What we've been drinking (26 February)
Beringer Bancroft Ranch Howell Mountain Merlot 2004
The very first sniff of this magnificent, opulent wine promises much, and it's a joy to discover it how superbly it delivers. The palate is concentrated, structured, with masses of dark, dense fruit: plum, dark cherry, cedar, and spice. A lovely wine, the whole underpinned by strong gripping tannins, and a finish that stays in the mouth for a minute or more. It's a gentle giant, made by the great Ed Sbragia, Beringer's own man-mountain. Very fitting.
Managing Editor, Decanter
I always try and make time to go to tastings of Portuguese wines, as I invariably come away wowed by their diversity, quality and individuality. Most wine lovers really haven’t cottoned on to this, and though there are some retailers making an effort to champion Portuguese wines, many of the really exciting wines need to be sought out in the independent sector. This particular tasting is held annually – the 50 favourite wines of a different journalist each year (this year Sarah Ahmed). I went intending to dip in, but in the end couldn’t tear myself away and tasted everything. The standout wine? Without doubt, Filipa Pato’s Lokal Silex 2008, Vinho Regional Beiras – note, there is life beyond the Douro. Daughter of one of Portugal’s most well-known winemakers Luis Pato, Filipa is young and clearly very talented. Just 2,000 bottles are made of this incredible Touriga Nacional (13.5%). A deep inky purple that coats the glass, this has dark, juicy fruit but is elegant with fresh acidity, and attractive graphite and iron notes. Stunning. It costs around £30 a bottle, from Clark Foyster Wines. One more notable – Quinta do Noval, Labrador 2007. This isn’t currently available in the UK, but let’s hope it is soon, as it would retail at £15, and would be a bargain at the price. The result of an experimental planting of Syrah in 2000, this is the first vintage that produced enough fruit to allow a 100% Syrah bottling. Lovely dark, chewy fruit and a minerally backbone. Very, very drinkable, and very good value.