November 2001- Heritage Vineyards, Cortes de Cima, Latour

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
Heritage Vineyards (California) Red 1999
This wine just made me smile to taste such a lot of gorgeous fruit in a sub £4 package. An anonymous blend of red grape varieties, the presentation is attractive and classy. It has a big, inviting, opulent nose of sweet vanilla, spice and lush blackberry and plum fruit. It is a bit like super-charged Rioja on the nose, and onto the palate which is chewy and densely-fruited with a chocolaty depth of sweet, ripe and juicy fruit. There’s that slick of spicy oak and just a little tannic bite keeping it fresh enough. Nothing complex here, but your dinner party guests won’t know this fruit and character-packed red comes at such a keen price. Terrific stuff. £3.99 SPAR branches

under a tenner
Domaine de Regusse (France) Pinot Noir 2000
This wine comes from the snappily-named Vin de Pays des Alpes de Haute-Provence. It offers a fine Pinot nose with plenty of gently herbal strawberry fruit, earth and cedary nuances. On the palate it has sweet raspberry and punchy, but rounded fruit, smoky tannins and a decent finish. Tastes like a red Burgundy at twice the price, and it could even sneak into the under a fiver category if you shop around, as some retailers might have it at £4.99. £5.00-£5.50. Stockists include: Ben Ellis 01737 842160; Waverley Vintners 01738 472000; Terry Platt 01492 842099; Georges Barbier of London 0210 8852 5801 and Peckhams (Scotland) 0141 445 4555.

under twenty
Cortes de Cima (Portugal) “Incognito” Alentejo 2000
Lots of contenders in this category this month: however, this stole the show. A deep vein of chocolate-dipped raspberry fruit is edged with charcoal and earthiness, but the dominating influence is that terrifically sweet, pure fruit with notes of cassis and blackberry. The palate is hugely endowed with fat, rich, sweet blackcurrant. This is deliciously powerful and open, yet there is concentration and structure with elegant tannins and real complexity. Hedonistic and excellent/outstanding. Oddbins £14.99 (limited availability).

sky’s the limit
Château Latour (France) Pauillac 1er Cru 1982
A wine I will never be able to afford I’m sure, tasted in a star-studded line-up of the best Bordeaux of 1982. The dark, crimson core is still dense, taking on a tinge of brown at the rim. Massive nose, redolent of gamy perfume, black fruits, coffee and a wonderful depth of truffle and leather. A deep mulberry-fruited core with meaty undertones, blood-streaked and dense. Wonderfully sweet, silky fruit on the palate. In the mouth this is coated in a glossy sweetness of pure black fruit, glycerine and a dramatic bittersweetness. Plum-skins and ground coffee bean richness. The palate just has a huge, silky-sweet quality that is other-worldly. There are magical tannins and highlights of bright cherry and cassis against mellow fudge, tobacco and chocolate. Fine concentration, beautifully elegant and with terrific balance. The wine is also extremely long and powerful.