All the white wines that are on the current list complete with some very long winded waffle.
1 Flic Branco, Vinho de Lisboa, Portugal, 2017, 9.5% 3.80 18.00
Fernao Pires, Arinto, Vital, Moscatel
It’s October and there’s loads of talk about not drinking for a month but research by scientists has proved that you’re much better off cutting down your intake or taking a couple of days off a week instead. As a purveyor of lovely wine it is not surprising that I agree with this thought. What I do think is a very good idea and one that will be much less of a shock to your system is the idea of wines with a little less alcohol in them. Take this wine for example, it is bright, breezy, fruity and fresh and an absolute joy to drink but it is also on 9.5% ABV and it’s still dry. That is 27% less alcohol than the wine directly below. So if you want to feel like you’re wearing a halo whilst you drink then this is the wine for you.
2 Orballo Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2018, 13% 4.50 21.00
Not only is the wine utterly delicious with its crispy, crunchy fresh acidity and its stone fruit and wild herb notes but it also happens to have one of my favourite labels. It is meant to depict the fine misty rains of Galicia but the image of a man sheltering under his umbrella whilst the rain lands directly on it and nowhere else, in the style of the Pink Panther cartoons, just reminds me of Yorkshire, and that can only be a good thing. So if you’ve just wandered in out of the rain on a dank October evening then a glass of this lovely will put a little Spanish sunshine in to your life, briefly.
3 Castel del Lupo Pinot Grigio, Italy, 2018, 12.5% Vg 4.50 21.00
The colour of wine is not just red, white and pink, there are shades from brick red to violet and beyond. Admittedly we’re not quite in Farrow & Ball territory yet but give it time. The amazing thing about this wine is that the colour falls in to what we would call ‘water white’, it looks like you’ve picked up the wrong glass but don’t let that fool you. That innocuous looking colour leads to a palate which just bursts with the liveliest fruit, the sort of wine that immediately puts a smile on your face. This is not what you normally expect from Pinot Grigio but then again this is a long, long way away from what you would normally get and it is an absolute riotous joy. By the way my favourite Farrow & Ball colour has got to be Elephant’s Breath! I’m sure they’re just getting stoned and throwing darts at a notice board.
4 Gavi la Battistina, Italy, 2018, 12.5% Vg 4.50 21.00
So there is Gavi and then there is Gavi del Commune di Gavi. Gavi del Commune di Gavi is seen as being a step up from just Gavi but I’ve been in love with this Gavi for fifteen years and as such I’ve generally shunned Gavi del Commune di Gavi (are you keeping up?)The reason why is in the glass, how do you take the humble Cortese grape, which can easily make wine in the style of mineral water, and turn it in to something so vibrant and complex with as much style and elegance as a glass of quality Chablis? I don’t know the answer but I know that they do it so give it a whirl and see for yourself.
5 Joseph Mellot Menetou Salon ‘Les Thureux’, Loire Valley 2018, 12.5%, Vg 6.40 30.00
I know that Sancerre is the wine that everyone recognises from the central Loire but sod Sancerre and drink Menetou-Salon, you’ll have much more fun. Sancerre has some excellent neighbours such as Pouilly-Fume, Reuilly, Quincy and my favourite, this one, Menetou-Salon. This appellation sits a little further south from Sancerre just near the magnificent Bourges and this little extra sunshine results in a wine with a lovely weight of fruit balancing out that zesty acidity, herbaceous notes, a little tropical fruit and a touch of minerality. An absolutely beautiful wine and to my mind a much more grown up alternative to Sancerre, and a perfect partner to crumbly cheeses.
6 Warwick Estate ‘Professor Black’, South Africa, 2017, 14% Vg 7.50 34.00
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
Warwick is one of South Africa’s great properties and they have a reputation for producing some pretty impressive Bordeaux style wines, wines which have a world class reputation and this is one of them. The difference being that this wine is a homage to the white wines of Bordeaux. A huge amount of effort has gone in to putting this wine together and the balance of the fresh, zippy, blackcurrant flavoured Sauvignon with the waxy textured, lemon freshness of the Semillon with a touch of oak added for palate weight is nothing short of genius. I love the way that the palate has that almost velvet smooth texture running down the middle whilst the edges are so mouth wateringly fresh. I love the way that the finish lifts the wine to another level and then just goes on and on and on. But most of all I love the name because it makes me think of Cluedo and how much more fun that game would be if it involved drinking wine whenever you went in to a room. ‘I think it was Professor Black, in the library, with the very large glass.’
7 Domaine les Ors Chardonnay, Limoux, 2018, 13.5% 4.50 21.00
Holy-moly there’s a bear on the label, what on earth have bears got to do with wine making? Well, in short, nothing, nada, zip, but the hills around Limoux were once home to ursine neighbours, luckily no longer otherwise I may have had to dosome of my finest John West moves when I was out tasting the wines earlier this year. The Limoux is more famous for its sparkling wines with crémant and blanquette being hugely popular and it is the two grapes that produce these two wines which come together to produce the absolute cracker. The richness of Chardonnay (crémant) is given a lick of crunchy freshness from a little Mauzac (blanquette) these two are then given a little layer of toasty richness with a little time spent relaxing in barrels. The resulting wine is complex and rich yet elegant and with a delightful fruit forward feel. I liked it that much that I couldn’t bear to write this list and not see it on here, geddit? Hello, is this thing on??
