June 2004 – Kaapzicht, Gallo, de Cesseras, Latour

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 pounds
Kaapzicht (South Africa) Classic Red 2002
Kaapzicht are one of the great names of South Africa, and this entry-level wine is a classified blend of all sorts of things, including Shiraz, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc would you believe. John Platter gives this his special award as “Exceptionally drinkable and well-priced”, denoted by a smiley face in his definitive guide, and how appropriate that is: this is a big, quite old-fashioned, rustic red with notes of brambles, earth and spice and a pleasantly distant whiff of sillage. On the palate it is just beautiful stuff: fantastic gloss of sweet black fruits, currant and plum, with a lovely sense of ripeness and open-hearted warmth, and a balanced finish showing some mellow oak and tannin. £5.99 Great Grog.

under a tenner
Château de Cesseras (France) Minervois La Livinière 2001
Wine-pages columnist Rosemary George MW wrote very enthusiastically about the brand new “cru” of Minervois La Livinière in April 2003, and since then I have tasted about a half dozen examples, with a phenomenal hit-rate of excellent wines amongst them: I believe this wine was the fifth to be “Wine of the Week” in May 2004. This 100% Syrah wine was a stand-out smash at Berry’s recent Press tasting (I was not the only person to think so – look out for a string of recommendations in the Sunday columns). It has minty, sweet, bold, leathery fruit on the nose, backed-up by toasty oak and a lovely core of blackcurrant and damson plum. Concentrated and dense on the palate, it is rich, smooth and dark, with a svelte, polished appeal, lots of sweet chocolate-coated black fruit and a fine plummy depth. Tannins are fine and ripe, and the balance is perfect. An excellent wine. Berry Bros & Rudd £9.55

under twenty
E&J Gallo (California) Laguna Ranch Chardonnay 2001
The Sonoma wines of E&J Gallo still take many wine lovers by surprise. In a separate operation headed up by third generation siblings Matt (vineyards) and Gina (wine making), the Gallos have slowly and discretely been acquiring numerous superb plots of land and existing vineyards in Sonoma county, for the production of premium wines. This, from the Laguna Ranch, is one of several very impressive Chardonnays, where new French oak is present, but reined-back to express fruit and terroir. It has a bright gold colour tinged with emerald. The nose has quite Burgundian, vegetal breadth and little glimpses of toast and buttery, nectarine fruit. It is plush and creamy textured as it strikes the palate with a very sweet fruit ripeness. That tropical nectarine and pineapple character is there, but there’s a racy orange tang, and tugging acidity that keps the finish very pure and balanced. The Estate Chardonnay is magnificent too, but over twice the price.£13.99 selected Sainsbury’s, Harrods, Selfridges, Heyman, Barwell Jones

sky’s the limit
Château Latour (Pauillac) 1st growth 1998
This was a stand-out success in a recent tasting, showing real authority and class. It has a terrific density of colour: an almost opaque crimson/black, with just a chink of pink on the rim. Very rich, fat and open (decanted two hours) at first, with a big, supple nose of coffee and chocolate, thicj cassis fruit and a little dank undergrowth warmth. There is plenty of polished, cedary aroma too. It is pretty massive on the palate: a great, thick slab of meaty, concentrated black fruit with a searing backbone of fine-grained tannins. There is terrific structure, and balancing acidity that is broad and quite generous, but decisive. This has excellent concentration of bittersweet black fruits and fine length too. Excellent and given the price of the 2003 vintage just announced, a relative bargain with 20 years ahead of it. £99.99 Oddbins