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H&H Bancroft Portfolio

Tom Cannavan, 05/07

I recently had the opportunity to taste around 40 wines from the range at the London-based merchant H&H Bancroft, led by Chairman Peter de Haan and Buying Director and Master of Wine, David Round. Included were some very fine Burgundies from the 2004 vintage, some excellent premium quality wines from places as diverse as Slovenia and Argentina, and a selection of everyday bottles starting at under a fiver.

sparkling wines

Santa Stefano Prosecco Extra Dry NV
Very fresh, very appetising pear fruit. Fine floral notes, and a delicate peach down aroma. Fine, racy mousse with a beautifully sweet-edged pear fruit. The fruit is so sweet, soft and delicate that it is hard to believe this is dry until a fine, gentle and racy lemon acidity kicks in. Delightful. 88. £7.25

Pierre Moncuit (France) Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil NV
Fine biscuit and toasty edge to this, with a gentle bruised apple fruit and herbal qualities. The palate has a full, rolling mousse and there is plenty of apple and pear fruit that floods across the tongue. Mouthfilling in the mid palate, a really taut, racy lemon acidity extends and lengthens the finish in a lovely NV Champagne. 90. £16.26

white wines

Terres Noires (France) VdP d'Oc Roussanne Sauvignon 2006
Very gentle, forward pear fruit nose. Delicate, with a little grassy background note. The palate has a certain buttery roundness, though no oak is present, but there is a creamy density and pear and peachy fruit before a firmer, cutting lemon fruit comes through. This works quite well as a blend, and despite a little flatness in the mid palate, is very good indeed for its modest price. 86. £5.25

Pagos de La Capula (Spain) Malvasia 2006, Zamora
Gentle, subdued waxy nectarine and floral aromas. Some nice fruit starts to emerge. On the palate this is perhaps very slightly flabby for me, though it has fine varietal character coming through. Quite dense and fruity in to the finish. 86. £4.75

J. Bouchon (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Maule
Sweet-fruited, rounded, passion fruit and melon aromas in a well-tempered Sauvignon with a touch of grassy background. The palate is very fresh and crisp, with a ripeness of peachy fruit immediately cut by a fine grapefruity acidity. Nicely balanced, if a little weak in the finish. 87. £5.50

Vincent Pinard (France) Sancerre Cuvee Harmonie 2004
Big toasty nose, with a gunflint aromas, but also charry coffee bean oak. On the palate there is a lovely vanillin sweetness with a certain smoky character playing against the tropical-edged, lemony fruit. Mango and nectarine notes, and a suggestion of toffee form the oak, add up to a fascinating Fume style wine of very good quality. 91. £21.53

Henri Pelle (France) Menetou Salon Clos de Blanchais 2004
Ripe, quite lush but fine pear drop and racy white fruit aromas. nettly background emerges. Fine palate, with very refined fruit, that is clean, crisp and pure, with a seamless white fruit mid-palate that stays light and crisp, and a delicately mineral and citrus acidity to balance. 89. £12.25

Didier Dagenau (France) Silex Pouilly-Fume 2005
Intense, dry, unflambouyant nose, with gently smoky and flinty notes, a touch of citrus, but really a pure, stony minerality. On the palate real concentration, with the gooseberry and passionfruit character coming through, a lean, searing core of lemon, and that tugging, decisive minerality. A very concentrated and impressive wine. 93. POA

Billaud-Salmon (France) Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaillons 2004
Nice honeysuckle and very delicately toasty nose, with mealy notes and a certain butteryness, and quite ripe apple fruit. On the palate this has a lovely freshness, with really pinpoint acidity and very pure fruit. Lovely balance here, with the crunch and vibrancy of the apple and pear fruit cut by a lemon and lime note, and a sense of minerality. 91. £14.95

Chandon de Briailles (France) Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru Ile de Vergelesses 2004
Gently honeyed, almost heathery aromatic notes, with gentle background toastiness and Cox's Pippin apple notes. The palate has plenty of fruit, and a freshness with pear and apple, a nutty background, and fine definition of mineral acidity suggesting white fruits and lemon pith. Long and elegant, and very good. 92. £24.50

Gagnard Delegrange (France) Chassagne Montrachet 2004
Subdued, composed, gently white fruited nose. Minerality here, and a very clean character. On the palate this is very vibrant and steely, with a core of white fruit, a definite minerality and a defining core of pithy lemon acidity. Lean, clean and quite long. 90. £26.50

