May 2009 – Campo Aldea, Skillogalee, Pichon-Baron

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 a fiver
Marks & Spencer Vin de Pays du Val de la Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2008
From the Haut Pointou area of the Loire, you should make a bee-line for Marks to snap up a bottle or two of this delightful Sauvignon before those in the know clear the shelves: pungent gooseberry bush and elderflower notes mingle with tropical fruit. The palate has good fruit, a big, zingy grapefruit flavour and masses of acidity. This little star delivers bucket-loads of flavour and style for a fiver. £4.99 at Marks & Spencer.

under a tenner
Campo Aldea (Spain) Rioja Graciano 2005
It is very unusual to find a Rioja made from 100% Graciano, instead of the ususal Tempranillo-based blend. That’s partly because the high-quality Graciano is naturally low-yielding unlike the productive Tempranillo. This is is big, gamy and super ripe on the nose with masses of deep, plummy fruit and a great sense of richness. The palate has relatively restrained, lightish mid palate, where the spice of the 24 months in French and American oak comes through strongly, but it delivers a great deal of rich, full fruit that builds in the finish as smooth, silky tannins and good acidity grip. It’s terrific that a wine such as this is available on the high street. Available in 200 stores and online, it costs £9.99, Marks & Spencer.

under twenty
Skillogalee (Australia) Basket Pressed Shiraz 2005
Skillogalee is owned by British couple Dave and Diana Palmer, and their Clare Valley winery is one of the region’s very best. The fruit, from vines planted in the early 1970s, is vinified traditionally using open fermenters and basket pressing. This Syrah, matured for 24 months in a combination of French and American oak hogsheads, has an alluring nose, where a curranty, rich darkness marries with a bold, juicy black cherry core, and complex, peppery notes of spices, leather and tobacco are layered beneath. On the palate the broadly-painted canvas is daubed with thick, sweet fruit, but that core – a spine – of acidity, firm tannins and complex oak lingers into a long, sweetly-tuned finish. This glorious stuff is definitely worth the splurge. Around £13.00, Booths

sky’s the limit
Château Pichon-Baron, Pauillac 2004
I’m very happy to give the prize to this young claret that totally suprised me not just by being so good, but by being so deliciously drinkable at this infant stage of its development. Extremely deep, solid crimson/black. Wonderfully deep and sinewy nose with muscular black fruit and a little earthy character. Remarkably approachable already, with freshening cherry fruit and acidity, spices and cedary wood giving a drying, spicy finish. This may not have the fruit for 50 years, but is already delicious and will drink for 15 or 20 years.