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top wines of February 2012

Dona Paula

There was an embrassment of riches in February 2012 for me, not only a lunch with the Primum Familiae Vini that included Vega Sicilia 1953, Mouton-Rothschild 1961, Müller-Scharzhof's Trockenbeerenauslese 1990 and many more legendary wines, but I travelled to Lebanon too for some amazing tastings of Château Musar and many others, with wine back to 1937. But as those events will be featured in full reports on wine-pages, I've excluded them from this little run-down of my favourite wines tasted in February, in four price brackets.

under a fiver

St Hallett, Poachers Blend White 2010, Australia
But for 26 pence, the £5.25 Cserszegi Fűszeres from Hilltop winery from The Wine Society might have scooped this, but in fact St Hallett's blend of 60% Semillon, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Riesling on offer at just £4.99 is a very worthy winner. Indeed it is always a winner combining exotic, ripe-fruited drinkability and real zing. Here at its bargain price it is a Spring and Summer banker. Punchy, herb-tinged stuff, with some lime cordial and a hint of waxiness, the Riesling apparent on the nose. The palate has delicious mouth-filling fruit, just loads of flavour and texture, the pithy lemon dryness of the finish adding lovely balance. £8.99, buy 2 bottles save £8 = £4.99 and a terrific buy at that price. 86/100. Note also that Majestic in Calais is currently selling this at a crazy £2.99.

under a tenner

Project Winemaker Pays d'Oc Sauvignon Blanc 2010, France
This Languedoc Sauvignon is partly aged in large (500 litre) barrels from Seguin Moreau. It has a really lovely nose, the vanilla and gently floral delicacy of the oak melding with quite ripe, slightly tropical fruit suggesting mango and necatrine, but with a citrus freshness too. On the palate this balances ripe, juicy stone fruit flavours with the little herby and lemony cut of the Sauvignon, the oak fading into the background but adding a subtle texture and richness. Balanced acidity keeps the finish fresh. An unusual and very successful style of Sauvignon Blanc, and well priced. 88-89/100. 7.99, Averys.

under twenty

Cederberg, Shiraz 2008, South Africa
A serious, range-topping Shiraz from the coastal region of Cederberg, this wine is aged in mostly French oak from Nevers and Alliers, around 70% of which is new. It is an immediately powerful and concentrated wine suffused with smoke and rich black fruit, but there's a little cooler, herby and green olive note too that gives lovely earthy authenticity and a savoury appeal. On the palate it is concentrated and muscular, the rich, ripe fruit layered with pepper and meaty, spicy notes, with plenty of chicory-like tannin and acidity adding more tension and drama. Terrific. 92/100. 18.50, Bancroft Wines (16.56 by the case). See all UK stockists on wine-searcher.

sky's the limit

Coates & Seely, Britagne Blanc de Blancs NV, England
The release of Coates £ Seely's first wine, a sparkling rosé took me and most who tasted it by storm; a deliciously summer-fruited concoction. Now they've followed up with another winner, a Blanc de Blancs, all-Chardonnay cuvée based on fruit from the 2009 vintage grown in the chalky soils of the Hampshire Downs. The mousse is rich, and the aromas immediately say Chardonnay with apple fruit and a gentle note of custard and fresh-baked brioche. On the palate this has a crisp, fine mousse that streaks across the tongue and pin-sharp acidity. But there's an inherent sense of sweetness here (not sugar, as this has a 'Brut' level of only 10.1g/l dosage), with a touch of honey and tangerine-bright acidity that gives it plenty of delicious drinkability. Another great effort from an estate in the vanguard of the quality English wine movement. £25.85 from coatesandseely.com. See all UK stockists of Coates & Seely on wine-searcher.