WITH swallows already eying up suitable muster points on the telegraph wires, I guess we need to make autumn the central theme for the regular look at special occasion wine. As many readers know, most of my Best Buy selections are deliberately kept below £10.
Once in a while, however, we want something a bit more special; hence this guide to what is currently drinking pretty well.
Sauvignon blanc cannot, surely, dominate Scottish shopping trolleys forever and my nominees for the next “Great White Hope” are those food friendly wines from the Rhone and thereabouts. For something that, geographically and metaphorically, sits part way between Burgundy and the Rhone do, please, try 2012 Beaujolais Villages Blanc Arnaud Aucoeur (£11.25 at Yapp Bros, www.yapp.co.uk). As well as the predictable minty and fresh green apple fruit it also provides attractive textured herb and juniper touches that are made more complex by a savoury flintiness mitigated with just a whisper of sweetness.
If you cannot give up sauvignon altogether, then compromise with New Zealand’s 2011 Brancott Estate Letter Series Marlborough Sauvignon Gris (£12.99 at Sainsbury’s). It is a tad richer than sauvignon blanc but retains that zesty grapefruit bite – supplemented by hints of lemon – before it moves into a crisp yet textured, slightly steely finish. It seems a lot more flexible as a potential food match than conventional sauvignon blanc.
If that seems a dig at the grape’s lack of versatility, here is the perfect riposte – 2008 Otorio Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (£7.29 for a half bottle at Tesco) from Chile’s Maule Valley. One only has to look at Château d’Yquem to know that sauvignon blanc plays a key part in many dessert wines. True to form, here it delivers excellent honey and peach influences to accentuate the spice and marmalade flavours but can still generate enough acidity to keep the whole thing lively.
Turning to the reds, here is a must for golf enthusiasts. 2009 Luke Donald Collection Red Blend (£34 at www.cellarviewines.com) is a very smooth Bordeaux blend from the Napa Valley – with almost equal volumes of merlot and cabernet sauvignon along with the other usual suspects. It delivers deep, ripe plum and rich bramble fruit embellished by a neat spicy finish and soft tannins. Neither celebrity wines nor Napa are especially cheap but for a special occasion...
I have also been impressed by the quality of 2009 Skillogalee Basket Pressed Shiraz (£16.48 at Exel Wines in Perth) from South Australia’s Clare Valley. It has a warm spiciness – no doubt from its 15 months in French and American oak – but the fruit has light and lively raspberry-centred acidity to add balance to the plum and bramble fruit and the well-judged tannin on which it finishes.
Returning to Europe for the last of these half-dozen tips, where better to find a hearty autumnal red than Central Italy? 2007 Piccini Sasso al Poggio Super Tuscan (Morrisons, £12.99) matches that new world intensity through the depth and substance of its rich mulberry and black cherry fruit. Nevertheless, there is also fresh acidity and the food-friendly concluding grip that Tuscany does particularly well – albeit not always as carefully balanced as in this example.
2012 Domaine de Pellehaut Rosé Cotes de Gascogne, France, 12 per cent
Exactly what my sort of rosé should be – aromatic blossom touches to underpin the strawberry, raspberry and red cherry fruit but ably balanced with gentle but fresh acidity and just 5g of residual sugar. (£7.25 at www.thesecretcellar.co.uk or on 01892 537981)
2012 Exquisite Collection Australian Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, 14.5 per cent
A powerful, rich and creamy red that, nevertheless, allows its ripe bramble and intense black cherry fruit to shine through boldly. Oak seems to be used
sparingly and then only to bring forward the touches of vanilla, cinnamon and other sweet spices that make this such a terrific and balanced wine. (£5.99 at Aldi)