April 2005 – Braida, Villa Russiz, Canon-La-Gaffeliere

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. In April I spent a week in Bordeaux, staying in illustrious Châteaux and drinking amazing wines back to the 1950s and 60s vintages, and I also attended a brilliant dinner with top Italian producers and a bundle of other events, so it was a tough challenge to whittle down the sky’s the limit” selection in particular this month.

under a fiver
Les Marquiéres (France) Rouge 2004
Majestic seem to have unearthed some cracking little wines from France and Spain in their new summer range, including this Vin de Pays from the Coteaux de Fontcaude in Roussillon. It has very robust, full, luscious blackcurrant fruit that is very attractive, overflowing with jammy cherry and cassis. Dry, savoury, plum skin and cherry fruit is quite simple and a touch leathery and dry on the palate, but who’s complaining at the price for a solid delivery of fruit and a fresh, punchy cherry finish. £3.49 Majestic.

under a tenner
Cantina Braida (Italy) Barbera D’Asti ‘Il Monello’ 2003
This is a special parcel sourced by Oddbins from the famous estate of Braida in Piedmont, and is a one-off, so buy now if you are interested. 100% Barbera, aged for a year in French oak, it has a very bright, cherry red colour and a smoky, schisty, black fruited nose with lots of herbal, leafy cherry character backed up by a spicy depth of dark fruit. The palate is dry and powerful, with a good quality of black fruit running through the mid-palate, and a taut edge of cherry-skin acidity adding bite. Finishing crisply, there are just hints of charry oak and a liquoricy tannic grip in a savoury wine that cries out for some substantial food or a chunk of Parmesan. £7.99 Oddbins

under twenty
Villa Russiz (Italy) Sauvignon de La Tour 2003
With 14.5% alcohol there’s nothing shy or retiring about Villa Russiz multi-award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, with its huge, leesy, richly fruited nose of succulent pear skins and passionfruit, with a big back-stop of gooseberry and green, asparagus and herbal notes. On the palate that richness and subtle depth of stone-fruit flavour persists, with fabulous weight and texture that makes it quite different from either Loire of Marlborough examples, and an oily, waxy lemon weight on the finish. This is a fairly low acid style (not surprising given the vintage), but there is sufficient mineral and citrus cut to check and balance in an arresting style of Sauvignon Blanc. Quite something. £97.26 for six bottles Bibendumns.

sky’s the limit
Château Canon-La-Gaffelière (France) St Emilion 1961
Well, this adds to the handful of Clarets from one of the 20th century’s very greatest vintages that I’ve tasted, drunk at an amazing dinner in the Château, which is home to owner Stephan von Neippberg and his family. We also drank the 1952, and various other vintages of La-Gaffelière and Stephan’s nearby property, Château Mondotte. The very next night I dined in Château Beychevelle, with vintages including the ’86, ’76, ’62 and ’55, so you can imagine how tough it was to choose a “winner” for this award. But the 1961 gets it. This wine is all about sweetness: there is a gorgeous, massively ripe nose of blackcurrant fruit, with a little truffle, dried blood and farmyardy complexity. On the palate it is just beautiful, with an orangy crispness of acidity to the fruit, but still packed with sweet, rich, dark-hued fruit and a fine, tantalising edge of minerality that gives great definition. The length is endless, and the fruit purity stays in focus throughout. The price will be around £2,000 per case.