July 2006 – Flichman, Zind-Humbrecht, Rayas

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 pound
Finca Flichman (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2004
This is 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mendoza region of Argentina. The ‘Reserva’ bottling spends six months in oak casks before an extended ageing in bottle. It has a deep, meaty, plum and crushed blackberry nose, with cedary components and a dark, raisiny quality. On the palate this is a very substantial wine, with a thick, mouth-coating smear of black fruits that are ripe, sweet-edged and delicious, but all hewn from a rich, robust tannic core. There is massive grip that fuses with spice, pepper and leathery notes to make for a real mouthful of wine, but all nicely balanced and composed. This chunky but delightful red would be fair value at its £7.99 starting price, but that falls to £4.99 on Thresher/WineRack’s ‘3 for 2’ deal, making it a star buy.

under a tenner
Quinta dos Roques (Portugal) Encruzado 2004
Encruzado is a specifically Dão variety, now becoming more popular across Portugal. Sixty-five per cent of this wine was fermented in oak, with battonage, and the rest was fermented in stainless steel. This variety takes the oak much better than a Malvasia I also tasted on a visit to the property: it has a lovely nutty, honeycomb and lightly charry oak quality, with a touch of caramel and mint humbug. On the palate the oak is pushed into the background by very ripe, pure apple fruit with plenty of bite and freshness. Deliciously tangy and long. Around 12,000 bottles. £9.99, Arthur Rackham, Philglass & Swiggot, Handford.

under twenty
Zind-Humbrecht (France) ‘Zind’ 2003
From one of the leading estates of Alsace where winemaker Olivier Humbrecht is carrying on the visionary work of his father Lionel. From biodynamic vineyards, this is an intriguining blend of Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc andChardonnay, the latter grape meaning the wine falls outwith Alsace’s AOC system. Lovely honeyed notes have developed (also tasted the 2004 which is much tighter and leaner at this stage), with a nectarine and very juicy quality. Beautifully sweet edge to the fruit, lots of orange and marmalady tang, lovely length and sweetness comes through in finish. ‘Indice 2’ by Zind-Humbrecht’s own assessment of perceived sweetness meaning just off-dry, and a very luscious wine from this hugely ripe vintage. £13.95, Berry Bros, Selected Waitrose.

sky’s the limit

Château Rayas (France) Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1997
What a treat this was, a maturing vintage of this illustrious 100% Grenache superstar of the southern Rhône. It is a lovely wine to nose, with all sorts of medicinal, herbal and gamey notes that some might find a little bit funky, and which are possibly due to a tiny amount of Brettanomyces rogue yeast character, but for me, charmingly so. It is complex and inviting, with an undercurrant of soft red fruits. On the palate this is lovely, with a peppery edge to plenty of raspberry and quite refined, gentle cherry fruit. This is a small-scaled Châteauneuf, but full of charm and drinking beautifully. Around £70 a bottle.