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wines of March 2009

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These might be wines that have been reviewed during the month on wine-pages, or have appeared in my magazine 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

Pena de Pato (Portugal) Dão Tinto 2005
This is a typically robust Dão blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro Preto, only a small proportion is matured in oak, so the nose retains plenty of bright, chunky, raspberry and cherry fruit with a suggestion of something intriguingly aromatic: spices or herbs. On the palate it is medium-bodied and smooth-textured, with copious black cherry fruit flooding the mouth. Acidity is good, and the tannins are creamy and quite refined for such a chunky, direct wine. Lovely stuff and persistent on the finish. £6.99, Waitrose and Majestic but sneaking in here because currently you can buy two bottles at Majestic at £5.59 each.

under a tenner

Bodega Colomé (Argentina) Torrontés 2007
I recently conducted a tasting for 30 wine lovers featuring wines from Argentina's quality end of production, from which this and the 'under £20' entries both come. It has to be said that on the night all six wines absolutely shone, with the Pulenta Estate 'Gran Corte VII' (also available from Noel Young) a stunning Bordeux blend with huge ageing potential. But I've chosen this relatively modestly-priced Torrontés because it is a fascinating wine from vineyards at over 8,000 feet altitude, a terrific expressison of the variety, and just a delicious wine. It captures the fabulously perfumed, jasmine and honeysuckle exoticism of the Torrontes beautifully, with a concentrated, substantial palate and decisive acidity. A huge mouthful of character - which is something you can say for so few wines. £8.49, Noel Young. See all stockists of Bodega Colomé Torrontés on wine-searcher.com.

under twenty

Catena Zapata (Argentina) Alta Chardonnay 2005
I've been lucky enough to visit the Catena estate in Mendoza three times over the last seven or eight years and whilst their Malbecs and Cabernets are always superb (indeed, the 2005 Alta Malbec was voted 'wine of the night' at the tasting referred to above) I have a huge soft spot for the Alta Chardonnay. This is for me one of the southern hemisphere's great Chardonnay wines. I've now tasted this vintage half a dozen times and am very glad I stuck half a case away in the last "20% off Argentina" deal at Majestic. Terrific balance of quality oak, ripe fruit and minerality with fantastic precision in the long finish. Arguably a Premier Cru Burgundy-beater. Around £17.99, Bibendum Wine. See all stockists of Catena Alta series wines on wine-searcher.com.

sky's the limit

Vega-Sicilia (Spain) Unico 1974
This Ribera del Duero wine was tasted from magnum. Youthful colour, with orange at rim. A lovely nose, with Sandalwood and exotic spiciness. There is fruit here too, and a beguiling cherry-infused edge to fudge-like depth and ripeness. The palate has magical sweetness of fruit. The balance is impeccable, with intense fruit concentration, a great support of firm but supple tannin and acid structure that just ripples through the wine without ruffling the surface. The intense, spicy finish has nuanced layers of complexity. Drinking absolutely beautifully, but should cellar 10 years+. 96/100. £320.00, Roberson. See all stockists of Vega-Sicilia on wine-searcher.com.