February 2003 – Connubia, Trentham, Voerzio, Romanee-Conti

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
Connubia (Italy) Corvina 2001
Corvina is one of the grapes found in that old Italian favourite, Valpolicella. Whilst there is good Valpolicella about, there are often some inferior grapes in the blend too, so it is interesting to try an example that puts the spotlight 100% on the noble Corvina. Like an Amarone, this is made from partially dried grapes. There’s a juicy black plum and dried-cherry hint about the nose here, with some definite herbal notes and lots of creamy, svelte fruit character. On the palate it is savoury and quite crisp for a red, with some leathery depth, but mostly just a raft of pure raspberry and cherry fruit flavours. This will wash down pastas and grills very nicely indeed. Delicious. Sainsbury’s, £4.99, but on offer at £4.49 until 19th of March 2003

under a tenner
Trentham Estate (Australia) Nebbiolo 2001
My local tasting group “did” Italian varietals in late February, and this modestly-priced wine more than held its own against several more expensive reds. It is only Trentham’s second vintage for this wine, which is aged in a combination of French and American oak, which helps form its winning character; a combination of a spicy, smoky, tobacco and leather-tinged nose, and deep, sweet, mulberry fruit on the palate. There are hints at New World overripeness, but then is sufficiently checked by crisp acidity and fine-grained supporting tannins, with more of that bittersweet damson and smoky oak depth filling out the finish. A lovely drop of comercially-styled, but very high quality Nebbiolo. Delicious stuff. Great Grog, £7.99

under twenty
Gianni Voerzio (Italy) Moscato d’Asti Vignasergente 2001
With only 5.5% alcohol, this gently sparkling, beautifully sweet liquid could not even be classified as wine in some regions. The Moscatos of d’Asti in the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont are a style of wine I absolutely adore: the definitive summer aperitif, or a fine match with lighter fruit-based desserts. This has a delicately floral nose that is just brimming with delicate sherbet, pear and peach fruit, with a hint of icing sugar. Just gently sparkling on the tongue, it has sweet-edged, crystalline fruit with notes of iced gingerbread and tantalising pear and apple acidity. Long and fine, this is just gorgeous stuff. John Armit (020 7908 0600) £135 per dozen.

sky’s the limit
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) Romanée-Conti 2000
Only for the mega-wealthy I’m afraid, but what a lovely tasting opportunity and a wine that just has to be “sky’s the limit” wine of the month. Lovely glowing garnet colour. Sweet aromatics with a haunting fragrance: fine, violet and rose-tinged cherry fruit, with soft bracken notes and an earthy, even gamy quality too. There’s a lush strawberry sweetness layered into this mix, with a definite tang of salty minerality and a little edgy nervosity. Background coffee-bean oak adds sweetness. On the palate it is terrifically juicy and crisp, with fine tannins and lovely acidity adding an edge to cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s a fudge-like, sweeter note too, and hints of briar, chestnut, even liquorice. Great concentration and stays very focused and harmonious into a long finish. Outstanding. Corney & Barrow (020 7539 3200) strictly on allocation, £700 per bottle