May 2008 – La Mission Haut-Brion, Anta da Serra, Bellegarde

These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my nagazine 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
Anta da Serra (Portugal) Vinho Branco 2006
This is brilliant example of modern Portuguese white wine making, with terrific zest and abundant fruit having been coaxed from all indigenous grapes. It has a vibrant, punchy nose, crammed with ripe stone fruit aromas of yellow plum and pear, but also hints of melon and nectarine, with a just a background hint of something herbal. On the palate it is medium-bodied but quite silky, and the punch and crunch of the fruit comes through powerfully, with all the fruit sweetness tempered by crisp, taut acidity and a refreshing minerality. Delightful stuff this. £6.16, Laithwaites.

under a tenner
Teira (California) Zinfandel 2005
Buyer David Berry-Green fairly raved about this wine at a recent Berry Bros tasting for the press, and more or less frog-marched me to it, insisting it was one of the stars of the show. From Sonoma County, it weighs in with a moderate 13.5% alcohol, and guess what? Mr Berry-Green was right. The nose is creamy and dense, with all the sauve, deep-set blueberry fruit that Zinfandel does so well, but then it slips into and much more silky, elegant character on the palate, with the creamy sweetness of blue/black fruit and svelte, ripe tannins marrying to fresh Sonoma elegance. A gorgeous style of Zinfandel this, and though at £10.95 it creeps above our limit, the price falls to £9.85 if you buy by the case. Indeed, if you enter the current competition on wine pages, you can even save another £10 on top of that! £10.95, Berry Bros & Rudd

under twenty
Domaine Bellegarde (France) Jurançon Cuvée Thibault 2004
I am a huge fan of the sweet white wines of Jurançon, and for me this is one of the stars of Wine Discoveries’ impressive portfolio. Hand-harvested in November, there are several ‘passes through the vineyard to select only raisined, but perfect grapes. It is vinified in barriques, about 40% of which are new. It has a simply gorgeous nose, flooded with nectarine, honey and marmalade, with nuances of leaf tea and roasted sesame seeds. On the palate it is medium-bodied, and has a beautiful balance between the sweet, honeyed and glycerine fruits, and a precise core of orange acidity. The subtle support of delicate oak just adds a layer of creamy texture and flavour. Exquisite. £11.99 for 50cls, Wine Discoveries.

sky’s the limit
Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2005
There was little competition for this category in my May tasting notes. I attended an extraordinary event, where 50 vintages of La Mission were on display, and the truth is that a dozen or more of the wines were probably the best of what I tasted in the month. Wines like 1955, 1945 and 1929 cost thousands of pounds per bottle however and are extremely rare, so wearing a (slightly) more sensible hat, I’ve plumped for this absolutely outstanding wine from the 2005 vintage. It has a beautifully refined, mineral and burning incense nose, with very supple, tight black fruit. The palate has a creamy density of black fruit, but all edged with that exotic spiciness. Very tight, refined, supple tannins, an espresso-like bittersweet consistency, and just lovely balance. This is the essence of refinement and harmony. 96/100. Around £6,000 per case.