There are some stunning wines in this season’s red case. Some of the grapes might not be so familiar to readers, but all of them offer flavour by the shedload. There are two that major on perfume and could take a little chilling on a summer’s day: a ripe German Pinot Noir and a luscious Austrian red. Then in the more muscular camp, there’s a Nero d’Avola from the sun-soaked island of Sicily, a Tuscan Sangiovese that you would swear was a Chianti from a top producer, an elegant Cabernet from one of Australia’s cooler regions, and finally the mighty Brigando from Portugal.
Danaris Blauer Zweigelt 2016
Pronouncing this grape is not difficult – just say Zvye-gelt. It’s named after Dr Zweigelt, who created it in 1922 by crossing Austria’s two finest red grapes, Blaufränkisch and Sankt Laurent. The Danaris Blauer Zweigelt has crunchy fruits of the forest with an earthy edge. It’s a remarkably food-friendly wine, not unlike a Beaujolais. Try with classic Austrian dishes like Wiener schnitzel.
Serve with… schnitzel
Named after the bandits who used to menace travellers in the mountains of Portugal, Brigando is a wine that really lives up to its billing. It’s a blend of two of Portugal’s finest red grapes – Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz – with Shiraz, creating a deeply-coloured, muscular wine full of dark fruit and spices that will need some charred meat to bring out its best.
Serve with… griddled lamb with spiced new potatoes
Long Live The King Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
If you think Australia is all about sunbaked earth, think again. This Cabernet is from the King Valley in Victoria, where the cool nights give it a freshness and fragrance that’s not a million miles from Margaux, only with unabashedly Australian fruit. With a wine this good, you might as well pull out the big guns – a well-aged rib of beef.
Serve with… herb & pepper crusted rib of beef
This grape comes from southeastern Sicily, but it’s now planted all over the island. It majors on zingy red cherry fruit and the best versions, such as the Massivo, accentuate its fresh, joyful side. It would be enormous fun with pizza or the classic Sicilian dish of pasta with sardines, pine nuts and raisins.
Serve with… Sicilian pizza
Haltinger Winzer Weiler Schlipf Spätburgunder 2014
While everyone else uses the French term Pinot Noir, trust the Germans to have their own word – Spätburgunder, meaning late-ripening Burgundian. Whatever you call it, there’s no doubt that Germany now makes world-class Pinot Noir like this ripe, strawberry-scented example from Baden. It would be great with game birds, and it has enough heft to deal with rich sauces.
Serve with… hot game pie
There’s an interloper in this season’s white case – a rosé, the award-winning Château Terrebonne from Provence. Made by gently pressing red grapes, mainly Grenache, it’s delicate, pale and completely irresistible. Then there are three of the zingiest whites known to man: the lean but not all mean La Porteña Chardonnay from Argentina, the lemony Pago Centro Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, and a South African speciality, an apple-scented Chenin Blanc. Finally, in the fuller category are two southern European finds: a Vermentino from Sicily and to round off, the Cabalié Blanc, a blend of three varieties (Viognier, Muscat and Colombard) from the Languedoc.
Chenin Blanc has been in the Cape so long that South Africans think of it as their native variety. It was brought by immigrants from France in the 17th century. This particular Chenin combines crisp green apples and subtle notes of pineapple with a honeyed finish. A glass of this, a dressed crab and a little mayonnaise, and you’ll be in heaven.
Serve with… crab risotto
La Porteña Chardonnay 2017
In recent years, Chardonnay has gone on a diet; out went the oak and the tropical fruit, and instead winemakers aimed to accentuate a fresher side. It’s a testament to the amazing adaptability of this grape that it can do both. This Chardonnay from Argentina is all about lip-smacking lime flavours – so much so that it would be magical with fish and chips.
Serve with… our ultimate fish and chips
Making rosé is a fine balancing act – you want some of the flavour and colour from the skin of the red grapes, but not too much. A good rosé should whisper but have persistence too. This Provençal example ticks those boxes, with strawberry fruit, herbs and a creamy texture that will have you reaching for another glass. It’s a salad Niçoise sort of wine.
Serve with… salad Nicoise
Pago Centro Sauvignon Blanc 2017
This part of Chile makes a very distinctive style of Sauvignon Blanc, with the accent firmly on freshness. The Pago Centro is made by a master of this variety, Matt Thomson, former winemaker of the year at the International Wine Challenge. It’s crisp and edgy, with a pronounced saline tang. It would really sing with a goat’s cheese and caramelised onion tart.
Serve with… onion & goat’s cheese tarts
Vermentino is one of the great Mediterranean white grapes, grown all over northern Italy, Sardinia and Corsica, and under the name Rolle in the south of France. It’s not widely planted in Sicily, but after tasting this you will wonder why. Full-bodied, with bittersweet apricot and Seville orange notes, it has enough power to stand up to spaghetti with anchovies, cherry tomatoes and capers.
Serve with… spaghetti with sardines
Cabalié Blanc 2016
This wine is full of the heat of the south of France. It’s a harmonious blend of three grapes: the Viognier provides peachy fruit and body, the Muscat brings orange blossom, and the Colombard whips it all into line with some grapefruit acidity. For food, let Elizabeth David be your guide – ratatouille perhaps, or a fresh tomato salad with garlic and basil.
Serve with… ratatouille with poached eggs
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