October 2005 – Araldica, Kurt Hain, Rousseau, Penfold’s

These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine columns, 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
Araldica (Italy) Moscato Passito 2002
Great grog owner Richard Meadows rather dismissed this as a “nice little wine” when I tasted it with him recently, but for me it was a little star: I’m a huge fan of really Moscato wines from northern Italy, which are most recognisable in their sparkling form as Moscato d’Alba and Moscato d’Asti perhaps. This dessert wine comes in half bottles, and is made from grapes that have been dried and raisined. The aromas are fresh, grapy and floral, with a lovely sense of honeyed, orangy richness. On the palate it is quite smooth and rich, though fresh with racy fruit and good acidity balancing beautiful fruit sweetness and a real sense of delicacy. £4.99 per half bottle, Great Grog.

under a tenner
Kurt Hain (Germany) Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 2004
2004 is a great, classic Mosel vintage, and from top producer Kurt Hain, wines like this are just perfect models of balance and precision. The nose has gently floral and talcum notes mixed with lemon peel and a suggestion of ripe nectarine. On the palate a beautiful fruit sweetness of downy peaches and ripe, yet elegant fruit, all braced by a slatey acidity. Terrific stuff this, and will age gracefully. £7.00 from French & Logan, £7.99 from Tanners.

under twenty
Château Rousseau de Sipian (France) Bordeaux 2002
New to the UK is a range of Bordeaux wines from Château Rousseau de Sipian. The château was purchased in 2000 by the British father and son team of Roy and Christopher Racey, with a dream of restoring not only the house, but the reputation and quality of the wines. There has been substantial investment since then, on both the vineyards and the fabric of the estate buildings (including new temperature controlled cellars), and now the first releases under the Racey’s ownership are on sale in the UK. The Grand Vin is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, from 20 year-old vines, and the wine spends 16 months in barriques, 25 per cent of which are new. This has terrific concentration, with a glossy black cherry and cedary character and real grip on the palate adding spine to rich, ripe fruit. A very fine Petit Château indeed. £119.00 per dozenfrom Chateaurousseau.com or 01792 545300.

sky’s the limit
Penfold’s (Australia) St Henri Shiraz 2001
I visited Penfold’s in late October and tasted through the range with the winemaker. I have to say a Chardonnay called ‘Bin 03A Reserve’ was possibly my favourite wine of the tasting, but it is not in the UK as yet, and this lovely wine was a very close second. I have always enjoyed the St Henri, a premium wine conceived at the same time as Penfold’s Grange, but made entirely in large, old oak vats with no new oak influence. It is a pure and brilliant expression of Australian Shiraz. This has a finely-wrought blueberry and currant fruit nose, with a sense of plushness but a keen, savoury character too. On the palate it just brims with crushed black berries, bitter dark chocolate, and plenty of pepper and a spicy notes too. The tannins here are sweet but very supportive, and the finish is long and balanced. Fine, fine wine, with many years ahead of it. Now a fraction of the price of Grange, though once they sold for the same amount.