July 2012 – Jaume Serra, Bibi Graetz, Soalheiro, Penfolds

My favourite wines tasted during the month, in four price brackets.

under a fiver

Jaume Serra, Cava Brut Reserva Gran Seleccion, Spain
Featured last week because this and its partner rosé were allegedly reduced from £12.99 to £4.99 in a Tesco promotion – a disgraceful and cynical con as the wines were never worth anything like £12.99 in the first place – it shows that the tactic works: the rosé appears to be sold out online already. I make no apologies for suggesting you might want to grab six bottles of this whilst stocks last however, because at £4.99 (£4.75 online) it is a stylish, cheap party fizz made from the three traditional Cava grapes, Xarel.o, Macabeo and Parellada with 20% Chardonnay. It pours with a healthy stream of small bubbles and a fresh lemon and apple nose touched by herbs and a note of butteryness. On the palate it is fruity, fresh and appealing, with nice orthodox apple and pear flavours and a well-balanced finish. 86/100. £4.99 until 25th August 2012 in Tesco.

under ten pounds

Bibi Graetz, Casamatta Toscana Bianco 2011, Italy
Norwegian/Israeli artist Bibi Graetz took over his family’s small Tuscan estate a few years ago and rocked the local scene with his super-Tuscan Testamatta that garnered big points and big prices. At a more affordable level, this dry white is made from Vermentino and 10% Moscato, the fruit coming from the Isola di Giglio, an island off the Tuscan coast. Some herby and lightly oxidised notes in this give a touch of nettle and bruised apple. The palate is full flavoured with plenty of sour lemon and a dry, pithy, character. Food-friendly and interesting stuff. 87/100. £9.60, Corking Wines.

under twenty pounds

Quinta de Soalheiro, Primeiras Vinhas Alvarinho 2010 Vinho Verde, Portugal
A shining example of the highest quality, most beuatifully and carefully made Vinho Verde, made from the Alvarinho (Albariño) grape. This has a glorious depth and intensity of fruit and aroma. Honey and obvious ripeness here, hinting at tropical but shimmering and clean. There’s really quite a luscious quality to the fruit, some vergetal notes adding to the complexity of the palate, but so much flavour, so much broad, green-bean tinged, fat lemony fruit and huge natural concentration and freshness. 93/100. £15.95 Wine Raks, Butler’s Cellar.

sky’s the limit

Penfolds, Grange Shiraz 2007, Australia
The price of Grange is now eye-watering at £350 a bottle, but I had to give the July award to this great wine. Grange has been produced in every vintage since 1951, always from multiple vineyards and districts, and often with a little Cabernet in the blend (in this case 3%). It is matured for 21 months in all new American hogsheads and fruit thisyear came from Barossa, McLaren Vale and the Magill estate. It has a very bold, dark colour and the nose is already ravishing with sweet, ripe, totally focused fruit. A drive of juicy black fruits, edged with green peppercorns and a touch of smoky bacon, the fragrant spice of Sandalwood and coffee comes through. The palate is hugely sweet, with a massive, creamy texture and so much chocolaty ripeness, a touch of clove and a nice rasp of plum-skin tannin just to ruffle the velvet of the finish. Huge length and focus in a great Grange vintage, which Penfolds suggest will drink 2014-2045. 97/100. £356.00, Berry Bros