November 2004 – Vina Albali, Cloudy Bay, Domaine A, Krug

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
Viña Albali (Spain) Gran Reserva 1997
At its regular price this wine represents a serious bargain in the world of wine. At my recent Glasgow wine weekend this was the “mystery wine” which 100 people tasted blind and tried to identify. Most guessed it as costing between £9 and £15. I visited Viña Albali this summer and was hugely impressed by this massive, high-tech winery in Valdepeñas, that marries the latest technology to age-old techniques of winemaking and long, long barrel-ageing. This wine is undeniably Rioja-like in style, but modern Rioja, where the quality and purity of ripe, rich black Tempranillo fruit is allowed to sing and is supported by, rather than smothered in, creamy American oak. It is aromatic, sumptuous and beautifully balanced, with warming tobacco and spice layered with masses of fruit. Great value wine at £6.49, but a steal on offer currently for £5.49 in Safeway, and a remarkable £4.99 in Sainsbury’s from December 8th.

under a tenner
Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2004
As always, Cloudy Bay is over-price, over-hyped and – just – over here as the new vintage hit these shores within the past few weeks. Prices will range from £14 or so up to £30+ such is the demand for one of the cultiest of cult wines. But the news this year is that Cloudy Bay really is a cracking offering, with the scintillating aromatic profile that put it on the map bursting from the glass with a blast of asparagus and green bean, herbal wildness hammering it out against fantastically rich, sweet and enveloping tropical ripeness. It is a lovely drinking wine, with masses of fruit and crunch and terrific length. A truly excellent Cloudy Bay. £14 and up, often on allocation, including at Berry Bros, Great Grog, Luvians, Nickolls & Perks.

under twenty
Domaine A (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
OK, first of all I have to say this Tasmanian cult wine is around £25, so breaks the rules. I really wanted to include it having tasted a vertical with winemaker Peter Althaus recently, and being bowled over by his Cabernet even more than his much-vaunted Pinot Noir. This has a deliciously minty, smoky nose with notes of eucalyptus intermingling with pencil-shavings and camphor. It has delicious black fruit on the palate: a juicy weight of blackcurrant and damson with fabulous concentration, yet a structured character through firm tannins, savoury acidity and a mouthwatering bittersweetness. The oak is cedary and refined, adding elegance to the finish. Excellent/outstanding. £23.75 – £25.99 from The Original Wine Company and Oddbins.
sky’s the limit
Krug (France) Vintage Champagne 1985
On two nights of the same week I opened Krug 1985 and Dom Perignon 1992. I have to say the DP was a stunner from a moderate vintage: a beautifully toasty, mellow and complex wine. But the vote goes to the 1985 Krug, a fabulous Champagne experience. The colour is a medium gold with a mass of absolutely minuscule bubbles. On the nose it is rich yet refined, with toasty, warming, nut and peach kernal aromas, but plenty of vicacious fruit and a lingering minerality. On the palate the mousse is persistent, soft and cushioning, with a medium body. The wine has all sorts of racy, darting citrus and pear notes cutting and weaving through plump, full, peachy fruit and rich, biscuity autolysis. There’s a magical complexity to this wine that is hedonistic and delicious, yet opens up in multiple layers of aroma and flavour. Outstanding. Around £120, see all stockists on wine-searcher. You can find the 1992 Dom Perignon for around £70 or so.