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March 2007

Previous months' recommendations:  February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June/July 2006 |August 2006 | September/October 2006 | November 2006| December 2006 | Jan/Feb 2007

Champagne Gosset Brut Excellence NV
Let’s begin this month’s selections with a really good fizz. Lovely open stylish fruity nose: aromatic, fresh, herby, appley. The palate is elegant and very fruity with lovely balancing acidity. It’s complex, full flavoured, but not at all clumsy. So overall, an unusual combination: a Champagne that is very fruity, but at the same time complex and stylish. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Great Western Wine)

Neil Ellis Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2005 South Africa
Chardonnay isn’t as popular as it used to be, but I’m recommending three of them this month. From his Jonkershoek estate, Neil Ellis has produced a stunningly good, balanced Chardonnay at an affordable price. It has a wonderful nose: toasty and rich yet at the same time fresh and pure. The palate is complex and brilliantly weighted with a nice freshness to the rich toasty fruit. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£8.99 Tesco)

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is the ultimate new world Chardonnay. There's lots of everything, and if you are in the mood for it, it's a compelling glassfull. The nose shows rich tropical fruit combining with some spice, a bit of smoke and some vanilla oak. Indeed, there's a hint of malt whisky on the nose. The palate is bold and full, with tangy, herby tropical fruit, a bit of citrussy zest, spicy complexity and some sweetness from the alcohol. It's concentrated and powerful, with the oak playing a supporting role rather than grabbing central stage. With boldly flavoured food, this is a winner. Very good/excellent 92/100 (c. £15 www.winedirect.co.uk, Nickolls and Perks, Secret Cellar)

Marks & Spencer Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2006 Australia
I really like this Hunter Chardonnay, which is made by Twin Wells. It combines the usual toasty, spicy, buttery richness of Chardonnay with a delightful citrussy freshness and a subtle warm herbiness. The oak is well in the background, and there’s a pronounced mineralic twang. The only slight negative is a subtle bitter character to the fruit on the finish, but this doesn’t detract too much from what’s a delicious wine. 13% alcohol. Very good+ 89/100 (£7.99 on offer at £5.99 7 March–9 April 2007, Marks & Spencer)

Brampton Shiraz 2004 Coastal Region, South Africa
This may be Rustenberg's second label, but don't let this dissuade you from seeking this beauty out. It has a nose of sweet dark fruits supported by some pepper, spicy notes and a dark, savoury meatiness, together with a hint of olive. The palate is sweetly fruited but at the same time quite savoury, showing some tannin. This is deliciously balanced, and could just about pass muster as an old world wine (a sort of combination of Languedoc, Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone). I'm uneasy about the fact that it's 15% alcohol, but the wine carries it remarkably well. Very good/excellent 90/100 UK availability: Waitrose, Andrew Chapman, South African Wines Online, around £8. 

Pisa Range Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely perfumed nose of ripe, assertive berry fruit with a bit of meatiness and some spice. The palate is smooth, sweet and elegant with soft red/black fruits. Taut and spicy with a hint of herbiness and nice structure. It's a wine that successfully combines ripeness with freshness and elegance. Yes, it's new world Pinot, but it is so well balanced. Very good/excellent 93/100 (UK availability: Hellion Wines, www.hellionwines.com)

Waipara Springs Premo Pinot Noir 2005 Waipara, New Zealand
Destemmed, cold soak, minimal plunging, wild fermentation and extended skin contact: the result is a lovely Pinot Noir. It has a powerful, aromatic nose showing ripe, sweet and smooth berry fruit with a touch of coffee-ish roasted oak and some sweet spices. The palate is smooth and elegant with a lovely texture to the sweet fruit, which is backed up by some spice and silky tannin. I think this is a baby that will need a little time to show its best, but there's real quality here and the oak will be absorbed nicely. Very good/excellent 93/100 (Hellion Wines)

Colomé 2005 Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina
From a high-altitude region in northern Argentina which includes the world’s highest commercial vineyard, at almost 10 000 feet. A deep red/black colour. Smooth, sweet, lush nose of black fruits, which is almost creamy. After a while it opens up a bit and the fruit sings an even purer, more alluring tune. The palate is concentrated and lush with very ripe fruit, although this is still quite fresh. Plenty of tannin here, but it is very smooth. Intense and pure, with a really rich structure. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.99 Oddbins, Bryan Ford’s, Noel Young, Coe Vintners, Hercules Wine Warehouse)

Domiane Olivier Pithon La Coulée 2005 Côtes du Roussillon, France
Bright red/purple colour. Smoky, minerally, savoury nose leads to a palate that is bright and fresh with vivid fruit and good acidity. It’s savoury and dark with some nice tannins and a delicious minerality. Not too dense, but very honest. The result of young vines, moderate extraction and concrete tanks for fermentation and ageing. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene)

Henschke Henry’s Seven 2004 Barossa, Australia
Weighing in at 15% alcohol. A blend of 60% Shiraz with 30% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre and 5% Viognier. Not very dark in colour. Lovely open nose of sweet, spicy, quite aromatic red fruits with a spicy, gingery edge. The palate is rich and spicy with a distinctive sweetness to the fruit and a subtle herbiness. There’s a bit of bitter alcohol on the finish, but otherwise this is an expressive, enjoyable midweight red. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£14.99 Waitrose)

Quinta do Noval 10 year old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal
Orange/brown edge to the bright red colour. The nose is sweet, spicy, fudgy and complex, with an attractive woody edge. The palate is spicy and complex with nice sweetness and a rich texture. A complex, satisfying, well balanced tawny. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£14.49 Waitrose)

My rating system explained. Use www.wine-searcher.com to locate a stockist in your area and my directory of UK wine merchants for details of those listed here. See also: the wineanorak's shopping list - recommended wines from each of the main UK retail outlets. These recommendations are truly independent: I don't accept payment or other favours for inclusions, nor do I sell wine.

E-mail me with your recommendations or suggestions at jamie@wineanorak.co.uk