The Easy Way To Great Value

value wine People & Places Articles
  • Thursday 15 February 2007

Great wine needn’t be expensive, you just need to know where to look. Let our experts do the work for you, with 20 ways to access the blue chip regions at everyday prices

Great wine needn’t be expensive, you just need to know where to look. Let our experts do the work for you, with 20 ways to access the blue chip regions at everyday prices

BURGUNDY

by Stephen Brook

In Burgundy, value derives less from vintage or style, than from origin. Certain villages have always been undervalued, either for historic regions, or because they lie off the beaten track, or because their wines never attain exceptional quality. These three ACs are all underestimated, but the wines must be selected with care.

1) Savigny-lès-Beaune

Just north of Beaune, these vineyards lie in a side valley well away from the main road to Dijon. There is considerable variation in style and structure, depending on location, vine age and producer. Prices tend to be reasonable, with exceptions such as Bruno Clair’s La Dominode, from centenarian vines, and the extremely elegant if costly wines from Chandon de Briailles. Savigny is lucky to have a large number of dependable producers – some of these Côte d’Or side valleys produce rather rustic wines, but that is rarely a problem in Savigny. The wines can lack some depth and complexity, but have a rewarding immediacy of fruit.

n Morot, Savigny Bataillère aux Vergelesses 2002 ????

Ripe aromas and flavours, slight jamminess. A fruit-forward style yet with tannic backbone. Drink now but will keep. £16.99; Maj

n Pierre André, Savigny Clos des Guettottes 2004 ???

Straightforward cherry aromas. A touch confected, but a fresh, fruity style, for drinking young. £13; Amp, MHl, VtH

n Pavelot, Savigny 2003 ???

Very ripe cherry aromas, fresh and aromatic. Plump and succulent, this has discreet tannin and moderate acidity. Drink soon. £13.57; DDi

2) Rully

The Côte Chalonnaise villages, such as Mercurey and Givry, all make sound, inexpensive wines, but Rully has the added bonus of making both whites and reds of excellent quality. The reds used to be rather rustic and the whites were often dull, but times have changed. Today the whites from Rully are, as a group, probably better than those from neighbouring villages.

n Jacqueson, Chaponnières 2004 ???

Cherry and mint aromas lead into a fresh, zesty Pinot Noir, with lovely sour cherry fruit. A perfect summer picnic red. £12.95; Tan

n Girardin, Les Cloux white 2004 ???

Ripe lemony nose, fresh and zesty. The palate also shows ripe citrus fruit, with integrated oak and a mellow, slightly sweet finish. £12; Mnt

n Jean-Marc Boillot, Meix Cadot white 2004 ????

Splendidly vigorous, toasty nose. Fine attack, concentrated and piquant, with an intriguing sweet and sour edge. £12.40; DDi

3) Marsannay

Marsannay forms the northern limit of the Côte de Nuits. It suffers from a lack of first-rate producers, with the exception of Bruno Clair, who shows just how fine this terroir can be. Clair and négociants such as Jadot have kept their prices at a realistic level. Red Marsannay is lighter in structure than Gevrey-Chambertin, and there is sometimes a fine line between firmness and rusticity. The best wines are the reds, but the whites, if well made, can be a bargain. The reds are at their peak at 5–7 years.

n Jadot, Marsannay 1999 ????

Muted raspberry aromas. Sleek and stylish, with lift and acidity. Drink now. £12+; ViW, Wmb

n Bruno Clair, Longeroies 2000 ????

Discreetly oaky raspberry aromas, with hints of smoke and marzipan. At its peak. £13; J&B

n Bruno Clair, Marsannay white 2002 ???

Lightly oaky nose. Not a complex wine, but has both ripeness and lively acidity, and appealing length. £11; J&B

BORDEAUX

by Steven Spurrier

The very high prices the major châteaux have charged for their 2005s may give the impression that Bordeaux is expensive. But with 115,000 hectares under vine, there are 750 million bottles each year that have to find a home. Over 50% of this is Bordeaux Rouge or Bordeaux Supérieur, where there are some great bargains, but a lot of names to choose from. Just 5% are classed growths and their equivalent – out of reach for most of us. This leaves another 45%, which provides a happy hunting ground for Bordeaux lovers, especially if these three tips are followed:

1) Classic wines

Buy great châteaux in lesser years and their second wines in great years. A generation ago, when second wines were limited to a handful like Les Forts de Latour or Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux, these wines were released approaching maturity, about five years after the vintage, at roughly half the price of the grand vin. During the 1990s, as second wines multiplied faster than rabbits, they were sold en primeur, at around one third of the grand vin. The 2005 vintage has seen this figure drop to a quarter.

