December 2014 – Daumas Gassac, Malaga Virgen, Coolwater Bay

My favourite wines tasted last month, in four price brackets.

under a fiver

Asda, Wine Selection Chianti 2013, Italy
I no longer really try to find a sub-£5 wine for this slot – with our tax and duty it’s just too difficult to find a solidly recommendable wine at that price. However this is one of the cheapest wines I’ve tasted recently and you know what? It delivers pretty well for its price. Hallmark, bright, youthful and unoaked cherry aromas, a touch bubblegummy, but the freshness is there, aided by a hint of herbs and olive. On the palate it balances dry, earthy red berry fruit and cool, lightly vegetal notes into a nicely savoury, quite chewy whole. Good pasta-bashing stuff. 85/100. £4.88, Asda.

under a tenner

Taste the Difference Coolwater Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013, New Zealand
So many Marlborough producers are now delivering similar quality to icons like Cloudy Bay, at much lower prices. Here’s perfect proof of that pudding from the Awatere Valley, made by the excellent Yealands estate. Only 12.5% abv, it opens with a smoky, flinty, green bean and asparagus blast of herbaceousness, backed up with tropical fruit in archetypal Marlborough style. Loads of flavour and verve, loads of concentration, and a fine example of the style at less than half the price of CB… 89/100. £9.50, Sainsbury’s.

under twenty

Malaga Virgen, Moscatel Naranja, Spain
Importer Warren Edwardes succinctly describes this as Marmalade in a glass.” Made in Malaga, the base is Moscatel, aromatized with wild orange peel that has been steeped in brandy. It’s intriguing with its glowing amber colour and highly aromatic nose, Cointreau-like to an extent, but a little more delicate with the herb and floral notes of the Muscat. Fortified to only 15% abv it is not at all spirity, with an unctuous slippery mouth-feel and orange and delicate toffee balanced against fresh wine acidity, leaving it sticky and sweet, but beautifully moreish. A banker for orange desserts, but I had a glass with a panettone bread and butter pudding and it was perfect. 91/100. £12.99 per 50cl, on offer at £9.99 at

sky’s the limit

Mas de Daumas Gassac, Rouge 2009, France
This ground-breaking red from the Pays d’Hérault in the Languedoc is a highly unusual blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon but in this vintage supported by Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Tempranillo (and possibly more). It is serious, meaty and structured stuff, with richness and concentration, a core of black fruit, but spices, game and charcoal too. In the mouth it has complexity, that gravelly, meaty intensity very pleasing into a balanced, taut finish. Should cellar for eight to ten years. 93/100. From around £26.00 per bottle,