September 2004 – Torres, Laguerre, Margaux, Murrieta

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
Torres (Spain) Sangre de Toro 2003
This is the 50th anniversary bottling of this old favourite from Miguel Torres, a wine that always over delivers on price and brings a smile to my face. It is a jammy-fruited, explosively punchy style of wine, crammed with crushed berry and earthy, chocolaty notes on the nose, with plenty of spice and stuffing underpinning gloriously sweet fruit. The palate is equally vibrant, shimmering with sweet berry fruit and all given density by velvety tannins and a background of tobacco and wood smoke. Just gorgeous, exemplary stuff at the price, and a great match for most red meats, especially slow-braised casseroles and stews.
£4.99 – £5.49 Majestic, and widely available.

under a tenner
Domaine Laguerre (France) Le Ciste 2002
This wine is a Vin de Pays des Pyrénées Orientales, based around the Fenouillèdes AOC area south of the Corbières hills in the Languedoc. Eric Laguerre has already impressed through his partnership with Gérard Gauby, that has produced the “La Soula” range of super-premium wines, but on his own here he has turned in a bit of a blockbuster red. The nose is just loaded with rich, spicy, blackcurrant and raspberry fruit, with intriguing nuances of currants, rose-hip and a thyme-like herbal quality. It is deep and sonosrous, with a cedary underpinning. On the palate that powerhouse of black fruits pushes through, with a tugging dryness of cherry skin, leather and more of that cedar and earthy character. Tannins are fine, and a subtle acidity helps balance the powerfully extracted fruit. With 14% alcohol, this is a bit of a bruiser, but not at the expense of the wild “garrigue” character of the south. £8.99 Original Wine Company

under twenty
Marques de Murrieta (Spain) Rioja Castillo Ygay 1989
I tasted and drank this wine at home recently, alongside the 1987. Whilst the 1987 was a touch more charming at this stage, the 1989 was definitely a wine with substantially more potential. It has a dark and alluring vanilla-tinged, baked cherry pie quality on the nose, with some charry background toast and a soft strawberry fruitiness emerging. There seems to be real chocolaty depth here. On the palate it is much more rich and sweet than the 1987, if a little more one-dimensional at this stage. There are flavours of caramel and crisp, juicy cherry fruit. There is some briar and cedar, and a balancing core of acidity, again suggesting cherry. This has good balance and is very long, and should be even better in five to 10 years.

sky’s the limit
Château Margaux (Bordeaux) 1er Cru Classé Margaux 1993
Lots of dark espresso coffee bean on the nose, giving depth to a lovely animal perfume. There’s a gorgeous, typically Margaux bloody edge to fine, ripe cherry fruit with a hint of cocoa. Palate is immensely smooth and svelte, with a toasty richness to masses of chewy, ripe, dark berries set against mocha coffee and a fine, cherry and herbal edge. The tannins are ripe and in the background, and a lot of this wine’s elegance and perfume comes from crisp acidity and the freshness of the fruit into a very nice, long finish. Extremely impressive given the moderate vintage, and excellent.
Berry Bros has a double magnum for sale (very nice!), but single bottles are around £100 per bottle.