Good vintages that follow greater ones, of which 2001 and 2004 are prime examples, represent superb value for money. Possibly even more effort goes into producing the grand vin in a difficult vintage. This principal applies across the board.

n Château Cantemerle 2001 ???

All elegance from the most southern of the Médoc crus classés from a vintage that many prefer to its predecessor. £22.43; Evy

n Château Lacoste-Borie 2000 ???

Made by Nicolas Thienpont, who has lately turned around Larcis-Ducasse, this shows elegant Merlot fruit lifted by Cabernet Franc. £11.25 IB–14.30; Bal, Fou

n Château Moulin Riche 2000 ???

A classic St-Julien with the Rolland touch of ripe, fleshy fruit and a touch of spicy oak. Ready now. £15.33 IB; F&R

2) Lesser appellations

Buy lesser appellations such as the five Côtes of Bordeaux, which group their very different terroirs together in an effort to gain recognition and sales. Côtes de Bourg and Premières Côtes de Blaye represent great value for money, with charming, honest producers. The Côtes de Francs, near St-Emilion and Pomerol, are virtually colonised by the Thienponts of Vieux Château Certan and Hubert de Boüard of Angélus. These wines are high in Merlot and great for mid-term drinking.

n Château Haut-Sociondo, 1ères Côtes de Blaye 2004 ???

A fine example at a giveaway price from an AC across the Gironde from Pauillac. £5.25; WSo

n Château Laclaverie 2000 ???

Made by Nicolas Thienpont, this shows elegant Merlot fruit lifted by Cabernet Franc. £10.20; Tan

n l’Enclos de Lezongars 2001 ???

Philip Iles’ micro-cuvée created with Jean-Luc Thunevin. Old Merlot vines on south-facing slopes show the depth and character of

much grander Right Bank wines. £10.95; BBR

3) Trusted merchants

Lastly, find a merchant that you can trust and especially one on the permanent lookout for bargains. These are known as ‘parcels’ in the wine

trade and no one is better at ‘parcels’ than Majestic.

Yet beware: buy Bordeaux cheaply

by all means, but do not buy

cheap Bordeaux.

n Château Caronne Ste-Gemme, Haut-Médoc 2001 ???

A cru bourgeois on the ascendant. The Nony family has revitalised this estate, adding flesh to what was a rather lean style. £9.99; Maj

n Châtetau Siaurac, Lalande-de-Pomerol 2002 ???

Low-yielding old Merlot vines show real depth of fruit, even in a difficult vintage like 2002. Rounded and fleshy, this is ready now. £9.99; Maj

n Château de Fonbel, St-Emilion Grand Cru 2001 ???

This estate is owned by Alain Vautier of Ausone and the attention to detail is there to create a very polished wine. A classy St-Emilion. £11.99; Maj

California

by Linda Murphy

1) Napa Valley Reds

Producers of Napa Valley’s most praised, collectible and yes, expensive, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots don’t want to acknowledge that California’s most prestigious wine region can produce well-made, drinkable red wines at £15 or less.

True, they won’t taste as breathtakingly good as Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (£137 per bottle), or impress collectors, or last long enough for a 30-year retrospective tasting. But they provide immediate pleasure, have true Bordeaux varietal character in a ripe, juicy California style, and are as good as or better than some Napa Valley reds priced at £40 or higher.

For the most part, the vintners are established, large-volume producers who grow their own grapes and/or have long-term contracts with superior grape growers. The fruit that doesn’t make the cut for the high-tiered wines goes to the secondary bottlings – from grapes tended with the same loving care.

Some value-priced vintners operate as négociants – a growing segment of the California wine business that taps into the ocean of wine available on the bulk market and blends to achieve balance and consistency at a target price point. There are many fine wines like these, yet they rarely leave US shores.

My money is on the producers in it for the long haul, who are established, who own their own vineyards and/or have control over viticultural practices.

n Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2003 ????

Classic New World Cabernet and quite

complex, with black cherry, blackberry,

semi-sweet chocolate, green olive and mint. Up to 5 years. £14; Per

n Hess Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2003 ???

Attractive black fruit and subtle toast aromas. Lively blackberry, cassis, dark chocolate and black liquorice, with pleasant oak spice. Up to 5 years. £14; BWC, PLW

n Rutherford Hill, Merlot, Napa Valley 2002 ???

