January 2006 – Oreades, Capcanes, Zondernaam, Angelus

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
Oreades (Spain) Tempranillo 2002
That’s the second Wine of the Week award in a row for a Spanish wine, but then Spain is one of the most interesting of Europe’s wine-producing countries at the moment. Its potential has been kept under wraps for many years, but with sudden increases in quality across its regions, yet prices remaining relatively low for many much-improved wines, bargain hunters could do a lot worse than turn to Spain. This juicy red wine comes from Navarra, a northern region centred on the town of Pamplona. Forty per cent of the wine was aged in French oak barrels, and it is made from 100 per cent Tempranillo, the main grape of Rioja. It has a really lovely nose, of currants and dried herbs, redcurrant fruit and tiny, aromatic violet notes. On the palate it is juicy and fresh, with a great core of raspberry and cranberry fruit, a gentle lick of spice and toast, gentle tannins and fine acidity. This is a little beauty and a bit of a steal at the price. Very good value for money. £5.50, Friarwood Wines

under a tenner
Celler de Capçanes (Spain) Lasendal 2003
This is a wine from the wonderful co-operative of Capçanes in Montsant, right next door to Priorato in northwest Spain. The co-op is well-known to regular visitors through its excellent value wines like Mas Collet, a former Wine of the Month. Here, old vines Grenache (or “Garnaxta” in Catalan as it says on the label) is blended with 15% Syrah in a wine that is aged eight months in French and American oak barrels. The nose has an absolutely haunting smokiness and depth of plush, plummy fruit. There are elements of dark chocolate and tobacco, and little highlights of Thyme and wild, floral notes. On the palate it has a massive fruit presence, with a ripe, sweet, full palette of black and red fruit flavours, a delicious lick of mocha coffee, and plenty of savoury, supple tannins that are warming and chocolaty. With good acidity (especially given the warmth of this vintage) this is a terrific wine from a brilliant co-op, performing like a star estate. £9.66, or £6.95 if buying a case, Wineandco.

under twenty
Zondernaam (South Africa) Chardonnay 2002Tokara is a no-expense-spared ultra-premium wine project set up near Stellenbosch. The owners have refused to release a wine under the Tokara label as yet because they believe their vines are too young and the wines not quite “worthy” of what will be the Tokara label. So meantime they sell wines under the Zondernaam (“wine with no name”) label. The Sauvignon Blanc is a terrific wine, so I was looking forward to trying this. It has a fine nose, with plenty of classy French oak giving notes of toast, butter and green fig, and a mellow, succulent fruitiness. On the palate it is powerful and ripe, with plenty of spice and toasty warmth, but fine white fruit and peach core and crisp, mineral and lemon zest acidity. This is lovely stuff at around £10.00 from independent merchants.

sky’s the limit
L’Angelus (France) St Emilion 1995
Penfolds (Australia) Grange 1989
Served by friends at dinner to celebrate New Year along with Penfolds Grange 1989, this pair of superb wines couldn’t really have been much more different in style. Whilst the Grange was a sumptuous, broad, totally sensory wine with fantastic fruit and oak integration and great length, l’Angelus was much prettier, with a slightly more ‘nervous’ disposition where cherry and tighter, raspberry flavours played against very finely-tuned tannins and extra acidity. Whatever Grange delivered in terms of depth and sheer sumptuousness, l’Angelus countered with finesse and complexity. Both superb wines. Grange is a rather painful £170 – £200 per bottle.