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wines of January 2003

Bery Bros & Rudd

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.

Because I was busy compiling my wines of the year at the end of December I did not do a "Four of the Best" for that month. Therefore, I have given myself the luxury of choosing this selection from wines drunk either in January, or in December 2002.

under a fiver
Terramater (Chile) Zinfandel/Shiraz 2001
Here is a very unusual blend of California's Zinfandel and Shiraz, the traditional grape of the Northern Rhône. Zinfandel makes up 85% of the blend, and predominates on the nose with its sweet, thick, glossy black fruit and chocolaty depth, allied to quite muscular, brawny, spice and old leather characteristics. There is some pepper and a lovely fruity definition on the nose, possibly revealing the Shiraz component. On the palate this offers a big mouthful of bramble and blackcurrant fruit, all shot through with a citrus acidity and firm tanninc bite. The finish is spicy and holds on to notes of fudge and vanilla (the wine is part aged in a combination of American and French oak barrels). Savoury, juicy and balanced, this really is quite a mouthful for under a fiver an proof that Chile is holding its own in this sector. Safeway £4.99.

under a tenner
Château de Fieuzal (Bordeaux) Blanc 1992
I bought this white Graves in France a couple of years ago, for about £8 per bottle, though the price of the current vintage is around £25 in the UK. The giant Leclerc supermarket chain had lots of white Bordeaux at knockdown prices. This has an absolutely gorgeous nose of fat, slightly vegetal citrus fruit and pear, with layers of smoke, vanilla, wax and wet wool. The palate is lovely too, with broad, quite vegetal flavours again; touches of green bean and nuttiness over citrus fruit. A lovely lush mouthful of wine, with restraining influence of shimmering acidity tempering the richness into a long finish. Excellent.

under twenty
Domaine Perdrix (Burgundy) Nuits St Georges aux Perdrix 1er Cru 1997
A bit of a cheat, as this was purchased in Edencroft's spectacular bin-end sale in January, at half-price. What a gorgeous Burgundy, from its deep, healthy colour to its complex, multi-layered nose and firm, authoritative finish. The nose is all cedary black fruits, spice and minerals at first; very tight and unyeilding. Then, slowly, much more gamy, truffley, animal and sauvage notes emerge, along with a little breadth of coffee-bean oak. On the palate it is juicy and tightly-focused, with firm, ripe tannins constraining a core of solid fruit; black berries and some refined, raspberry notes. Still a lovely warmth of gentle oak and spices, and lovely purity and breeding into a long finish. Excellent/Outstanding. Edencroft, was on sale at £17.50

sky's the limit
Dominus (Napa) 1991
From Christiam Moueix of Château Pétrus in Pomerol, this is a wine with a huge reputation - including 99 points from Robert Parker. This is the fourth or fifth time I've tasted the wine, and it gets better and better each time. The nose here was beautifully fragrant, with violets, cedar and tobacco layered over gently meaty, animal scents, but all in an increasingly convincing melange with blackcurrant and juicy black cherry fruit, that had me guessing this as Château Lafite when served blind by friends on New Year's eve. The palate has lovely weight, with medium body and plenty of juicy, savoury black fruit, some grilled, meaty notes again, and plenty of toast and spice. Quite plush and velvety on the mid-palate, the wine stays focused and pure into a long, balanced finish, where crisp acidity and ripe tannins add some structure. Outstanding. Expect to pay £150 and upward at auction or from specialist fine wine merchants. See all stockists via: wine-searcher.com