Top wines this month bring together strange bedfellows including a Southern Hemisphere syrah from the long ignored vineyards in South Africa’s Swartland Cape Winelands outpost, a brilliant Burgundy from the stepchild Côte Chalonnaise village of Mercurey, and Bordeaux from a refocused producer working right bank Saint-Émilion vineyards. Each one of these wines represents strong value in its class with two selling for $30 and a top vintage Bordeaux available in secondary markets for merely $85. All three are benchmark wines within their own appellations.
(***1/2 $30) 2009 Mullineux Family Wines Syrah, Swartland
Chris and Andrea Mullineux are working multiple vineyard sites to create a Swartland syrah blend offering the region’s signature elegant texture and crisp acidity that makes this wine so special. Vinified with part whole fruit clusters, the wine’s rich berry flavor is enticing but yearns for more bottle age. Spice and herbal notes hint at a Northern Rhone profile and, even at its youthful stage, complement the underlying structure to provide impressive balance. Like so many wines from the Swartland appellation, the velvet texture is so impressive now that it will be hard to give this wine the 4-7 years it needs to really strut its stuff. There are not many $30 syrahs that offer this much intellectual fascination.
(***1/2 $30) 2009 Domaine Francois Raquillet Vielles Vignes, Mercurey
Once a part of Burgundy known for producing top pinot noirs, early 1900′s phylloxera relegated this village’s wines an afterthought to the wines of Côte d’Or. Raquillet produces a series of 1er cru vineyard specific wines that also represent bargains, but the vielles vignes is most accessible immediately. Amazing rich cherry and blackberry fruit combine with a stiff baseline structure that also hint at worthy cellaring, but offers immediate richness and silky goodness to round out a classic pinot noir experience that defies its price tag. Mushrooms and earthiness are coaxed from the glass over time to fill out its old world halo. An exciting producer from Mercurey delivering value Burgundy for a fraction of the price you might expect to pay for its cousins up in the Côte d’Or.
(****1/2 $85) 2000 Château Monbousquet, St. Emilion
A perennial value since the mid 90′s following change of ownership and a revamping of the Chateau’s production infrastructure. Coming together with age, tannins are melting into its black cherry fruit center to carpet an alluring smokiness that complements, but never hides, the wines sexy somewhat modern style. These fruit and smoke characteristics have combined with the easing tannins to create a complete wine. Amazing texture, smoke, and fruit tell the secret allure of this Saint-Émilion producer in the heralded 2000 vintage. In an era of tall prices for highly recognized and sought after Bordeaux, Monbousquet is a wine to buy for smart collectors and claret fans.