After spending a few months in the barrel, it’s already possible to enjoy Aldonia Vendimia 2018. A fruity wine, the result of a very fresh and rainy year.
After spending a few months in the barrel, it’s already possible to enjoy Aldonia Vendimia 2018. A fruity wine, the result of a very fresh and rainy year.
Jancis Robinson, recommends Aldonia again in the Financial Times for this Christmas, and for us it will be an honor to be present at the meetings of these special dates. Cheers!
This terrific list of wines represents the very best red and white wines that can be bought for less than £10 today. There are some real crackers, from a tingly and refreshing £6 white from Gascony to the new 2016 vintage of a seriously good syrah that is being shipped as I write.
I put the selection together by going through my notes for the thousands of wines I taste each year, choosing the very best, and trying them again in a huge taste-off. I also invited retailers and importers to send in bottles that I might have missed or overlooked. In all, I ended up with more than 300 bottles of wine in my flat from which to make the final choice.
This list represents the best wines available right now. Spring is a time when vintages of cheaper European whites tend to change over; some stores such as Aldi were unable to show me the fresh bottles that they will have later in the season, so look out for any goodies in my Summer Wines List, coming in June.
A quick word on price. I thought hard about whether to include bottles that only come in under the £10 mark if you are buying by the case or half case (in some instances this can be mixed, so you are spreading risk). I decided to put them in because I felt you would want to know how and where you could get the very best wine value for your £10.
Fruits of Spain, on-trend Australian and a serious syrah
A juicy red made from cariñena (carignan), in the village of Cariñena in the appellation of Cariñena in north-eastern Spain – hence the 3C name. Sumptuous as thick crimson velvet, yet also fresh. Think red cherries and fresh figs with cool stone.
(13.5%, The Wine Society, £5.75)
This is just so drinkable: a fresher incarnation of malbec than many (there’s no oak here), it tastes of stewed damsons and roasted plums and has a lovely, fragrant violetty lift. Made for Aldi by Bodegas Salentein.
(13%, Aldi, £5.99)
A serious syrah for the price, but it needs time to open up so please decant it to enjoy the scent of gunflint, violets, black pepper and black cherries.
(13.5%, Cambridge Wine Merchants, £9.99/£8.40 by the case, arriving March; or call and ask for bottles with a different label; Haynes, Hanson & Clark from April)
Pécharmant is a relatively unknown wine region in the Dordogne making red wines that taste like rustic claret (Bordeaux is 60 miles to the west). This one is light, fresh and satisfying – made from cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec.
(13%, Co-op, £7.99)
Bodegas Aldonia is unusual in Rioja in that its focus is not tempranillo but garnacha. Here, a 60-40 garnacha-tempranillo blend makes for a very fresh and sleek wine, scented like crimson berries, with gentle oak. Recogniszably from Rioja, but in a light contemporary style.
(14.5%, Tanners, £8.95)
Spain Twelve months in American oak barrels has imbued this rioja with some warm vanilla and spice notes, but it’s still remarkably fresh and crisp, redolent of red cherries and cooked strawberries.
(13.5%, Majestic; £6.99 in a mixed six; £8.99 single bottle)
A smooth, richly fruity, oak-aged red from the region of Molise, between Abruzzo and Puglia. The main grapes are montepulciano and aglianico. Think amarena cherries, baked blueberries and brambles, and a touch of balsamic.
(13%, Great Western Wine, £8.50; Booths, £8; The Wine Society, £7.95)
A very evocative wine from a superlative vintage that takes you straight to the south of France with its whiff of dried lavender, pumice and dried thyme. Grenache with syrah, carignan, mourvèdre and cinsault. Just lovely.
You catch a whiff of wild boar salami, dried herbs, dried figs and white pepper on this southern French blend of syrah (60 per cent), carignan and grenache noir. Great food wine, and fresher/lighter than you might expect (a portion undergoes carbonic maceration, like beaujolais).
