May 2006 – Quinta de Simaens, Hunter’s, Suavia, Haut-Brion

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
Quinta de Simaens (Portugal) Vinho Verde 2005
A much maligned wine name, the truth is that whilst plenty of the Vinho Verde produced in Portugal’s most northerly, cool vineyards is rather weedy stuff, there are producers there, as everywhere, marching to a very different beat. This very superior example comes at a seriously bargain price for its quality, and like som much Portuguese wine, also offers something a bit different. A blend of Pederna, Avesso and Trejadura, it comes from a single vineyard and bursts from the glass with exotic aromas of lychee, blossom and crunchy, fresh citrus fruit. On the palate it has a wonderful concentration, with an extremely focused, pure core fruit, gently wrapped in a vibrant, juicy acidity. Delicious, and although 13.0% ABV, it wears it well. £5.49, Waitrose

under a tenner
Hunter’s (New Zealand) Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Jane Hunter OBE is New Zealand’s most famous, and most awarded, women winemaker. She is viticulturist, winemaker and all-round supremo of Hunter’s Wines, her own small- to medium-sized company in the picturesque Wairau Valley. This Gold medal winning 2005 Sauvignon has a beautifully poised nose, with a little crystallised pineapple fruit and a punchy, mouth-watering passionfruit and gooseberry character. On the palate this is intense and ripe, with plenty of crisp, lemon-zest acidity and fruit giving a really racy, quality. There’s plenty of ripeness, with melon and hints of more tropical character, but this stays very pure and crisp, in a food-friendly style.

under twenty
Suavia (Italy) ‘Acinatium’ Recioto di Soave 2003
The Tessari family have been farming here in the heart of Soave for over 100 years, and today are one of the mostly highly-regarded estates, making only white wines with a real focus on the Garganega grape. This 100% Garganega wine was harvested in September 2003, then the fruit was dried for five months before vinification and maturation on oak barrels for 16 months. It has gentle notes of honey and freshly brewed tea that dominate the nose, with a little dried and glacé fruit and a touch of vanilla. On the palate it is extremely thick and unctuous, coating the mouth in a paste of honey and thick, fat peach and orange fruit, but a really striking core of acidity sweeps through, giving length, crispness and tang to the finish. 37.5cl costs £17.25, Bibendumns.

sky’s the limit
Château Haut-Brion (France) Pessac-Léognan 1976
On holiday in the Loire towards the end of May, I drank many lovely Loire wines, but the undoubted highlight of the trip was a splurge on this wine. Haut-Brion is always, but always, one of the most refined and charming of the Bordeaux first growths. 1976 is regarded as one of its good, but not great vintages, but I have to say this bottle was just outstanding. Filled with a perfume of rich berry fruit, pencil shaving and a sweet, bloody earthiness, the wine is immediately inviting, suave and polished. On the palate it has beautiful fruit, despite the fact that 1976 had some rain and dilution before harvest, with a smoky and mineral earthiness and just delightfully resolved tannins and gentle acids that played into a long, fruity, gently spicy finish. A brilliant wine experience. Around £110.