August 2004 – Terrazas, Stella Bella, Vieux Telegraphe

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 six pounds
Terrazas (Argentina) “Alto” Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Terrazas is the Argentinean outpost of the giant Moët & Chandon empire, established in the 1980’s with the purpose of making high-quality varietal wines. These vineyards sit at around 980 meters above sea level, and this wine is very fresh and juicy on the nose. It is a clean, bright style of Cabernet, with lots of cassis fruit. The palate is very fine. It is dry and savoury, with more ripe cassis and a chocolaty note. Balanced and long, this is very good indeed.

under a tenner
Dinstlgut Loiben (Austria) Blauer Zweigelt 2003
I have watched and admired the progress of Nick Dobson Wines since the company started a few years ago, in which time Nick has forged his own path to source and import some terrific wines from small producers in Burgundy, Beaujolais Switzerland, Germany and now Austria. From Kremstal, this Qualitätswein red wine is made from the Zweigelt grape, a crossing of two Austrian speciality grapes, Blaufränkish and St-Laurent. The colour is a bright crimson/cherry red, and the nose is immediately fruity and very appealing, with a hint of juicy sultanas, plenty of vivid cherry fruit and an undertow of earthy, subtly smoky character that is quite Pinot Noir-like. On the palate it is richly fruity, with a medium body and very juicy, broadly fruity style. There is plenty of fruit sweetness, but this is mellow and quite darkly rich on the palate, with notes of autumn berries and a faint truffly hint. I thought this worked sensationally well with a Moroccan lamb tagine. Very good indeed. Nick Dobson £8.95.

under twenty
Stella Bella (Australia) Sauvignon/Semillon 2001
Stella bella is the second label from the Suckfizzle stable, who’s wines have earned a bit of a cult following, including a previous Wine of the Month award for their 2001 Sauvignon/Semillon. This balanced Chardonnay from the Margaret River (only 12.7% alcohol) is aged in mostly one-year-old French barrels, and it has a nose that is luscious, toasty and buttery, without too much oaky excess. There is an orangy note to the fruit, a touch of Burgundian vegetal quality and some leesy, creamy character. A big palate of juicy, savoury orange fruit defines warm nutty flavours and more of that toasty depth, but this has plenty of verve and complexity, with a tight finish that even hints at minerality. An excellent wine. Around £11.99.

sky’s the limit
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe (Rhône) Châteauneuf du Pape 1998
I drank this wine in a lovely restaurant in the Rhône Valley on holiday at the end of August, where it cost 85 Euros on the list, but wine-searcher suggests around £35 – £40 is the currnet per bottle price. It is dark and dense in colour, and the nose is immediately peppery and compelling, with a sinuous, svelte quality of blue/black fruit, liquorice and leather. On the palate it shocks the mouth with a burst of super-concentrated, ripe black fruits which struggle against a tidalwave of grippy tannin. This wine is huge, and at the moment there is a chasm driven through the middle that will need years to integrate. It has wonderful fruit and concentration, and I have no doubt that it will be outstanding given time.