(13%, Waitrose, £9.99)
A cosy cuddle of a red made by d’Arenberg among the gum trees and dry heat of Australia’s McLaren Vale. GSM stands for grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, and here the Rhône grapes have an inky, saturating depth of flavour you don’t find in France
(14.5%, Tesco, £8)
From Quinta do Crasto, deep in port territory, and made using port varieties. Dark, intense and redolent of the hard rock in which the vines struggle. Has thump as well as structure. Sometimes on offer with £1 off, but it wins a place here even at full price.
(14%, Sainsbury’s, £9)
The grape is monastrell, the region is Jumilla in south-eastern Spain, and the wine is immense: intense but classically structured, with a fragrant blueberry scent, lots of inky black fruit, and wood spice. The 2016 is preferred.
(14%, Lea & Sandeman, £9.50 in a mixed case/£10.50 single bottle)
Heathcote, Victoria, is currently one of Australia’s most talked-about wine regions. Shiraz grown in its ancient soils and cooler climate is less prizefighter punch; more generous, with earthy notes. This one also smells of petrichor and mulberries.
(14.5%, Morrisons, £6.75)
This would be the perfect bistro house red: your nose starts twitching for bavette-frites at the first juicy, upbeat sip. Cabernet sauvignon brings gentle oomph and structure, while grenache and carignan carry a scent of the garrigue. Lovely.
(12.5%, C&B, £7.75)
Lacarelle has been in the hands of the same family since 1750 and is one of the oldest wine estates in Beaujolais. Cracking wine, too – light-bodied but sappy, vivid and energetic, reminiscent of the first signs of spring on a freezing day.
(12.5%, The Wine Society, £7.75)
Geographically, Bergerac lies between Bordeaux and Cahors, and taste-wise you could say this wine from a family-run château does the same. Half merlot, half malbec, it has structure, but also inkiness and grunt. Brilliant stuff.
(13.5%, The Wine Society, £8.75)
Think of this blend of merlot with cabernet franc as a mini-Pomerol. Beautifully fragranced, and showing some development. A great buy.
(13%, The Wine Society, £8.95; Majestic has the also-good 2014 but it’s over a tenner)
A well-judged blend of grenache, syrah and carignan. Love the generosity and gentle scent of dried herbs. Think of it as a cut price Rhône. A particularly good vintage of an always-good value wine from the Paul Mas stable.
(13.5%, Sainsbury’s, £7)
From the Côtes de Thongue, an IGP in the Languedoc around Faugères, Pézenas and Béziers, a bouncy, joyful, brambly and oak-free blend of mostly syrah, with some deep, dark mourvèdre.
(12.5%, The Wine Society, £6.75)
Ripe mulberries and raspberry jelly, ruffled up with the astringency of cranberries and black tea, with hints of coffee and oak spice for depth.
(13,5%, Co-op, £6.49 down from £8.49 until March 6; Ocado £6.79 down from £8.49 until March 20; Tesco Wine by the Case only $48/6 equivalent to £8 a bottle)
JancisRobinson does not need presentations, but for anyone who does not know her yet, she is a very prestigious English critic of wine, Master of Wine, and wine advisor at the winery of Queen Elizabeth II. She is a journalist and editor of several books related to the world of wine. He is currently writing a weekly column in the Financial Times.
On this occasion recommends our wines Aldonia in her blog https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/aldonia-2015-riojas
Deeply grateful for it. Enjoy them!
From €5.86, $8.98, £8.95, 1,274 yen, 2,098 Icelandic krona, 94 Brazilian reals
Today, Friday the thirteenth, we offer yet another lucky, and extremely well-priced, Spanish recommendation. I see from my records that Spain is the country that has supplied more wines of the week than any other in recent months. This doubtless reflects how keenly priced so many Spanish wines are currently.
I’m particularly recommending three 2015 red riojas on offer from Aldonia, a bodega in Rioja Baja, the eastern, most Mediterranean sector of the Rioja region where more Garnacha than Tempranillo is grown.
