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wines of March 2006

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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.

under six pounds
le Freak (France) Shiraz Viognier 2004
This Vin de Pays d'Oc wine gets the vote because so many trendy Shiraz/Viognier blends are overblown and a bit crass, but not this one. The bedrock of the wine is a 20-year-old Syrah vineyard, and the wine sees no oak and partial carbonic maceration to emphasise fruitiness. It has a dense, dark ruby colour and a nose of earthy, meaty, bloody Syrah. There is plenty of ripe, spicy black fruit, and the Viognier component is not too evident . On the palate it is quite richly textured, with a mouthfilling fruitiness, and a puckering background of tannin. A sweetness of fruit, and suggestion of very ripe berries lingers n the mouth, in a very nicely made wine. Inexpensive, robust, fruity and harmonious. £5.99, The Co-op

under a tenner
Poggio Nibbiale (Italy) Morellino di Scansano 2004
Morellino di Scansano is a Tuscan DOC that may not have enjoyed the fame of Chianti, but which is proving a very happy hunting ground for lovers of Sangiovese wines. This is a beautifully sensuous wine, where the plush, dark, luxurious cherry and plum scents of the nose entwine with a tobacco and sweet fudge character. On the palate this is fresh and vibrant, with an earthy texture and a solid background of roughening tannins supports plenty of glossy black cherry fruit. Long and savoury, this is very fine Tuscan red that will cellar, but is crying out for a steak or rump of lamb right now. £9.95, or £8.95 by the case, Berry Bros & Rudd

under twenty
Etienne Sauzet (France) Bourgogne Blanc 2004
At a tasting of 40 Burgundy wines from teh 2004 vintage, which are only now starting to be shipped to the UK, the whites presented a unanimously impressive front, with lovely fruit and terrific acidity and balance. Amongst the modestly=priced stars of the tasting was this wine from Etienne Sauzet, one of the real stars of the Côte d'Or, who's basic Bourgogne might appear expensive, but has quality stamped all over it. It has sheer minerality and crispness on the nose, with a very fine palate that is filled with racy, tight, steely fruit. It stays crisp and taut throughout. £12.33 WoodWinters.co.uk, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

sky's the limit
Château du Tertre (France) Margaux 1998
A very modest sky's the limit this month, as this wine can be found for around £25, but I just enjoyed it so much. Du Tetre is a 5th growth Margaux that has been making really good wines for some time, and I drank this in Glasgow's Ubiquitous Chip restaurant with some beef. It has a a classic claret nose that is perfectly soft and cedary, but beautifully fruity and elegant too. Fine medium-bodied texture and a delicious structure to match with pickled brisket of beef, mustard mashed potatoes and wilted greens. Drinking beautifully right now, but will hold nicely for several years on this evidence. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com