Soft tannins, toasty oak and raspberry/black cherry notes coast to a long, elegant finish with spice and minerality. Up to 5 years. £15; WnS

2) Zinfandel

If just one wine could represent California, it would be Zinfandel.

The state’s 100-year-old-plus plantings, between rugged Mendocino County in the north to the sandy soils of sunny Southern California, are remarkable in that they continue to pump out exotically flavoured grapes in their old age, while Cabernet Sauvignon growers consider replanting their vines at around age 45.

In its 40s, a Zinfandel vine is just hitting its stride, producing the flamboyantly wild-berry, briar and black-pepper character which no other variety can offer with such conviction.

Yet California Zinfandel has its down side. Prices surpassing £25 for top-scoring, hard-to-get wines leave Zin out of range for many consumers. Plus, the high-flying 15–16% alcohol levels and residual sweetness of some of these wines turn off those who want balance in the glass and a wine that goes with food.

Thankfully, some winemakers hold the line on price and alcohol, especially in their lower-priced wines. And some of the high-octane Zins remain quite drinkable, thanks to their deft balance of ripeness, oak and acidity.

n Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Lodi 2003 ????

Generous red berry and blackberry aromas and flavours, with savoury spice and gentle oak and vanilla shadings. Uncomplicated and very easy to drink now. £9; DrO

n Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Heritage Vines, Sonoma County 2003 ???

Full bodied and packed with ripe blackberry and black plum fruit, with a dash of black pepper. Tannins are a bit coarse, so drink with food. Drink now. £9; DrO

n Seghesio, Zinfandel, Sonoma County 2004 ???

Ripe raspberry and bramble on a juicy, exuberantly fruity frame. It’s warm and plush, and the hefty 15% alcohol is balanced by crisp acidity. Drink now. £14 Evy, Vir

3) Rhône Varietals

Because of California’s Mediterranean climate, the state’s vignerons have become quite comfortable with Rhône grape varieties, among them Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier and Roussanne.

Golden State wines made from these grapes aren’t expected to duplicate the Châteauneuf-du-Papes and Condrieus of the Rhône, but they hope to deliver the enticing aromas and flavours of Rhône varieties with a California interpretation.

n Bonterra, Roussanne, Mendocino County 2004 ????

A lot of complexity, with pretty floral aromas and generous peach and Granny Smith apple flavours. Firmly structured, minerally and unobscured by oak. £10; Evy

n Bonterra, Viognier, Mendocino County 2004 ????

Varietally correct, with juicy pear, peach,

apricot and honeysuckle character. Soft entry and mid-palate, with a crisp finish. Made from organically grown grapes. Drink now. £10; Odd

n Hahn Estates, Syrah, Central Coast 2003 ????

Smoked meat aromas turn to ripe, almost jammy wild-berry flavours that are lush and juicy from start to finish. Medium bodied and with a kick of savoury spice. Drink now. £8.50; Evy

Linda Murphy is the outgoing wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. She will be writing a monthly column for Decanter from our November issue.

Italy

by Richard Baudains

1) Dolcetto d’Alba

The Langhe of Piedmont is often likened to Burgundy, with its small, family-owned estates, myriad crus and, in the case of its most famous wine – Barolo – its prices. Not all the Langhe wines, however, fall into the category of seriously expensive. Dolcetto, traditionally the everyday drinking wine, offers a chance to sample the skills and commitment of top Barolo producers without breaking the bank. Langhe’s great and the good all produce it, and although quality has shot up in recent years, prices have remained very accessible. The situation will not last for ever, so take advantage while it does.

n Domenico Clerico, Langhe Dolcetto Visadì 2004 ????

Violets and plums on the nose, chunky palate with lots of flavour and volume and a soft, round finish. Combines substance and irresistible drinkability. 2006–07. £9.50; J&B

n Elio Altare, Dolcetto d’Alba

2004 ????

Refined red fruit with a touch of exotic

spice, long, dry and firm on the palate.

Classic food wine. £10.50; J&B

n Luciano Sandrone, Dolcetto d’Alba 2004 ????

Wild berries and cyclamen on the nose, juicy palate with firm texture and long, almondy finish. Pristine varietal character. £15.95 (2003); BBR

2) Rosso di Montalcino

2004 was a five-star vintage in Montalcino, but unfortunately the Brunello from this vintage, heralded as the best since 1990, is not released until 2009. What you can drink now, at a fraction of the price, is the highly convincing 2004 vintage of Rosso di Montalcino. Technically the second label of the village, the original function of this DOC was to provide an outlet for wines that didn’t come up to the standard of Brunello. But an increasing number of producers now conceive it as a premium quality wine in its own right.

n Silvio Nardi, Rosso di Montalcino 2004 ????