8 Bodegas Ontanon ‘Akemi’ Rioja Blanco, Spain, 2014, 12.5% 4.70 22.00
This is white Rioja but with a little subtle difference. Rioja Blanco can, like white Burgundy, come in a myriad of styles but even then this is something new on me. This wine was created to go with sushi, and as such the Bodega decided to bring in very famous sushi chef Felix Jimenez. Felix was born in Rioja and his dream was to bring his love of Japanese food to his homeland and so in 2015 he opened the highly regarded ‘Kiro Sushi’. Okay so maybe Felix is famous in Spain and that’s why I’d not heard of him but none the less he obviously has a very smart palate as this wine is top notch. There is a little American oak to lend a touch of texture and the fusion of fruit, toast and vanilla with subtle floral aromas is utterly sublime. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Japanese food but I really enjoy drinking it on its own, minimalist like.
9 The Liberator Episode 19 ‘The Teeth of The Dog’, South Africa 2017, 13.5% 5.90 27.00
Now you may think that calling a wine ‘The Teeth of The Dog’ is a little modern and silly but it is in fact a translation of a very traditional name. There is a parcel of 1er Cru Chardonnay that sits just next to the vineyards for the ludicrously expensive Le Montrachet in Burgundy and this parcel is called ‘Les Dents Du Chien’. Now I have no idea how it came by that name but I do know that the wines from this vineyard are wonderfully big and rich and complex. This wine might hail from the other side of the world but it is crafted in the same style as those great Burgundies and has that classic toasty, rich, rounded, complex mouthfeel. There is perfect acidity that never dominates and the finish is longer than the Humber Bridge. As with all Liberator wines it is a one off and as such stocks are limited so get it while you can. Awesome label too.
10 Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, Rhone Meridional 2016, 14.2%, Vg 8.40 38.00
Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Bourbelenc, Roussanne
Not all Rhone wines are red and in fact some of the regions greatest treasures are the white wines so seek and ye shall find. This equal blend of four varieties is an ode to texture and balance with so much going on that your palate is in danger of getting dizzy. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the original Appelation Origine Controlee and they have always been standard bearers. Take for example the way they embraced the zeitgeist of the 50’s and ensured that nothing would besmirch the good name of the AOC by putting in the rule that forbade any vigneron from allowing a flying saucer to land in their vineyard lest they lose their AOC status, a rule that is still there to this day. Out of this world thinking, out of this world flavours.
11 Domaine Bouchard Beaune du Chateau 1er Cru, Burgundy, 2015, 14.5% 9.50 45.00
You may have noticed that Chardonnay features on this list more than once and given how much maligned this grape is it might come as a surprise but Chardonnay is the greatest grape variety out there, no matter what colour. It can produce wines of any style, wines with wonderful freshness, wines with journey to the centre of the earth levels of depth, wines with bubbles (it is the only white grape in Champagne) and even, but rarely seen, sweet wines. All of that can happen right across the globe for Chardonnay is truly an international variety but if you really want to see it doing vinous somersaults of flavoursome dexterity then you need to find your Chardonnay from the Cote de Beaune in Burgundy. This wine is one such delight and hails from the upper echelons of the Bouchard family wines as it is a Domaine wine, meaning that they own the vineyards from where the fruit hails. This means that they have complete control from beginning to end and the results are simply mouth-watering. This is the sort of wine that gets me excited, it makes me want to slow everything down, to savour every moment. I want to breathe in every little aroma, every earthy, rich, smoky note as they ping subtly around , nothing daring to dominate but everyone getting their fifteen minutes. The palate is no less of a riot as the sheer complexity of this wine is brought in to sharp view, a little patience will allow the wine to grow in the glass and then you can extract even more magic and even when the wine has gone the flavour lingers long behind, after all length is important.
12 Cave de Turckheim Gewurztraminer Grand Cru ‘Brand’, Alsace, 2013, 13%, Vg 6.70 31.00
Maybe not an easy wine to pronounce and from a region which has spent the best part of its history yo-yoing between France and Germany but all through that the wines of Alsace have retained their identity. This is a region which looks and sounds so traditional that it wouldn’t be hard to believe that they are still living in the 17th century yet it is the only one of the principal regions of France to actually do that new world thing of telling you the grape variety on the front label. Having said that the Germanic bottles and tuetonic pronunciations have meant that these wines are often overlooked. As a side note the word tuetonic always makes me think of Blazing Saddles and what is probably the funniest line in a very funny film. Anyway let’s get back to this utterly glorious wine and the reason why it’s the last on this list of white wines. That reason is flavour, oodles and oodles of flavour, flavour singing from the rafters, flavour that can barely be contained by the glass, just so much bloody flavour. The nose is an absolute riot of rose petal, musk and spice that would stop a charging rhino in its tracks and make it think happy slightly less chargy thoughts, I can sit and smell this wine for hours without even drinking it! But that palate, oh what a treat such richness, such texture, such sheer bloody weight of fruit. This is NOT a sweet wine, it is very easy to confuse richness with sweetness and whilst there is a little extra residual sugar don’t get confused as there is a terrific lick of acidity too. This is not a wine for the faint hearted, it’s not a wine for the Pinot Grigio fan but what it is is a wine for those who really want to give their palate a work out. By the way it is also utterly, utterly perfect with saucisson or blue cheese or, even better, both. More hedonistic than a Freddie Mercury party in Berlin.