March 2008 – Morillon Blanc, Planeta, Punt Road, Tapanappa

These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine 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

Tesco Finest Fiano (Italy) 2007
From sicily, this lovely white wine is sourced for Tesco by Diego Planeta, one of the leading lights of the island’s wine scene. Softly pressed and cool-fermented before bottling in screwcap, there’s a lovely honeyed adge to this Fiano, with mealy richness and a depth of fruit. The. Palate has gorgeous nectarine and peach richness, flooded with delicious fruyit and a hint of spice and even toastiness in the finish. A little star. £5.99. Tesco

under a tenner

Jeff Carrel (France) Morillon Blanc 2005
This parcel was stocked by Averys just before Christmas 2007, though I cannot find a UK stockist at time of writing. This extraordinary wine is a Chardonnay, clearly picked very late or perhaps with some Botrytis, that pours a deep golden hue, suggesting oxidisation. Indeed, there are some walnutty, oxidised notes on the nose, as well as copious amounts of sweet, toasty oak, and ripe pear fruit in a complex and intriguing mix. On the palate this is expansive and mouth-filling, with the creamy oak adding butter and toast, and that walnutty quality coming through strongly. The sweetness of the fruit and residual sugar is silky and rich, with intense tropical melon but also plenty of fat, incisive lemony acidity. This is a long, chewy, no-holds-barred wine that is well outside any Chardonnay norms, and as long as you expect the unexpected, is highly recommended. I actually drank this with a fish and seafood gratin, with a rich, creamy sauce, and it worked very well too. £8.49, was in stock in Averys, look out for the next vintage!

under twenty

Punt Road (Australia) Pinot Noir 2006
I visited this estate in February, to catch up with winemaker Kate Goodman, with whom I’ve judged wineshows in Australia a couple of times now. We tasted through her lovely range of wines, where she takes full advantage of the relatively cool conditions of Victoria’s Yarra Valley to achieve real elegance and complexity. The Pinot was de-stemmed but not crushed prior to fermentation, with hand plunging in open fermenters, and then pressed very gently before 10 months of ageing in French oak coopered in Burgundy, about 25% of it new. This delicately coloured wine is very fragrant, with beautiful floral and cedary notes and plenty of exotic spice and smokiness coming through. There’s a certain truffly, very Burgundian earthiness too. It has really lovely, quite sumptuous and textural fruit on the palate, with a savoury, fine tannin and acid structure giving it excellent length. A terrific Pinot this. £10.99, Majestic.

sky’s the limit

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2005
One of Australia’s best red blends, around 1,400 cases are produced. 10% of Cabernet Franc joins 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Shiraz in the mix before 20 months ageing in French oak, around 70% of which is new. It has a gloriously rich and intense nose, with liquorice and anise notes melding with thick, ripe blackcurrant fruit. There’s a touch of white pepper and some meaty nuances, as well as a deal of creamy oak in the background. On the palate this wine is powerful and concentrated, with a huge core of sweet, silky black fruits powering through the mid-palate. But at the same time it has a dark, brooding, quite muscular presence with supple but grippy tannins and a nicely chewy, savoury dustiness. Long and pure, this is a baby that will surely cellar for 10 years plus. 93/100. £30.00