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November 2006

Previous months' recommendations: September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005/January 2006February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June/July 2006 |August 2006 | September/October 2006

This month my recommendations come in two sections, with the regular picks and then five supermarket bargains. 

Torres Fransola 2004 Penedès, Spain
A really lovely Sauvignon Blanc combining richness and freshness. It has a bright, fruity, grassy nose with a bit of tropical fruit richness. This leads to a palate that shows the green pepper grassiness of Sauvignon fleshed out with some richness from a bit of oak, but the oak is subtle enough that it’s hard to spot in the context of this rounded, crisply fruited wine.
Stylish. Very good/excelleny 92/100 (£12.49 Oddbins) 05/06

Pierre Luneau-Papin Clos des Allées Vendanges à la Main Muscadet Sèrvre et Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes 2005 Loire, France
A pale colour, this has a fresh, crisp, mineralic nose with wet stones and not much else.
The palate is deliciously fresh, crisp, transparent and mineralic with a bit of carbon dioxide spritz. This is really pure and fresh, with no distinctive flavours, but it works really well. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene, c. £7) 10/06

CMS by Hedges Cellars 2003 Columbia Valley, Washington State, USA
This is quite interesting: it’s a midweight, drinkable red with some personality. Nice open berry fruit nose with a nice meaty edge. The palate has really nice bright meaty fruit. It’s nicely poised with refreshing acidity and a bit of spice on the finish. Quite old world in style. Very good+ 89/100 (£11.49 Noel Young Wines) 05/06

Canale Reserve Merlot 2004 Rio Negro Valley, Patagonia, Argentina
From the far south of Argentina, this wine has a back label suggesting that ‘guests will be surprised by its provenance’. It has an interesting nose, with deep dark plummy fruit combined with a minerally, spicy, tarry edge. There’s also some chalky richness. The palate is dark, spicy and savoury with some pleasing plummy bitterness and firm tannins under the ripe, black fruits. Dark, complex, savoury and satisfying. It reminds me of the southwest of France, a bit. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Marks & Spencer £9.99) 09/06

Two Paddocks The Last Chance Pinot Noir 2004 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a celebrity wine, in that it comes from actor Sam Neill’s vineyard in Central Otago. And it’s a ripper, mate. A palish cherry red colour it has a smooth aromatic nose of cherries, herbs, a bit of spice and a subtle green character. The palate has some warmth to the ripe red fruit which is nicely defined by the grippy, spicy tannic structure lurking underneath the sweetness. A delicious balanced Pinot Noir that combines fruit and structure to good effect. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Haynes, Hanson & Clark £14.99) 06/06

Sandemans Vau Vintage Port 1999
Delicious stuff.
Nice aromatic nose of red and black fruits with notes of liquorice and pepper leads to a sweet, open, fruit-packed palate backed up by lovely fine, firm spicy tannins. It’s very open and forward (as you might expect: Vau is deliberately made in an early drinking style), but the tannic structure gives it seriousness. Highly drinkable. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£19.99 Lea & Sandeman) 05/06

Château Les Sablines Monbazillac 2002 Southwest France
A really lovely, delicately poised dessert wine showing sweet apricotty fruit with a mineralic edge to the nose, and a combination of citrus and more powerful tropical fruit on the palate. It has a rich, viscous texture, together with a nice pithiness. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£6.99 Waitrose) 09/06

Supermarket bargains

Vieille Fontaine Blanc 2005 Gascony, France
£2.99 Tesco

Gascony, in southwest France, is making a bit of a reputation for itself for absurdly cheap fresh white wines, made from vineyards that used to supply Colombard and Ugni Blanc grapes for Armagnac production. This one shows bright appley and lemony fruit, and while it’s no world beater, it’s a crisp, aromatic, tasty all-purpose white wine.

Torres Vina Sol 2005 Penèdes, Spain
£4.49 Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda
If there’s a better white wine available for less than a fiver, I’d love to know about it. This is made in a lovely fresh style, with pure lemony fruit that has an attractive minerally tang. It’s highly drinkable, and weighing in at just 11% alcohol it’s not going to be too overpowering. We drink a lot of this at home.

Gran Tempranillo 2005 Spain
£2.99 Sainsbury
Considering that after tax, transport and packaging the wine in this bottle will only have cost a few pence, the quality is remarkable. Deep coloured, this shows sweet, concentrated red fruits with a spicy twist. There’s a savoury, grippy edge here that acts as a nice foil to the sweet fruit. One to serve blind to wine buffs—then get them to guess the price.

Cave St Pierre Preference Côtes du Rhône 2005 France
£4.99 Tesco
Côtes du Rhône in a good vintage is one of the most reliable red wines around, and this is a great example. Vividly coloured, it has deliciously pure red berry fruit coupled with an attractive spicy peppery edge that adds a lovely savoury twist, making this an eminently food friendly wine. 

Da Luca Primitivo Merlot 2004 Puglia, Italy
£4.99 Waitrose
I recently served this to some friends without telling them what it was. They were impressed, and doubly so when they found out that it only cost £5. From the south of Italy, this red wine is dark, forward and rich with lots of intense, sweet spicy fruit. It tastes like it should be much more expensive.

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