Neethlingshof The Caracal 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa

As of course you know, Caracal is another name for the desert lynx…

Neethlingshof The Caracal 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa (£14.99 Majestic)
Intense and fruity, with slightly stewed dark berry and blackcurrant flesh lifted by floral aromas and a herbal note. Some toasty/cedary oaky influence, but it’s in balance with the rest of the wine, intense and quite voluptuous, but still with freshness. S(-)

Stobi Vranec Classic 2011, Tikves, Macedonia

Sturdy fare from a country whose wines we rarely see…

Stobi Vranec Classic 2011, Tikves, Macedonia (£10-11 Cornelius Wines, Cork & Cask, Wine Rack, House of Townend, Turton Wines, North Coast Wine Co)
Deep in colour, and stuffed with dark fleshy berry and kirsch flavours. Also packs in notes of coffee and dark chocolate, but while I like these and the velvety texture, maybe it’s just a bit too ripe, and there’s always that central European earthy beetroot/tomato character lurking in the background. B+

Vetus ‘Flor de Vetus’ Verdejo 2013, Rueda, Spain

Best region in Spain for white wine – Rueda, Rías Baixas or Valdeorras? Or somewhere else??

Vetus ‘Flor de Vetus’ Verdejo 2013, Rueda, Spain (£11.99 Meat, The Wine Reserve, Charlie Crown, Grape & Grind, Scarlet Wines, The Jolly Vintner Too, Shaftesbury Wines, The Cellar at Clevedon, Woodford Wine Room, Loki, Wright Wine Company, Richard Granger Wines, Aitken Wines, Winedirect.co.uk, Thedrinkshop.com)
Crisp young and perky, but with some flesh in there too, this resembles a less gawky Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to its herb-infused apple and blood orange flavours tinged with vanilla. Quite forward, but that zesty citrus edge reins it all in. Even so, I want to drink this sooner rather than later. S-

Wirra Wirra Church Block 2012, McLaren Vale, Australia

A consistent performer for forty years, and still going strong…

Wirra Wirra Church Block 2012, McLaren Vale, Australia (£13.49 Waitrose, Ocado, Tesco, TheDrinkShop.com)
Ripe fleshy cassis tinged with notes of smoky, earthy spice, some classic Aussie mint/eucalyptus notes, and a leathery note to the finish that will get stronger as it ages. Although it’s very friendly now, with a leafy freshness that would work well with rich fatty meats. S(-)

Izadi Rioja Blanco 2013, Spain

This grew on me…

Izadi Rioja Blanco 2013, Spain (£14.99 Eton Vintners, New Forest Wines, Charlie Crown, Grape & Grind, The Cellar at Clevedon, Bentley’s Wine Merchants, Loki, Aitken Wines, Lockett Bros, The Fine Wine Company, Winedirect.co.uk, Thedrinkshop.com, Slurp.co.uk)
A wine that’s as much about texture as flavour. There’s not much obvious fruit, but there’s an almost SB-like crispness and herbiness, given richness and a floral honeyed character by a dollop of Malvasia, and some soft smoky notes from oak ageing. S-

Plaisir de Merle Petit Plaisir 2011, Western Cape, South Africa

A South African take on the Shiraz/Cab blend – and rather good it is too…

Plaisir de Merle Petit Plaisir 2011, Western Cape, South Africa (£8.99 Marks & Spencer)
Bounds out of the glass with spicy dark plummy blackcurrant flavours and a note of chocolate. There’s a little bit of VA (volatile acidity), but this is lifting the fruit flavours, rather than making you think you’re drinking vinegar. A gentle, generous mouthful that should bring smiles to most face S-

Orben Rioja 2009, Spain

Think there was a better, gentler wine to be made here…

Orben Rioja 2009, Spain (£23.99 Eton Vintners, Charlie Crown, Grape & Grind, Scarlet Wines, The Jolly Vintner Too, The Cellar at Clevedon, Aitken Wines, WoodWinters, The Fine Wine Company, Winedirect.co.uk, Thedrinkshop.com)
Starts off rather big and oaky, and remains large (it’s 14.5% alcohol) throughout. The oak does subside, allowing the ripe, dark berry and damson flavours to show through, along with a dry brown sugar character – in other words brown sugar flavour but not sweetness. But…there’s also a slight raisinny character, plus a light burning sensation from the alcohol. Will impress some people but I find it just a bit overripe, just a bit overextracted, just a bit too oaky and just a bit vulgar. B