Wine notes March 2006

Chateau La Grave Rose 2005, Minervois e10 Rating 14/20
At certain times of the year, wine tastings, large and small run back to back, like buses when you don’t need one. February is one such month. A tasting most of the wine scribes are loath to miss is that organised annually by the Searsons – a long-established, family owned wine merchant blessed with a great portfolio. Among the aristocratic Vega Sicilia Unicos, the Yquems and the ageing Crus Classes put out to lure us to attend I sniffed out some lesser known gems. Like this lustrously vibrant and intense rose that, for my money knocks spots off many dearer alternatives.

Cotes de Duras, Sauvignon Blanc, Honore de Berticot 2005 e10 Rating 14/20
From a tiny and unfashionable appellation south of Bordeaux, this Sauvignon has more in common with smart Sancerre than with the New Zealand style of rakish acidity over dessert gooseberry fruit.
Quite subtle, fat without being fatiguing and a lot of class for the money.

Rueda, Eylo 2005 e11 Rating 15/20
The rise-and-rise of hitherto unknown parts of Spain continues. A blend of Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and Viura maintains interest on the palate. The intense flavours eventually transmute into a long lime-and-grapefruit finish. This is exciting wine.

Chateau de Navailles Jurancon Sec 2003 13.75 Rating 15/20
One to impress your friends for many of them won’t have heard about Gros Manseng. This essentially Basque grape doesn’t make it much further north than Gascony. Jurancon was one of France’s earliest Appelations Controllees and it was here, as far back as the 14th century that the concept of a cru was first introduced. Henri IV and the writer Colette were both big fans of the region’s wines. This one is hefty and generous with a style all of its own.

Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett, RvK 2002 18.00 Rating 18.5/20
Charles Searson will kill me! “Even if you talk it up,” he says “Hardly anyone buys German wines.” I got the feeling he’d rather I devoted space to something else. All I can say to you wine lovers out there is: get over the throat-clearing name; put aside all your prejudices. Okay it’s ‘off-dry’ there’s no racy acidity but but so what? This wine is simply sensational and, for the money, an absolute steal.

Rasteau, Domaine St Gayan 2003 e14.75 Rating 16/20
Domaine St.Gayan’s 2000 Gigondas was huge, bourgeoning, exquisite. The violet-and-cracked-pepper nose was alone worth the asking price. The 2002 I tasted was lovely, more laid back and the ’03, not out yet, promises the extrovert tendencies of earlier vintages. Meanwhile, the Rasteau, its baby brother gives you shedloads of dark plummy fruit, hints of dark chocolate and cinnamon and a sophistication elsewhere unattainable at the price. Buy.

Mas en Gill, Priorat Coma Vella 2002 e32 Rating 18.5/20
A winemaking revolution in the 1990’s after 400 years of ‘same as was’ made this remote Catalonian sub-region upwardly mobile. Terroir is all the rage and these guys have some of the best. Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah combine to make a stunningly intense, unbelievably smooth, myriad-flavoured red, delicious now but, I reckon, of great longevity if laying down wines is your thing. Could become an icon.

Heartland Wines Director’s Cut Shiraz, Limestone Coast 2004 e22.50 Rating 17/20
Heartland Wines was started in 2001 by a group including Ben Glaetzer, Vicky Arnold, Grant Tilbrook and Geoff Hardy, savvy people all. I’ve previously praised Ben’s The Bishop Shiraz in this column. The Director’s Cut seems more laid back, a staging post between the lean elegance of the Northern Rhone and the exuberance and lust-for-life of the Barossa, if that’s not too contrived (it was a long day!). And though I’m not generalk a fan of Shiraz-Cabernet mixes I found myself loving the heather, mint and cornstalk nose and the opulent mouthfeel of Glaetzer’s new Godolphin 2004 e38 Rating 18.5/20

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