June 2003 – Clearsprings, Gaget, Lang, Quintarelli

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
Clearsprings (South Africa) White Wine
I’ve got to give the cheap ‘n cheerful award this month to this wine at all of £2.39 from Iceland. I wouldn’t normally consider this frozen food specialist as a wine shopping destination, but amongst an uninspiring list of wines sent to me for my Sunday Post newspaper column was this little cracker. Normally £2.99, but on offer until July 12th, this is undoubtedly the cheapest wine ever to feature on these pages! A non-vintage, non-specified blend, it is billed on the label as “medium dry”. Normally warning bells would be clanging at this point, but unlike cheap white Zinfandel for example, which to my palate is rather sickly sweet, this is really on the dry side, with excellent acidity. The nose is brimming with fresh summer aromas of ripe pear and crisp apples, and on the palate there is a juicy richness of fruit, hinting at peach and mango, but with a restraining tug of orchard fruit acidity. It is only just off-dry, and finishes with plenty of presence. Don’t bother with the red partner, which is a rather washed out effort, but though Montrachet it ain’t, tucking away a few bottles of this is a top summer tip. Iceland stores, £2.39 until July 12th.

under a tenner
Domaine M. Gaget (France) Morgon Côte de Py 2001
Slowly but surely I am becoming an immense fan of quality Beaujolais. After years of paying these wines lip-service whilst rarely actually buying them, there has been a string of cracking efforts from 2000 and 2001 that are utterly convincing. This, from the granite-based slopes of the Côte de Py in the Cru Morgon, has a terrifically elegant, yet quite sumptuous perfume of cherries, flowers, delicate strawberry pulp and a core of something harder and more mineral. The palate is delightfully sweet with the ripeness of summer fruits and fine, silky tannins, and a lovely tugging acidity that keeps it totally fresh and long on the finish. A lovely wine. Excellent. Berry Bros & Rudd £6.95

under twenty
H. Lang (Germany) Hallgartner Jungfer Riesling Auslese 1999
Undoubtedly one of my star wines from a recent Waitrose tasting, this beautiful Rheingau Riesling has herbal-edged nettle and peach notes on the nose, with subtle hints of wax and minerals. Lush palate, of thick nectarine and peach fruit, with a cutting edge of tangerine acidity and all the time something tight and more mineral at its core. Lovely, with length, purity and balance. Excellent. £9.99 Waitrose

sky’s the limit
Quintarelli (Italy) Valpolicella Classico Superiore 1993
Giuseppe Quintarelli is a legendary artisan producer of super-premium Amarones and Valpolicellas, now well into his 70’s. His tiny production wines are almost impossible to get hold of at any price. This, his “basic” Valpolicella is £32.99 from Luvian’s in St Andrews, and was my first introduction to this wine on a recent visit there. I don’t know if Quintarelli uses some Amarone techniques of fermenting on dried-grapes in this wine, but it certainly tasted like that: the nose has that dusty, complex, dried-cherry and herbal character that is typical of the style. It has a lovely full palate that is at first quite rustic, with earthy tones, berries and crisp cherry acidity, but in the glass this began to open out revealing a very sweet, ripe core of fruit, framed by dusty tannins and cedary, old oak (this wine spends 6 years in Slovenian oak before release). With fine balance and length, this savoury, really individual wine is quite something, and makes me wonder what the Amarone must be like (various vintages of this are also in Luvian’s temperature-controlled fine wine cellar). Excellent/outstanding. £32.99 from Luvians