January 2005 – Bouissel, Messmer, Casa Lapostolle, Torbreck

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
Château Bouissel (France) Cotes du Frontonnais 2001
Winner of two coveted gold stars in the Guide Hachette, this is a blend of Negrette, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Malbec. The colour is a very dense crimson/black, and the nose is fragrant with blackberry fruit, some intense violet notes and an exotic, spicy component. On the palate this has a smooth texture and a rich, black-fruited core that floods across the palate. There’s a liquorice edge, and soft but persistent tannins. It is well-balanced, and has really very good length. A lovely, savoury wine and beautifully composed. £5.99 Modern French Wine.

under a tenner
Messmer (Germany, Pfaltz) Muskateller Kabinett Trocken 2003
Much sweeter, and more grapey and floral on the nose than Messmer’s Rieslings, this 12% ABV off-dry wine from the Muskateller grape has a suggestion of crunchy Asian pear and sherbet on the nose. On the palate there is a rush of sweetness, and a powerful, grippy wine with plenty of tang and zip, noticeable alcohol and a long, lingering sweet finish. Fascinating stuff and very good indeed. £7.50, French & Logan.

under twenty
Casa Lapostolle (Chile) Merlot Cuvée Alexandre Apalta Vineyard 2002
This has a very deep, vibrant purple/black colour. The nose has a similar purity of fruit to the Cabernet Sauvignon, but with an extra perfume giving floral, rose-hip nuances to juicy red plum and ripe cherry fruit. There is a layering of dark, chocolaty, almost tobacco-like sweet oak. Once again this is a real mouthful of a wine, with a searingly dry structure of polished but incisive tannins, and a welter weight of juicy cherry acidity. The fruit is ample, with lots of bursting red berries, but this is less opulent and to me seems more tightly structured than previous vintages. That background of sweet vanillin oak adds breadth to the finish, in another wine that appears to need some time in the cellar to lose some of its tightness and grip. £12.99, Majestic.

sky’s the limit
Torbreck Vintners (Australia) “The Factor” 2002
A couple of years ago there was a widely-reported story that Torbreck – one of the highest profile “cult” estates in Australia – had gone into liquidation. The truth was that there had been a technical liquidation of the assets of the old company when Dave Powell separated from his now ex-wife, but that there was no financial crisis. Today the company seems to be reaching new heights – certainly if the market is any indication, with this, not even their top wine, now selling for £75 a bottle – helped by 99-points from Robert Parker of course. The Factor is a Barrossa Shiraz from very select parcels of old vines, aged in new and older French oak for two years. It has a glorious nose, layered with glossy, solid black fruit, a deep seam of muscular plum, leather, and chocolate. There’s incredibly rich and sweet fruit on the palate; an almost chocolate-mint intensity with a great core of cherry, plum and spices, and a rasping background of tannin. All sorts of peppery and exotic notes push through into an endless, beautifully balanced finish. Fabulous stuff and outstanding. Around £75.