July 2003 – Malambo, Mas Collet, d’Arenberg, Jim Barry

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
Malambo (Argentina) Bonarda 2002
What yummy stuff this is for under £4, from Bodegas Esmeralada in Mendoza. Bonarda is an Italian variety that does very well in Argentina, and of all the excellent inexpensive Bonardas and Bonarda blends I’ve tried, this is as good as any. The colour is a dense crimson, and the nose offers scents of plum and deep mulberries, with a toasty suggestion of coffee and a nice rugged earthiness. On the palate there is plenty of that soft, yielding fruit quality, but sharpened up by a pert cherry acidity and soft background tannin. It is quite full and mouth-filling in texture, with a chewy concentration into a decent length of finish. Exemplary stuff at the price, and very good indeed. £3.99 Bibendum, Safeway, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield

under a tenner
Celler de Capçanes (Spain) Mas Collet 2000
Co-operative cellars exist all over Europe, making wine on behalf of local farmers in a central winery. Whilst some are rather old-fashioned institutions making passable wines for the local market, others are at the cutting edge, and have re-invigorated their entire operations with a total focus on quality. Any list of the world’s top five co-ops would include the Cellers de Capçanes in Monsant, just next door to the ultra-fashionable (and ultra-expensive) region of Priorat. This brilliant red has a fabulous perfume of sweet rose-hip, cassis and fudge, with violet and mint highlights, hints of game, and plenty of smooth fruit. On the palate it is dry and lip-smackingly savoury, with those elegant, scented sweet fruit notes surrounded by a deep-chested, honest muscularity of ripe fruit, supple tannins and well-balanced acidity. A cracking wine by any account, and tremendous value for money for this quality. £5.69 Booths, £5.99 Waitrose, £5.99 Majestic

under twenty
d’Arenberg (Australia) The Galvo Garage 2001
wine-pages readers will need little introduction to d’Arenberg, whose wines have featured on these pages many times. Perhaps most famous for their “Dead Arm” Shiraz, now a Robert Parker favourite and nearing cult status, this is a new wines from them, named in hommage to the Garagiste winemakers of Bordeaux’s right bank and California, producing tiny quantities of super-expensive wine. Blending 66% Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc, this wine has already picked up 88-90 points from Parker, who also reckons it will cellar for 12 years. It has a beautiful nose, with sweet plummy aromas, concentrated black cherry and a depth of savoury cedar and tobacco. There’s just a hint of ripe, minty chocolate. On the palate this is silky-textured and very fine despite its 14.5% alcohol, with a robust damson and plum-skin savoury bite to concentrated black fruits. Tannins are fine and quite mellow, and a lot of the structure here comes from fruit concentration and seasoned oak. Good length, and a very nicely balanced yet fruit-forward wine. £11.99 Oddbins

sky’s the limit

Jim Barry (Australia) “The Armagh” Shiraz 1994
This would have cost around £35 when released, and I was immediately a fan, buying this and the subsequent couple of vintages through Oddbins Fine Wine. Now, six or seven years later it is a dramatic wine, totally overshadowing another cult Syrah, The Orion 1993, at the same dinner. Extraordinary, dark, dense, syrupy black colour. Soaring nose of lifted mint leaf, eucalyptus and mint humbugs, with blackberry and blueberry fruit. Still quite grippy on the palate, though once massive tannins are much more elegant adding a silkyness to the texture. Masses of dusty blue/black fruit. Lovely sweetness here and full, generous acidity adding perfect balance. Fine and distinctive stuff of huge quality and length. Excellent/outstanding. Wine-searcher lists Luvians as the lowest priced stockist currently for the 1994, at £39.99