April 2006 – Concordia, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Bollinger

These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine columns, 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, so it was a tough challenge to whittle down the sky’s the limit” selection in particular this month.

under a fiver
Stone Road (France) Chardonnay Colombard 2005
I made the red partner to this wine “Wine of the Week” during April, also mentioning that the white version was a steal at the discounted price. But this little white is so good, that I’ve decide to give the pair of wines a second bite of the cherry by recommending it as one of my wines of the month. This Vin de Pays wine is an exemplary, crisp, but richly accented white with 11.5% alcohol, it has a mealy, slightly buttery quality on the nose, with honeysuckle, crisp apple fruit and a hint of pineapple. On the palate it floods across the tongue with mandarin orange acidity and a lovely weight of very ripe fruit suggesting mango and nectarine. £4.49, The Co-op, but note: red and white are reduced to just £3.49 until May 14th 2006.

under a tenner
Marques de la Concordia (Spain) Rioja Reserva 2001
OK: heads up for an absolute bargain: this wine would have been a contender for the “under a tenner” title anyhow, but Majestic have taken a massive £4 off per bottle when you buy two or more, making this a must buy at only £5.99 for a first class, modern Rioja Reserva with bags of fruit, classy oak and spice. It has a dark, fleshy, dramatically dark berry fruit character on the nose, with a mulberry richness and coffee and cigar smokiness. The palate has a bright, modern fruitiness and plenty of structure beneath. Very attractive and a steal on the current pricing deal. £9.99 Majestic, but buy two at £5.99 until August 28th

under twenty
Ten Minutes by Tractor (Australia) Reserve Chardonnay 2003
This is a brand new range of premium Australian wines being brought into the UK exclusively by H&H Bancroft. The winery is in the Mornington Peninsula, and takes its unusual name from the three vineyards that are the source of all fruit, and which are 10 minutes apart. The vineyards are each owned by a different family, and are at altitude of between 140 and 210 metres above sea level. From the long, cool growing season in 2003, selected parcels of Chardonnay were vinified using wild yeasts, followed by an extended maturation in French oak barrels. This wine has a wonderfully seductive nose, layered with toast and butter, but with a green fig opulence, hazelnut and pure orchard fruits emerging. On the palate it is a big, powerful wine, with mouthfilling fruit and texture, but staying beautifully clean and limpid thanks to racy lemon acidity and that spicy oak structure. £18.95, H&H Bancroft.

sky’s the limit
Bollinger (France) Champagne RD 1990
I was lucky enough to have dinner with Stephen Leroux, Director of Marketing for Champagne Bollinger during the month, and we drank both the current 1997 Bollinger Grand Année and the 1990 ‘RD’, or ‘Recently Disgorged’. The 1997 is a fabulously toasty wine, and really is a joint “sky’s the limit” choice this month. Even better, it can be picked up for under £40 on one of the Champagne deals that are around at the moment. But the 1990 was just sublime. With 98 points from Robert Parker it has a lot of followers, and I can see why: it has a beautiful colour and masses of pin-prick bubbles, with a nose that does have toast and brioche notes over fine lemon fruit, but it has a real elegance and subtly about it that is beguiling. On the palate it is refined, the nutty and nettly aspects subdued by pure fruit and a softly persistent mousse.