December 2007 – Il Fagiano, Cairnbrae, O.Fournier, Noemia

Best wines tasted last month in four price brackets.

under a fiver

Il Fagiano IV (Italy) Rosso
A certain amount of belt- tightening may be necessary, given that Britain’s high street stores are once again boasting of their best ever” Christmas sales, so how about this delicious £4.00 Italian red that really does over-deliver on its modest price? Marco Flacco is the extremely talented winemaker behind this juicy, unoaked blend of Sangiovese and 15% Merlot, created specifically for Averys. The nose is just crammed with pure, burstingly ripe berry fruits, with a certain chocolaty richness, but focused on succulent, fat, cherry and black berry aromas. There is real fruit sweetness, but the whole picture is tempered by a very intelligent reining back, as just enough tight, grainy tannin and fresh acidity kicks in, giving this a chewy bite and crisp, food-friendly appeal. The intensity of the fruit is excellent, in terrific little wine that is bound to please. £4.00, Averys.

under a tenner

Cairnbrae (New Zealand) Wild South Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Cairnbrae’s Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2006 took ‘Best in Class’ and a gold medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition, placing it ahead of the other 28 Marlborough Sauvignons in the competition. The nose is immediately succulent and inviting, with rich passionfruit character, and suggestion of ripe, juicy nectarine backed up with a typically Marlborough edge of grassy, green bean, though it is all quite delicately pitched. On the palate this has a terrific verve and vitality, with a mouth-filling array of ripe fruit flavours, but what sets this wine apart is a real sense of minerality too, giving it a dimension of Loire-like savouriness and shimmering, structured acidity. Quite a rich, textural weight and really good length help make this a fine food wine too, in a really nice and distinctive rendition of the Marlborough style. £9.95, on offer at £7.25 whilst stocks last, H&H Bancroft.

under twenty

O.Fournier (Argentina) B Crux Red Blend 2004
I spent two weeks of December on a grand tour of Argentina, and one of the highlights was a visit to the ultra-modern and beautifully designed winery of O.Fournier in the Uco Valley, Mendoza. The top of the range ‘Alpha Crux’ wines at around £20 are superb and deeply impressive, but I’ve chosen the ‘B Crux’ range at a modest £10-£12 pounds this month. I tasted various vintages of both wines, and could have recommended all of them to be honest, but this 2004 blend of 60% Tempranillo, 20% Malbec, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah just has a lovely nose, with full, ripe cherry fruit and delightfully alluring character in the mouth, where there is plenty of charry oak and spice, but even more fat, full, plush and velvety fruit with refined, silky tannins. Very fine indeed. £10.99, Cooden Cellars

sky’s the limit

Bodegas Noemia (Argentina) Malbec 2004
One of my most exciting discoveries in Argentina was the potential in the southerly regions of Neuquen and Rio Negro in Patagonia, where several estates are making some brilliant wines. A fine example is Noemia, and I’ve picked this wine made from Malbec grown in a vineyard planted in 1932. It has a fantastic chocolaty and mocha nose, with a flood of very svelte, ripe, deep-seated black fruit, with little hints of the violet and kirsch of the grape, and plenty of spicy and cedary nuances. The nose is endlessly fascinating, with layers of fruit and tertiary aromas. The palate has that plump, seductive, intensely sweet and concentrated fruit, with beautiful spices and glossy fruit, and fabulous concentration and length. Lovely nuanced, layered finish. Power, finesse, concentration and simply delicious. Around £50 – £60, Noemia has a new importer in the UK, who can furnish details of stockists: The Wine Treasury