February 2008 – Aurora, Bonfim, Tagonius, Tardieu-Laurent

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 six pounds

Vale do Bonfim (Portugal) Douro 2004
Made by the Symington family, the bulk of the fruit for this Douro red comes from their Quinta do Bonfim Port wine estate. 60% Touriga Roriz and 40% Touriga Franca, the nose is earthy and gamy, with some very dense, rich black and red berry fruit emerging, and just a little hint of toast and charry oak in the background. On the palate this is dry and savoury, with a big, robust grip of tannin playing against sweet blackberry and bramble fruit, with a lick of tobacco and freshening acidity emerging on the finish. Big and rustic, but packed with robust personality. £5.83, www.laithwaites.com

under a tenner

Tagonius (Spain) Vinos de Madrid Red 2004
The Denominación de Origen Vinos de Madrid is a relatively new one, granted in acknowledgement of the fast-improving quality of this area, from wines like this one, made from both the indigenous Tempranillo, and Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Tagonius Tinto has a splendidly warm and inviting nose of rich cherries and berry compote, with sweet, damp earth and a background of prune and plum. On the palate the fruit is rich and ripe, perhaps a touch baked, but then it floods the mouth with clean, sweet berry flavours backed up with a stripe of agile, lively tannin, to give a nicely crisp edge. The acidity is good too, in a really distintive Spanish wine, with the Tempranillo fruit and tobacco character coming through. A delicious wine and something a bit different. £7.75, www.FromVineyardsDirect.com

under twenty

Aurora (New Zealand) Syrah 2006
Syrah from Central Otago, hotbed of Pinot Noir and cool-climate white varieties, is something of a rarity. Aurora’s vineyards in Bendigo are in one of the warmest micro-climates, and their Syrah is planted on their hottest terrace to maximise ripening potential. This has a really fantastic nose, where a subtle herbaceousness marries beautifully to fat, smoky bacon character, with lush berry fruits and hints of spicy white pepper. On the palate this is poised, lush, full-fruited but racy, with a lovely peppery edge to the fruit, that’s all berries and crisp raspberry, with fine, supple tannins adding some grip and clean acidity sharpening the finish. The quality French oak adds a refined cedar and spice, in a terrific Syrah which vies with the best I’ve tasted from even recognised New Zealand Syrah hot spots like the North Island’s Hawkes Bay. £14.95, www.hellionwines.com.

sky’s the limit

Tardieu-Laurent (France) Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Speciale 2004
Michel Tardieu’s model for this wine is the great, traditional wines of Rayas, etc which use 100% Grenache, which he describes as the ‘natural’ grape of this hot area. Michel regards this as a reference wine, with all stems included in the fermentation and no new oak. It does spend 24 months in older barrels, and the vines come from one specific parcel of 80-year-old vines. This is a big, dense, brooding wine, with a tight, muscular structure and all sorts of meaty and gamy notes. The palate has a very tight, muscular character, with game and earth, and silky black fruits. It is soft, with no obvious extraction, just a wonderfully long, pure, intense finish. 10,000 bottles were made.Around £33.00.