February 2009 – Freeman’s Bay, Alary, Hiedler, Mount Horrocks

These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine columns, 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

Freeman’s Bay (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2008
With a bit of a glut of grapes on the horizon and many big players looking to shift volumes of wine, some predict that 2009 could be the year of ‘budget’ New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with wines at £3.99 or even lower hitting the shelves. For now though, Marlborough Sauvignon remains a premium, and this example delivers a huge punch of Marlborough character at a very modest price. The nose has typical gooseberry, tropical fruit and nettles before a juicy, fruity palate with a blast of crisp lemon acidity. Good value at £5.99, Aldi

under a tenner

Daniel & Denis Alary (France) Côtes du Rhône La Gerbaude 2007
From a very good vintage in the southern Rhône, this Côtes du Rhône comes from the Cairanne-based Daniel & Denis Alary where son Denis is now in charge and has been gently and incrementally improving the wines into some of the village’s best. The majority of the blend is Grenache, along with a good dollop of Syrah and some Carignan. It has an immediate appeal of rich, thick black fruit. Very smooth and opulent, but also juicy. On the palate it has a delightfully creamy texture that moves into sweet, supple, ripe tannins and beautifully sweet fruit all given a bit of precision and tension by cherry acidity. Exemplary stuff. £8.95, Bancroft Wines.

under twenty

Weingut Hiedler (Austria) Grüner Veltliner Novemberlese 2007
I tasted through the range of Hiedler’s wines, and whilst their ‘basic’ Grüner was very good (£10.20), this wine, harvested later in November, just adds extra weight, richness and delicious complexity. A honeyed element is more pronounced, hinting at luscious quality and a certain weight, though the dry, lemony fruit and little pepper note suggests (correctly) that this is a dry. food-focused wine. The palate has terrific richness, with a big pithy grapefruit and lemon acidity and that richness adding texture and volume to the clean, mineral precision of the finish. Will cellar too. £13.65 or £12.25 by the case, Berry Bros.

sky’s the limit

Mount Horrocks (Australia) Cordon Cut 2008
I’m sneaking this in because I really wanted to reward it: it costs only around £15.00, but as that is for a half bottle, I figure it still qualifies for the ‘sky’s the limit’ category. One of my favourite Australian stickies is still bang on form. Winemaker/Proprietor of Mount Horrocks, Stephanie Toole, makes this dessert Riesling in the Clare Valley by cutting the canes of the vines, but then leaving the bunches hanging there to concentrate naturally as they raisin. In a fantastic vintage for the Clare, this has gorgeous marmalade and honey aromas, a touch of leaf tea and a lime fruitiness underpinning the whole picture. The clarity and quality of the fruit never gets lost amongst the gorgeous sweetness and opulent weight of glycerine richness on the palate. Fantastic stuff and a very special wine. £14.99 – £18.25 per 37.5cl, Noel Young, Virgin Wines.