July 2002 – French Kiss, Bouchard, Knappstein

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 a fiver
French Kiss (France) Corbières 2001
I must say I’m usually deeply sceptical of any wine with a gimmicky name or packaging, believing that a good quality product shouldn’t need such tricks to sell. This wine, with a lurid red plastic cork and dodgy sales pitch on the label (“I’m a sultry French kiss that will make your lips tingle”) certainly falls into that category, but, to my surprise, the stuff in the bottle is a delicous drop. That is explained by the fact that it is made by the Mont Tauch winery – surely the best and most consistent cooperative working in France today. The wine is smokily aromatic, with herbs, red fruits and a deep, soft, strawberry and briarwood element. On the palate it has the rich, round, sweet, sun-filled fruit power of the Mediterranean south, with chocolaty nuances and spicy tannins. Today, believe it or not, is national kissing day (groan) and this wine – good value at £4.99 from Sainsbury’s.

under a tenner
Bouchard, Père et Fils (Burgundy) Marsannay 1996
In what was at times a slightly pedestrian tasting of mostly 1998-2000 wines from this famous old house in the Câtes-de-Beaune, this was one of a handful of stand-out wines. Not the most complex or arresting Burgundy you will ever taste, but what a lovely wine offering lots of character at the price. It exhibits an open, inviting, sweetness about the fruit on the nose, with cherry, softer strawnberry and hints of gamier perfume. There is good fruit on the palate, which is soft and integrated, with background tannins adding a savoury edge to juicy berry fruit. With a nice silky texture, good length and fine balance, this is good Burgundy at a very attractive price. Wine Importers of Edinburgh sell this at £55 per case of 6, plus carriage (0131 556 3601), or by the bottle from Luvian’s.

under twenty
Knappstein (Australia) Enterprise Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
This is a classic Clare Valley mint-infused monster of a wine, with a bruising 14% alcohol (declared) and a thick, rich-textured presence. I had lunch with Knappstein’s committed and quality-conscious winemaker Andrew Hardy in May, and re-tasted this wine last week. 24-months ageing in French oak barriques gives class and sophistication, but that saturated colour and huge, mulberry, eucalyptus and intensely minty nose is pure Ozzy at its best. There is also plenty of cassis and blackberry fruit, and a super-ripe concentration. On the palate it is really quite crisp thanks to a little tannic structure and a toasty background of oak, with a lovely quality of sweet fruit and medium- to full-body. Pure and long, this finishes with lots of style. Excellent.
Oddbins, £13.99.

sky’s the limit

Bouchard, Père et Fils (Burgundy) Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru 1959
How nice to have this aged Grand Cru wine from Bouchard in glorious contrast to the village wine featured above in the under a tenner category. This bottle, from perhaps the greatest Burgundy vintage of the century, was brought from the cellars of a wonderful restaurant in the Loire Valley, showing a patina of age. The fragile cork was painstakingly removed, and the tasting measure poured into my glass. Absolute bliss. This was ethereal, sweet, simply gorgeous Burgundy at its best, with all sorts of floral nuances around a central core of still fresh, soft, yielding strawberry fruit, with lovely mocha-coffee hints and an earthy, brambly quality. There are truffle and damp, just-after-the-rain woodland notes too, but really this is remarkably fruity still. On the palate the picture continues, with silky texture and a sweet, mouthfilling breadth of fruit, buttressed by all sorts of game and vegetal nuances, and a warmimg background of sweet, mature tannins and pillowing oak. The length and purity is breathtaking, and this was a wine to savour and languish over for many hours. Heaven. This cost £75 in the restaurant, but expect to pay substantially more than this retail if you can find it in the UK! Label image.