July 2007- Catena, Chateau de Saurs, Janz, Errazuriz

In July I spent two weeks in Chile and Argentina visiting some premium estates. Although I could have contenders in all price brackets for Wine of the Month, I’ve given two awards at the bottom, under seven pounds” and top, “Sky’s the Limit”, end to represent the hundreds of wines I tasted. Wines on this page might have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine columns, or they may be wines from a recent tasting that hasn’t yet been written-up in a full-length report.

under seven pound
Catena (Argentina) Alamos Malbec 2006
Bodegas Nicolas Catena has done a phenomenal amount of research into Malbec at its vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. They have experimented with hundreds of clones of the Malbec vine, whittling these down to a handful specifically picked to match their soils and climate, and have experimented with other aspects of Malbec viticulture, including planting densities of the rows of vines. This Malbec doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of the wine in the “Alta” range, but it is a lovely Malbec that is composed, svelte, and rounded with dense black fruit. There are nice little edge of gaminess, and some small glimpses of floral notes. On the palate it is crisp, structured and well defined, with a raciness to the fruit and a fine, supple tannin and acid structure cutting through spice and chewy black fruit. £6.99 Majestic.

under a tenner
Château de Saurs (France) Réserve Eliézer 2002
I have a fondness for the wines of Gaillac in southwest France, having holidayed in the region a couple of times. This top wine from the Château de Saurs is oak-aged and is a blend of 20% Braucol (an ancient grape variety of the area), 35% Syrah and 45% Merlot. It has a really deep, crimson colour, and an alluring nose of toast and cedarwood, with wonderfully deep blackcurrant fruit. This really is the essence of creamy, chocolaty cassis,and is very attractive. On the palate this is more savoury and grippy than the nose suggests, with a chewy, frim edge to the tannins and the solid core of black fruit quite muscular and dense. The creamy, coffeeish support of the oak softens the picture, but this stays focused and tight through to a long finish. A wine that deserves its three stars from the guide Hachette and its various gold and silver medals. £9.99, Wine Discoveries

under twenty
Jansz (Australia) Premium Vintage Cuvée 2002
Formerly owned by Roederer, Jansz was taken over by Yalumba in 1998. Writing on wine-pages, Tom Stevenson said in 2003: “when the first releases of Jansz from the new millennium appear, Tasmania should start to show its true sparkling wine potential.” Well, this bottle of the 2002 vintage is an absolute beauty I have to say. Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it has an even and consistent stream of minute bubbles in the glass. The nose has classic Champagne aromas, with a bready, yeasty note, nettles and a finely honed lemon fruit. There’s a bit of depth and honeyed sweetness here too (thanks to barrel fermentation for part of the base wine) and a hint of vanilla. On the palate this is pristine, with razor-sharp acidity tempered by sweet, quite expansive and peachy fruit, and those mouth-filling creamy and toasty notes. With extremely good length too, this is absolutely top-notch vintage fizz and is highly recommended. £14.99, selected Oddbins, Nidderdale, Vin Du Van, Noel Young, Tanners.

sky’s the limit
Viña Errázuriz (Chile) Viñedos Chadwick 2000
This is the top wine from the Errazuriz/Chadwick stable, made in a block that used to be a polo field, right in front of the Chadwick family home. The ground is an old riverbed, with sand and loamy soils, filled with pebbles and gravel for metres of depth. Only around 800 cases of this Bordeaux blend (with a touch of Syrah) are made. It has a vrey deep-set, at first almost impenetrable character, with a big rich, thick, muscular core of black fruit starting to emerge. It is extremely creamy and dense on the nose, with prune and plump, plummy fruit, plus just a glimpse of a minty, menthol edge. On the palate it is beautifully silky and dense, with a really velvety texture and wonderful richness. Sweet, sweet fruit fiulls the mouth, balanced by chocolate and espresso and rich, creamy tannins. There is gentle, but adequate acidity, and a really long, focused finish. Maybe more one-dimensional that the same stable’s more Bordeaux-like Seña, but what a beautiful and pure wine and expression of this terroir. £45.00