I adore the wines of New Zealand and reckon I could survive on nothing but, if I were ordered to drink the wines of just one country for the rest of my days. Well, I’d need the odd bacon sandwich or plate of oysters in between, but I think you know what I mean.
One of the first Kiwi wineries I ever visited was Kumeu River, up near Auckland. Michael Brajkovich, a Master of Wine, makes stunning wines there and his Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay is one of the finest and most sought-after in the country. To enjoy a bit of Kumeu stardust at a very keen price look no further than the 2015 Kumeu Village Pinot Gris (1). It’s deliciously fresh, floral and creamy and proves beyond doubt that, in the right hands, Pinot Gris is a delectable grape. £10.80 down from £11.50.
Another of my favourite NZ wineries is Churton, an exemplary organic/biodynamic vineyard in Marlborough. The owner Sam Weaver and I started out in Oddbins, crikey, more than 35 years ago. His entry level 2016 Tummil Flat Sauvignon Blanc (2) is a cracker with all the tropical notes, cut grass, gooseberries and nettles you might expect. But it’s subtle, too, and impeccably structured, so is far classier than the run-of-the-mill Kiwi Savvy Blancs you find in the supermarket. And, thanks to Tanners’ private sales director Robert Boutflower having something of a rush of blood to the head, it’s a belter of a price with a full £2.50 off the RRP. £10 down from £12.50.
Chile is another of my favourite wine-making countries and its bottles remain ridiculously underpriced. The 2016 Cucao Grand Reserve Chardonnay (3) is a case in point and if this came from almost anywhere else — France, say, Italy, New Zealand or South Africa — it would cost at least another fiver a bottle. Made by the Sutil family using Chardonnay grown in the Casablanca Valley, it’s sophisticated and complex with a whisper of vanilla (thanks to a touch of oak-ageing), a keen acidity and buckets of ripe, juicy citrus and tropical fruit. £10.95 down from £11.95.
The Tanners Claret NV (4) is an old favourite of mine and a regular standby of cast-iron reliability. It’s produced especially for Tanners by Maison Sichel (the guys who own Château Angludet and who have a stake in Château Palmer) and is a blend of 65 per cent Merlot, 30 per cent Cab Franc and 5 per cent Cab Sauv drawn from two excellent vintages. It’s gloriously drinkable, full of soft, mellow, succulent ripe fruit and is a complete steal at £8.20, down from £8.95.
The 2015 Cantele Negroamaro (5) comes from Salento in Puglia, deep in the heel of Italy. Negroamaro thrives here — indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to see it outside Puglia — and this, from family-owned Cantele, is a tiptop example. I love its robust rusticity and its deep, dark colour as well as its ripe, luscious, almost brambly fruit and its touch of spice. Yum! £9.50 down from £10.30.
Finally, the 2015 Esterházy Pinot Noir (6) from Austria’s Burgenland. Just like Germany, say, and Alsace, Austria is famous for its whites and all too many folk ignore the reds. More fool them, for this is an absolute peach. The Esterházy family introduced Pinot Noir to the region almost 300 years ago so know what they’re about, and current winemaker Josef Pusch has crafted a fabulously tasty example. It’s no Beaune or Morey-Saint-Denis — but nor is it a Beaune or MSD price. It’s just disarmingly drinkable with plenty of ripe and sour cherry flavours, seductively soft tannins and a long, juicy, slightly earthy finish. £11.95 down from £12.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
Jonathan Ray’s Drink More Fizz! is out now.