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Wines in the Press, January 23-24

Published:  26 January, 2010

What the national wine critics have had to say in this week's WINES IN THE PRESS

Tim Atkin MW is backing Collioure in the Roussillon, to be the location for the French equivalent of ITV's Doc Martin starring Martin Clunes. Not because of its undisputable beauty, but for the quality of the region's wines. The area has seen huge improvements in its wines in the past 20 years, and is fast becoming the most exciting wine producing area in France, according to Atkin. Which poses the question, why isn't it better known, even in France where consumers are largely unaware of wines from the area?

Atkin can't come up with the answer, but says: "Punters on the other side of the Channel are so focused on Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone and at a pinch, Alsace, that they ignore the tremendous wines being made in so called lesser areas......of these, the place with the greatest potential to make world class wines is arguably the Roussillon".

He recommends the "oatmeal and aniseed-like" 2007 Collioure, Cave de L'Abbe Rous, (£9.99, Marks & Spencer), and the "rich, fennel, vanilla, hazelnut and honey-like 2008 Coume del Mas Folio Collioure (£17;30, Clark Foyster Wines).

Bob Tyrer sings the praises of the little known graciano grape in northern Spain. Only 1% of vineyards in Rioja are planted with it, because many wine growers dismiss it as too much trouble - it produces tiny harvests, compared with tempraniilo, it is prone to disease and wine made from it can initially be tannic and tough.

However, Tyrer says that with sufficient care and attention, graciano comes into its own, particularly when blended with tempranillo. He recommends the "rare, dark and spicy" 100% graciano Campo Aldea Reserva 2005 (£9.99 Marks & Spencer), and the Vina Real Gran Reserva (£19.99, Majestic), which has just 5% graciano.

Jancis Robinson MW says that that while some of the 2008 red Burgundies she tasted at top domaines in France last year were "absolute marvels of precision and charm", the reds she sampled in London at merchant tastings in the past fortnight were "much harder work". While there were exceptions, she said "in too many cases their lack of flesh accentuated the high acid and often awkward tannins." While this acid streak was "less jarring" in the whites, there were still some that were "physically painful" to taste, even at Grand Cru level.

"This seems to be a vintage best suited to showing off Burgundy's unusual delicacy and ability to communicate terroir" she says. However, there were some wines that stood out for Robinson for their particularly high quality, such as Dom des Terres Dorees, Fleurie (£95 for 12, Bordeaux Index), Dom Clos des Rocs, Macon-Loche (£79, Flint Wines) and Dom Moreau-Naudent, Petit Chablis (£84, Lea & Sanderman).

Victoria Moore goes in search of good budget wines, in an attempt at a bit of belt-tightening. One of her favourite bargain reds is the "bright, firm, refreshing" Chilean Dona Dominga Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenere 2008 (£5.99, Oddbins) as well as the Sainsburys Taste the Difference Cotes du Rhone Villages 2007 (£5.99 Sainsburys) is "plump, smooth and ripe and reminiscent of blueberries and sun". Moore is also keen on the 2007 Altano (£5.99, Waitrose), "a very easy Portuguese red".

With yet another health scare ringing in his ears, this time from the World Cancer Research Fund which has been calling for us to cut our alcohol intake in order to protect us from bowel and breast cancer, Jonathan Ray looks into low alcohol wines. He dismisses low alcohol reds that he has tasted as "virtually undrinkable" but says that whites are a different matter. One of his favourites is a "full flavoured Hunter Valley dry Semillon from Tyrrell's, at only 10% volume. German Rieslings which are invariably light in alcohol also get the thumbs up from Ray.

He particularly likes the "lusciously, grapily sweet" 2006 Dr Loosen Riesling Beerenauslese (£9.99, Majestic, 6.5%vol). Italian prosecco also tends to be lower in alcohol, the lightest of which is Sainsburys own label. Domaine Achard-Vincent's "delightful, Muscat-based sweetly sparkling Clairette de Die: Teadition (£12.95, Yapp Bros, 7% vol) is the "perfect picnic wine".

The wines of Burgundy are so badly threated by rising temperatures that Meursault, Montrachet and Volnay could disappear, according to Greenpeace. Anthony Rose says that "only an ostrich" would deny the reality of climate change, but the cold wet season in 2008 meant that most were writing the vintage off. However, an Indian summer saved the vintage from disaster, though Rose says that to call it a miracle vintage, as some are doing "is perhaps to rather over-egg the pudding".

He says the best winemakrers have produced some delicious wines, in both red and white burgundy. While yields were low, "an opulence comes through in the successful whites". If you're looking for value from this vintage, Rose steers his readers towards the white wines of Jean-Paul Droin and William Fevre in Chablis, Hubert Lamy in Saint Aubin and Daniel Barraud in the Maconnais. Value reds are a "tougher call" but Rose approves of the "bright, spicy Givry 1er crus of Francois Lumpp".