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under a tenner
Dominio del Plata (Argentina) Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés 2006
I've just completed a mammoth tasting of over 20 wines made from Argentina's Torrontés grape for a future article focusing on this unusual grape variety, and this one from winemaker Susana Balbo really stood out as a star of the bunch. Torrontés is a variety that has always had lovely aromatics, but the wines often failed to deliver on the palate. However, recent changes to viticulture and winemaking have started to show tremendous results, and finally the flavours and balance of the wines in the mouth are living up to the exotic promise of the nose. This, from fruit grown in the Cafayate Valley 600 miles north of Mendoza has a haunting, alluring nose, with a gentle suggestion of honey and spices, and a soft, peach down fruit quality. There's a hint of dried apricot, and a little lemony zest too. On the palate this is a beautifully tempered example of Torrontés, brimming with bright oranges and lemons fruit, with a lovely core of acidity but none of the harsher edges that sometimes show up with this variety. Gorgeous stuff, with a long finish showing hints of spice and lemon zest. The best example of Torrontés I've come across so far. £5.99 - £6.99, Majestic, www.lasbodegas.co.uk, Hedley Wright.
under six pounds
Viña Garedo (Spain) Sauvignon Blanc Verdejo Viura 2005
Vinified by Grupo Yllera from typical Rueda region grapes, this deliciously aromatic white wine pours a very pale gold. The nose has aromas of ripe apples, yellow plums and little touches of nettly herbs and green pepper. In the mouth it has good presence, with a nice balance between quite succulent fruit, reminiscent of passionfruit and ripe plums, and a certain fresh, sherbetty minerality adding a freshening touch of zest. It is medium-bodied and stays quite grippy and focused through the finish. An easy drinking wine, but one with a bit of bite that would match well with most white fish and would cut through a seafood paella or creamy risotto very nicely. £5.49, Corney & Barrow, Field & Vine, everywine.co.uk.
Château Doisy-Védrines (France) Sauternes 2002
This Grande Cru Classé property in Barsac has been owned by the Castéja family since 1946 (also owners of Châteaux Batailley and Trotte Vieille). The twenty-seven hectare vineyard is planted to 80% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. Yields here are extremely low, the grapes picked in several 'tries', and maturation is in 100% new oak barriques. This wine has a delicate pale lemony/gold colour, and the nose reflects that delicacy, with a beautifully limpid Botrytis quality of honey and barley-sugar, with small notes of leaf-tea and orange. It is delicate, but it is also intense. On the palate it is medium-bodied, but there is delightful richness and thickness as it coats the tongue. The honey and mouth-filling apricot and nectarine sweetness is there, but it is cut through with a juiciness of orange fruit and acidity. The creamy, vanillin and toasty pillow of oak begins to support in the finish, and this subtle but beautifully balanced wine builds rather than falling away. A really delightful Sauternes, with balance, intensity and finesse. £13.50 per 37.5cls, Berry Bros & Rudd, or £12.17 by the case. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
sky's the limit
Rocca di Montegrossi (Italy) Chianti Classico San Marcellino 2003
This is the top Chianti produced by one of my favourite estates in this region. 100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard, less than 20,000 bottles are produced. 18 months in small oak barrels gives extra smokiness and vanillin depth on the nose, with complex cedar and tobacco notes subtly underpinning such pristine, ripe cherry fruit. This is aromatically just beautiful, and it leads onto a palate where the freshness and leafy purity of the fruit really dominates. There is that fat, sweet cherry again, but also hints of eucalyptus and kirsch, and a little nuance of black olive. The acidity is crisp and tantalising, and as the soft, sweet, power of the oak begins to fill-in on the finish, the wine becomes silky and lush, with great persistence. A brilliant Chianti that's full of finesse, and another simply world-class wine from Rocca di Montegrossi. Around £20, see all UK stockists on wine-searcher.