September 2002 – Esk Valley, Simonsig, Yquem

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
Misiones de Rengo (Chile) Carmenère 2001
This wine wins on sheer value for money: considering how many dull Chardonnays and Cabernets ask for a crisp fiver, it’s great to find this rock-solid red offering a real edge. The almost forgotten Bordeaux grape, Carmenère, seems almost incapable of making a bad wine. This has a classy tobacco, spice and vanilla fudge nose, layered with dark chcoclate-coated berries. On the palate a deep, savoury profile of black fruit, tannin and juicy cherry acidity fills the mouth. There’s not huge complexity in this inexpensive bottling, but its a fine example of Carmenère’s capacity to make gorgeously smooth, characterful wine with plenty of grip.Somerfield £4.99

under a tenner
Esk Valley (New Zealand) Merlot/Cabernet 2000
First thing to say is that Esk Valleys Reserve, which adds some Malbec to the blend and costs another six or seven pounds, is a stunning wine that could easily have been wine of the month in the “under twenty” category. This is lovely too though, from Gordon Russell’s Estate in Hawke’s Bay. There’s just a touch of sulphur, which blows off to reveal a deep, juicy, black plum, vanilla and chocolate-dusted nose. This is immediately rich and deep, but very pure and driven by fruit rather than oak or spice. Tight, muscular and structured on the palate, with big drying tannins and a savoury black olive quality. Moderately long, rich and very impressive. Excellent.
BringaBottle, Directwineline, Everywine, Fareham Wine Cellar, Peckhams, York Wines £8.99 – £9.99.

under twenty
Simonsig (South Africa) Merindol Syrah 1997
Very deep, inviting vanilla custard oak layered over baked plum-pie fruit, woodsmoke, chocolate and a little leathery, animal edge. Big, serious palate with grippy tannins and rough, plumskin bittersweet fruit. Again, that baked plum quality, but no shortage of sweet fruit. Complex and savoury. with a long, lip-smacking finish and full texture. Excellent stuff from the dedicated Johan Malan, who also creates some great Pinotage wines.
Everywine, Grapeland, Martinez £15.75 – £19.95.

sky’s the limit
Château d’Yquem (Sauternes) 1982
Gorgeous, deepening gold colour and absolutely delightful nose. Lightly-honeyed, with floral overtones to citrus and apricot fruit. Complex layers unfold, of tea, jasmine, fig and quince. On the palate a medium- to full-bodied, elegant character with thick, gloriously clean tropical and citrus fruit. Botrytis is moderate, but there’s such a clarity though the balance of fine sweetness and lovely mineral acidity. The palate has a little vanilla backing-up the elegant fruit that fills the mid-palate. Fine, fine length. A really lovely wine. Excellent/Outstanding.
Wineandco £178.99, Richard Kihl &pound £258.50.