Intense Sangiovese nose with delicate fruit but lots of nuance, fine tannins and good length on the palate with lovely berry fruit finish. Restrained but authentic. 2006–08. £35 (2000); C&C

n Fossacolle, Rosso di Montalcino 2004 ????

Violets and cherries on the nose, soft, velvety palate with a lot of depth. Needs time to absorb the oak, but it will be a very classy bottle. 2007–10. £12.50; Jer, Lay

n Agostina Pieri, Rosso di Montalcino 2004 ????

Nose of ripe fruit with a touch of pepper and spice, punchy, concentrated fruit palate with fine tannins and the structure to improve with bottle age. 2006–10. £12.59; Jer, Lay

3) Moscato d’Asti

Moscato d’Asti must be Italy’s most misunderstood wine. Much of it does not even come from Asti but from villages in the top red wine zones of Alba. As for style, the inevitable confusion with party pop Asti Spumante creates expectations of a cheap, frothy industrial beverage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Moscato d’Asti is crafted by specialist, small-to-medium scale grower-producers who turn out a unique, delicious version of this classic dessert wine variety. Styles vary but the basic profile is reassuringly consistent. Look for beguiling Moscato aromas, gentle sparkle and a refreshing grapey palate with crisp acidity. Nothing goes better with strawberries and cream.

n Paolo Saracco, Moscato d’Asti 2005 ????

Elderflower, peach and apricot on the nose. Fine, creamy sparkle on the palate with fleshy fruit, and a long, ripe peach finish with hints of orange blossom. Drink now. N/A UK; +39 0141 855 113

n Romano Dogliotti, Moscato d’Asti La Caudrina 2005 ????

Fresh, delicate but complex floral-fruit nose. Lightly sparkling palate with underlying concentration of fruit, and crisp finish. Drink now. N/A UK; +39 085 950 435

n La Spinetta, Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia 2004 ????

Rich and ripe on the nose with white melon and peach at the front. Zippy palate bursting with flavour, and a lingering, grapey finish. Drink now. £9.75; WTr

4) Verdicchio

Ageworthy whites are few and far between in Italy and generally they do not come cheap, which makes it hard to understand why Verdicchio does not enjoy far wider recognition outside the Marches. The variety makes intense dry whites which are capable of developing sumptuous complexity and depth with bottle age. They are also outstandingly good value. Although some top names are starting to creep into a higher price bracket, there is lots of choice in the under £15 range. Verdicchio has two DOC zones. Castello di Jesi is the biggest and most readily available. Matelica comes from a smaller, higher area and tends to a firmer, fuller-bodied style.

n Coroncino, Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Superiore Coroncino 2003 ????

Intense, complex nose with aromas ranging from sweet almonds through lime blossom and camomile to ripe pear. Rich and long with good balancing acidity. 2006–12. £6.99; RSW

n Fazi Battaglia, Riserva San Sisto Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi 2001 ????

Rich buttery nose, with underlying notes of vanilla and apricot. Full bodied and fresh on the palate with well-integrated oak and long, ripe fruit finish. 2006–10. £10.30; Cib

n Monte Schiavo, Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Riserva Le Giuncare 2003 ????

Rich fruit and floral nose with yellow apple peel and acacia at the front, lovely contrast on the palate between the fleshy extract and tangy citrus acidity. 2006–10. £11.99; BoW

the RHoNE

by John Livingstone-Learmonth

1) 2004 whites from the northern Rhône

2004 is a fantastic year for Viognier in the northern Rhône, and Marsanne was also successful in the hands of experienced, patient growers who used a dry, sunny September to secure a well-founded ripeness. The best wines are full of varied flavours and are held together by excellent acidity. At Condrieu it is a supreme year, and for once, the wines are worth every penny. At a more lowly price level, the white vins de pays from growers such as Yves Cuilleron, André Perret, Georges Vernay and Stéphane Ogier are all excellent value. They work well as apéritif wines thanks to their gracious, bright aromas, but also contain enough richness to extend towards lunch dishes and outdoor events. The best St-Pérays and St-Joseph whites also excelled, with a combination of richness, balance and freshness.

n M Chapoutier, St-Péray 2004 ????

Balanced, harmonious, very elegant bouquet – pear, petrol, flan. Very easy, agreeable drinking. Stylish, charming and refined. Some end nuttiness, rich finale. Great apéritif. 2010–11. £10.95; Ave

n André Perret, Franc de Pied,

Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2004 ???