Fourth generation wine grower brothers Mario and Iván Santos built a new bodega in Navarette to make wine for themselves rather than selling all their juicy grapes to other producers. Like Maquina y Tabla, producers of these recent wines of the week, they aim to make Vinos de Pueblo, thoroughly local expressions. Like so many rioja producers today, they don’t use the old terms Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva so as to leave themselves complete flexibility over how and how long each wine is aged. (With our Spanish specialist Ferran Centelles, Nick and I shared a bottle of La Rioja Alta’s 908 Gran Reserva 2005 last weekend and it seemed aggressively oaky – and that from a house as irreproachable as La Rioja Alta.)
I seem to have been banging on forever about the deliciousness of much Spanish Garnacha and querying Spaniards’ determination to regard it as almost a dirty little secret as opposed to the noble Tempranillo. See, for example, my introduction to this 2001 wine of the week. I’m thrilled therefore to see a re-evaluation of the (originally Spanish) southern Rhône grape all over the world, including Spain. See innumerable more recent articles such as Garnacha – now the height of fashion and G-Day and the Grenache Symposium for evidence of the groundswell of support for this accessible, super-fruity grape variety.
Aldonia’s three wines are all made from Grenache predominantly, their top wine from nothing but. Their 16 hectares of vineyards are high elevation, over 800 m (2,625 ft) in some cases and some are over 100 years old. Viticulture is organic.
This is a rather charming extract from their website: ‘Our grandfather was a wise man, taught us the elaborate “second bottle wine”, which means that after finishing a bottle, the wine is at a level of quality as well, to invite start another bottle.’ The English may not be perfect but the sentiment is clear, and well merited. And the ripeness of the early 2015 vintage in Rioja seems to have suited the Aldonia range particularly well.
Aldonia Vendimia 2015 Rioja is the least expensive of the three wines (£8.95 Tanners in the UK) and is absolutely delicious already. My tasting note:
‘60% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo. Transparent crimson. Fruit not oak soars out of the glass. Very juicy, sweet fruit that would not look out of place behind a relatively smart label in the southern Rhône. Firm tannic framework. This is a wine that is bursting with life. So non industrial. Bravo! VGV 16.5/20 Drink 2017–2020’
At 14.5%, this is not a wine for casual sipping, however many bottles you may be tempted to open. It would be such a superior house wine though for accompanying a wide range of emphatically flavoured and textured foods.
Aldonia 2015 Rioja (their nomenclature is a tad confusing) is the mid-range wine (£12.80 Tanners) and for drinking now I would definitely recommend the cheaper Vendimia as the best value. My tasting note:
‘82% Garnacha, 15% Tempranillo, 3% Graciano matured for 12 months in oak barrels. Paler than the Vendimia 2015 and the nose is subtler. Less bumptious and a bit more reticent at this stage but with an attractive stoniness on the finish. Good balance and a real future. 16.5/20 Drink 2018–2023’
This is all of 15% alcohol, doesn’t taste it but I would be pretty wary of any second bottle.
Aldonia 100 2015 Rioja (£16.50 Tanners) is the jewel in the crown. My tasting note:
‘100% 100-year-old Garnacha grown at 850 m in Rioja Baja, aged for 14 months in oak barrels. Light and sophisticated. Really lovely texture and lift. Soars off the palate with fine acidity but masses of fruit. A very gentle hand on the tiller in the winery. This should have a real future but is already a delight. GV 17/20 Drink 2017–2025’
This 15% wine is dangerously appetising and drinkable. Really lovely stuff.
The wines are available in Spain, of course, where they are virtually given away, as well as in the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Brazil and – Iceland, where their inherent warmth should be particularly welcome, I would have thought.
While we do the Harvest, we continue to receive recognition. On this occasion, we have been awarded 91 Peñín Points in two of our wines, which makes us be chosen to be part of the Hall of the Best Wines of Spain.
Definitely one more reason to enjoy these wines.
Heaven help us, it’s barbecue season. You know, that ghastly time of year when testosterone-fuelled hunter-gatherers push the little lady aside and fire up the rusting, bird poo-covered grate in the garden and ask the neighbours over.