Hortus (France) Bergerie de L'Hortus Blanc Val de Montferand 2005
Honey and dry, nutty apple fruitiness, with a mealy quality. On the palate this has a lovely limpid quality of fruit, with plenty of sweetness, a touch of spices and herbs, and a mouthfilling character with gentle nuttiness and gentle acidity. Delicious. 89. £10.35

Charles Hours (France) Jurançon Sec Cuvée Marie 2004
The 'Cuvée Marie' is made from 90% Gros Manseng and 10% Petit Courbu. According to Hours, the Gros Manseng provides much of the structure and fruit while the Courbu adds finesse. Quite pungent herbal nose, with nutty and nettly notes, and deep, lush peachy fruit. The palate is filled with fruit sweetness, with lovely honeyed, limpid character and plenty of apple and lemon rind. Acidity is fine, giving lots of cut and bite, and a delicious little wine. 90. £9.95

Francois Villard (France) Viognier Le Contours de Deponcins Vdp Rhodaniennes 2005
Very sweet, rounded peach and ripe, juicy pear aromatics. Tiny floral and spice notes add interest. The palate is lively and bright, with concentrated, intense fruit that is fleshy and dry. There's a hint of something minty on the palate with a herbal character, with lots of power but nicely balanced acidity in the finish. 91.

Elena Walch (Italy) Pinot Grigio Alto Adige 2005
Delicate, perfumed floral and pear skin notes. A touch of honey and a touch of wax in a subdued but complex aromatic profile. The palate has quite mouthfilling, rounded apple and pear fruit, with quite a rich texture and a nice bite of crunchy acidity. 89. £8.95

Simčič (Slovenia) Pinot Grigio 2005
Gentle smoky and herbal, straw-like notes, with a dry apple fruitiness. On the palate this has clean, pure, very precise apple and pear fruit flavours, but with a hint of honeyed richness and touch of spice. Good balance here, in a fairly serious but fruity style. 87. £9.95

Simčič (Slovenia) Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2004
The nose has some really honeyed, ripe and buttery notes, suggesting a touch of barrique perhaps? There's a touch of mint and herb-tinged, crunchy white fruit. On the palate there is freshness and plenty of bite here, with a waxy lemon weight of fruit, a powerful spicy background and those complex creamy, straw-like and vanillin note emerging in the finish again. Powerful stuff, but very impressive. 90. £15.50

Simčič (Slovenia) Teodor Reserve 2003
Ribolla, Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano. Honey, minerality and a rounded apple fruit are joined by sweet vanillin notes and a certain toastiness. On the palate this is dry and quite tight, but that lemon, vanilla and honey note comes through again, with a pithy citrus dryness and a very nutty, waxy, tight finish. Lovely balance and layers of complexity here, in a very singular style that reminds me a little of the wines of Josko Gravner just over the border in Italy. 91. £15.50

Luigi Bosca (Argentina) Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2006
Fine, quite grassy and nettly aromas, with pungent gooseberry fruit and hints of more exotic lychee. On the palate this is bright and sparky too, with plenty of pungent Sauvignon personality and greengage fruit, that herbaceous bite and very good acidity. A very impressive Argentine Sauvignon. 89.

red wines

Terres Noires (France) VdP d'Oc Grenache merlot 2005
Dense, cherry, slightly inky black fruits, with good fruit on the palate. Quite dry, with a ripeness but good balance with some gentle tannins and sufficient acidity. 86. £5.25

Pagos de La Capula (Spain) Tempranillo 2005
Dense, quite closed, plum skin and taut dark berry fruit. Finish is firm and inky, with no oak to soften, but a schist, dark charcoally quality and skinny grip. 86. £4.75

Chandon de Briailles (France) Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru Ile de Vergelesses 2003
Quite bright cherryish fruit, with just hints of truffle and briar, and gentle rose-hip floral notes. On the palate this has richness and lovely fruit sweetness, with lots of rounded, sweet, cherry and berry fruit through the mid palate and a firm tannic background. Not a lot of gaminess or Burgundian character in some ways, but beautifully pure Pinot. 91. £16.25.

