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ChateauOnline's Foire aux Vins

by Tom Cannavan, 09/01

ChateauOnline recently sent me a selection of wines to taste that are featured in their traditional 'Foire aux Vins', or 'Wine Fair'. These are either interesting wines that have been brought in for the fair, or regular lines that have been reduced in price. My notes on a dozen wines I enjoyed follow.

For fine wine buffs and collectors the fair includes a cracking reduction on the 1996 from La Mission-Haut-Brion, and for bargain hunters there are two wines with 90+ Parker points, for less than £7.00. The fair runs throughout September.

I make no commission from any sales, but hopefully there will be some inspiration for you in the notes. Prices are given in pounds sterling (£5=£7.50) and where a wine has been reduced, the original price is shown in brackets.

Sparkling

Champagne Delamotte - £14.44 (£16.99)
Plenty of small, steady bubbles. Lovely fruit on the nose here. Terrifically rich and full with plenty of fresh apple and pear. Clean but rich. Creamy and dense mousse and nicely concentrated fruit. Strikes a nice balance between savouriness and lemony crispness and has a long finish. Really very good indeed. Quite complex.

White

Blydskap Droe (South Africa) Steen 2000 - £3.79
This is a modern-styled Chenin Blanc from South Africa's Western Cape with a very attractive, fresh nose of apple and straw, little hints of nuts and a delicately floral perfume. On the palate it is crisp and tangy, with easy-going pear and apple fruit, good body and texture and zippy lemon acidity. Perfect sipping stuff.

I Portali Greco 'Basilium' 2000 - £4.49
From Basilicata in southern Italy, this is 100% Greco, one of my favourite white wine grapes of the deep south. The colour is pale gold, and the nose is lovely, with bags of citrus fruit and little sweet floral and spice notes, some confectionery and waxiness. On the palate filled with fat, almost oily lemon fruit that is chewy and dense, yet wonderfully fresh. Balanced, it is elegant and fine into a long finish, whilst staying driven by fruit.
 

  Pascal Bouchard (France) Chablis 1998 - £6.28 (£6.98)
This is well-made and decidedly tasty Chablis, offered at a good price. The nose has hints of honey and acacia, over gently nutty and buttery citrus fruit. On the palate it has power, but a fine quality of fruit and lovely balance, with mineral acidity sharpening pear and lightly-mealy fruit, and plenty of citrus zing. This would benefit from a few years in the cellar.

Villa Maria (NZ) Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2000 - £6.98
Same as High Street price, but might well be worth sticking in a few of these if making up a case. This wine has just scooped the Sauvignon Blanc Trophy and 'Best Value White Wine of the Year' awards in the International Wine Challenge. Lovely pale gold with a hint of lime green. Lots of bright, juicy fruit. Zingy and fresh with gooseberry and raspberry aromatics. Nice creaminess on the palate, notes of orange and grapefruit with tangy citrus acidity and a fine purity in the finish. Very good indeed.

Red

La Mission-Haut-Brion (Bordeaux, Graves) 1996 - £49.29 (£57.99)
I suspect that of all the wines in the fair this might be the one of most interest to collectors. The price is remarkable given that UK merchants have this from £75 to £99.99 according to wine-searcher.com, and that it is a truly aristocratic claret from a great vintage. With the as yet unbottled 2000 vintage going for £160 per bottle excluding VAT and duty, it is even more remarkable. The wine is still a baby, with an intense purple/black colour and a nose that is backward, only slowly revealing sweet cassis and plum fruit through a tough sheen of smoky, earthy and herbal aromatics. Gripping tannins coat the palate, and the medium to full-bodied wine is chewy and concentrated. This wine is difficult to assess accurately in its current phase of development and should be cellared until 2010 when I would confidently expect it to emerge with dazzling effect.

Catamayor (Uruguay) 'Castillo Viejo' Tannat, 1999 - £3.98 (£4.98)
Deep, rich crimson colour. Very spicy, with cherry fruit and a hint of toasted nuts. On the palate firm cherry and damson fruit, with a bright raspberry edge and a firm finish due to decent tannins and acidity. Good.

CrownCap Red 1998 - £4.29
This is the strikingly packaged red wine that was my 'Wine of the Week' earlier in the year. A classic blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera grapes from Puglia in Italy's deep south, it has an expressive nose of juicy unoaked summer berry fruit, dusted with spice and enlivened on the palate by a juicy edge of acidity. There's a little rum-soaked raisin darkness, but this is fruity, warming, lip-smacking wine for sipping on its own or with chargrilled vegetables, pasta or braised lamb.

Clos des Jonquiers (France) Côtes du Rhône 2000 - £4.48
Vibrant crimson colour and immediately appealing fruity nose, with soft strawberry and raspberry fruit and just a hint of more liquoricy, powerful depth. The palate has full-body and a raft of silky tannins grip the mouth, allowing ripe black fruit to peek through. The balance of fruit, acidity and tannin suggests a year or two in the cellar would be rewarded. Very good.

La Chapelle d'Escurac (Bordeaux, Médoc) 1999 - £5.52 (£6.49)
From A.C. Médoc, this is a bit of a find at a terrific price, with a gorgeous Merlot-rich nose of smoky, vanillin-layered plum, tobacco and spice. On the palate it is juicy and direct, with red cherry and black plum fruit, a little tannic bite and decent finish.

Falesco (Italy) Vitiano 2000 - £6.79
A super-Umbrian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese that has earned 91 points from Robert Parker, and a top rating from Gambero Rosso. It has a vividly dark colour and appealing, sweet, dark berry fruit and smoky earth nose. A background of creamy vanilla comes from four months in barriques. The palate is full and rich, with dark plum and chocolate flavours, but also a really keen edge of bittersweet cherry fruit that adds a crisp, lively sheen. Very savoury and chewy, with some tannins and again that creamy oak fleshing out the finish. Very good indeed.

Bodegas Castaño (Spain) Hécula 1999 - £6.99
This wine has already picked up 92 points from Robert Parker. A blend of the Monastrell (known in France as Mourvèdre) and Merlot, the wine benefits from subtle oak ageing to present a nose of sour cherries, spice and stewed fruit compote, buttressed by silky sweet vanilla. On the palate it is poised and elegant, belying its 14% alcohol. The medium-bodied wine fills the mouth with sweet-edged blackberry and plum fruit, again a warm clove spice note, and generous slightly coffee-flavoured oaky finish. There is good acidity, terrific purity of fruit singing through, and a long, well-balanced finish. This also has the structure to cellar for five years. Excellent.