These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine columns or TV show, or they may be wines from a recent tasting that hasn’t yet been written-up.
under eight quid
Stella Bella, Pink Muscat 2009, Australia
Moscato from the north of Italy – d’Asti in particular – can be a wonderful wine to match with desserts: frothy, sweet, low in alcohol yet with fine acidity, it magically slices through dark chocolate desserts and might even take on Christmas pud as an alternative to heavier fortified sweet wines. Australia is making something of a small-scale speciality of producing pink muscat wines in this style, and one of the best is this 6.5% alcohol example from Stella Bella. It has a nicely medicinal edge to cherry and a touch of clove, and all the floral notes you’d expect of Muscat. There is a ginger beer character and really nice sweetness and a delicious cherry fruit. 90gl sugar means it is sweet without being at all cloying, with great acidity and a spine of clear Muscat fruit.
under a tenner
Tim Adams, Semillon 2008, Australia
Semillon is something of an unsung hero: a grape that does not often get star billing, yet which can be quite brilliant. It is one of the main grapes behind all famous white Bordeaux wines – including Sauternes – and its other main stronghold is in Australia, where it is planted widely in the Hunter and Barossa Valleys, and, as in this example, the Clare Valley. Tim Adams ferments and ages his Semillon in oak, and that adds a depth of gently toasty and honeyed richness to the fat, waxy lemon fruit. On the palate this has a mouth-filling, expansive texture, with lots of that creamy, fat lemon fruit and a hint of something more tropical. Long, pure and zestily clean, it will also age for a decade – and would be a great Christmas day wine with the weight to cope with turkey, but the crispness to match to smoked salmon too. £9.99, Tesco.
Craggy Range, Bannockburn Sluicings Pinot Noir 2007, New Zealand
You might have to be quick to secure a bottle or two of this Central Otago Pinot Noir, which was The Wine GAng’s top wine in November and a very sexy number with its curvaceous aromas of rich, ripe blackberry jam, coffee and vanilla. But there’s a fine Pinot earthiness beneath, and on the palate, the silky, satin texture supports wonderfully pure fruit along with all that coffee, earth and tobacco spice. Flash? Maybe, but a little bit fabulous too. £15.99 at Majestic, but buy any two New Zealand wines save 20% = £12.79 currently (a gold-plated bargain).
sky’s the limit
Hartenberg Estate, Gravel Hill Shiraz 2005, South Africa
I was really impressed when I tasted through the range from Hartenberg earlier this year, awarding thier top Shiraz, ‘The Stork’, 94-points. Now they have released this ultra-premium Shiraz at a lofty £350 per six bottles in-bond (so ex-duty and VAT), a special selection of grapes from a parcel of poor, dry gravelly soil. Though first made in 1978, the wine has never been commercially released: instead it goes straight to the Cape Winemakers Guild auction, where it has consistently been the highest priced Shiraz, and often one of the highest priced of all wines sold. It is now available on release (only 550 bottles have been produced), so does it justify its reputation? It has a fabulously seductive nose, presenting a deep, bottomless pool of silky black fruits, woodsmoke and freshly cracked black pepper. On the palate it has terrific denisty and suede-like tannins, the firm, meaty core of the wine staying tight and sinewy, but the the savoury, dry, but plush and polished fruit draped around it. Long, savoury and chewy in the finish it is beautifully harmonious though still youthful and with room to mellow further in bottle. £350 per six (in-bond), H&H Bancroft