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July’s Sunday Best Selections

Even moderately special occasions require wine slightly above everyday versions and that’s where my periodic Sunday Best selections helps you out.

What many (probably most) UK wine drinkers usually look for is simply a decent bottle that represents good value and fits nicely into their budget.

With the clue in its name, steering folk towards many such wines is precisely what MidWeek Wines is all about.

However, just once in a while, the occasion demands moving a step up the quality ladder.

This is when my regular “Sunday Best” features – and this is but the latest – come to the rescue.

All the normal (confidence inducing) MidWeek Wines selection criteria apply – is the wine typical of the style, great value and does it taste good – it is just the price point that changes.

So, read on; remembering that, as usual, hyperlinks and pictures are provided to narrow down your search where possible.

Starting with an inexpensive option

Not only is the Peloponnese peninsula in Southern Greece home to some of that country’s great value wines but it is also noted for its moschofilero vines – a fragrant grape some liken to gewurztraminer but with supercharged acidity.

For terrific background on the wines of Greece do take a look at the really helpful summary on The Wine Society’s website.

Floral and textured, 2020 Mitravelas White on Grey Moschofilero (£7.75 at The Wine Society and 12% abv) brings us orange and lime flavours married here to crisp tangerine acidity with traces of coriander and sherbet.

Now for something much more familiar

While never quite ascending the magisterial heights of the Cȏtes d’Or, chardonnay from Mȃcononnais is acquiring a faithful following and this example from the twin centred Saint Veran appellation (adjoining Pouilly Fuisse) shows us why.

Soft and smooth, 2019 Domaine des Valanges Saint Veran (£12.25 at the Co-op and 13%) contains neatly balanced orange, peach and ripe melon flavours that appear here along with grapefruit acidity and a background that embodies both lemon pithiness and pie crust components. 

Same grape, very different style.

For a richer chardonnay style head west to Chile and to the Limari Valley in the northern part of that country’s wine producing areas but where cool, coastal air currents ensure that temperatures remain suitable for the chardonnay grape.

Long and velvety, 2020 Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay (from £10.99 at Majestic and 13%) offers us smooth apple and pear flavours with good acidity, vanilla aromas, hints of nuts and toast and a pleasant creamy, crème brulee style texture.

Moving next to rosé

While this is not the cheapest rosé on the market, it is one that has been carefully crafted in both vineyard and winery to maximise the attractions New Zealand wines offer and employs an unusual cocktail of grapes (pinot grigio, chardonnay and pinot noir) to do so.

Crisp yet with appealing depth, 2020 The Ned Marlborough Pinot Rosé (£9.50 at Morrisons and 13%) brings us smooth raspberry and red currant flavours accompanied by lively acidity, cinnamon depth and just a trace of blood orange elements.

Sticking with that country

Although it is normally New Zealand’s South Island that steals the pinot noir headlines, never underestimate versions from Martinborough (on the southern tip of the North Island) where conditions also suit that fastidious variety.

Soft and delightfully balanced, Martinborough’s 2020 Escarpment Noir (£15.99 at Waitrose and 13.5%) delivers complex cherry and raspberry flavours complemented by vibrant acidity, gentle tannin and touches of herbs buried within that beetroot earthiness that pinot does so well.

Next to South America

Classy Argentinian wines and the name Susana Balbo are forever linked and this version from high altitude vineyards in Mendoza is made by her family using the principles of authenticity she has developed.

Do allow it a little time to open up though.

Dark and concentrated, 2020 El Dominio Malbec (£10.99 at Adnams and 14%) offers us rounded cherry and raspberry flavours supplemented by lively acidity (but limited tannin) along with chocolate and cinnamon elements built into a medium bodied, sage influenced texture. 

And back to Australasia

Although the region also produces fine chardonnay, when winemaking began at Western Australia’s Margaret River it was the cabernet sauvignon that first caught the eye – and with masterpieces like this from one of those original pioneers (Vasse Felix) – it still does.  

Dark and intense, 2019 Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Merlot (from £12.99 at Majestic and 14.5%) has full cherry and blackberry flavours partnered by bright acidity, balanced tannin and suggestions of nutmeg and mocha.

Some branches may still be on the equally acclaimed 2018 vintage.

Now Europe has its say

Of course we know all about primitivo (reliable, inexpensive, slightly rustic, crowd pleasing red wine) but think again my friends.

Excellent versions with class and complexity are now emerging, especially from the designated Primitivo di Manduria region and, if you disbelieve me, try this lovely example to – as Sainsbury’s say – “Taste the Difference”!  

Complex yet medium bodied, 2019 La Masseria del Borgo Primitivo(£9.50 – instead of £12 until 6 July – at Sainsbury’s and 13.5%) delivers soft blackcurrant and raspberry flavours, limited tannin but fresh acidity supplemented by a medium bodied butterscotch and caramel background and contrasting savoury elements too.

Sticking in Italy but heading north

Those powerfully intense wines made, near Lake Garda, from partially dried grapes and labelled as Amarone need little introduction even if the prices of top-level versions necessitate a call to a mortgage broker.

Here, though, is a less expensive version that neatly shows the step up from Ripasso styles that Amarone represents even if it never quite reaches the complexity, richness and heavenliness of the area’s absolute superstars.

Concentrated with a foundation of sweetness, 2017 Finest Amarone Valpolicella (£18 at Tesco and 15.5%) provides rich mulberry and black cherry flavours combined with good acidity, limited tannin and a depth that embraces ripeness, cloves and molasses.

Finally to Fizz

Graham Beck is the reason many of us fell in love with South African sparkling wine for he has spent so much effort producing successful “Cap Classique” wines,

Since their introduction 30 years ago, Cap Classique wines have won many friends by their meticulous use of many techniques that are traditional for Champagne even if the law prohibits the use of the name.

Exuding freshness, Graham Beck The Joshua (£12 – instead of £14 until 6 July – at Sainsbury’s and 12%) has lovely melon, red apple and apricot flavours plus good lemon acidity, gentle toastiness and just a touch of sweetness within its creamy texture.

Call in again on Monday when I reveal my latest Top Tips and outline the current promotions in major retailers.

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