April 2002 – Philippe Michel, Vergelegen, Bruno Paillard

These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my newspaper column, or they may be wines from a recent tasting that hasn’t yet been written-up in a full-length report. There is a growing archive of these four of the best choices each month.

under a fiver
Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura 1998
An absolutely stonking little bargain, this 100% Chardonnay French fizz has a lively mousse and smells precisely of crisp apples, wrapped in lightly yeasty, nutty overcoat. From Jura in eastern France, it is made by the expensive traditional method of Champagne, and spends 24 months in bottle gaining richness and complexity before being released. It has tiny, streaming bubbles and delivers copious amounts of zippy, tingling fresh citrus fruit on to the palate with some considerable style. Balanced, not at all thin or tart, and very classically-styled with only 12% alcohol. A perfect summertime tipple for garden parties and picnics that shames many bottles of fizz at twice the priceAldi Stores £4.99

under a tenner
Château des Sarrins (France) Provence Rosé 2001
This is quite expensive for a rosé wine I know, and it is only available from specialist stores, but what a beauty. I visited the property in Provence in April and enjoyed many a glass of this beautifully delicate, strawberry, herb and pepper scented wine that has terrific finesse. The Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes (55%, 30% and 15%) are tipped straight into the press, were they undergo a very slow, gentle, 10-hour pressing, by which time sufficient colour and flavour has leached from the skins. Only the juice is then run off to ferment and settle. A genuinely gorgeous rosé for summer drinking and only a modest 12% alcohol. The 2001 will be in the UK late May/early June 2002 and will be available from independents including Bibendum, Virgin, Everywine, Noel Young Wines, Philglas & Swiggot and Duncan & Maxwell at around £7.49

under twenty
Vergelegen (South Africa) 1999
I visited Vergelegen and had a lunch and tasting with the winemaker André van Rensburg. He told me that the eventual aim of the estate is to produce only two wines, like a top Bordeaux Château. The white is being refined, but this, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, is already reaching the quality he aims for. The nose is filled with dark, expressive, coffee-bean, tobacco, spice and chocolate. There is a great heart of ripe cassis fruit, with hints of plum and cedar. On the palate more cedar and herbal nuances, with earthy and liquorice complexity and lovely balance with savoury black fruit, olive and juicy acidity. There is fine depth and concentration, and ripe tannins add freshening length. Extremely impressive. This is in selected Sainsbury’s at around £19.

sky’s the limit
Bruno Paillard (France) Champagne N.P.U. 1990
N.P.U. stands for “Nec Plus Ultra”, or “the last word”: a vintage Champagne given lavish care and attention in order to create the ultimate expression of this house’s style, with only juice from the first pressing of Grand Cru grapes, barrel fermentation, and release only after 10 years in Paillard’s cellars. It has a deep golden colour, and massive depth of tiny bubbles. Deeply honeyed, figgy notes, with brazil nut and red fruits emerge. The palate is weighty and expansive, with nutty qualities, a rich mousse, and a keen raspberry edge to the fruit. It is very elegant, with a distinct orangy acidity and lovely length hinting at toasty depth and layered fruit. Will improve. Very small quantities available from Bibendum at £65.