It’s September – time to go back to (wine) school

Although January is the touted time for new year’s resolutions, I regard September as a more realistic moment to set yourself new goals – or, in back-to-school mode, simply to acquire a bit more knowledge about a subject that interests you.

In wine terms, that might mean exploring a grape variety or region, a style of wine with which you might be unfamiliar, or a deeper dive into a region you know but want to understand better. Or maybe just a time for overcoming prejudices. Given the ongoing resistance to chardonnay, especially Australian chardonnay, The Bird in Hand Chardonnay in today’s picks may – and hopefully will – change your mind.

The possibilities are limitless. It may simply be a question of getting fired up by a grape variety. Sainsbury’s has just added two impressive Spanish garnachas to its own-label Taste the Difference range. I prefer the Campo de Borja bottling below to the Old Vine Calatayud (currently on offer at £10), which, at 15%, is a bit of a belter, but both are really well made.

Compare both with grenache and grenache blends from the south of France and with Australian grenache or GSMs (grenache, syrah, mourvedre), maybe even taking in some grenache blanc or grenache gris – you’ll find good examples of those from the Roussillon and South Africa. Serendipitously, it turns out it’s International Grenache Day on 17 September, so there’s your excuse.

Or, if all you really know about Beaujolais is “nouveau”, perhaps explore what else the region has to offer by working your way around its named villages or “crus”. You’ll find there’s a world of difference between the predictably floral fleurie and a more substantial morgon such as Lidl’s well-priced example below.

Merchants can always point you in an interesting direction, too. For example, Honest Grapes is currently offering a Discovery case of wines from Donnachiara in Campania that enables you to explore some of the indigenous varieties of the Italian south. At £248 (for 12 bottles), it’s far from cheap, but you could, for example, always split the cost if you set up a neighbourhood wine group along book group lines.

My own mission is to keep on exploring English (and Welsh) wine, to which I’m a bit of a late convert. I’m really excited, for a start, about Chapel Down’s new Discovery Series, especially the fabulously crisp, taut albariño below in today’s pick. The range also includes an interesting orange wine, though I’d skip the rather weedy rosé, if I were you.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Garnacha 2020 £9, 14.5%. I love this rich, generous, lipsmacking Campo de Borja red. Recommended for chorizo dishes, which seems spot on.

Collin Bourisset Morgon 2019 £7.99 Lidl, 13.5%. Typically the boldest and most full-bodied of beaujolais reds, packed with exuberant, cherry fruit. A lot of wine for the money.

Bird in Hand Two in the Bush Chardonnay 2020 £12.49 Fintry Wines, £14 Tesco, £32.50 for three bottles (as part of a mixed case) Paul Roberts Wines, 12.5%. Light, creamy, mouthwateringly fresh – and not how you probably think of Aussie chardonnay. Good with grilled fish.

Chapel Down Discovery Series Albariño 2018 £20 from the winery and online in cases of six from, 12%. Pure, crisp and saline: if this is what UK albariño is capable of, I’m in (even at this rather toppy price). Perfect for oysters.




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