Almost the very definition of French, honest and red. Frédéric Dorthe’s wines capture the spirit of where he is with a mix of sun-ripened fruit and sun-dried herbs and even a little feel of the pumice that runs through the soils nearby. This is all about the fruit and keeping as much of it as possible in the bottle for to you crack it open with grilled vegetables, coarse sausages and pork roasted with fennel seeds.
Give this lovely fella a swirl around in the decanter before you serve it. If you don’t have a decanter to hand (we don’t always either) then pour into a jug and back into the bottle. It’ll soften up the firm, bright blackcurrant and plum fruit and give you a more supple texture. The acidity makes this perfect for those south-west French stews, goose and fatty duck dishes.
A strong contender for the “wine of the series”. This is where Malbec becomes voluptuous, rich, full-bodied and luxurious. It’s unashamedly the finest of Susana’s work – the “selection of selections” and deserves the finest meats, cooked immaculately or simply done, beautiful rich vegetable flavours. Toast, liquorice, Crème de Mure, currants and plum with a seam of graphite running through it like a pencil.
If they did ISO standards for grape varieties, Catena would be chosen for Malbec. This is what Malbec taste like. Intense and dark to look at, bright and bouncy to taste. Lots of plums and violet and a dark berry and cocoa flavour. Despite its reputation as a steak wine (it’s glorious by the way) the supple tannins are surprisingly versatile. Let that lithe mouthfeel play with spaghetti bolognese or sausages.
Lush, supple and always cheerful, Tempranillo is a grape to put a smile on your face. In Argentina is a grape that’s moved up into the premier league in the last decade, thanks largely to Jose Alberto Zuccardi and his adventurous love of different grapes. It sits between the rich flavour of Cabernet Sauvignon and bright character of Pinot Noir so match it with mid-weight, easy-going flavours.
Cast your preconceptions aside, tasting sake is totally different to wine. Start with texture, which in this treat from Matsumoto Shuhari balances slippery richness with a salty grip. Then explore exotic fruit aromas like lychee and fig and a freshness that contrast savoury flavours with the salty tang that complements them.
From the cork label to the peppery fruit on the palate, I fell in love with this sake. This is a serious sake with a dense and savoury edge. Don’t be deceived by the gin-clear colour, this is something to match with beef and spice. A ripely, sweetly fruity drink that finishes bone dry, you should use it like a claret or syrah when matching with food. Long, dense and complex. Delicious.
There’s something wonderfully Japanese about this wine’s purity. Koshu has a citrus clarity that’s as intense and direct as it is simple and pure. It’s a rare style – made in the Champagne method – but perhaps better suited to a treat sushi and sashimi dinner than a party celebration. This is no ingénue to wine either. Tokugi Furiya founded this winery in the 19th century and they’re regular award winners today.
Shuhari is Matsumoto’s most famous sake, made in a Junmai style, but Keisuke Matsumoto focuses on provenance and expression rather than legal definitions of style. It starts light and almost frothy on the palate, with floral and light citrus notes. But grows and develops into a richer, deeper, more savoury drink as it lingers on the palate. Tuna, salmon and lightly grilled beef are perfect matches.
In the evenings the Famille Thibon drink this lightly chilled on the farm they’ve owned since 1670, looking out towards Mont Ventoux. Close your eyes when you open it (from 15 minutes in the fridge) and picture the scene. The spicy blackberry aromas in the wine come alive. They’re also perfect with a spiced tagine or slow-cooked lamb shared with family. Honest drinking at its best.
A true wine troglodyte, maturing gently 80m deep in a cave. The constant temperature and humidity gives the perfect conditions for gentle evolution and for flavours to meld together. The berry fruit is as you’d expect, the mint and mushroom overtones come as a (wonderful) surprise. Beautifully fresh, livley and energetic. It’s easy to become slightly over-excited about this wine.
Is this one of the great wines of the world? Quite possibly. It needs time, but the early signs are looking good. Brainchild of Norwegian entrepreneur Alexander Vik, this incredible Chilean vineyard produces a wine that is beautifully balanced between dried fruit heft and elegant plum and currant freshness.
This was Joe Fattorini’s favourite wine of the series. An Arizona Sangiovese? From an American rocker? But it’s astonishing, bursting with cherries, seamlessly woven into vanilla and a forest floor, leafy, earthiness. It’s a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that’s got its groove on. Classy and crackers all at the same time.
Cliff Richard put Algarve winemaking on the map for most people. And he’s surprised people by not just making a juicy, bright, fruity rosé packed with red fruit but winning awards and plaudits at the same time. It’s a surprisingly versatile wine with everything from salads to salmon.
When Francis Ford Coppola bought a piece of history at Inglenook, he took on an estate modelled on the finest Bordeaux châteaux, and it still makes wines in an homage to Bordeaux with the meaty heft of Napa. Currants, blueberries and those supple, soft Californian tannins cry out for a steak.
This is as intriguing as it is delicious. The last thing you expect are the herb-tinged, dark fruit aromas of Cabernet Franc or the warm, toasted mocha and coffee richness. It’s immensely drinkable and lush and all rather seductive. This is one to enjoy curled up on a sofa with comfort food and a loved one.
Why do people love Chablis so much? Maybe it’s the simplicity of one grape, in one style, from one village. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of precise citrus flavours, unembellished by oak. Or maybe because it matches seafood dishes so magically. Whatever it is, we love it.
Sniff the aromas of Provence. Smell the ‘garrigue’ hillsides. Enjoy the fragrances of the rich and famous. ‘Brangelina’s’ rosé continues to enthrall. Your glass fills straight away with wild strawberries and herbs. And when you sip it, the wine has a cooling freshness for a day in the sun. Brad and Angelina, is this what your life smells like?
Sometimes the wine becomes the film star. Like this Chardonnay which (under an altered name) had a bit part in the movie Sideways. Named after the late Disney legend’s daughter Ashley, a heart of cool apple and citrus flavours balances the softer notes of pear, toast and flowers. Roast a chicken, prepare a salad and open this.
Professional golfer Ernie Els has impressed the wine world with his bold and thoughtful wines from South Africa. This one, named after his eponymous nickname, is a deep-upholstered massage chair of a wine; by turns relaxing, structured, fruity and surprising. Mostly peppery Shiraz, the smattering of other grapes makes it a versatile mid-week dinner party wine for interesting flavours.