1. Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée 2013 – want to be patriotic but never yet met an English wine you really liked? With medals galore from its first few vintages, Hattingley Valley stands up to any grower’s champagne. Made in an idyllic spot near Winchester, it captures fragrant English hedgerows and Summer skies in a glass.
2. El Tesoro Verdejo – the Spanish are making lots of exciting, great value wine. This is bright, lemony, fresh and slips down nicely at the bar or with fish or lightly-dressed salads. Recently chosen by Rick Stein as his house white for Padstow.
3. Tanner’s Chardonnay – the return of an old favourite. Our fine, traditional wine merchants, Tanner’s of Shrewsbury, source a number of brilliant bespoke blends from talented winemakers. This Chardonnay from the Languedoc is juicy, with a little bit of butter. Never disappoints.
4. Shaw + Smith M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay – if Tanner’s is good everyday Chardonnay, this is for high days and holidays. A flag-bearer for terroir-driven Aussie quality, I regularly use Michael Hill-Smith’s breath-taking cool climate wine to win hardened members of the ABC club back to the joys of Chardonnay.
5. A Mano Rosato – Mark Shannon is a gregarious American who fell in love with (and in) Puglia 20 years ago and never left. His wines are as bright and jolly as his ever-present smile. This Rosato brims with aroma and glorious summer flavours.
6. Julienas, Domaine du Clos du Fief, M. Tete – Single vineyard Beaujolais that sings with quality. For when you feel like a lighter red, but one with substance and character.
7. Principe de Viana 100% Garnacha – made in Navarra at the most spotless winery I have ever visited. Packed with blackberry and mulberry flavours with a real umami edge. Fantastic with anything barbecued.
8. Nero d’Avola, Vigneti Zabu – Sicily’s own grape variety, beautifully made and brimming with sweet fruit. Already a big hit with our team in training.
9. Renacer Punto Final Malbec Reserve – one of the highlights of my recent trip to Argentina. Patricio Renacer is a Chilean who has crossed the Andes to make wine in Mendoza in a stunning winery built to resemble the towers of San Gimignano in Italy (one of his favourite places). I first visited 7 years ago when they were on their second vintage and, my God, what a long way they’ve travelled. The wines were good then, but now they are stunning. Anyone looking for a really proper bottle of Malbec to do justice to a world-class steak has the goods right here.
10. Massaya Terrasses de Baalbeck – high quality Rhone-inspired red from vineyards in the Bekaa Valley and on the slopes of Mount Lebanon. Named after the astonishing Roman temple that lies almost unvisited close to the vineyard at Tanail (and one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been) Massaya is testament to the skills and determination of the Ghosn brothers to make great wine and provide jobs and stability on a geo-political fault line. All that aside, the wine stands up brilliantly on its merits as a big, well-structured, serious red.
What struck me when reviewing this list is how many of these vineyards and winemakers I’ve visited and met. It’s not that I’m easily seduced by a shiny steel tank or a brown-eyed Spanish type (honest!) But when a wine stands out, it’s very often because it’s been made by people who really love what they do and are proud of what they produce. That always makes it a good fit for us because we feel the same enthusiasm for always serving the good stuff. So these are real wines made mostly by independent winemakers, not to a marketing exec’s brief on consumer trends, but to be the most delicious thing their land and weather can produce. I hope you like them as much as I do.