At this time of year, tasting opportunities are almost limitless so generalised tastings, such as the SITT (Specialist Independent Trade Tastings) and FUOR (France Under One Roof), are a very efficient way to taste a huge variety of wines, many available exclusively to the on-trade and specialist independents. Here are some recent highlights.
- Rueda, Bodegas Naia 2005 (£6.95 per bottle, ex-VAT from Indigo Wine, www.indigowine.com). Rueda's native Verdejo makes good dry whites with tropical fruitiness reminiscent of very ripe Sauvignon Blanc. Here the tropicality is restrained and the palate enhanced by almost crisp, mineral acidity. Good with or without food.
- St Chinian ‘Les Terres Blanches' Borie la Vinaterele 2005 (£6.95 per bottle, ex-VAT from Genesis Wines, 020 7963 9062). Once again the Languedoc comes up trumps for quality and value. This Rhône-style red blend has a shy, mineral-accented nose with a palate that is tight and juicy, lean but not mean. It's quite classy but its fine but firm tannic grip means it really wants aeration and partnering with fairly robustly flavoured meaty dishes.
- Serpaiolo IGT Rosso di Toscana 2005 (£6.45 per bottle, ex-VAT from Adnams, 01502 727287). Serpaiolo offers attractive Sangiovese typicity (peppery, red fruit and firm bite) in an accessible and well-priced package. Also watch out for the same family's Trentino wines under the name of Endrizzi.
- Cava Brut Nature, Pares Balta NV (£8.50 per bottle, ex-VAT from Top Selection www.topselection.co.uk). The huge popularity of Cava is largely to do with price, but here's one that is not only great value, but has style and finesse too, with attractive yeasty aromas you might expect to find in a considerably more expensive Champagne.
- Chardonnay Ataraxia Mountain Vineyards 2005 (£7.98 per bottle, ex-VAT from Yeo & Co, www.yeo-co.com). Stylish, hand-crafted Chardonnay from South Africa. Easy on the oak, with texture and great balance. Drink with grilled fish or cellar for a year or two.
- Push the boat out: Brunello di Montalcino, Salicutti 2000 (£25.80 per bottle, ex-VAT from Marc Fine Wines, www.marcfinewines.com). This solid, seriously structured wine has plenty of bang to justify the bucks. It is big and chunky, with sweet, ripe fruit alongside hints of seaweed and liquorice. It's long and very good, smooth enough to drink on its own, but cries out for chargrilled beef.