Fresh bouquet, with a bonbon underlay, then a nutty finale – true Marsanne aroma. Bonny, nutted flavour, a good blend of fruit and honey. Length good, finish clean. £8.30; VTr

n Yves Cuilleron, Viognier, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2004 ???

Ample, springy, typical bouquet, with well-founded depth, pear and smoke. Straight hit of delicious fruit on palate. Acidity keeps it alert, clean. Classy for a vin de pays. £13.95; BBR, Unc

2) Châteauneuf-du-Pape domaine Côtes du Rhône reds

The beauty of these Côtes du Rhônes or Rhône Villages reds is that they are regularly made from old vines. This applies across much of the Rhône, including even Cornas, where Auguste Clape makes a Syrah Côtes du Rhône that contains about 20% crop from 1890 and 1895 vines. At Châteauneuf, there is a pocket around the northern section towards Orange and Courthézon, where crossing a track means the difference between a Châteauneuf and a Côtes du Rhône. The wines are composed mainly of old Grenache, and so bear a natural depth of flavour. Many are vat-raised, while some receive a little light oaking. Given the ripeness of the fruit, they drink well and softly early on, and can live for 6–8 years. Beyond those mentioned, look out for the wines from Domaine de St-Siffrein, Domaine de Ferrand, La Bastide St-Dominique and Grand Veneur.

n Domaine Charvin, Côtes du Rhône 2004 ???

Restrained charm on bouquet, clear, approachable mix of flowers and plums. Really enjoyable fruit, red berry jam flavour, with a little tannin. Can be drunk solo, and will live to 2013. Lots of character. £8.55–10.25; Jer, Lay, VTr

n Domaine de la Janasse,

Terre d’Argile, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2003 ???

One-third each Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. Broad, black jam bouquet. Attack shows Syrah black fruit. Clear-cut fruit, length good, laurel aftertaste. Best with strong-flavoured dishes, stew, casseroles. £10.99; Maj

n Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, Côtes du Rhône 2003 ???

Gourmand bouquet, packed jam, with some spice. Fruit pastille flavour and texture, drinks easily. Lengthens and softens with food. Up to 2010–11. £11.55; Loe

3) Cairanne

Cairanne is a full appellation cru in all but name. One of the southern Rhône Villages icons for over 30 years, there has long been local debate about the merits of applying to move up to the top table. The village has noble slope vineyards and less noble plain sites that would be excluded and demoted to Côtes du Rhône if the full appellation were accorded. Yields per hectare would also come down. Quality remains constant, though, with fair pricing encouraged by the continuing villages status. The best wines are delightful, punchy and authentic, bred by experienced families with old vineyards. There is much to enjoy here, from the fruit-forward, energetic wines of Marcel Richaud to the beefy style of Domaine Brusset, with Rabasse-Charavin and Ameillaud more skewed towards elegance.

n Domaine de l’Oratoire St-Martin, Cuvée Prestige 2004 ????

Classic southern bouquet – olives, red berries, liquorice. Rich to the finish, berries and herbs here, ripe, rounded finale, leave till 2008. The 2003 is also good. 2004 £12.60; VTr

n Domaine des Hautes Cances, Tradition 2003 ???

Compact bouquet, set to open and flourish; flowers and marzipan, plum fruit. Lengthens well, good structure and harmony. To 2011. £7.75; Loe

n Domaine Denis & Daniel Alary, La Jean de Verde, Cairanne 2003 ???

Meaty, solid, red-fruits bouquet. Solid, red-fruits theme continues on palate; tannins are ripe, very good length with southern character. Mid-2007–14. £13.03–13.95; Gns, Imb

REST OF THE WORLD

by Joanna Simon

1) Loire Sauvignon Blanc

Alternatives to the classic Sauvignon Blancs of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have almost come full circle. You may still want to drink New Zealand Sauvignons for dazzling fruit intensity, or Sauvignons from the Cape’s cooler regions for a style which combines NZ’s exuberance with the Upper Loire’s grassy, mineral bite. You might also be tempted by the new cool-climate Chileans, but for good value look no further than the Touraine region. Touraine used to be synonymous with thin, mean, green Sauvignons. Some wines are still like that, but there are also those being made by growers who understand how to get ripeness, concentration and balance in their grapes. In this they have been helped, of course, by the three most recent vintages – the exceptionally ripe 2003, the crisper, more classic 2004, and the best-of-both-worlds 2005.

n Levin, Sauvignon Blanc, Val de Loire 2004 ????

