Más Querido from £6.99 (£5.99 from 24 September) at Majestic
Frankland Estate Riesling from AU$23.99, £13.99, $19.98, 209 Norwegian krone, 3,024 Japanese yen
Today's first wine of the week is unusual in many ways. It's a brand-new wine that is for the moment made in strictly limited quantities so, unfortunately, is currently available from only one retailer, the chain of Majestic stores in the UK.
Más Querido, White Field Blend 2017 Vino de la Tierra Castilla is absolutely the opposite of fine wine. It's not even particularly dry. But it's exciting proof of the potential of Spanish vineyards, not necessarily those in the smartest regions. This wine comes from one of the giant co-ops in La Mancha, the Jesús del Perdón co-op in Manzanares that also sells its wines as Bodegas Yuntero.
When Paul Shinnie, the Spanish buyer of Scottish wine importer Alliance Wine, visited the co-op last November, he came across two tanks of white made from myriad different varieties and was particularly impressed by one of them. The next month he showed the blend to Majestic buyer Julie Buckley who loved it, according to Alliance's wine development director Giles Cooke MW. Cooke and associate Paul Doherty then worked on the presentation and came up with this, calling it Más Querido (most beloved) with the intention of adding other favoured Spanish wines to the range eventually.
The name of this particularly characterful white capitalises on the current fashion for field blends, wines made from a mix of different varieties, usually rather ancient, planted in a single vineyard – the likes of Austria's recently revived Wiener Gemischter Satz, for instance, or Ridge's famous old-vine Sonoma blend Lytton Springs. Call me a cynic (and you would be well advised to), but I suspect that is not precisely what happened here. I suspect the tanks simply held whatever could not easily be assigned to an established product. But that need not concern us; the main thing is what a charming, distinctive and successful bargain this is.
The cocktail of different grape varieties include not just a base of Macabeo, Sauvignon Blanc, Airén, Moscatel and Verdejo – already intriguing enough – but also some Pedro Ximénez, Albillo and Merseguera that were apparently available in quantities too small to be worthy of separate vinification.
When you smell the wine the Moscatel is the strongest aroma – very much the orange-peel smell of Muscat of Alexandria rather than the more floral perfume of small-berried Muscat. But then on the palate there really is a cocktail of different fruit flavours, with streaks of lime and passion fruit. I tasted it among some current Majestic offerings immediately after a Spanish white at a similar price, Finca El Cuento 2017, another blend (60% Macabeo, 30% Verdejo, 10% Moscatel). The Más Querido had so much more vitality, whereas the Finca El Cuento had that dead-hand industrial smell, and too little acidity. Más Querido has no shortage of freshness and interest, with a little grip on the finish.
I would not for a nanosecond suggest putting this away in a cellar. Drink it as soon as possible, probably as a sipping wine before a meal because, although I am assured that the residual sugar is extremely low, well under the 2g/l perception threshold, the Muscat component gives an impression of strong fruitiness. It's just 13.25% alcohol so not too overwhelming without food.
Majestic have their usual dual prices, one per single bottle and another that applies if a total of six assorted bottles are bought. If the latter, they are offering this wine at just £6.99 a bottle until 24 September, after which it goes down to a 'Mix Six' price of £5.99. (I was originally told that the £5.99 price applied until 17 September, which is why I planned to publish this today.) The single-bottle price is a modest £7.99 so British-based readers might care to pop into their local Majestic and check whether or not I have gone completely mad.
As I say, this is not a fine, savoury wine that will continue to evolve in bottle. But it's a wine with a story that should give many casual wine drinkers a great deal of pleasure – and demonstrates that Spain, which has more land under vine even than China, still has many a treasure to be unearthed.
Classicists should ignore everything I have written so far and turn instead to Frankland Estate Riesling 2016 Frankland River which is also currently on special offer at Majestic. This is a famous Australian bone-dry Riesling from the far south west of the country. Indeed its praises were sung by our very own Andrea Frost in her column on Monday about the wines she will miss most during her forthcoming year in London. Majestic have a small parcel of it that they reckon will last for about the next four weeks. Run out and prove them wrong by buying lots, because it's a fine wine at £13.99 a bottle if you buy an assorted six. Full price for this 12.5% wine is £15.99 a bottle.
Frankland Estate Riesling is not difficult to find around the world. The 2017 vintage is already available in California at under $20, and in Pennsylvania for rather more. The style is all its own: herbal and resonant – almost savoury. It's spiny and firm with lots of structure. Unlike anywhere else’s Riesling, it tastes as though it has somehow been wrested from the earth. Intense, this wine tastes as though it were made from particularly small berries. There is absolutely no hurry to drink this well-priced Western Australian classic.