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wines of October 2002

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
Via Floriana (Hungary) Pinot Grigio 2001
What a lovely little wine that looks Italian, tastes Italian, Reads Italian, yet comes from Hungary. A new line in Sainsbury's, this attractively aromatic wine has herbs, nettles and wild flowers on the nose, with seductive hints of honey and straw. The palate has plenty of richness and texture, with green fig and melon fruit that is very sweet, pure and focused. There is indeed a flattering, easy-drinking hint of residual sugar, but plenty of apple and citrus acidity. Very good indeed. Sainsbury's £3.99

under a tenner
Lowe Family (Australia) "Tinja" Sangiovese-Barbera-Merlot 2001
I had lunch with David Lowe and his partner Jane Wilson recently and tasted their impressive range. David makes the whites, and Jane the reds, including this fabulous and unusual wine from their new second label, "Tinja". The wine is deep, sensuous and plush on the nose, with a terrifically vibrant quality of cherry fruit, licked with spice. On the palate the svelte texture reveals more sour cherry fruit and acidity, with a deeper seam of damson. There is good background tannin, and nicely-judged acidity in an easy drinking but very characterful package that is quite delicious. Strathardle Fine Wines (01389 830643) £98.88 per case of 12, including VAT and delivery (£8.24 equivalent)

under twenty
Planeta (Italy, Sicily) "Cometa" 2001
On holiday last year on Italy's Amalfi coast I fell in love with the local white wines from high quality producers in the area, particularly those made from the Fiano di Avellino grape. It was no surprise therefore that this wine from the excellent Planeta pressed my buttons, being 100% Fiano. Fermentation and maturation in new French oak adds a wonderfully toasty, charry, hot-buttered crumpets layer on the nose, over piercing tangerine, mango, pineapple and spicy fruit compote aromas. Sensory overload continues onto the palate, where unctuous tropical fruit floods the tongue. It is like biting into ripe, dark, tangerine fruit with nectarine richness then a beautifully fresh cut of acidity. Creamy oak rounds out the long, long finish of this hedonistic and impressive wine. Sensational. Edencroft £18.50, Sainsbury's (Finchley Rd and Cromwell Rd stores only) £18.99.

sky's the limit
Vega Sicilia (Spain) Unico 1990
From Ribera del Duero comes this aristocratic red wine, a blend of native Tempranillo and Bordeaux varieties. This is a baby (the 1970 tasted recently was just coming onto its stride), with a compelling nose of charred toast, woodsmoke, cedar, blood, game, earth and truffle adding complexity to a great, solid core of ripe black fruit. On the palate quite sinewy and serious, with edgy tannins and more cedary oak, but that cannot disguise the sheer layered depth of cassis and cherry, earth and smoky black fruit. Lovely length and balance, and a star in the making. Excellent/outstanding. Seckford Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd, Fine & Rare Wines £125 - £190.