May 2007 – Co-op Malbec, Tamar Ridge, Simcic, Ornellaia

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
Co-op Argentine Malbec 2006
Earlier in the month I sat on the Glasgow tasting panel of a competition that is taking place in four British cities to find the best Argentine Malbec wines for matching to traditional British meat dishes, like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, or roast pork with apple sauce. A full report on the tasting will follow, but I wanted to highlight this outstanding little bargain wine as my inexpensive wine of the month. This was not the best Malbec of the tasting, but it did claim a very decent position in the rankings which is remarkable given that it retails for just £2.99. That’s about a quarter of the price of the wines that won the tasting. It has a bold, solid crimson colour. Strongly herbal nose at first, with not a lot of fruit, but plenty of meat and rich, gamy character. On the palate there’s a nice orangy acidity freshening this, with a big, savoury, dark fruit and plummy character. A little more structured than many cheap reds, and all the better for it. Definitely worth trying. £2.99, Co-op.

under a tenner
Tamar Ridge (Australia) Chardonnay 2004
I tasted this Tasmanian Chardonnay alongside a very respectable Meursault 1er Cru from the 2003 vintage, and I have to say this bottle, at about one-third the price, had the edge. From a particularly cool vintage this screwcapped wine captures an almost Sauvignon Blanc-like edge of vibrancy. That little herb and grassy note is soon outplayed by a mealy, almond and orchard fruit creaminess on the nose, with just a hint of toast from barrel fermentation and 10 months in French oak. On the palate there is a lovely juiciness and zesty citrus fruit quality, with just hints of sweeter, more exotic fruit. But the whole wine is checked and balanced by a tight core of dry, lemony acidity. At £11.95 from Ameys Wines, Harrow Cellars. J Macmillan, JW Wines, Octopus and E Sheldon this very slightly blows the “under a tenner” limit, but Laithwaites also stock it at £11.83, and as they are offering all wine-pages visitors a free £20 voucher, buying a case brings the bottle price down to £10.08 – I can get away with that!

under twenty
Simčič (Slovenia) Teodor Reserve 2003
I gave this wine a bit of a rave review and score of 91 when tasted in H&H Bancroft’s tasting from february of this year, but little did I know then that in May I’d be invited to spend a fascinating few days visiting several of Slovenia’s most innovative estates, including the estate of Marjan Simčič. The quality throughout the portfolio is outstanding, but this beautiful wine blew me away again, so it deserves wine of the month on this second tasting opportunity. It has a fine, waxy density and green fig richness, with complex notes of leaf tea, green tea and chamomile. Lots of honey that persists onto the palate gives real richness and a buttery, fudgy quality to clean, pure, limpidly bright fruit and acidity. Minerality is expresive here too, with a slightly smoky quality into the finish. Superb stuff. £15.50, H&H Bancroft.

sky’s the limit
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia (Italy) Ornellaia 2004
Ornellaia’s 2004 vintage is composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. As usual, the separate vineyard components were aged for 12 months in French oak barriques (about 70% of which were new) before blending, then a further six months in barriques and 12 months in bottle before release. The colour is a rich, deep ruby/crimson. The nose is immediately alluring, with a bold, svelte darkness of ripe cherry and blackcurrant, hints of mint and chocolate, and a savoury, slightly more austere and dusty, smoky quality in the background. The oak is very well integrated already, with some cedary and vanillin notes lying beneath the fruit. On the palate this is medium- to full-bodied and immensely rich and concentrated, yet there is an immediate sense of freshness too, with tight, supple tannins and freshening cherry acidity adding structure and bite to the wine. This wine has layers of flavour and texture, with a fleshy mid-palate and warming spice into the finish. With excellent intensity and length, this is a profound Ornellaia that will surely improve over decades. Around £70-£80 per bottle.