Chateau Musar (Lebanon) White 1996 – £7.99
Lighty sherried nose. A little flowery top note and some orange fruit. On the palate oily and almost Fino-like with dry, nutty, oxidised flavours and quiet a nice herbal, fruity quality. Like an old-fashioned white Rioja. Good.
Terrazas (Argentina) Alto Chardonnay 2000 – £5.59
Gently oaky with light toast, melon and citrus. There’s a definite hint of tropical ripeness too. Quite light on the palate, this has medium body and rather modest fruit. Good acidity and plenty of spicy oak showing up in the finish. A nice restrained Chardonnay, though lacking a little in the mid palate. Fair. (this was served at the end of the tasting as a little extra wine).
Giesen (New Zealand) Reserve Chardonnay 1997 – £10.99
Very rich, sweetly-oaked nose showing loads of vanilla and almost botrytis notes of honey, caramel and barley sugar. The palate is dry though, with clean, quite crisp citrus fruit. The toasty element pushes through into the finish, rounding the wine and allowing an apricot fruit to show through too. Good.
Miranda (Australia) Show Reserve Chardonnay 1998 – £11.99
Powerful, pungently toasty new oak nose. Expensive and French barrels I’d guess, with charry, burnt, coffee-bean toast. Beneath there is tropical fruit. On the palate it is full-bodied and very powerful with rather rasping alcohol, allied to a massive sweetness and unctuous, oily fruit. There’s a grapefruit-pith acidity and decent length, but a bit overbearing for my taste.
Camberley (South Africa) Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 1998 – £9.89
Slighty green, stalky element on the nose at first, but a deep seam of cabernet fruit emerges, quite spicy and dark, with leafy, briary notes. On the palate there’s plenty of attack with grippy tannins to the fore, but good blackcurrant fruit too. It is perhaps a little lean in style, and highish acidity adds to that character, but there’s a classy cedary complexity and decent fruit. Good stuff, with a bit of real structure and character.
Veenwouden (South Africa) Merlot 1998 – £13.79
This too has a structured, serious character on the nose, with gentle coffee oak, but a deep core of black fruit and subtle, toffeed spice. Very sweet and juicy black plum and bittersweet fruit on the palate. There is good acidity and a silky tannic feel, which added to a rich texture is very nice in the mouth. Concentrated, quite complex, with an edge of earth minerality into a long finish. Very good.
Cape Mentelle (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon – £16.99
This has a much brighter profile with sweet, jammy, fresh and crunchy fruit on the nose and a subtle nutmeg spice. Lovely medium-bodied format, with ripe black fruit on the palate and a dense, minty, chocolate concentration. This has very good length and finishes with pure, sweet fruit and balance. Very good.
Hollick (Australia) “Ravenswood” Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 – £18.49
Aromatic nose; hints of violet and leafy blackcurrant fruit, plum skins and some gren peppercorn. On the palate it is very tightly focused, quite supple and lithe but pure and with a creamy density. Compact, with a silky texture, there are moderate tannins and clean acidity in the finish. The fresh, juicy blackcurrant pushes through with elegant length. This strikes a nice balance between jammy ripeness and cool elegance. Very good.
Hollick (Australia) “Wilgha” Shiraz 1998 – £13.99
Porty and rich, a little volatile acidity, but lots of pepper and spice on the nose. Plenty of vanillin oak too. On the palate it has a steely core of tight black fruit and quite grippy tannins, though the wine is silky, full-bodied and powerful. Good length, and good full-on Australian Shiraz typicity if you like the style. Very good.