September 2003 – Michele Chiarlo, Wirra Wirra, Fernand-Pernot

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
Michele Chiarlo (Italy) “Nivole” Moscato d’Asti 2002
How amazing that a supermarket chain can stock a wine like this. I am a huge fan of good Moscato d’Asti, but it is incredibly difficult to find in UK stores, usually through only a few specialists. Here, Booths have secured a parcel of a gorgeous wine from top maker Michele Chiarlo in a delightful half-bottle size. This comes from 25-year-old grapes in a single vineyard. If you haven’t tasted one of these ethereally delicate wines you are in for a treat: 5.5% alcohol and gentley sparkling, this has an uplifting fragrance of blossom, spring flowers, apricot and delicate strawberry or violet creams. On the palate it has a magical sweetness of sherbet and summer fruits, with fresh, chilled grape notes and a sublime balance thanks to impeccable acidity. This is a real treat.
Booths & Booths online, £4.99 per 37.5cl

under a tenner
Georges Bertrand (France) Corbières 2000
The complete antithises of the Shiraz below, this is a typical regional blend of 40% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. The label says “Vieilli en Fût de Chêne”, an expression I’ve never come across before, indicating simply that the wine was aged for one year in oak. It has a brilliant but deep garnet colour and a bright, pepper and cherry nose, with hints of clove and spice, and just a touch of cedary old oak. On the palate there is good, fleshy fruit that is smooth and savoury, with dry, prune flavours and plenty of tannic grip. This is a wine that needs a steak or roasted meat dish, but offers a lot of style for the money. Very good indeed.
Safeway £6.49

under twenty
Wirra Wirra (Australia) McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001
Really sumptuous, no apologies, full-on style of classic McLaren Vale Shiraz here, with deep, inviting custardy vanilla layered over ripe mulberry and baked plum-pie fruit, woodsmoke, and a massive, sour, dark chocolate and damson edge. It has an equally sensuous yet serious palate with grippy tannins and rough, plumskin bittersweet fruit layered lushly over ripe, but powerful tannins. Plenty of sweet fruit fills the mid-palate before a grippy, structured core powers the finish in this full-textured wine. Brilliantly evocative stuff with masses of character and typicity for lovers of the hedonistic style at a very reasonable price. Excellent.
Everywine, Lay & Wheeler, Vin du Vin, Sainsbury’s Chelsea – £11.99.

sky’s the limit
Domaine Fernand-Pernot (Burgundy) Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jacques 1969
This is the domaine now known as Domaine Fourrier. At this time it was operated by the grandfather of the current proprietor, Jean-Marie Fourrier. Opened by Zubair Mohamed at dinner in the excellent Vintner’s Rooms in Edinburgh, this joins the ranks of the truly, truly great Burgundies I have tasted. The colour is still exceptionally pure ruby, and the nose is just ethereal; that perfectly integrated, seamless melange of old, warm coffeeish oak, ripe, soft, but beautifully concentrated fruit and all sorts of nuances of game, woodland floor and sweet demerara sugar . The mouthfeel is pure silk, and those lush, all-enveloping flavours continue. The tannins are svelte and polished, but still adding structure, with a plummy acidity, but this is all about hedonsim and pure poetry. A wonderful, wonderful Burgundy and quite outstanding. You would only find this wine at auction or possibly from specialist brokers.