Last month I picked out six super sparklers from Marks and Spencer. Now it’s time for some of my favourite M&S whites:
Domaine de la Pinte Arbois Chardonnay 2014 (12.5%, €23.50)
The region of eastern France is gradually gaining significant recognition for its wide variety of grapes and styles, many of which are particular to the area. This is something more conventional, being a Chardonnay made in the “ouillé” style whereby evaporation losses are topped up to prevent too much oxygen in the barrel. This has far more texture and flavour than you’d expect from a “Chardonnay” – it’s different but well worth a try.
Chapel Down Lamberhurst Estate Bacchus Reserve 2015 (11.5%, €19.50)
I have been a keen supporter of English sparkling wine for over a decade, but I haven’t shared the same enthusiasm about English still wines. However, there are a growing number of very good still wines that deserve your attention. Bacchus was created in 1930s Germany – and is still grown there – but has found a second home in the cool English climate. Chapel Down’s Reserve bottling is full of stone, tropical and citrus fruit. It’s well balanced and has a touch of residual sugar to counterpoint the mouth watering acidity.
Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (13.0%, €15.50)
The Central Coast on the front label is of course the Central Coast of California, which includes Santa Barbara of Sideways fame and Monterey County, where the majority of the Chardonnay grapes were sourced from.
Part of the fermented juice was matured in (mainly old, I reckon) oak barrels and part underwent softening malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by lees stirring. When recombined this wine gives the best of both world – it has some oak, but not too much, and some creamy lees flavours. Great value for money – just don’t drink it too cold.
Atlantis Santorini 2015 (13.0%, €15.50)
Santorini is my favourite wine region of Greece for whites, especially those made wholly or predominantly from Assyrtiko as this is. Due to its latitude the island receives lots of sun but this is somewhat tempered by sea breezes. It sees no oak nor malolactic fermentation so remains clean and linear.
Earth’s End Central Otago Riesling 2015 (12.5%, €20.50)
Central Otago in the deep south of New Zealand is primarily known for its Pinot Noirs – and rightly so – but its long cool growing season is also suitable for Chardonnay and Riesling. This has lovely lime notes, and an off dry finish perfectly balances the vibrant acidity. With Haka instructions on the front, surely this would be a great present for a rugby fan?
Terre di Chieti Pecorino 2015 (12.5%, €15.00)
Another recent favourite of mine is Pecorino, an everyday Italian white wine with far more character than the lakes of uninteresting Pinot Grigio that clog up most supermarket shelves. Both oranges and lemons feature on the palate – it’s a great drop at a keen price.
Villiera Traditional Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016 (14.0%, €18.50)
Modest packaging belies a sublime wine, one of the most enjoyable South African Chenins I’ve had for a long time. The complexity is due to the variety of choices made by winemaker Jeff Grier – a small amount of botrytised grapes was used, part of the wine went through malolactic and part did not, both new and second-use French oak barrels were used. The end result is a marvel of honey and vanilla – amazingly complex for such a young wine.
Stepp Riesling *S* Kallstadter Saumagen 2015 (13.0%, €22.00)
Germany’s Pfalz region is beloved of the Wine Hunter himself, Jim Dunlop, and of course makes some great Riesling. The alcohol of 13.0% is much higher than an average Mosel Riesling, for example, which indicates that this is likely to be significantly drier and more full bodied. Apricot, lemon, lime and orange make an appearance – just such a lovely wine!
Red Claw Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2015 (13.0%, €27.00)
From one of Australia’s premium cool climate regions, this is a Chardonnay to make Burgundy lovers weep – or convert! The fermented wines are matured on their lees in 500L barrels (over double the standard barrique of 225L) with no malolactic fermentation allowed, so freshness is maintained. This is a grown up wine with lots of lees character and reductive notes.