August 2008 – Julien Schaal, Le Cortiglie, Cloof, Querceto

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 quid
Le Cortiglie (Italy) Falanghina 2007
From Campania in the sunny south of Italy, a wonderfully honeyed, spicy example of the indigenous Falanghina grape, with thick and plush peach and apricot fruit. Deliciously sweet and ripe in the mouth, yet clean as a whistle with dazzling acidity, this little star delivers loads of bangs per buck. Unfortunately this is available online only, at £5.35 per bottle equivalent from Marks & Spencer..

under a tenner
Cloof (South Africa) The Very Sexy Shiraz 2005
This Shiraz spent 14 months in barrel, all French Oak, of which 50% was new. It has a very dark, vibrant crimson colour, and a nose that is peppery and spicy, with a hint of nutmeg before lifted red fruit and blackberry aromas come through. On the palate there’s a silkiness about the texture here, with very sweet and ripe, mouth-filling berry fruit that is plush and svelte. There’s a dark edge of chocolate and plum skins, and then the smokiness of the oak joins in. Tannins are firm here and pretty chunky and powerful, but they are ripe and rich, and together with a cherry skin acidity, freshen the finish of this wine. It is quite a big, full-on style (with 15% alcohol), but is a bit of an iron first in a velvet glove. £8.33,

under twenty
Julien Schaal (S. Africa) Merlot Petit Verdot 2006
This is an intriguing wine from an intriguing estate. Young winemaker Julien Schaal produces wines both in Alsace, northern France, and in South Africa’s Cape. In South Africa his wines are made at the Newton Johnson winery in the cool, coastal Hermanus region, but he uses fruit from various other cool climate areas, including Elgin, the Cape’s Riesling heartland. This blend (80% of which is Merlot) is aged in large, 900-litre barrels from Burgundy. Nicely schisty and smoky on the nose, there is a racy black fruit quality that has a suggestion of complex depth, showing some tobacco and fennel notes. It is quite racy and crisp on the palate too, with refined tannins and a taut core of acidity, but the plummier depth of the fruit swells on the mid-palate, and the warming background depth of oak also adds a more plump, mellow appeal. Lovely stuff this, and very carefully thought through. £10.85, Handford, Ethical Wines, Ballantynes, Everywine.

sky’s the limit
Castello di Querceto (Italy) Il Querciolaia 2004
A single vineyard wine planted in 1981 produces the Sangiovese (65%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) in this blend, which spends 18 – 20 months in barrique. The wine has a dark, ruby colour and a beautifully fragrant nose, where hints of game and damp woodland meld into ripe black fruit, with little exotic hints of violet and Sandalwood. On the palate that slightly gamy, animal edge persists, but the quality of the fruit is excellent. There’s a ripeness on the mid-palate here, and just a fleshy richness that holds up well as lean, sinewy tannins and freshening acidity begin to push through. This finishes with tang and bite, but the lingering fruit and a mellowing oak quality buffer it nicely. Lovely stuff this. Around £30