January 2008 – Stamford Brook, Giacosa, Knappstein, Trapiche

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

Stamford Brook (Australia) Shiraz Viognier 2006
Following the model of the famous Côte-Rôtie by blending a little of the white grape Viognier with the dramatically black Shiraz is all the rage amongst New World winemakers, and some do it more successfully than others. This straightforward and very enjoyable Australian example does have a little aromatic lift on the nose, but otherwise the aromas are all about ripe, but dark and spicy plums and berries, with a little sheen of savoury oak adding polish. On the palate the fruit is very bright and fulsome, with plenty of that plum, creamy depth but a nice crisp edge too, where a hint of the Viognier’s peachy quality shows through, along with ripe, sweet tannins and well-balanced acidity. A lovely wine this, not trying to be too flashy but delivering loads of flavour and style. £5.99, Sainsbury’s.

under a tenner

Bruno Giacosa (Italy) Dolcetto d’Alba 2006
OK, a bit of cheating as this wine is actually £10.99, but it is featured in a discounted mixed case from AG Wines that will save over £1.50 per bottle (see this tasting feature). Bruno Giacosa is one of the stars of Piemonte winemaking, and this Dolcetto from Alba has a glorious nose, crammed with crushed red berry fruits and rose-hip, violets and crunchy redcurrants. There are all sorts of smoky and mineral nuances in this wine too, in a lovely, fragrant profile. On the palate the zippy, crisp, light-bodied red fruit just dances across the tongue, with plenty of kirsch-like cherry brightness and tang, and that gently drying tannic background suggesting cranberries and redcurrants keeping the whole picture savoury, fresh and moreish. With impeccable balance, there’s just a rounding hint of old wood cedar and woodsmoke into the finish of this gloriously sippable and food-friendly wine. £10.99, AG Wines.

under twenty

Knappstein (Australia) Ackland Vineyard Riesling 2007
I was bowled over by this single vineyard Riesling when I tasted a big range of Knappstein’s excellent wines towards the end of January. Compared to the excellent value “hand-picked Riesling” that’s a consistent favourite, this just adds a layer of wax and minerality and gives a much deeper, more profound wine with intense smoky minerality and loads of waxy, full-bodied fruit shot through with shimmering acidity. I scored this 91 out of 100, and whilst absolutely delightful now, it would repay cellaring. £11.05, Bibendum Wine.

sky’s the limit

Trapiche (Argentina) Malbec Felipe Villafañe 2003
Whilst Catena’s ‘Alta’ Malbec might remain a reference point for this grape’s potential in Argentina, Trapiche has created a range of simly stunning, single vineyard Malbecs. In this case, a wine from the La Consulta vineyards, planted to Malbec in 1948. The alluvial, sandy loam vineyard is at an altitude of 1,000 meters near Mendoza. The wine spent 18 months in new French oak, and the nose offers a melange of caramel, chocolate and spicy notes over very solid, dense plum fruit. On the palate this has a terrific verve and vitality, with the richness and Dundee-cake spiciness married to a keen-edged, brighter raspberry character, and immense concentration. There are tannins aplenty that are firm and grippy, and a raft of more chocolaty and smoky, toasty caramelised flavours fill in on the peppery and spicy finish. A real mouthful, but that glimpse of a steelier core makes it very structured and drinkable.