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
Lingenfelder (Germany) Bird Label Riesling 2001
A very tough call this month, including two from Oddbins: the Flagstone “Noon Gun” from South Africa, which is a beautiful little wine, and this cracking “halbtrocken” (half-dry) Riesling from an ancient German estate. I’ve chosen it a) because it is a little cracker, and b) because it is a fine introduction to the best qualities of german Riesling if you cannot get hold of my “under a tenner” recommendation below. The nose brims with tropical, pineapple, lime-fresh waxy citus, and glacé fruits. There’s just a suggestion of punchy gooseberry and something mineral too, that adds up to a deliciously complex but arresting picture. On the palate it has a luscious, freshly-squeezed apricot juiciness with plenty of weight and body, and an almost smoothie richness that is shot-through with a dazzling cut of apple acidity. Will cellar for five years plus. Oddbins, £4.99.
under a tenner
J.J. Christoffel (M-S-R) Riesling Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese 2001
Just a fabulous example of Mosel Valley Riesling at its most alluring. This has an immediately appealing nose of ripe peaches and apricot, with underlying floral nuances and a clean, pure, pear-drop note. Very aromatic, with just the merest hint of developing waxy quality. On the palate it is beautifully clean and crisp, with lovely apple fruit, plenty of sweetness, and a limpid, lemon-honey quality. Good weight in the mouth, and very long and pure. Excellent and balanced for the long haul. The J.J. Christoffel estate (the Erdener Treppchen and Ürziger Würzgarten vineyards) was sold by the retiring owner, Hans-Leo Christoffel, last year, but he is still employed as consultant winemaker. On this evidence, quality has not dropped in the slightest. This wine was presented at a tasting by French & Logan, a brand new young Scottish company whose business is not yet quite off the ground, but who will specialise in top German Rieslings (full report to follow). You will track down J.J. Christoffel wines meantime via Howard Ripley: Tel: 020 8877 3065. £8.79
Yalumba (Australia) “The Virgilius” Viognier 2000
Something unprecedented has happened to me in the past three or four years, in that I have gone from a viognier-doubting sceptic, to a bit of a fan. Thanks is due in the main to Yalumba, and their increasingly convincing efforts. Over the past couple of years they have proved dramatically just how glorious Viognier can be. Too many times I found viognier (made in the northern Rhône under the Condrieu and Château Grillet appelations) initially seductive, but soon becoming overbearing and flabby due to low acidity, too much alcohol, and an unrestrained floral character. Yalumba seem to be getting the balance just right, from their basic “Y series” bottling to this, their flagship wine. I’ve taste the Virgilius before and it has always been impressive, but this bottling manages to be both sumptuous and racy at the same time. It has elegant, gentle, candy-floss and ripe pear on the nose, with a gorgeous undertow of honey, toffee and melting butter. The palate is suffused with ripe, peachy fruit and notes of orange and pear that are round and rich. Focused acidity adds structure, and the finish is gloriously long. A bit of a triumph for Viognier, and excellent/outstanding wine.
Selfridges, Robersons, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason £17.99
sky’s the limit
Trimbach (Alsace) Riesling Clos Ste Hune 1976
What a glorious month for tastings, topped off by a vertical tasting of Trimbach’s top Rieslings, the cuveé Frédéric Emile and Clos Ste Hune, in the company of Hubert and Jean Trimbach. I could have chosen just about any of the Clos Ste Hunes I tasted in this category, but the award goes to the magnificent 1976. This wine comes from vines in a monopole vineyard within the Rosacker Grand Cru, which produces extraordinarily complex and long-lived Rieslings. This has a deep, burnished gold colour and a massively mineral nose, with fantastic intensity, a little petrolly note, and a deep, ripe, almost figgy quality of fruit. There’s a candied character from some botrytis, and on to the palate it shows lovely resolution with figgy, toasty, bay-leaf flavours as well as luscious tropical fruit. It has a little sweetness, and the acidity is balanced and generously supports the structure into a long, long, focused finish. Excellent/outstanding. You might find this wine at auction, but the current vintages of 1996/1998 retail at around £55 (the 1997 has been held back, as the 1998 will be earlier drinking). Supply of this wine is very limited, but stockists include Edencroft, The Wine Society, Selfridges and La Vigneronne.