June 2008 – Yali, Cook Wines, Fondreche, Willi Opitz

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 a fiver
Yali (Chile) Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Yali is a label of the large Viña Ventisquero winery, and like all the wines in the range, the bottle carries a ‘Climate Care’ stamp, proving that CO2 emissions from its transportation have been offset. The stuff in the bottle is interesting too, in that some of the fruit has been sourced from Lolol, one of Chile’s newly established regions that benefits from the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a style of Sauvignon that, whilst fresh, is very different from the herbaceous fireworks that characterise regions like Marlborough in New Zealand. The wine was aged – in steel tanks – on its lees, which were stirred regularly to give it extra body and richness. The nose has just a faint grassiness, with plum and peach aromas and a twist of lemon. On the palate it is quite weighty, with lime and crunchy apple rather than anything overtly tropical, and a nice balance of acidity keeping it fresh and food-friendly. This is an intelligent, tasteful Sauvignon, qualifying here because the price drops from £5.99 to £4.79 in Majestic’s current 20% off Chile promotion (until July 28th 2008).

under a tenner
Cook (France) Grenache 2007
I couldn’t resist making this one a Wine of the Month, as it is the first production in his own right from a good friend of mine, Andy Cook, who gave up life selling wine in the Scottish town of St Andrews to study winemaking in New Zealand, before making wine there and now, in Roussillon in the south of France. Andy is winemaker at Coume del Mas estate, but the Grenache for his own project comes from a single vineyard of very old vines in the village of Tautavel, and is unoaked. Cream and spice dominate the nose, with the blueberry and damson fruit that is ripe and appealing, but quite dark and sultry too. On the palate there’s a herbal, anise and pepper character to the fresh, cherryish fruit, before gently spicy tannins add a bit of grip and bite to this medium-bodied, fruity, yet quite powerful wine that is a fine expression of southern French Grenache. There’s a partner Chardonnay at the same price that I also thought was just delicious stuff. £6.99, Luvians Bottle Shop, St Andrews and from www.cookwines.com.

under twenty
Domaine de Fondrèche (France) Nadal 2005
Blended from 80% Grenache, with Mourvèdre and Syrah, this is a wine from the Rhône’s Côtes du Ventoux that is a take on classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It has a big, meaty, stock cube and layered plum and cedarwood nose, with plenty of spice and sweet fruit intermingled with leather and herbs. The palate has a very pure, very focused core of black and red fruits that are sweet and rounded, but the ripe, softly cloaking wrap of tannins and charry, spicy oak adds lots of breadth and depth, and the nicely pitched acidity just freshens things up. A deeply delicious wine from this very, very impressive estate with a long, chewy, powerful finish. £10.99, Cadman Fine Wines.

sky’s the limit
Willi Opitz (Austria) Opitz One 2004
Willi Opitz is the irrepressible owner and winemaker at this small, 17-hectare estate that produces a bewildering range of very high quality wines both dry and sweet. The range tops out with this unusual wine that helped push Opitz to worldwide fame. It is a red dessert wine made from indigenous Zweigelt grapes, dried on straw mats exposed to prevailing winds. Yielding only 7 hectolitres of juice per hectare of vineyard, Willi Opitz like to compare with Yquem’s 28hl/ha or so, and says getting the juice from the wine is like “milking mice.” It has a gorgeous, pure, strawberry and rose-hip nose, with some plump sultana notes and a certain mineral quality that is quite schisty and earthy. On the palate it is smooth and silky-textured, with a broad palate of raspberry and blackberry fruit, very refined tannins and that schisty, mineral acidity always present and adding a savoury grip despite the sweetness from 200g of residual sugar. £45.77 per 37cl, T&W Wines.