ALISTAIR GIBSON: I’m going to let you into a little secret, or two...

Penfolds Max Shiraz

Penfolds Max Shiraz

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The wine question I get asked more than any other is: ‘So, what is your favourite wine?’

It’s an almost impossible question to answer as one of the great joys of wine is its huge breadth of styles across so many regions.

La Gitana En Rama

La Gitana En Rama

To me, the next wine is always a potentially new and exciting discovery.

However, I’m going to let you into a secret or two this week and write about two wines that would definitely appear in my top 10 wines.

They are wines I think everyone should at least try.

First up is a sherry – in my opinion one of the best-valued and most under-appreciated wine styles of all.

La Gitana Manzanilla (Waitrose £9.49 on offer from £10.99 until June 6) is, I believe, the best-selling manzanilla in the world, and you will always find a half-bottle in my fridge.

Manzanilla is,in essence, a fino sherry but can only come from the small coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda where the sea breezes give it its unique salty, tangy character.

However, once a year this wine is released en rama. This means the wine is effectively bottled unfiltered, the idea being that you taste the sherry almost as if you had visited the bodega in Spain and tasted straight from the barrel.

La Gitana ‘En Rama’ Manzanilla (Hermitage Cellars £14.75) is, in my opinion, without doubt one of the world’s most unique wines, with savoury,

salty notes along with umami

citrus and yeasty flavours.

It finishes bone dry with great length and is at its best within six months of its life.

It just needs a plate of Iberico ham to accompany it.

I was fortunate enough many years ago to win a tasting competition and spend two weeks in Australia with Penfolds discovering the vineyards of South Australia.

During that visit I had lunch with Max Schubert, who was responsible for Australia’s great red wine, Penfolds Grange.

Max passed away shortly after I met him but it was one of the highlights of my wine life.

While Penfolds Grange is now almost out of reach of wine consumers, retailing in excess of £400, Penfolds has just released a more accessible wine in memory of this founding father of the modern Australian wine industry.

Penfolds Max’s Shiraz 2015, South Australia (Waitrose £18.99 – current vintage listed is 2014 but will be moving on to the 2015 shortly) is a blend of Shiraz from several premium South Australian regions and aged in a mixture of American and French oak, with 10 per cent being in new French barrels.

This is a classic Penfolds wine, densely-coloured with black fruits, plums and a touch of cedar and liquorice.

The palate is well-rounded with spice and more black fruits, chocolate and ripe tannins before a full, long finish. Best decanted and then served with a Sunday roast beef.

It’s not Penfolds Grange, but then what is?

n Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail alistair@hermitagecellars.co.uk.

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