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wines of March 2003

Armit Wines

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
Riverview (Hungary) Sauvignon Blanc 2001
The Riverview range offers a lot of value for money with its clean, crisp, modern whites. The Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio is a fine little wine (currently on offer at £2.99 in Safeway until April 5th), but this Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect summer drink, so worth sticking away half a dozen now. From their state of the art winery near Budapest, Riverview specialise in aromatically pure, zesty whites. This has a delightful nose, brimming with lime, lychee and piercing gooseberry fruit. There's just a gentle nettly herbaceousness, but really this is focused on clean, crisp fruit. On the palate there is immediate ripe-fruit sweetness, with a big, mouthwatering mouthful of zesty citrus, apple and lightly-tropical fruit, brisk grapefruit acidity and lovely elegance. An absolute treat at the price (though a sneaky insider tip: this will be £2.99 on promotion from April 27th - mark your diaries!).
Safeway, £3.99

under a tenner
Clos d'Yvigne (France) Cuvée Nicholas Bergerac Sec 2000
I loved this wine it is fair to say. Regular visitors will know I have a penchant for white Bordeaux, and this wine has all the taut, lithe, elegant qualities of a young white Graves. Often New World oaked Sauvignon Blanc is too flashily wooded, with a big, obvious layer of oak failing to marry with piercing fruit, and presenting a disjointed picture. Here, like in the best white Bordeaux, the oak is supportive and integrated, and the whole picture much more intriguing and satisfying. Perhaps the Sémillon content helps, adding a waxy richness and melding the components together. The nose has deep, luxurious notes of toast, vanilla and downy peach skins, with a little creaminess, and a zesty note of lemon. In the mouth this is powerful and structured, with fine citrussy acidity and greengage flavours giving cut to full, buttery fruit and creamy oak in the broad mid-palate. This need some time, and should be even better in five to ten years. Very good indeed/excellent. £9.95, Waitrose.

under twenty
Antech (Limoux) Blanquette de Limoux Cuvée Exception 1996
What a fine, fine wine this is. Like all Blanquette de Limoux, the major part of the blend is Mauzac, a native grape of Limoux and neighbouring Gaillac. It is joined here by a small proportion of Chardonnay, which is fermented in oak barrels before spending several years in the cellar prior to release. The nose offers up a wonderful melange of nutty, leesy, toasted brioche aromas with dried green apple and pear fruit. There's a leafy, slightly nettly quality, but the broad, generous aromas are toffeed, fine and inviting. The rich, rolling mousse adds to the sense of fullness and toasty complexity, and this utterly delicious wine really does come across like a mini-Krug, with no sign of rusticity, and plenty of crisp, elegant length. Excellent and serious stuff. £11.50, www.devignewines.co.uk.

sky's the limit
Vega Sicilia (Spain) Unico 1985
From Ribera del Duero in the northeast of Spain comes this aristocratic red wine, a blend of native Tempranillo and Bordeaux varieties. This is a still a relatively immature wine (the 1970 is just coming onto its stride), but shows promise. Initially, I found a less than convincing bell-pepper note on the nose, suggesting a slightly leafy underripeness, but this soon evolved into an earthier, cedarwood, pencil-shaving aspect, and a deep, creamy core of blackcurrant began to emerge. On the palate it is relatively cool and closed for now, though the richness is evident in the mouthfeel and core of tight black fruit, cherry skin, and smoky, almost tobacco-like quality in the background. It seems to have fine tannins and plenty of acidity. I'd guess this is not destined to be one of the absolute top-notch Vega-Sicilias, but lovely to glimpse such a brooding presence of a fine wine at this stage - and who knows what another 10 or 15 years will bring? You will only find older vintages of Vega-Sicilia Unico at auction, or from specialist brokers and merchants. These include: Berry Bros & Rudd, Fine & Rare and Seckford Wines, at around £125 - £200 per bottle.