Welcome to a new weekly column devoted to the best the world of wine has to offer. Each week, I will recommend one wine to bring good cheer into your life.
They will generally be in the £15-£25 price range where I strongly believe you can find the best value in the wine world. These are wines that have been made with flair and care, but without you having to fork out a fortune for a fancy label.
For my inaugural column who better to turn to for advice than Il Vinissimo himself? Rowan Gormley, chief executive of Majestic and founder of Naked Wines. His choice was truly surprising and could have knocked me down – literally in fact, since it is an immensely powerful wine with a 15 per cent alcohol content that tastes like dragon’s blood, fermented inside an extinct volcano.
Beyond the pampered enclave of Rioja, Spanish wines are still a strange and unknown quantity for many of us, despite the fact that Spain has more acres of vineyards than any other country on earth. This, though, is changing. First, Spanish wine consumption is falling, forcing winemakers to look beyond their borders for customers. Second, a new wave of winemakers are using technology and new techniques to produce thrilling wines.
One of these is Raul Acha, the winemaker at Matsu in Toro, a small, bleak region near Valladolid in north-western Spain.
Matsu has truly ancient vineyards, some more than 100 years old that date back before the phylloxera epidemic of the 19th century, set in such harsh conditions that even the bugs struggle to survive, allowing them to work under organic conditions.
Here, they produce a small range of powerful, distinctive wines. The flagship is El Viejo (“the Old One”), which is like nothing I have ever tasted before. From the first sip to the last, it is overwhelming, a dark brooding colour and thunderous taste of black cherry and bramble laced with spices and minerals. Each sip (and this is a wine to be sipped, not swallowed) brings out different tones – here some cedar, there a hint of liquorice.
It is even more astonishing that the wine is 100 per cent Tempranillo, a grape that in the wrong hands can be a touch insipid.
This is a wine for bullfighters and conquistadors, not your Auntie. But as the nights begin to draw in, it might be just what’s needed.
Matsu El Viejo, 2014 (Majestic, £22.49)