December 2001 – Infierno, Lilliano, Villa Maria, Angelus

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
Infierno (Spain) Monastrell/Merlot 1999
This is fantastic stuff! From Yecla in the southeast of Spain it is made from a blend of 70% Monastrell (Mourvèdre), and 30% Merlot. The wine is partially aged in small French oak barrels. Now, here’s an interesting thing: the small print on the back label says the wine is made by Bodegas Castaño. I raved about a wine called “Hécula” from Bodegas Castaño a few months ago, which Robert Parker also gave 92 points. It was selling elsewhere at £6.99 and was made to exactly the same recipe as this wine. My guess is that the two wines are one and the same. The colour is a vibrant cherry red, and the nose is brimming with sweet, spicy berry fruit, with a little undertow of creamy vanilla, prune and crunchy pepper. On the palate there’s a wonderful bitter dark chocolate edge to juicy blue/black fruit that is succulent and savoury with lip-smacking tannins and a warm, coffee-bean finish. Very highly recommended.

under a tenner
Lilliano (Italy) Chianti Classico 1999
What a nice, classically Chianti nose of leather, game. spices and a lovely quality of fruit. There is a weight of dark, concentrated plum and cherry, all tinged with that gamy quality and a little tobbaco warmth. On the plate plenty of fruit, and a nice earthy complexity. Lots of robust blackcurrant and fine, ripe tannins leading to a mouth-filling, blanced finish. Very good indeed.£93.34 per Case, (£7.78 bottle equivalent)

under twenty
Villa Maria (NZ) ‘Clifford Bay’ Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Villa Maria make great wines, especially at their prestige level, like this Clifford Bay. Gorgeous vegetal, asparagus and nettle elements to deep, sweet, fully-ripe tropical fruit that is lightly honeyed. Bursts with gooseberry, lychee and juicy mango. Big, fat, powerfully-fruited palate with fine length and romping acidity. Very good indeed/excellent. £10.99 Oddbins.

sky’s the limit
Château Angélus (Bordeaux) St. Emilion 1er Grand Cru 1998
Sweetly-ripe with a density of blue/black fruit, little floral highlights and a precise, tight, blueberry and plum savouriness. Very dark, rich and bittersweet on the palate with notes of chocolate, liquorice, plum, damson and a little earthiness. Structured and finely-balanced, this is long, serious and definitely built for the long haul. Excellent. £59.99 Oddbins Fine Wine, Cave Cru Classé.