Loxarel Cora Blanco, Penedès, Spain 2019 (from £13.95, buonvino.co.uk; lescaves.co.uk) Wine regions tend to get type cast after a while. None more so than Champagne, perhaps, which has been synonymous with sparkling wine since the technology for making bottle-fermented fizz became established in the Marne Valley in the 18th century. Before that, though, pale red wines were the region’s thing and, even as bubbles took over, they never went away entirely. Today the wines, labelled Coteaux Champenois, are enjoying a modest revival, as rising temperatures bring more warm vintages capable of ripening pinot noir grapes, and the best from growers such as Egry-Ouriet and Gonet-Medeville, are as good (and expensive) as their equivalents down the road in Burgundy. Similar things are going on in Penedès, the Catalan home of most cava and other Spanish sparkling answers to champagne, where producers such as Recaredo (in their Celler Credo guise) and Loxarel (in wines such as the fragrant, tropical-scented Cora Blanco) are dab hands with distinctive still white wines.
Quinta do Noval Cerdo do Noval Tinto, Douro, Portugal 2018 (£19.99, tanners-wines.co.uk; nysawine.co.uk) It’s not just fizz regions and producers who get known for one thing. I got started on this train of thought by a handful of samples sent to me by Axa Millésimes, a stable of wine estates owned by a subsidiary of the French insurance group, Axa. Clinically corporate as that may sound, the group actually does a sensitive, fastidious job with its estates, with each maintaining a separate identity and specialism: from the regal, lusciously sweet Tokaji whites of Disznókő in Hungary, to the fine claret of top Bordeaux estate, Château Pichon-Longueville. But my favourite of the samples I tried this time around were examples of estates breaking out of their established role. Château Suduiraut, for example, is known for being one of the very best producers in the Bordeaux sweet-wine district of Sauternes. But its Suduiraut Blanc Sec 2020 (£19.50, cambridgewine.com – they currently have the 2019, but will moving on to the 2020 very soon) is a nervy, luminously bright, verdant and citrussy example of dry Bordeaux white; while Port estate Quinta do Noval’s Cerdo do Noval Tinto is slick and deep with perfectly ripe, succulent brambly fruit.
Alamos Malbec Rosé, Mendoza, Argentina 2020 (from £7.99, Waitrose; majestic.co.uk) The one style that pretty much every producer in the world has tried on for size in the past few years (no matter what they normally make or where they are based) is rosé. In part that’s a response to demand: pink wines have been one of the big hits of 21st- century wine. There’s also been a perception that they’re easier to make than other styles – indeed, some producers have treated the style as a kind of by-product of the red winemaking process. In an increasingly crowded and competitive field, however, the best are very far from after-thoughts. Good producers have long since realised that, even if the style is never going to be the main event at their estate, good rosé takes as much care and attention as a red or a white – even if the essence of a good rosé such as Catena’s Alamos, is a soft-focus drinkability that is very different from the brooding complex depths of the Argentine producer’s many marvellous red wines.