Never mind that these poor saps never darken the kitchen the other 11-and-a-half months of the year (and wouldn’t know what to do there if they did), nor that the little lady in question is a hugely capable Leiths-trained cook as well as a multi–tasking barrister/entrepreneur/CEO/novelist and mother of three, no doubt.
I’ve never ‘got’ barbecues. The food’s either scorched or raw. I mean, isn’t it to save us from such things that God invented kitchens? Be that as it may, here follow six wines perfect both for lovers of barbecues and for miserable gits like me who aren’t.
The 2015 Alto Los Romeros Gran Reserva (1), from the Colchagua Valley in Chile is made from Roussanne and Marsanne which always taste better when blended together than either does on its own. Originally from the Northern Rhône (where they are permitted in both white and red Hermitage), the grapes clearly thrive in Chile. I love this wine’s creaminess and its poached pear and fresh peach/apricot flavours. I love its price, too. £8.95 down from £9.95.
The 2015 Sauvignon de Touraine ‘Le Boulay’ (2) is made at Château de la Presle in the Loire Valley, HQ of Domaine Jean-Marie Penet. This 100 per cent Sauvignon Blanc is wonderfully fresh, zesty and full of ripe gooseberries and mangoes. It’s bone-dry on the finish and makes the perfect 6 p.m. kick-starter. £9.90 down from £10.90.
We’ve offered previous vintages of the 2015 Tanners White Burgundy (3) before and I’m delighted to do so again because it’s such a steal. A Chardonnay of real style from Cave de Viré, the highly regarded co-operative near Mâcon, it’s absolutely bang on with deliciously ripe, rounded fruit and just a faint whisper of butter thanks to the briefest spell in oak. £10.95 down from £11.95.
The 2015 Aldonia Vendimia Rioja (4) is a real charmer. A blend of 60 per cent Garnacha (aka Grenache) and 40 per cent Tempranillo, it’s made by the Santos brothers who used to flog all their grapes to the big Rioja houses until they realised their quality was so good they were worth vinifying themselves. They don’t bother with old Rioja terminology such as Crianza and Reserva, but I suspect this does have a touch of oak. It’s fresh, juicy, concentrated and full of ripe cherries and mulberries with a savoury finish. £7.95 down from £8.95.
The 2015 Le Pigeoulet (5) from Frédéric and Daniel Brunier of celebrated Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is right up my street and I hope yours, too. A fabulously complex blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault, it’s soft, smooth and dense with loganberries, plums, leather, liquorice and herbs. The vines lie just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, otherwise the ridiculously modest price would be way higher. £11.40 down from £12.90.
Finally, the 2014 Massaya ‘Le Colombier’ (6) from Lebanon, a huge favourite of mine and of everyone else who was at the Spectator Winemaker’s Lunch hosted by Massaya’s Sami Ghosn. The vineyards are at Tanail in the Bekaa Valley and at Faqra on Mount Lebanon where the climate is so benign —hot days, cool nights — that no irrigation is needed, nor pesticides, nor fertilisers. It’s where, Ghosn told us, the vines are neither too stressed nor too comfortable but just happy. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo, it’s another extremely barbecue-friendly wine. Don’t say I’m not doing my best. £12.50 down from £13.50.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
These days, the prestigious paper The Guardian, has mentioned us as one of the six best Garnacha of the World. Besides being very grateful for it, it encourages us to keep working harder every day so that you can continue to enjoy it.
Grape vines of all kinds can cope with the most extraordinarily difficult and extreme environments. But few varieties of this tenacious plant are as tough as grenache, aka garnacha in Spain. It can survive, even thrive, in some of the dustiest corners of the wine world, roots plunged many feet deep into inhospitable terrain seeking out moisture.
The wonder of grenache is that the meagre crops of fruit produced by vines which can be anything up to 100 years old create some of the most vivacious wines around: a stream of soft, mouth-filling juiciness, with flavours of bramble jam, raspberry, cherry, tangy plum and paprika. How all this primary-coloured flavour emerges from such harsh surroundings is a wonder of nature on a par with something from a David Attenborough documentary – like one of those desert plants that lie dormant for years waiting for the briefest rain shower to bring them into bloom.
