Wine: Wines of the month

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Perfect though the marriage of chardonnay and oak casks often is, dispensing with wood not only helps keep costs down, but often enhances the refreshing tang of the grape's nubile fruit. The tropical pineapple fruit sweetness and refreshing spritz of the 1995 Casa Leona Chardonnay, pounds 3.99, Marks & Spencer, made by Chile's much-garlanded wine maker Ignacio Recabarren, is a case in point. Echeverria's 1995 Unwooded Chardonnay, pounds 6.99, Harrods, is unoaked too, but here, exceptional concentration of fruit and crisp, elegant, chablis-like flavours blend together in one of Chile's most stylishly unoaked chardonnays.

If you associate Spanish red with rioja and oak, the 1994 Baso Navarra Garnacho, pounds 3.49, Thresher, may surprise you by its presumptive novelty. Riojan wine maker Telmo Rodriguez from Remelluri has taken the Mediterranean grenache grape and fermented it in stainless steel to produce a clean, raspberryish, juicy red not a million miles from a young Cotes du Rhone. Contrast this with the 1990 Mont Marcal Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 4.99, Sainsbury's, which benefits from age in bottle and oak maturation, adding a sweetly perfumed, cedary and vanilla bouquet to the succulently ripe, almost almond-pastry-like fruitiness of the cabernet sauvignon grape. On the sheepskin-rug- by-the-open-fire front, the 1994 Vine Vale Shiraz, pounds 4.39-pounds 4.49, Sainsbury's, Asda, Oddbins, is a succulent, blackberry-fruity, nicely spiced shiraz from the Barossa supremo Peter Lehmann. And from the warmth of southern France, the 1993 Chateau de Capitoul, La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc, pounds 3.99, Victoria Wine, a blend of carignan, grenache, syrah and mourvedre, is redolent of Mediterranean herbs and spicily dry tannins.

If more than a fiver sounds a lot for a southern French red, the 1993 Domaine de la Cessane Grenache Syrah, St Chinian, pounds 6.45, Sainsbury's, justifies its price, combining aromatic power with the rich, sun-baked, blackberry jam ripeness of powerfully fruity Mediterranean flavours, backed by substantial, chewy, tannic power.

Every bit as macho, the 1994 Domaine Sainte Lucie Gigondas, pounds 6.95, Waitrose, a youthful, violet-hued southern Rhone red, has the concentration to express the peppery aromas and raspberryish fruitiness of old vine grenache. It's a big, blockbusting winter warmer, surprisingly approachable for such a youngster

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