May 2003 – Oracle, Bernard Sante, Niepoort, Kies-Kieren

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
Oracle (South Africa) Pinotage, Western Cape 2001
For many people Pinotage is a love it or hate it grape, but now and again an example comes up which shows all of Pinotage’s best characteristics (abundant fruit and depth) with none of its rather bitter alter ego. This is an example of an inexpensive and totally approachable wine, perhaps helped by having 15% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, and by very careful winemaking. It is smoky and ripe on the nose, with rich, deep berry and plum fruit that is velvety and dense. Really ripe and sweet on the palate, with glimpses of bitter dark chocolate depth, but what a glorious mouthful of smoky and ripe fruit. Delicious and very good indeed, possibly excellent at the price. £4.99, Oddbins

under a tenner
Domaine Bernard Santé (France) Chénas 2000 Fûts de Chêne
This Cru Beaujolais wine spends six months in small oak barrels. It is crimson coloured, and has an immediately alluring nose of creamy strawberry sundae and raspberry, with a svelte, luxurious suggestion of earthier, deep, old polished wood. On the palate this is a rounded, robust, fruit-filled wine with full-body and plenty of muscular tannins framing rich, earthy, berry fruit. The barrel influence adds a creamy, lightly cedary quality to the wine rather than anything overtly “oaky”. Substantial and full on the mid palate, this finishes with balanced acidity and good length. It will also cellar. Excellent. £8.95, Nick Dobson

under twenty
Niepoort (Portugal) Redoma Reserva Branco 2000
I was lucky enough to taste through Dirk Niepoort’s range of excellent table wines and Ports twice in the space of a few days in May; one at a formal tasting, and one over dinner. Though the red Redoma has been recommended highly before on theses pages, and there is a terrific rosé version, it was this reserve level white that really stuck in my mind. A selection of the best barrels and vineyards, this wine is made from phenomenally low-yielding vines (around 5 hectolitres per hectare) grown on granitic and schist soils. It is barrel fermented and aged, using all French oak, 90% new. It does not undergo any malolactic fermentation, to preserve plenty of acidity and tautness. There is a big, toasty, nutty concentration on the nose that is extremely Burgundian (this would be a great ringer for a 1er Cru white Burgundy in a blind tasting), and little herbal nuances. It has a lovely smooth, full texture in the mouth with a raft of white fruit flavours and little mineral suggestion. There is good orangy acidity, and lots of finesse into a long, beautifully delineated finish. Excellent. £16.99, Raeburn Fine Wines.

sky’s the limit
Kies-Kieren (Germany) Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Eiswein 2001
2001 was an absolutely stunning vintage in the Mosel Valley, for drinking now or cellaring for 30 years – such is the quality of the top wines. I was really impressed by the 2001s of this estate in a tasting last year, and my recent tasting of five of their wines confirmed my opinion. For me, pick of the bunch were the stunning Graacher Himmerlreich Auslese ** at £14.95 (the two stars indicates that this was the second picking of the vineyard; one star bottlings also exist) and this, their supremely concentrated eiswein. Very light green in colour, it has an immediately complex nose of honey, nuts, straw and a hint of figgy richness. On the palate it is rich and honeyed, with a juicy nectarine fruit quality battling against razor-sharp lime acidity, all suffused by a steely grip of minerality. Crisp green apple acidity extends the finish, and this has lovely balance. Excellent/outstanding.