Even during the lazy days of summer, there are still special occasions which demand that little extra edge of luxury. Here, then are four wines that do mean digging just a little deeper but, in my view, more than justify doing so.
Marinated as we are in tingling New Zealand sauvignon, versions from Australia often go under-appreciated. Those degrees of latitude difference really show in Adelaide Hills’ 2014 Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc (£13.99 at House of Menzies, with the similarly acclaimed 2015 vintage widely available).
It is soft, round and a versatile food wine with fruit more akin to apple and ripe melon than gooseberry – even though sauvignon’s classic grapefruit and green pepper components do still shine through.
Among the reds, it is great to see California’s Lodi region bringing us lovely (and well-priced) Zin in the shape of 2012 Peirano Estate Old Vine Zinfandel (£11.99 at Majestic but some stores now have the 2014). Both have lively acidity and menthol-based depth that all integrate beautifully with the wine’s soft blackcurrant, vanilla and cinnamon flavours and underlying richness.
My top red, though, is the dark and textured 2013 Il Cascinone Rive Barbera D’Asti Superiore (£14.50 at The Secret Cellar) that perfectly illustrates what oak aged barbera is all about.
While its acidity is firm, the tannin is quite soft and deftly avoids compromising either the red plum and cherry fruit or the spicy liquorice and cinnamon elements that support it.
For fizz, opt – I suggest – for Hampshire’s lively but delicate 2010 Jenkyn Place Brut (£24.99 online at www.waitrosecellar.com). Once the over-exuberant initial bubbles have settled, it offers delightfully zesty, sherbet lemon acidity, red apple fruit and a buttered toast finish. The three main champagne grapes combine well here to provide creamy texture but still deliver more lightness and delicacy than most similarly priced champagne.
Sicily, 14 per cent
Organic wine is often polarised – either brilliantly gentle and pure or some way off the pace. This excellent example of the former has smoky, cherry-based, nero d’avola depth – nicely softened by bramble-centred syrah – with bright, minty, clove-influenced loganberry fruit and firm acidity, but only limited tannin.
£8.50 at Whitmuir Organics, West Linton
Kremstal, Austria, 12 per cent
This is an absolutely typical example of beautifully crafted
“gru-vee” (as Americans say) but at a great price. There is firm grapefruit acidity, pear-based roundedness and mineral touches in the background. Better still are its suggestions of apple blossom, pea shoots, rocket salad and hints of tropical fruit.
£7.50 at The Wine Society
• For regular recommendations on good value wines go to www.midweekwines.co.uk