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Wine: Hierarchy of wines

31 August 2010

by Christopher Fielden

I AM saddened by all the publicity there has been for the wines of Bordeaux of the 2009 vintage. They may well be the wines of the decade, the century, or even of the millen­nium, but none of these have gone on for long; so the competition is limited. I have no doubt that they are great wines, but many of the prices are based on their value as a com­modity for speculation. I would be happier if wine was seen as something to be drunk rather than as an invest­ment.

The focus on 2009 clarets has diverted attention from the other wines that were made last year. Take Beaujolais, for example, a vineyard region that has been going through a torrid time over the past few years. The growers cared little about the quality of their wine, when they could offload half or more of their crop on a naïve public as Beaujolais Nouveau. Then they found that their goose was laying addled eggs.

The fates were kind to them in 2009, however, and they can claim with some justification that the vin­tage was the best within living me­mory, and some great wines were produced, which are now coming on the market.

As in most vineyard regions, there is a hierarchy of wines: some are ready for immediate drinking; others will benefit from some ageing. In the Beaujolais, this is particularly true, and wines such as Moulin à Vent may well take eight years or so to reach their peak. Berry Bros. & Rudd (www.bbr.com) offers a full range of village wines from the vintage. I have enjoyed their Michel Chignard & Fils Fleurie (£14.95), although this prob­ably will be better in 18 months.

For immediate drinking, I would suggest Château La Forêt, which is a simple Beaujolais, but from 50-year-old vines (Waitrose, £6.99). Slightly up the scale are Château de la Terrière Beaujolais-Villages (Majestic, £8.99; £7.49 if you buy two bottles) and Henry Fessy Brouilly (Waitrose, £9.99). But if you want to see Beau­jolais at its best, and you are pre­pared to wait a bit, buy some bottles of Oli­vier Merlin Moulin à Vent La Ro­chelle (Berry Bros. & Rudd, £13.25).

The year 2009 was not the perfect vintage for all wine regions in France. While most Loire wines were a success, in Sancerre the quality was mixed: many growers picked their grapes too late and, as a result, made atypical wines, high in alcohol and lacking in the expected crisp, fresh acidity. Nevertheless, I can recom­mend the Joseph Mellot San­cerre La Franchotte (Waitrose, £11.99) and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Sancerre (£12.29).

Having just been on holiday on the Isle of Scilly, I had originally intended to write a piece on (Not So) Desert Island wines. Unfortunately, I did not find enough liquid material to write a complete piece, but two wines that I did enjoy were the Santa Helena Pinot Noir 2009, from the Casa­blanca Valley in Chile (Co-op, £8.98), and an Oxford Landing South Au­stra­lian Sauvignon Blanc 2009, which is widely available.

One wine I did not enjoy was a Fairtrade Bonarda/Shiraz from the Famatina Valley in Argentina (Co-op, £5.70). It tasted hot, with flavours of burnt, overripe fruit. This is one bottle to avoid.

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