Let’s be clear, this is a wine that shouldn’t exist. Pinot Noir doesn’t grow easily anywhere. But especially not somewhere like balmy Orvieto/Lazio. How do we get this ripe, elegant red with red and forest fruits? By being high up and on freshness-inducing volcanic soil. This is so good with duck (we had this whilst filming) and beef, but also works with Pork and ratatouille.
For years this interesting, slightly nutty grape has been hidden in the traditional Orvieto blend. But now people want to let it sing on its own. It’s taken some work as this is a full-flavoured variety and with a slightly bitter twist at the end, but that actually makes it a perfect food-matching variety. Keep the food simple, but go with roast chicken or firm-fleshed fish.
You simply cannot go wrong with this wine. Remarkable. Cissac is one of those wines every young merchant learns to recommend often. And 2010 was a phenomenal year. It will last longer as a result but I’d not lay this down. I’d roast a leg of lamb and give this an hour in the decanter. I love the vibrant fruit, the integrated oak and the lovely cedar spice. But the structure is the best bit. Firm tannins hold the fleshy fruit together.
If you haven’t drunk a lot of Bordeaux, begin here. This is everything Bordeaux should be in a fruity vintage with ripe tannins but still approachable when it’s young and lush. It’s a generous wine and a bit of a treat. Look for cassis and plum, cedar and spice and a minerally elegance that other regions can’t match. This is one for duck or lamb when it comes to food matching really.
Buy this wine and tell your grandchildren you had some 2004. The ‘last affordable vintage’ for some collectors, it went mad in 2005. It was also in the fresher, cooler style of claret that I was introduced to in the 70’s and 80’s. Ready to drink but still with the fruit at its heart to cope with duck or beef. It’s now developing a lovely scent of cedar and leather that will continue to evolve for a few years.
The Marquis de Segur famously said “I make my wine at Lafite and Latour, but my heart is in Calon”. Here we have the second wine of his beloved estate, made from younger vines. It has that St Estephe austerity, but the firm tannins of 1995 have withdrawn now, replaced by elegance and the cigar box cedar and dry currant fruit of truly lovely Claret. I would have this with a rack of lamb.
Sometimes we don’t know how lucky we are. Gran Reserva Rioja for under a tenner. Almost a decade between oak and bottle bringing our warm strawberry fruit, savoury leather and sweet cocoa aromas, and the supple-est of supple tannins. This is luxurious and relaxation in a glass. Cheese, lamb and very good friends and what you want to match this to. It’s the kind of wine that gets people into wine.
Wine from the mile-high club. The vineyards here are over 1500m up in the Andes and that gives the wine its perfume and also (curiously) its colour. Each day is hot to ripen the fruit, each night cold to keep zip and tang and darken the skins. Malbec dominates which is why it’s so good with steak, but there’s Cabernet and Tannat for complexity and nuance, giving more herbal aromas and muscular structure.
I have a real soft spot for Rubicon, a left-bank Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This is still very young and the purple hue and bright fruit will withdraw, replaced by tobacco and cedar and a russet tinge. Today that sweetness matches with venison, but if 10 years, I’d be pairing this with a grouse or even a pheasant.
This isn’t just Stellenbosch, but Helderberg, the prized bit of vineyard land between Stellebosch and False Bay. Here the wines have an earthy complexity to the fruit and the kind of focussed currant core and neatly packed tannins that make for a great wine of the world. Great with food, this is made to go with lamb and pork and even some lighter game dishes.
Possibly the oddest wine we’ve recommended. But it had to appear with the spirit of Italian adventure. A Pinot Noir (red grape) vinified and produced as a white wine. The wine-knowledgeable will recognise that this is the same as a blanc de noirs Champagne, and you have the same tinge to the colour and slight oddness of some red fruit among the peach, citrus and floral notes of the wine. A delicious curiosity.
Buy half a dozen of these and have them in for when you have an impromptu visit. They’re perfect. Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella bring in their Sangiovese, Merlot and Montepulciano and different times and blend them together into a sort of super-smart vino della casa. Italian food is obviously a great match, but light grills, mushroom bakes, cheese and even a bit of monkfish would be good here.
Here’s a good rule. For wines you remember from the 70’s and 80’s (Beaujolais, Orvieto, Soave, Vinho Verde) spend a bit more. Because often they’re phenomenal, classic wines that are hugely underrated. Like this fresh, tangy blend that brings together the warmth of Grechetto, the zing of Vermentino and a hint of Sauvignon zest. Lighter fish dishes are the way to go or grilled prawns.
I love Orvieto, but I have to say, I’m loving what Orvieto producers are doing more. Here is a blend between the structure and citrus core of Chardonnay with the nutty, rich character of Grechetto, the ‘Greek’ variety local to the area. It’s adventurous and distinctive. That white peach fruit also makes for a great food wine, something to have outdoors in the summer, perhaps with a well-grilled piece of fish.
Describing Volnay is a minefield. ‘Feminine’ is a common term, but can’t men have grace and elegance too? Volnay certainly makes a silky wine with waves of red fruit and cherry and a distinctive sap to the tannin and mouthfeel. This 2013 has a refreshing acidity that’s more the vintage than vineyard, but also makes it particularly good with fattier meats like pork.
David Duband’s hallmarks are organic farming and an increased emphasis on fruit rather than oak. That makes for a great combination, especially in a challenging year like 2011 where David is one of the great success stories. Look for the dark berry fruit and spiced-earthiness that is typical of Gevrey, It’s a seductive, mid-weight wine which is correct for the appellation. Glorious with mushrooms and stewed meats.
This is one for earlier drinking as 2012 was known for having softer, more pliable tannins than normal. This is noticeable in a wine like Gevery Chambertin that’s famous for its structure and weight. I last had this not with a main course, but just with cheese. All locally French, of course. But the soft, ripe red and black forest fruit, earthiness and grace all worked wonderfully.
In Burgundy the names of a wine often tells a story. Les Petits Monts is a small promontory above Romanee Conti – the most famous vineyard in the world. Almost £100 sounds like a lot of money, but you’d add at least another zero if you moved a bit down the hill. Beguiling red fruit, seamlessly integrated oak that hides its structural power and a wine that will continue to evolve. Quite something.
Relax into this wine and wallow for a bit. It’s seductive and lush and envelops you. It’s arguably the best Cote Rotie-a-like Shiraz-Viognier blend in South Africa. But its first duty is to be delicious and charm you. Perfume from the Viognier, blackcurrant and spice from the Shiraz and a lingering, violet note. Needs firm meats and rich flavours, ideally with a bit of hearty protein at their core.
Good Pinot Noir is hard to come by. Good Pinot Noir for under ten pounds is a truly lovely thing to behold. Match this with lamb or a roasted vegetable risotto and you will imagine you have something twice the price. It has all the red fruit and silky structure of a classically structured Pinot Noir, made in a prime, cool location from top clones of the world’s most pernickety grape. A gem.