April 2009 – Pichon-Baron, Aurora, Gulf Station

These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine 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

VPVL (France) Sauvignon Blanc 2008
A stonkingly good little wine this, from the little-known Haut Pointou region of the Loire Valley. Huge, pungent gooseberry-bush and elderflower aromas precede floral touches with tropical fruit coming through. The palate has good fruit, a big zingy grapefruit flavour and masses of acidity. Delivers bucketloads of flavour and oomph for a fiver. What a star. £4.99, in 250 Marks & Spencer stores.

under a tenner

De Bortoli (Australia) Gulf Station Pinot Noir 2008
Australia’s Yarra Valley and the nearby Mornington Peninsula are two of the southern henisphere’s prime Pinot Noir territories, and this excellent mid-range example from De Bortoli delivers the goods vintage after vintage. Just replacing the lovely 2007 in stores, the 2008 edition has the same winning formula of freshness and poise, allied to ripe, attractively full flavour. Brimming with smoky, swirling, tobacco and strawberry pulp aromas, there’s a schisty, earthy edge and plenty of complexity. On the palate the fruit is intensely sweet – really pinging across the mid-palate with its concentration – and yet the spice, warm, truffle and woodsmoke complexity and structural line of the tannins and acidity never waivers. Truly great Pinot at its price this, and I have to say it would be pretty damn good if it cost twice as much. £9.99, Sainsbury’s.

under twenty

Aurora (New Zealand) Syrah 2006
This very wine was “wine of the month” back in February 2008, but I make absolutely no apologies for including it again: it is tasting better than ever and is now available from Oddbins and not just the small independent featured last year. Aurora’s vineyards in Bendigo are in one of the warmest micro-climates, and their Syrah is planted on their hottest terrace to maximise ripening potential. This has a really fantastic nose, where a subtle herbaceousness marries beautifully to fat, smoky bacon character, with lush berry fruits and hints of spicy white pepper. On the palate this is poised, lush, full-fruited but racy, with a lovely peppery edge to the fruit, that’s all berries and crisp raspberry, with fine, supple tannins adding some grip and clean acidity sharpening the finish. The quality French oak adds a refined cedar and spice, in a terrific Syrah which vies with the best I’ve tasted from New Zealand. £17.95, Oddbins and Oddbins.com.

sky’s the limit

Château Pichon-Baron (France) Pauillac 2nd Growth 2004
OK, I could easily have awarded this to the 1969 Vega-Sicilia or Clos de Tart 2003, both also tasted last month, but for sheer unexpected pleasure I pick this 2004 Bordeaux, which I’d never have predicted as the highlight of a vertical tastsing of Pichon-Baron that also included 2000, 1996, 1995 and 1989. True, most of the other vintages are too young or in ‘closed’ phases at this point, but this wine was an absolute cracker for drinking now with its extremely deep, solid crimson/black colour. It has a wonderfully deep and sinewy nose with muscular black fruit and a little earthy character. Remarkably approachable already, with freshening cherry fruit and acidity, spices and cedary wood giving a drying, spicy finish. This may not have the fruit for 50 years, but is already delicious, structured and will drink for 15 or 20. Around £55 – £70