April 2003 – Les Andides, Villa Maria, Pousse d’Or, d’Yquem

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
Les Andides (France, Loire) Saumur Blanc 2002
It is so rarely that I can wholeheardtedly recommend a dry, inexpensive Chenin Blanc wine from the Loire Valley, that this one gives double pleasure. There’s a new winemaking regime at this estate apparently, with later picking of fruit and bottling with a little natural C02 to preserve freshness. There is no sign of sparkle on the palate, but on the nose it is vividly ripe, with a round, rolling, sweet peachiness and lovely cut of green apple. The palate is suffused with a gentle nectarine juiciness and plenty of crisp citrus notes. It is almost lush in its fruitiness, but then that fine apple acidity kicks in to sharpen and lengthen the finish. Delightful, summery wine. Waitrose, £4.29

under a tenner
Villa Maria (New Zealand) Cellar Selection Riesling 2002
Most visitors will be familar with Villa Maria’s excellent range of Sauvignons Blanc, whihc are amongst the most reliable from New Zealand, but their Riesling seems to get better and better with each vintage. In screwcap (as are all Villa Maria wines), this has an absolutely delightful nose. It is one of those wines where half the pleasure is in slowly allowing the aromas to unfold; fine, waxy, faintly petrolly notes, lots of vivid lime and complex hints of honey and ground almonds, then a suggestion of lush tropical fruit emerges. Very attractive. On the palate it has lovely richness, with bold, juicy, penetratingly precise citrus fruit and terrific balancing acidity. Excellent. £8.99, Oddbins.

under twenty
Domaine la Pousse d’Or (France, Burgundy) Volnay 1er Cru 1999
The 1999 vintage is a great one for red Burgundy, an area were finding really good value wines is like searching for needles in haystacks. Add to this Burgundy’s uniquely complex parcelation of vineyards, and the myriad different producers, and many wine lovers simply avoid red Burgundy as too frustrating. Yet, when it is good and reasonably priced there is no finer expression of the Pinot Noir grape. Here, Majestic have a new producer (for them), the venerable Pousse d’Or. This 1er Cru comes from Volnay, arguably the finest red wine appellation of the Côte de Beaune. It has a soaring nose of minerals, smoky oak and spice; a melange of deep, earthy aromas revealing bracken and concentrated berry fruit. It is quite crisp in style on the nose, not decayed or too vegetal. There is plenty of juicy, vibrant, solid black fruit on the palate, with creamy strawberry notes and some vanilla. There’s a charry edge that emerges on the finish, which is long and well-balanced. Very good indeed/excellent. £19.99, Majestic.

sky’s the limit
Château d’Yquem (France, Bordeaux) Sauternes 1997
The first time I have tasted this vintage of Yquem, so quite a treat. Extremely vanillary and rich on the nose at present, absolutely flooded with sweet, custardy oak, but obvious layers beneath of honey, toast, marmalady fruit and boytrytis. On the palate it is thick-textured and unctuous, with barley-sugar and honey thickly layered over nectarine and dark, seville-orange fruit. This is super-concentrated, and seems very fine indeed, like tasting the 1989 young, with a palate loaded with fruit, nutty richness and plenty of acidity pushing and extending the finish. Extremly promising, and almost certainly of outstanding potential. It seems 1997 is a great Sauternes vintage. Waitrose, Berry Bros & Rudd, Fine & Rare, £170 – £195 per bottle.