Henri Gouges (France) Nuits-St-Georges 2004
Gamy, quite animal notes with a touch of Brettanomyces. On the palate dusty minerality comes through, with a core of pure cherry fruit, but that little Bretty metallic edge is troublesome. 88. £20

Robert Chevillon (France) Nuits-St-Georges Vieilles Vignes 2004
Clean, pure, quite plush and forward cherry fruit. Nice little truffle and earthy notes. The fruit on the palate is sweet and bright, with a fine, silky texture but ripe, creamy tannins and good structure. Long and delicious. 91. £21.00

Robert Chevillon (France) Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Vaucrains 2004
Very dense, very intense with all sorts of floral and violet nuances to solid, ripe cherry and berry fruit tinged with vanilla. On the palate it is tight and focused, with plenty of creamy oak at this stage, but a solid, powerful fruit and supple muscularity. Needs time. 93. £38.00

Pierre Damoy (France) Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru 2004
A tiny touch of Brett here, but the concentration of fruit wins through easily and along with a leafy, briary, earthy minerality, adds complexity. On the palate this is very refined, with a lovely fruit quality. Real essence of ripe, juicy red fruits, with a supple tannic framework and core of acidity. Savoury and very fine. 94. £65

Château Grand Bert (France) St Emilion Grand Cru 2003
Bold, fruity, really quite chocolaty nose with plum and deep-set blackcurrant fruit. Dense and concentrated on the palate, with an impressive depth of fruit. This is well structured, and even in the low acid 2003 vintage, should have some ageing potential. 90. £12.95

Pierre Gaillard (France) VdP Syrah 2004
Little gamy, schisty qualities here over solid raspberry and creamy cherry fruit. Dry and savoury on the palate, there's a core of racy orange acidity that gives and edge to the ripe berry fruit. Supple, dry tannins and a good acid structure leave this bright, food-friendly and inexpensive wine well-balanced and moreish. 88. £6.50

Pierre Gaillard (France) Côte Rôtie 2004
Intensely mineral, schisty, charcoal and stony notes on the nose over a complex array of floral, cherry and sage aromas. The palate has beautiful structure, with a mineral definition to ripe black fruit, with delightful balance and length. 93. £28.00

Domaine Santa Duc (France) Gigondas Les Hautes Garrigues 2004
Very tight, peppery, schisty black fruit. Lots of muscular, tightly-wound blackcurrant. Fine palate too, with refined chocolate and plum character and a nice edge of roughening plumskin tannins. Excellent blend of powerful, deep fruit, a real sense of minerality, and powerful structure. Most impressive. 93. £21.50

Domaine Cristia (France) Châteauneuf-du-Pape 'Renaissance' 2004
A new estate for me, the nose here is flooded with spices and deep, meaty, solid black fruit. Beautifully rich, ripe and open on the palate, there's a mass of supple, rounded and svelte black fruit with that gamy edge. Sinewy and muscular, the tannins and good acid structure counterbalance the sweet density of fruit. Very good length. 94. £29.00

Tre Rose (Italy) Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2003
Lovely crisp, bright, herb-tinged cherry fruit with little game and truffle notes adding interest. Maybe a tiny touch of Brett, but the palate is lithe and supple, with freshness and balance. 89. £12.25

Bodegas Lan (Spain) Rioja Crianza 2003
Very forward fruit: berries, red cherry and a strawberry pulp juiciness. A touch of spiciness carries through to the palate, which is savoury and elegantly oaked, with some dry, savoury black fruit and nicely gamy nuances. Good balance, with a bittersweet acidity in the finish. 89. £7.95

Luigi Bosca (Argentina) Gala 1 2003
A blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tannat, this is creamy and dense on the nose, with vanillin and toasty oak over a minty brightness of seductive black fruit. Lovely fruit in the mouth, with weight and creamy density, but balanced by supple tannins and a racy acidity. Delightful. 91. £14.95

Viña Alicia (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Touch of gaminess here adds interest to a huge, minty core of cassis and warming, charry oak. That weight of black fruit comes through on the palate, and the high quality French oak sits nicely beneath. Really quite voluptuous, with a sweet weight of ripe blackcurrant balanced by tight tannins and a good acid structure. 91. £19.95

Viña Alicia (Argentina) Malbec 2003
Deep, dense, very concentrated and powerful with a meaty character, creamy, dense black fruit and just a glimpse of something more floral and bright. Silky, mouth-filling density on the palate with real fruit concentration and chocolaty tannins. Stays very focused and powerful into a chewy, rich, well balanced finish. 92. £19.95

Viña Alicia (Argentina) Cuarzo 2004
A blend of 90% Petit Verdot with Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is very tight and concentrated with a serious, schisty nose showing minerality and very dense blue/black fruit. There's a peppery character too. Lovely weight and supple, savoury palate. Sensuous depth here, with velvety texture and deep, creamy fruit. The concentration is excellent without over-extraction, in a balanced and impressive wine. 93. £28.00

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