ridge in their ‘coffee rock’ soil. Gorgeous lime zest and floral notes, lovely textural palate with vivid bright acidity.
Tokaj, Hungary: EGY KIS DRY FURMINT 2019 Barta (13%)
£14.95 Corney & Barrow Scotland
If you normally drink Sauvignon Blanc, you will love this unoaked zippy style of Hungary’s Furmint grape. Juicy mouthwatering fresh with lemon acidity and creamy leesy notes, it shows the crisp unoaked version of Tokaj’s fiery Furmint grape with the characteristic spicy hints. Egy Kis ‘mini Furmint’ is a great introduction to Hungary’s superb ancestral grape – grown here on the lower slopes next to the oldest terraced vineyard in Tokaj, the famous Oreg Kiraly – which means Kings Vineyard.
Rheingau, Germany: RIESLING HALLGARTEN RHEINSCHIEFER TROCKEN 2018 Peter Jakob Kuhn (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£21 L’Art du Vin
Outstandingly good dry Rheingau Riesling from biodynamic producers PJ Kuhn from a blend of three higher (300m) Hallgarten vineyards. Winemaker Peter Bernhard Kuhn, a self-proclaimed Francophile, is really doing something different here in a region often considered rather traditional. He thinks the multi-coloured phyllite slate from his prime Hendelberg site brings an illuminated flavour spectrum to this wine - so savoury and pure with apples, limes, nuts and spice, nectarine fruits and racy acidity.
Kent, England: CHARDONNAY GUINEVERE 2019 Gusbourne (12.5%)
£27-£33 Berry Bros; Noble Green; Harvey Nichols; Highbury Vintners; The Whisky Exchange
In my quest to find decent English still wines, this barrel fermented and aged Chardonnay (10 months French oak) from Boot Hill vineyard in Appledore impressed me with its ripe citric fruits, sleek elegant mid-palate and toasty nutty finish. At first glance you might compare it to Chablis, but it is unmistakably English with its shrill acid line from start to finish. Pricey - but it does show England’s potential though.
Paarl, South Africa: OBSCURA 2019 Spice Route (13.5%)
£19.50 The Wine Society
Spice Route’s owner Charles Back is always experimenting and this time he has struck gold. Fascinated by Georgian clay Qvevris, Back despatched his winemaker Charl du Plessis to learn natural non-interventionist techniques in Georgia, then imported qvevris which he buried up to their necks in earth. This Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon/Viognier/Chenin Blanc Cape blend made with extended skin contact is superb; such spicy energy, a grippy pithy textural white. Back’s red Obscura made from Shiraz/Grenache is equally good.
Carinena, Spain: MANCUSO GARNACHA 2018 Jorge Nevascues (14.5%)
£12.95 The Wine Society
Grown on slate soils at high altitude (650m), this Garnacha from 50 year old bushvines made by a small family project is really pushing the boundaries with this exciting grape. This is inspiring stuff from such a little-known Spanish region; it shows the floral scented side of Grenache with 40% whole bunch ferment and part neutral oak ageing giving fabulous purity, velvet smooth tannins and long finish for the price.
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand: SYRAH 2018 Paritua (13%)
£30 Amathus Drinks
In a line-up of Kiwi Syrahs, this spicy savoury violet-scented example with sweet prune and spice flavours really stood out showing what progress New Zealand has made since its first modern Syrah plantings in 1984. Paritua cool ferment with whole bunches (20% whole berries) to preserve fruits and mature in 50% new French oak to add complexity. This has a lightness of touch which reminded me of Pinot Noir with a distinct pepperiness reminiscent of Northern Rhone Syrah.
Western Australia: ESTATE SHIRAZ 2017 Frankland Estate (14.5%)
£18.99 Bancroft Wines; Vinvm
Another superb wine from this hidden gem in cool dry Frankland River, Great Southern. The academic John Gladstones predicted that Shiraz would grow well in these iron rich soils derived from granite, how right he was. Now with the right clones (877, 174, 470 & Waldron) planted, organically focused Frankland Estate has produced a humdinger here – rich fleshy blackcurrant fruits, vibrant, peppery and long – with more of a nod to French Syrah, rather than Aussie Shiraz. Pleasingly drinkable now, not a wine for cellaring.
Southern Rhone, France: THE SOCIETY’S EXHIBITION GIGONDAS 2016 Chateau de Saint-Cosme (15%) ***STAR BUY***
£18 The Wine Society
Spare a thought for all the Rhone growers who lost so many vines from this year’s April frosts – whilst you enjoy this outstanding winner from The Wine Society’s spring tasting - made in the fantastic 2016 vintage by winemaker Louis Barruol. Don’t let the 15% alcohol put you off, this is generously fruity and rich, but it has a lightness of touch on the mid-palate. Subtle oak notes, but it is all about bright cherry and plum fruits, savoury notes and a lingering silky textured finish.
Join Rose’s Meet the Rhone Winemaker Virtual Wine Tasting with Bastien Tardieu of the legendary Maison Tardieu-Laurent on Friday 28 May 6.30pm in association with Raeburn Fine Wines www.rosemurraybrown.com