Here are ten of the reds which impressed me in 2017 and represent fantastic value for money:
10. Bodegas Salentein Portillo Pinot Noir 2014 (14.2%, RRP €12.99)
An unusual grape for Argentina, Pinot Noir is much more often seen on the western side of the Andes, but this is a remarkably drinkable example from Bodegas Salentein. Although it’s their entry level Pinot, it has plenty of upfront but elegant fruit, and is nicely balanced – quaffable without being either jammy or thin. There’s more complexity further up the range but this is the ideal mid-week quaffer!
9. Loggia Della Luna Morellino di Scansano 2014 (13.5%, RRP €15.00)
This Tuscan treat is predominantly Sangiovesi and comes from the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany. Morellino is (yet another) synonym for Sangiovesi with differing stories over the origins of its name. However, given the prominent cherry flavours and high acidity I think the story of it being named after the morello cherry is the most likely. This isn’t a hugely complex wine but is more likeable than many lower priced Chiantis so it gets a firm thumbs up from me. Would make a great party wine that you’re not afraid to drink yourself!
8. Viña Chocálan Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (14.5%, €13.95)
Chilean Cab Sauv is something of a commodity nowadays, so it’s nice to find one that stands out from the crowd for its intensity of flavour and balance. In addition to cassis so vibrant that you can almost feel the individual blackcurrants popping in your mouth, this wine also offers the cedarwood and pencil shaving that are more often associated with left bank Bordeaux.
7. Castaño “Hécula” Yecla Monastrell 2015 (14.0%, RRP €16.99)
This was one of the standout value wines at Liberty’s 15th anniversary portfolio tasting. Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre, aka Mataro) is a grape which needs plenty of heat – and gets it in south east Spain – but crucially this is grown at altitude so the vines get to rest at night and acidity is preserved. This has some structure behind the big and bold fruit but can happily serve as a tipple on its own.
6. Frères Laffitte Le Petit Gascoûn Rouge 2016 (12.5%, RRP €13.50)
Yes the label is cute, but the wine is pretty nice as well – an easy drinking Tannat-dominated blend which is surprisingly quaffable (or “smashable” in modern parlance). The lighter alcohol also suggests that this would make a great picnic wine in the warmer months – it’s exactly the wine to have on hand in case of an impromptu barbecue.
5. Casa De La Ermita Lunatico 2015 (14.0%, RRP €18.99)
Another Spanish Monastrell shows that there is lots of good value wine being made from the grape – and Spain is one of the few European countries with a climate hot enough for it to fully ripen. 12 months ageing in French oak adds structure to blueberries and blackberries.
4. Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2011 (14.5%, RRP €22.99)
Rioja wines are generally easy to like, but, on reflection, not all of them are easy to admire – some have have too much wood at the expense of fruit, some have a big bang of strawberry fruit from Tempranillo but not much else, and some are just plain weird. As with most European wines, the region is most talked about but the producer is key to what’s in the glass. This is one of the most accomplished and well rounded Riojas I have tasted at any price – wonderfully rich red fruit with delightful vanilla in support. As an aside, it was also given the stamp of approval from DNS Wineclub!
3. Fog Mountain California Merlot 2015 (13.5%, RRP €20.95)
It’s sometimes said that Sideways killed California Merlot (and gave a big boost to Pinot Noir). There’s an element of truth in that statement as the trajectory of the grapes’ sales moved in opposite directions, but the reality is that it was the poorer Merlot wines which lost out, leaving the good stuff behind. The name of this wine alludes to the cooler sites from which the grapes are sourced helping to preserve acidity and balance. The presence of 14% Petit Sirah in the blend adds a touch of backbone and complexity.
2. Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge 2016 (11.5%, RRP €23)
The assemblage of this wine – 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Gamay and 5% Malbec – would rarely be found anywhere else but the Loire. It’s made with minimal intervention from organic grapes, resulting in a light but fruity red which tastes more alive than almost any other wine. It’s like having freshly squeezed orange juice after a glass of squash!
1. Château Tayet Cuvée Prestige Bordeaux Supérieur 2010 (13.0%, RRP €23.00)
I had sung the praises of the contrasting 2009 and 2011 vintages of this wine during the year (with my personal preference being for the 2009), but on tasting the 2010 at SPIT Festival I found that put those both in the shade. It’s a rare thing that Bordeaux is classed as good value nowadays, but this bottling from the De Mour group is the most superior Supérieur around!