October 2008 – Izar de Nekea, Alovini, St Ferreol, Krug

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 six pounds
Izar de Nekeas (Spain) Reserva 2000
From Navarra in Northeast Spain this blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon with 25% each of Tempranillo and Merlot sneaks in by dint of being a special parcel, currently on offer of £8 off when you buy two £9.99 bottles at Majestic, so the price falls to £5.99 each. It has a beetroot and slightly underripe green character at first, but then the palate has a certain savoury density and lip-smacking purity, with lots of spice and tobacco and smoky grip. This finishes stylishly, and in the end is a rather convincing Ribera del Duero look-alike of some class. Tremendous value for drinking over the next year or two. On offer at £5.99 when you buy two, whilst stocks last, Majestic.

under a tenner
Alovini (Italy) Basilicata Terre degli Eventi 2007
Basilicata is a southern Italian appellation, on the ‘instep’ of Italy’s famous ‘boot’-shaped geography. A warm and sunny region, the main grape of this blend (75% of the total) is Aglianico, familiar from this and surrounding areas, along with 25% of Tempranillo. It has a delightfully schisty, mineral nose, with masses of charcoally quality and dense black fruit. The palate has a racy, tight, sinewy black fruit and a big, dry but generous finish. Some Aglianico’s can be a little too dry and ashy, but this has a certain glossy sheen and weight that makes it beautiful to drink. Great value again. £6.60, Tanners.

under twenty
Château Saint Ferreol (France) Viognier 2006
Most attempts by winemakers around the world to emulate the great Viognier wines of Condrieu have failed miserably in my opinion. Even in Condrieu and other appellations of the northern Rhône, many Viognier producers cannot avoid a certain flabbiness that can make ‘serious’ Viognier wines tiring to taste, let alone drink. This Languedoc-Roussillon wine is an absolute star however, and I would put my neck on the line and say possibly the best Viognier I have tasted outside of Condrieu – indeed one of the best full stop. It is a fantastically aromatic example that moves this variety up to another plane. The nose has masses of herbs and downy peach skins, little floral notes, and lots of exotic tamarind and lychee. The palate has lovely grapefruity tang, with freshness allied to a little vanilla smoothness and weight. A great Viognier, and great value too, with another 10% off (down to £10.75) when purchased by the case. £11.95 at Berry Bros & Rudd. Also from LSfinewines.co.uk.

sky’s the limit
Champagne Krug 1998
The release of a new vintage of Krug is always keenly awaited, and doesn’t happen every year. The 1998 has a beautiful, glowing pale gold colour, with masses of pin-prick bubbles rising across the glass. Delightful nose. There is preserved lemon and a lovely yeastiness. Brioche, a hint of basil and nuttiness are swept up in floral and bright, crisp lemony fruit. The palate has a refined, gentle, persistent mousse and a wonderful clarity, with a racy lemon pith savour, and all those elegant tangerine and nectarine nuances. In the finish little hint of toast and vanilla. Very long, shimmering, white flower and mineral-infused finish. Terrific vitality and length, and stunning concentration. A truly great wine to drink now or cellar for up to 20 years. Pricing will depend on availability I think, but somewhere around £200 per bottle from Berry Bros & Rudd