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Taking a respite from the website’s staple wine diet, today's the day for our regular Sunday Best feature on wines for special occasions - including well-priced claret and burgundy as well as a niche sauvignon and two superstar whites from Languedoc.

Once in a while, most of us have a special occasion that calls for wine as memorable as the event being celebrated – even in these bizarre times.

Usually, such wines involve paying a little more than normal and – every six weeks or so – that is where our “Sunday Best” feature comes to the rescue.

Even though the price band is different, the normal MidWeek Wines criteria apply to selections, thus trying to ensure that any wine recommended is (a) typical of its style, (b) great value and (c) tastes good!

So, today is when we talk about – or perhaps just encourage dreams about – bottles that may cost a little more.

Where a hyperlink is available, it will take you the retailer’s web page but do remember that some of these wines are best secured online.

Here, then, is a handful of slightly more expensive wines that I think you will enjoy.

Starting in Spain

Snap up this fantastic Spanish white before this discount disappears because Godello is a seriously underestimated and underappreciated grape variety and this is great example of what it does well.

From Monterrei in North Western Spain, 2018 Vionta Godello Blanco (£9.95 – instead of £13.95 at www.slurp.co.uk and 13% abv), is soft and silky with ripe, white plum, peach and fresh pineapple flavours enlivened by zesty pink grapefruit acidity and a long textured – but slightly saline – finish.

And then heading a long way south

Despite the winery’s output being quite small, it’s always a joy to sample each vintage from Dog Point in Marlborough to see what new heights their ex Cloudy Bay winemaker and his team has ascended with these niche wines.

Soft and more skilfully balanced than a tight rope walker, 2019 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc (from £17.18 at www.laithwaites.co.uk and 13.5%) has pithy grapefruit and lime acidity, mineral and herbal hints, and lemon grass elements that elegantly underpin its principal minty apple and gooseberry flavours. 

But Marlborough’s not ALL about sauvignon

While the white wines of New Zealand’s Marlborough region are (understandably) dominated by sauvignon, reasonable quantities of chardonnay and pinot gris are also grown there – as are a handful of other varieties such as this gruner veltliner.

Long and surprisingly rich, 2019 Yealands Reserve Gruner Veltliner (£12.99 at Waitrose and 12.5%) brings us delicate apple, quince and apricot flavours supported by firm lime acidity and a textured background containing suggestions of spice and white pepper. 

Also in Waitrose

With its altitude and distinctive soils, Saint Chinian often produces stand out wines that surpass even some of Languedoc’s other masterpieces – and this is true of reds, rosés and this grenache blanc and roussanne led white.

Underlining that point about the quality of the area’s wines, 2018 Calmel-Joseph Saint Chinian Blanc Les Crus (£13.99 at www.waitrosecellar.com and 13.5%) delivers floral pear, apricot and melon flavours with good lemon acidity and a delightful menthol and vanilla influenced complexity.

Some Waitrose outlets may be on the 2017 vintage (pictured here) for a few more weeks yet though.

Elsewhere in Languedoc

As well as the grape varieties in that Saint Chinian, Languedoc has also been hugely successful with viognier – despite the variety disliking excess heat and actually being quite finicky all round.

Floral yet viscous in texture, the delightful 2019 Gayda Collection Viognier (£9.99 at www.cambridgewine.com and 13.5%) has aromatic, ripe peach and orange flavours with a savoury twist but is given vivacity by mouth-watering lemon acidity.

And so to reds

Always good to start with Burgundy – especially when it is as kindly priced as is the case here – and one with family connections that are being hugely successful in Languedoc (Abbotts & Delaunay).

I especially enjoyed the strawberry and raspberry backbone of the medium bodied 2018 Edouard Delaunay Septembre Bourgogne Pinot Noir (from £14.99 at Majestic and 12.5%) which is neatly supplemented by cocoa, clove and rose hip components along with good acidity, balanced tannin and depth of flavour.   

From Burgundy to Bordeaux

Even when you step up the price levels a bit, it is still tricky to find reasonably priced claret that ticks all the boxes but I was hugely impressed by this blend of merlot and cabernet franc from an estate that has been organic since 2013 and even hosts beehives among its vines in Montagne St Emilion.

With attractive fruity aromas and only modest tannin, 2014 Chateau Franc-Baudron (£13.99 and also at Cambridge Wine Merchants and 13.5%) dazzles with its cedar, cinnamon and green pepper depth, graphite base and good acidity that all ably support its cherry and mulberry flavours.

Down to Portugal

I wrote about this former Royal hunting estate for the Portuguese Royal Family in Tejo a few weeks ago when praising their standard Wolf and Falcon red but this brilliant “reserve” blend is yet more impressive; it uses local varieties, as you would expect in Portugal, but puts syrah in the lead.

Dark in colour but very bright in style, 2018 Lobo e Falcão Reserva (From £11.59 at www.laithwaites.co.uk and 14%) brings us rounded, rich and ripe red cherry, blackcurrant and red currant flavours, good acidity, a mint and vanilla backdrop but only very soft tannin.

Heading for the new world next

Rich and bold shiraz from South Australia’s Barossa Valley is combined here with versions from the cooler and less dry region of Limestone Valley to give you the best of both areas in a single bottle.

Soft, smooth and medium bodied 2019 League of Three Shiraz (£8 – instead of £10 at Tesco and 14%) has cherry, mulberry and blackberry fruit with baking spice, liquorice and black pepper touches, nippy acidity but limited tannin.   

And a newcomer

Since 2018 Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo brand has had a spin-off brand (called simply “Diablo”) that sits just above it on the price ladder and is aimed at those seeking something beyond conventional expressions of a particular grape variety.

The latest addition to the range is a cabernet sauvignon (called Diablo Black) from Chile’s wetter Maule Valley.

Just launched, then, is 2018 Diablo Black Cabernet Sauvignon (Normally £10 but currently down to £8 at Asda and 13.5%) which contains exuberantly fruit forward, full, blackcurrant and black cherry flavours ably supported by good acidity, mint, clove and herb touches, an edge of sweetness but only limited tannin.  

Join us again on Monday when we unveil the latest Top Tips and put you wise about Supermarket promotions.

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2 Responses

  1. Great selection again Brian, especially the Godello (no surprises there!) it’s a grape everyone should try, the good thing about it is it varies in style so there should be something for most palates. From bright and fruity to more textured and intense especially if oaked or had some time on Lees. From your red selection the ‘Lobo e Falcão Reserva’ sounds lovely (partial to a Portuguese red) Actually all the reds sound good, i’m always on the hunt for a good Claret. With Christmas looming ( Iknow it’s a little way off) but the Burgundy might be worth putting aside for the Turkey.

  2. Thanks Dave – always great to get your angle. I think you would enjoy that Portuguese red – and it has siblings (a presentable everyday red and a delightfult white). Do keep adding your thoughts, other subscribers find them really helpful.

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