September 2012 – Musella, Altanza, Sainsbury’s, Bell Hill

My favourite wines tasted during the month, in four price brackets.

under six pounds

Sainsbury’s, So Organic Shiraz 2011, France
This Languedoc Pays d’Oc Shiraz is not going to provide a transcendental experience, but it does deliver a bucketload of honest and organic enjoyment for a low price. It is brimming with creamy, juicy black fruit before the palate shows a touch of charcoally dryness that is savoury, but there’s good fruit too – it is unoaked, inky and taut, and its freshness means it would be an excellent mid-week pasta or suasage and mash basher. 85/100. £5.95, Sainsbury’s.

under ten pounds

Bodegas Altanza, Rioja Crianza Edulis 2009, Spain
Altanza has impressed me for several years now, particularly their top-end single vineyard wines, but this Crianza (twelve months in French and American barrels) has a delightful nose that has classic notes of tobacco, earthyand leather, but not at the expense of fresh and ripe berry fruit that has a velvet richness. The palate has loads of deliciously fresh, but still ripe and fleshy, berries and the tobacco, cedar and spice is subtle. Very nice cherry acidity and some vanilla marry with the sweet fruit and soft but present tannins. Drink now, but will hold a few years. 88/100. £9.30 at Bancroft Wines. See all stockists on

under twenty pounds

Tenuta Musella, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009, Italy
From an estate that has just converted to biodynamic farming with input from Vanya Cullen of Western Australia, this is a blend of 50% Corvina with Rondinella, Corvinone and a touch of Barbera. It has all the dusty, dry but lifted fruit-skin aromatics of typical ripasso, with fragrant, fresh cherry fruit. Full and dry on the palate, it’s a wine that coats the tongue wit flavour and texture, its substantial extract matched by lovely freshness to the fruit, tannin quality and acidity. The Amarones from this producer were sensational at this tasting, but then they were also twice the price. 92/100. £17.99, Armit.

sky’s the limit

Bell Hill, Pinot Noir 2008, New Zealand
This biodynamic estate in North Canterbury on the South Island as been causing a stir with its Pinots and Chardonnays. Whilst the 2008 Chardonnay was glorious (94 points) this utterly beguiling Pinot stole the show for me. From a tiny single plot, and only release now after four years, the nose is haunting, with such a beautiful fragrance combining ripe, soft, seductive fruit with truffle and damp, after-the-rain forest aromas. There are complex notes of roasted chestnut, game and dried blood. The palate doesn’t let down the promise of the nose: it is wonderfully soft, leafy and brackeny, with gamy complexity and a dry persistence, but the sweet, sweet fruit is there, the tannins and acidty so agile and elegant. It’s a high price, but it is magical stuff. 95/100. £69.99, Armit. See all stockists on