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wines of May 2002

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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 a fiver
Chiwara (South Africa) Pinotage 2001
Make sure you buy the 2001 vintage of this deep, vibrant, purple-coloured wine as I've tried the 2000 since, and it is nowhere near as good. This is a fine example of the Pinotage grape, curiosity and sometimes star of the South African winemaking scene. Pinotage is a crossing of two grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Pinotage is planted very widely in South Africa, but is a grape that requires careful winemaking to show at its best. Though the back label doesn't reveal it, this one is made specifically for the UK market by Australian flying winemaker, Kim Milne. He has worked some magic to produce a nose of toasty, coffee-bean oak and cocoa-dusted ripe berry fruit. The palate is flooded with intensely sweet blueberry and black cherry fruit, bags of spice and crisp tannins. Medium- to full-bodied, there's a rich, spicy weight that persists through to the finish in this thoroughly impressive and delicious, big-hearted red. Spar £4.99.

under a tenner
Il Molino di Grace (Italy, Tuscany) Chianti Classico 1999
This Chianti comes from a new producer in the Classico zone, and is being imported into the UK by a regular visitor to wine-pages, Mark Goucher. Mark has already had a lot of success with the wine, with a well-known restaurant group snapping up a large part of his allocation. I can understand why: it has a beautifully deep cherry red colour and a nose that is dark and inviting. There are aromatic suggestions of tobacco and, damp autumn leaves, a hint of black cherry and plenty of earthy, ripe berries. On the palate this is fresh and appetising, with a medium-body and crisp raspberry fruit edge over smoky, charcoally elements and a solid core of ripe, zippy cherry fruit. The tannins are fine and ripe, and there's a nice slick of vanilla into the finish that contrasts with fresh acidity. A complex and impressive Chianti, and very nicely balanced. Very good indeed. Available from markgoucher@netscape.net; Tel: 0777 637 8896, for £7.99.

under twenty
Niepoort (Portugal) "Redoma" Douro 1995
Dirk Niepoort is the visionary young winemaker of top-rated Port wines who has also blazed a trail for dry red wines from the Douro Valley, made from indigenous grapes. The 1999 vintage is currently on release, but this was a chance to taste a mature wine from the stocks of Raeburn's in Edinburgh. Extremely dark, dense, crimson/black colour. Beautifully sweet, direct, fruit-driven nose with juicy, thick black fruit, jammy ripeness and little floral nuances. Big background of fudgy oak. The palate is deliciously rich and dense, with a wonderfully soft, chewy, silky texture and terrific length and sweetness of fruit. Fine balance, and very good indeed/excellent. Available from Raeburn Fine Wines for £14.95.

sky's the limit
Torbreck Cellars (Australia) Run Rig Shiraz 1999
This is a sensational wine from Torbreck Cellars in the Barossa Valley, "cult" makers of tiny lots of super-expensive wines, and much praised by Robert Parker amongst others. Because of the hype surrounding the wines it is tough for them to live up to the billing, and that problem is not relieved by their scarcity, with almost the entire production being on strict allocation to regular customers. This wine certainly showed fantastic class though, with a gorgeous, opulent, velvety nose suffused with sweet, soft toasty oak, fudge, spice, leather and mulberry and autumn berry fruit. On the palate the opulence continues, with a sweet, pure, glycerine-rich, mouth-coating weight of black cherry and ripe plum fruit, and super concentration and length. A real stop-you-in-your-tracks wine, balancing powerhouse muscle and structured complexity. Excellent. Use wine-searcher.com to find stockists, but it will cost well over £100 per bottle.