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Wines Report tasting: 18 interesting wines

One of the most interesting tastings I’ve been to in recent months was held at DK’s Strand headquarters to mark the launch of Wine Report 2004. The line-up was put together by Tom Stevenson, who selected 18 wines from the books ‘100 most exciting wine finds’. This was the first time I’d tasted a Japanese wine, and only the second that I’d tasted one from China. Not all are available in the UK, of course – where they are I’ve provided details of availability.

Frederic Lornet Arbois Naturé 1999 Jura, France
Normally Arbois (the region) Savagnin (grape variety) is either made as vin jaune (under a flor, like fino Sherry), or it is rather oxidised from old fashioned winemaking. This is fresh and characterful, made in a clean modern style but still retaining personality. It has a beguiling fresh herby nose with some lemony notes. Concentrated, dense and rich on the palate with fresh fruit. Delicious. Very good/excellent 90/100

Domaine Gerovassiliou White wine of Epanomi 2002 Greece
Lovely lively fruity nose is full of interest, with limey, floral notes. The palate is crisp, fresh and herby, savoury and intense. Delicious stuff, with crisp acidity. Very good+ 89/100 (£6.49 Oddbins)

Domaine Gauby La Soula Blanc 2001 Coteaux des Fenouillèdes, Roussillon
Gauby is best known for his sought-after, hugely expensive reds, but this white wine, a blend of Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Rolle and Chenin Blanc grown at altitude, is quite special. The distinctive nose shows pronounced toasty notes with a herby edge. Distinctive, powerful palate with toasty oak and rich, herby fruit, with pronounced acidity. An extreme style, but enjoyable and full of interest. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£12 Raeburn)

Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Loire
Lovely rich, forward grassy nose – very modern with a herby edge. The palate is fruity and crisp with intense flavours of grassy gooseberry fruit. Tasty and full flavoured, this would put many Sancerres to shame. Very good+ 88/100 (£7.99 Soho Wine Supply, Booths/everywine.co.uk, Direct Wine Imports)

J-P and J-F Becker Riesling Lerchenberg 2001 Alsace
This organic Alsace wine is delicious, with rich fruit showing a lemony edge and a delicate structure on the palate. Impeccable balance. Very good+ 88/100

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Zind 2001 Vin de Table, Alsace
A Vin de Table because of its Chardonnay content (35%), which is complemented by Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc, from the top vineyards of Rotenberg, Herrenweg and Clos Windsbuhl. Fermented with natural yeasts in cask. Deep coloured. Lovely rich, grassy, herby nose is intense and full. The palate is lively and concentrated with a huge weight of rich herbal fruit. Savoury with lovely acidity and a bit of residual sugar to add richness, although the overall effect is dry. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£13 Waitrose)

Miyazaki Tsuno Wines Campbell Early Rose 2002 Japan
Campbell Early is a non-vinifera variety (resistant to the diseases that would otherwise obliterate Vitis vinifera grapes grown here), and the distinction of this wine is that it lacks the foxy off-flavours that many people find off-putting with these wines. This is a bright pink colour. It has an overpowering sweet jammy nose, and the palate is clean and fresh with flavours of strawberry jelly. Sweet finish. Remarkable but weird. Very good 82/100 (About £7 in Japan [¥Y1220]) #

Juris Ina’ Mera 2000 Austria
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Blaufränkisch. Ripe sweet fruit on the nose with some vanilla notes. Soft, sweet ripe fruit on the palate. Good concentration: spicy and rich. Very good+ 86/100

Weingut Rudolf Fürst Frühburgunder ‘R’ Bürgstadter Centgrafenberg 1999 Franken, Germany
A light mutation of Pinot Noir that has been grown in the area for 150 years. Distinctive herbal undergrowthy edge to the nose. The concentrated palate shows rich sweet fruit with a distinctive herbal character. I’m not fully convinced by this. Very good+ 86/100

Flam Merlot Reserve 2000 Judean Mountains, Israel
Good structure here with herbal intensity and firm tannins. There’s a spicy, earthy undercurrent to the fruit. Savoury and firm in an old world style, this is quite serious with perhaps a touch of rusticity. Very good/excellent 91/100 ($36 in USA)

Flam Classico 2001 Israel
A blend of Merlot from the Judean Mountains and Cabernet from Upper Galilee. Striking spicy nose is savoury with a hint of animal about it. The palate is intense and spicy with a rustic edge to the appealing savoury fruit. Very good+ 87/100 ($18 in USA)

Château de Kafraya Comte de M 1998 Lebanon
Three-quarters Cabernet, one-quarter Syrah from the Bekaa Valley. Soft, dense and rich with lots of savoury fruit. Some leathery, herby notes, too. Concentrated and interesting. Very good+ 89/100 (jnwine.com have this for £24.75)

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2001 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Some subtle spicy vanilla notes on the nose with ripe fruit. The palate is appealing with spicy-edged ripe fruit and good concentration. Impressive. Very good+ 88/100 (C$19.95)

Dragon Seal Cru du Huailai Syrah 2000 China
From Rhône cuttings grown in Huailai county in Hebei province, close to the great wall west of Beijing. Savoury plumy nose with a striking spicy edge. The palate is savoury and fruity with a distinctive mineral edge and a touch of herbaceousness. Very good 84/100 (US$15 ex-cellars)

Gentilini Syrah 2001 Cephalonia, Greece
Gentilini are well known already for their excellent Ribolla-based whites from the island of Cephalonia. Made by British winemaker Gabrielle Beamish. Contains 15% Mavrodaphne. Spicy, brambly nose. The palate shows concentrated herb-tinged black fruits with firm, spicy tannins. Expressive wine with lots of character: very well made in a savoury, old-world style. Very good/excellent 90/100

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2001 Hawkes Bay
Made in a non-interventionist way, with no added sulfur dioxide for an 8–10 day cold soak with natural yeast cool fermentation. Malolactic in new and second use French oak. Rich intense fruit on the nose with a savoury edge. The palate shows a huge concentration of ripe berry and black fruits: pure and rich with a spicy edge. Delicious and pure, this is still quite primary. Very good/excellent 90/100 (2002 vintage will be £30 in UK)

Gaia Estate Nemea 2000 Greece
Low yield Agioritiko from hillside vineyards at Koutsi. Sweet ripe fruit and vanilla on the nose. Palate shows ripe creamy sweet fruit with a strong vanilla imprint. Sweet and soft, this is accessible but oaky. Very good 84/100

Champagne Moutard NV Cuvée aux 6 Cépage
Made from all six permitted grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier), from the 2000 vintage. Quite toasty and rich with lots of flavour and freshness to it. Very good+ 87/100

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