August 2003 – Peter Lehmann, Warwick, Gallo of Sonoma, Latour

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
Peter Lehmann (Australia) Barossa Semillon 2001
I had to pick Peter Lehmann’s fine Semillon whilst it is at special offer, bringing it down to less than £4 a bottle. Aficionado’s love Australian Semillons for their clean, vibrant fruit when young, but also their extraordinary ability to develop a nutty, toasty character with cellaring. This example, from the Barossa Valley, has a pale yellow/emerald green colour, and a nose that slowly unravels to reveal quite complex notes of lanolin, beeswax and honey. There is a core of lime and some orchard fruit. On the palate it is fresh and clean as a whistle (there is no oak at all in this wine) but it is also a surprisingly powerful wine, with a searing core of acidity that runs like a ramrod through zingy citrus fruit. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove, this is very enjoyable now (I had it with a creamy risotto), but cellaring for five to eight years is also on the cards. £5.49 Sainsbury’s, Oddbins, Safeway, Unwins.

under a tenner
Warwick Estate (South Africa) Trilogy 2000
Norma Ratcliffe and her son Michael are tireless advocates for the quality of Cape wines, and their two flagship bottlings back-up their claims. Trilogy is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, whilst Three Cape Ladies is a “Cape Blend”, involving a healthy portion of Pinotage. For Trilogy, the three varieties are aged seperately in Nevers and Alliers oak barrels for 14 months before blending. The result is a beautifully composed wine, with a dense purple colour and an immediately elegant nose of creamy blackcurrant and crushed blackberries, a little cedary background and just hints of woodsmoke and chestnut. On the palate it has terrifically pure, sweet cassis fruit that is svelte and polished, set against fine-grained tannins and crisp acidity. That tobacco and smoky oak fills in on the finish, and this wine really does linger on the palate. A cracking Bordeaux-styled wine with copious fruit, at a very fair price. £9.99 Raeburn Fine Wines (0131 343 1159), Handford (0207 221 9614), Vicki’s (01276 85374) and Constantine (01326 340226)

under twenty
Gallo of Sonoma Frei Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel 1997
Frei Ranch is in the Dry Creek Valley, and this wine was made from whole grape clusters that were gently de-stemmed but not crushed prior to fermentation, to increase elegance and eliminate harsh tannins. It was aged for one year in new American and French oak. This is loaded with spice, leather, plum and chocolate-coated berries. Some briar and pencil-shaving aromas. Firm on the palate, with a tight fruit quality, plenty of grip and a liquorice edge. There’s a little fudge-like oaky background, but this stays firm and focused into the finish. Very good indeed, and for me, a rare excursion into Zin land, but what an enjoyable one! £19-22 Costco, HBJ Mailorder, Wm Morton, Thresher Group, and Unwins.

sky’s the limit

Domaine Latour (Burgundy) Corton Grand Cru 1993
One that’s been in my cellar for some time, and which I opened as part of a blind tasting of 15 red Burgundy and other Pinot Noir wines recently. This is drinking perfectly now, and is a lovely, compsed style of red Burgundy with a gorgeous nose of fine, sweet, soft and earthy aromatics and gentle, autumnal berry fruit. On the palate it is soft and yeilding, with a good fleshy mouthfeel and silky texture. It has great poise and elegance, yet depths of fruit leading into a long finish, where a burst of acidity pushes through and feshens the finish beautifully. Excellent. Around £35-£40 from wine brokers or at auction.