Aromatic with gooseberries and herbs; ripe gooseberry fruit on the palate with zesty lemon and elderflower notes; good length. £7.95; Nov

n Domaine l’Aumonier, Touraine Sauvignon 2005 ????

Appetisingly fresh aromas of nettles, elderflowers and orange; lovely, full, ripe fruit in the mouth with a bright, herbal finish. £5.95; SVS

n Domaine de Marcé, Touraine Sauvignon 2005 ???

Textbook varietal nose of freshly mown grass; medium bodied with intensity and balance. £5.45; Jer

2) Growers’

Champagne

Some very good sparkling wines are being made using the Champagne process and grape varieties in Australia, New Zealand, California, South Africa and England. But the best aren’t cheap and for the same money you can get very good Champagne from individuals who grow grapes and make and bottle their own. Most also sell grapes to the big houses, but it makes sense to assume that they don’t sell all their best grapes and keep only the less fine for their own use. That doesn’t mean a grower’s Champagne is a guarantee of quality, but when well-sited vineyards come with a careful grower and skillful winemaker, the results can be excellent.

n Larmandier Bernier, Brut Tradition ????

Subtly perfumed nose with brioche on the palate. Fine-boned, Chardonnay-dominated Champagne with a long, creamy finish. £18.50; VTr

n Pierre Gimonnet, Cuvée Gastronome 2000 ????

Creamy biscuit and brioche aromas, enhanced by a hint of acacia honey on the palate and by the fine, pure acidity underpinning it: ready to drink, but there’s no hurry. £21.99; Odd

n Serge Mathieu, Blanc de Noirs Tradition, Brut ????

A rich Pinot Noir nose and a generous, well-rounded palate with a seam of refreshing citrus fruit. A bargain from the Aube. £15.95; SVS

3) Chilean Syrah

Syrah/Shiraz is a relatively new variety to Chile and there is not yet a huge amount of it. But producers are selecting regions and sites carefully. As far as style is concerned, the fact that some producers call it Syrah and others opt for Shiraz says it all. The new, cooler regions such as the Elqui and Limari valleys give crisper, more peppery, Rhône-like flavours, although usually still with New World fruitiness. The warmer regions give bigger, chocolatey, Barossa-like styles, with more emphasis on oak. Personally, I favour the fresher styles (usually called Syrah) and these seem more distinctly Chilean than the Australian lookalikes.

n Viña Falernia, Alta Tierra Syrah, Elqui Valley 2004 ????

Fresh, peppery with red plums and cherries; medium–full bodied, supple and juicy with crisp white-pepper notes. £7.99; Lai

n Tabalí, Shiraz Reserva, Limari Valley 2003 ????

Sweet, bright summer-berry fruit on the nose but with gentle undertones of meat and leather. Full, round, ripe with a peppery finish. £8.99; Sai

n Anakena, Ona Syrah, Cachapoal and Leyda 2004 ????

Substantial nose with some savoury, gamey Syrah notes alongside the fresh, sweet raspberry fruit. Full bodied. £9.09; Odd

4) Italian Primitivo

DNA fingerprinting has established beyond doubt that southern Italy’s Primitivo and California’s Zinfandel are genetically the same. They’re two clones of the Croatian variety Crljenak which, since going their separate ways, have developed their own personalities. Stylistically, both produce full-bodied reds with sweet, ripe, spicy fruit and high alcohol, but whereas Zinfandel can have a more raspberry, bramble-jelly, even porty, character, Primitivo tends to have a more earthy sweetness, and its fruit is often more akin to red plums and cherries. Puglia’s Primitivo has failed to gain Zinfandel’s popularity, meaning the wines remain very reasonably priced.

n A Mano, Primitivo di Puglia 2003 ????

Aromatic, ripe and sweet on the nose, with some contrasting savoury, spicy, earthy notes and a hint of mocha. £5.99; Lib and independents

n Pervini Archidamo, Primitivo di Puglia 2003 ????

Sweet, spicy, dried-fig and cherry nose and palate; full, spicy and slightly nutty. £6.99; Boo

n Da Luca, Primitivo-Merlot 2004 ????

Sweet, gamey nose with spicy fruit. Full and chunky in the mouth with vanilla-oak, gentle, grainy tannins and a dry finish. £4.99; Sai, Wai

Joanna Simon is the wine critic for

The Sunday Times.

For a full list of UK stockists, see p115.

En primeur coverage

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