February 2006 – Old Tbilisi, Wild Rock, Mount Edward, Neudorf

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.

I spent 14 of February’s 28 days in New Zealand, on an intensive fact-finding tour of the best-established and up-and-coming estates. No apologies therefore for the Kiwi-focused nature of February’s Four of the Best.

under a fiver
Old Tbilisi (Georgia) Dry Red Wine 2003
Georgia – the Eastern European country, not the southern US state – is believed to be the birthplace of wine, with archaeological records proving that wine was made here 5,000 years before the birth of Christ. The glory of a small range of wines now being introduced into the UK is the indigenous grapes going into these wines, like the Sangiovese-like Saperavi, and Riesling-like Rkatsiteli. This blend of Saperavi with 10 per cent Dzelshavi has a lovely kirsch and red cherry nose, with some dried currant fruit and a lively fragrance. On the palate it has a wonderfully mouth-watering, juicy quality, with savoury, dry black fruits intermingling with tart cherries and touches of smoke and damson. A delightful little wine, and something different. £4.99, Ocado.com, Sainsbury’s Calais, Bristol Wine, Soho Wine Co, Peake Wines, Sussex Victuallers, Caves de Pyrene, Mortons

under a tenner
Wild Rock (New Zealand) Gravel Pit Red Merlot/Malbec 2002
Wild Rock is the second label of Craggy Range, one of the most impressive wine estates in New Zealand, based in Hawke’s Bay on the North Island where their beautiful new winery and immaculately tended vineyards shout of quality and investment. Nice dark, dramatically rich black fruits on the nose. There’s a nice richness and sweetness here, with hints of black olive, but mostly spicy, meaty black fruit. On the palate a good black fruit quality. Plenty of damson and bittersweet black plum and cherry, and a fine smoky rounding out with oak. Well-balanced. Do not worry if it is the 2003 or 2004 that you come across: I’ve tasted both and they are just is good – the 2004 possibly better. £8.99 Noel Young.

Mount Edward (NZ) Pinot Noir 2003
xOwner Alan Brady and his winemaker Duncan Forsyth are two of the nicest guys you will meet in the wine business, so it is a pleasure to include this gorgeous Central Otago Pinot with its beautiful fruit sweetness, and haunting cherry aromas, soft floral nuances and a truffly, undergrowth quality. It has really lovely cherry fruit – very crisp and taut, with a minerality and a great deal of orange and clove, with little chocolaty hints and terrific length and ripeness. Beautiful Pinot. £19.95 James Nicolson, Villeneuve Wines

sky’s the limit
Neudorf (New Zealand) Moutere Chardonnay 2004
From Nelson, at the top of the South Island, this single vineyard wine from the prime Moutere vineyard has a lovely exotic quality to it, adding a touch of honey and toffee to the rich, green fig and toast aromas of Neudorf’s regular Chardonnay (also a great buy at around £10 less). It has beautiful nectarine fruit on the nose, and fantastic quality on the palate, with beautifully honed acidity, a fine, fine minerality, and fabulously intense and extended finish. Owner Judy Finn says drinks this over the next 15 years, and I would not argue. £24.99 Raeburn Fine Wines.