The wine world has never been so diverse, thanks to the spread of wine culture around the globe and wine-makers who have spent years learning their craft, often in entirely different environments or countries to their own. The other major change has been the virtual disappearance of the influence of the once mighty American wine critic Robert Parker, whose preference for intense highly alcoholic fruit bombs influenced wine making globally.
Several wines in this month’s collection show how far we have progressed – Chardonnay produced in New Zealand frequently offers far better value than from the lesser regions of Burgundy, while Rhône style wines in the New World are now made with a finesse that makes them comparable to the originals. I have been buying wine from Andrew Gordon at Private Cellar for more than 30 years, and I know I can rely on him and his charming staff to find wines like these that I’ve never tasted before. In the “Fruit Bomb” era of Mr Parker, the Château Capbern Gasqueton was in danger of losing its openness and balance, but was one of my favourites in this month’s collection - along with the rosé, which is truly delicious with its intense flavours
Every wine is available to purchase as a case of 12, but if you’re keen to sample every wine then I recommend you order one of the mixed cases - then re-order your favourites.
Wine Editor | The Week Wines
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Château Sainte Croix, IGP Var 2018, 12.5%
£10.50 £9.95 - £119.40 per case of 12
Unless made by Domaine Ott or Chêne Bleu, I usually avoid rosé due to its lack of character. Fortunately, this example from the Pélépol family near the lakes of Carcès in Provence belies this prejudice. This latest release, made predominantly from Grenache along with Carignan and Syrah grapes, has an exquisite pale colour, lowish alcohol and oodles of flavour. Curiously, it reminded me of liquorice at first but soon transformed into intense floral fruits, which increased with exposure to the air. Good to drink with fish and white meats, but why not have it as an aperitif and marvel at such an extraordinary wine for this price?
Waipara West N Block Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, 13.5%
£14.90 £13.95 - £167.40 per case of 12
New Zealand wines have come a long way in the past 30 years, especially with the grape varieties we associate with Burgundy – both red and white. The families behind Waipara West have been on this land in the South Island for 30 years and describe this unoaked Chardonnay as “Chablis with fruit”. I know what they mean, as it has a satisfying citric aftertaste with slightly less steel than the Burgundian equivalent. The lack of oak gives it more definition and freshness with some flintiness. A proper food wine.
Bourgogne Blanc, JJ Vincent (Pouilly-Fuissé) 2016, 12%
£15.95 £15.50 - £186 per case of 12
This delightful white Burgundy is produced by the famous Vincent family, proprietors of Château de Fuissé, the most renowned Pouilly-Fuissé. Because of complicated French inheritance laws, a number of family members own smaller rows of vines in the surrounding district, which are now controlled by Antoine Vincent to produce wines under the JJ Vincent label. While it still has the focus and delineation of the better known wines in their stable, it also has exuberance more reminiscent of New World wine. It would be fascinating to taste this blind next to the Waipara West bottle, as you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to guess which is “New” or “Old” world.
Château Trillol, Corbières 2014, 14%
£16.25 £15.30 - £183.60 per case of 12
This Château has undergone a renaissance since the Anglo-French Sichel family purchased it in 1990. Better known for their négociant business and involvement with famous Bordeaux properties such as Châteaux Palmer and d’Angludet, it heralded a more serious approach to the rustic wines of Corbières and Minervois. This has superb balance and a lightness of touch, despite its full-favoured depth and alcoholic strength. The triple blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan gives it characteristics of both the Northern and Southern Rhône despite it being produced in the Languedoc. A perfect accompaniment for red meats and stews.
Rocky Road Shiraz, McHenry Hohnen Margaret River 2015, 14.5%
£17.25 £15.95 - £191.40 per case of 12
The Margaret River has long been my favourite Australian wine region and with wines like this Shiraz, it’s easy to understand their appeal. The techniques used at Rocky Road are more reminiscent of the Northern Rhône than western Australian – and it’s biodynamic to boot. It has hints of what antipodean wine makers call “sweaty saddle” but is better referred to as old leather aromas, with some traces of eucalyptus. Still youthful but the tannins are fine and virtually hidden by the satisfying red fruit flavours. Drink now or keep.
Château Capbern Gasqueton, Saint Estèphe 2011, 13.5%
£26.80 £24.95 - £299.40 per case of 12
Long considered to be the second wine of Château Calon-Ségur, it is in fact produced from its own vineyards in and around its more prestigious neighbour. This is a perfect example of a fully mature claret from what was considered to be a lesser vintage. After decades of highly alcoholic fruit bombs, it is reassuring to find Bordeaux going back to its roots. There is nothing clumsy or chunky about this wine – instead it is light, balanced and utterly refreshing with a spicy element and a touch of smokiness. Worth decanting for an hour or so before drinking.