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wines of January 2004

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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.

£5=$8.50US/€7.50 at time of writing.

under a fiver
La Chasse de Pape (France) Côtes du Rhône Reserve 2002
I am not entirely sure what the "reserve" signifies in this wine, but at £4.99 it presents a seriously nice deal for lovers or hearty, spicy reds. The back label says it is a selection of the "best terroirs" of Côtes du Rhône, and it is a classic blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, the syrah component spending time in new oak barrels. The plummy, baked fruit pie and vanilla nose has all sorts of nuances; prune, nutmeg and parma violet. On the palate it is savoury and deep-chested, with a rounded, powerfully red fruited character, showing lots of plum and hedgerow berries, supported by chocolaty, thick tannins and a sinewy core of acidity. The spicy warmth of the oak fills out on the finish too, in a lingering, flavourful wine. Excellent at the price, and benefits from an hour's decanting. Tesco £4.99

under a tenner
Chilensis (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc 2002
Yes, it is bargain time in the under a tenner category, as I choose a wine costing just £5.99. The main reason is that I had a bottle of this the night after I had opened a 2002 Sancerre at twice the price, and this, as they say, blew it away. It comes from Via winery, were I had the good fortune to stay for a few days before Christmas. Young English winemaker Julian Grubb impressed me with his dogged determination to get all aspects of his mostly organic vineyards and winery operation just right, and this crisp white from the Casablanca valley displays all the varietal oomph and vivid aroma/flavour profile of the best New World Sauvignons. The nose is flooded with greengage, gooseberry and nettles, with little passionfruit overtones. On the palate it has a big core of decisive, mouth-watering sour apple and grapefruit, and a spine of lime acidity. Long and very pure, this is impressive and delicious stuff. £5.99 Safeway.

under twenty
Denis Mortet (Burgundy) Bourgogne Cuvée Noble Souche 2001
The estate of Denis Mortet is a personal favourite of mine, and this fragrant, gorgeously seductive Burgundy is made from part declassified Grand Cru fruit, and is aged in 100% new oak: it is far removed from the generic Bourgogne on supermarket shelves. The colour is a bright cherry, and the nose offers a sumptuous melange of espresso coffee and strawberry, with some truffly undertones and a lovely harmony. On the palate it has medium-body and a spectrum of rasberry, plum and strawberry fruit, all with gentle but fleshy tannins and balanced acidity. Good length too. This wine is already drinking well, but it will be better given another two or three years, and it should age for 10 years+. £14.95 Berry Bros & Rudd

sky's the limit
Vinedo Chadwick (Chile) 1999
Eduardo Chadwick is the man behind the Errazuriz estate, and this is the first release of his own single-vineyard prestige wine, a blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon with 6% Carmenère. The Vinedo Chadwick vineyard is located along the banks of the Maipo river. It was close-planted with selected clones in 1992, specifically to make this premium wine. This low-yielding vintage has produced a dense, garnet coloured wine with a deep, serious, vinous nose of cedary, powerful character with notes of very sweet black fruits, a hint of violet and a broad, toasty, tobacco background. On the palate there is a mass of mouthfilling cherry and raspberry fruit, with depths of plummier concentration filling out the mid-palate, a real rasp of acidity, but polished, ripe tannins creating a warming, expansive finish. There is plenty of spice and toast, but this is a beautifully-balanced wine that combines structure and seductive fruit. £34.99 Luvians, see all stockists via: wine-searcher.com