If there’s a better-value red wine style in the world – a better yield of fruit flavour per pound – than the absurdly underpriced old-vine garnachas of the Campo de Borja region of Aragon in northern Spain, I’ve yet to find it. Wines such as Bodegas Borsao Garnacha 2015 (£5.95, slurp.co.uk) and the Co-op’s Gran Vista Garnacha 2015 (£4.99) have so much more about them than the sweetened alcoholic Ribena that so often passes for wine at the £5 to £6 level these days.
Grenache’s reputation has also suffered more than most at the hands of incautious winemakers: leave it to get too ripe and the abundance of fruit becomes a syrupy, alcoholic jamminess.
When it’s good though, it certainly deserves a place at the top table – indeed, over the past decade,it’s made more strides than any other grape variety, with producers developing a much wider palette. It can provide succulent, spicy easy-drinkers such as Honoro Vera Garnacha 2015 (£8.45, Booths) from another Spanish region, Calatayud, or the always-alluring Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2014 (£12, Morrisons) from South Australia. Or it can produce lush winter warmers such as Domaine of the Bee 2011 (£27.50, thesampler.co.uk)
Most interesting of all, however, is the new wave of grenache made in a more restrained style. The prime movers behind this re-imagining of grenache as the “pinot noir of the south” are Spanish, with the likes of Daniel Jiménez-Landi in the hills of Mentrida, Bodegas Joan d’Anguera in Priorat’s neighbour Montsant, and Bodegas Aldonia in Rioja all conjuring subtly earthy, graceful, light-coloured garnachas from very old vines.
There are fine examples, too, in the New World’s new wave. Producers such as Australia’s Jauma, the Ministry of Clouds and Ochota Barrels, and the likes of Craig Hawkins and David Sadie from South Africa’s trendy Swartland set have all contributed to grenache’s more nuanced 21st-century personality in wines that, no matter how gentle they might feel, are still all about the sun.
Tesco Old Vines Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain 2015 (£5, Tesco)
The winemakers of Campo de Borja are blessed with a wealth of old garnacha vines that provide real depth of flavour at absurd prices, like this delightfully exuberant bargain burst of juicy bramble fruit.
Waitrose Southern French Grenache 2015 (£6.49, Waitrose)
Spicy and supple, with a sprinkling of white pepper and dried herbs adding savoury interest to the brisk raspberry and cherry fruit, this is good-value grenache in light, thirst-quenching, bangers-and-mash-matching mode.
Bodegas Aldonia Vendimia Rioja 2015 (£12.50, Vinoteca)
Having been somewhat eclipsed by tempranillo in Rioja, garnacha has made a comeback in recent years. At Aldonia it takes a leading role, joined here by 40% tempanillo in a fluently elegant, red-fruited, super-silky red.
Chris Williams The Foundry Grenache, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2014 (£12.95, the Wine Society)
Talented Cape winemaker Chris Williams’s Rhône-inspired grenache is perfectly pitched, offering a lively succulence of blackberry and raspberry combined with a nip of tannin and hints of peppery spice and wild herb.
Bodegas Jiménez-Landi Las Uvas de la Ira, Castilla y Leon, Spain 2014 (from £21.50, St Andrews Wine Company; the Sampler)
Daniel Jiménez-Landi is one of a handful of Spanish winemakers to pioneer the more sensitive, subtle side of garnacha, using old vines from the Gredos hills of central Spain. So pretty, floral and subtly earthy – it’s garnacha for pinot lovers.
Ochota Barrels The Fugazi Vineyard Grenache, South Australia 2014 (£28.50, Honest Grapes; Handfords; Prohibition Wines)
From a new-wave Australian cellar that puts the emphasis on fresh drinkability, this is a flat-out gorgeous take on grenache with a core of crunchy black and red berries and a streak of peppered-steak bloody-meatiness.
We are pleased that Parker has valued our effort made, giving Aldonia 91 points. We wish you enjoy it.
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