March 2012 – Sassetti, Ksara, Valdoneje, Solarena

My favourite wines tasted in March, in four price brackets.

under a fiver

Solarena, Barrel-aged Tempranillo 2010, Spain
I’ve had to bust the budget for this wine from Cariñena in Spain, not because it is exceptional, but just because there was nothing actually tasted in March and under a fiver that I could whole-heartedly recommend. This has some creamy, slightly dusty aromas, a touch of vanilla, but the fruit is pure and ripe. The palate has freshness and juiciness, the seam of black fruit driving this, with a nicely grippy, fresh finish. Very nice, modern style Tempranillo with vivid fruit and a bit of smooth sophistication. £6.15, and other stockists.

under a tenner

Pago de Valdoneje, Mencia 2009, Spain
Staying in Spain but moving to the increasingly fashionable Bierzo region, this dry red wine has a beautiful nose of tobacco and ground spices melding with thick, ripe back fruit compote and chocolaty richness. The palate has suede-like tannins and good acidity, but it is the ripe smoothness of the black fruit and creamy texture that powers this into a fine, bittersweet finish. Yummy stuff. £9.95 at All About Wine (Sevenoaks) and other stockists.

under twenty

Château Ksara, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Lebanon
It would have been very easy to choose the excellent Château Musar as a representative from my recent visit to Lebanon, but the wines of the venerable Ksara are also quite easy to buy and are of excellent quality. This 2006 is particularly poignant because the harvest took place against the short but deadly war with Israel when, as there were no grape pickers to bring in the harvest, all of Ksara’s office workers, managers, delivery drivers and maintenance staff toiled in the vineyards to allow this lovely wine to be made. Terrific nose, with cedar and light spices over solid black fruit. The palate has lovely fruit and balance too, with the tannins quite refined and the juicy, mouth-wateringly pure sweetness and ripeness still evident, just settled into a lovely harmonious finish, velvety and pure. 90/100. £14.95, Hailsham Cellars and other stockists.

sky’s the limit

Pertimali Sassetti, Fili di Seta IGT 2006, Italy
This is a ‘super-Tuscan’ blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 60% Sangiovese from Montalcino, aged in stainless steel and wooden ‘boti’. Woodsmoke swirls through the blackcurrant fruit, wreathing the polished briar and woodland tones – very attractive. On the palate this is very firm, with a lovely touch of austerity, the spine of tannin and acid and meaty, chewy weight of fruit is savoury and attractive. This will benefit from a few more years in the cellar. Their 2005 Brunello di Montalcino is also extremely good. 92/100. £26.40, and other stockists.