89

2011 Taste the Difference Douro, Douro Valley

( £8.49 down to £6.36, 14.5%, Sainsbury's )

Taming the heat of the Douro Valley is the key to making balanced red table wines (as opposed to more fiery, fortified Ports) and Manuel Lobo of Quinta do Crasto has done that with consummate skill here. The wine is rich and flavoursome, all right, with notes of violet, blackberry and spice, supple tannins and youthful vigour, but it has good acidity and freshness, too. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-17Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Portugal, Red, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional
90

2011 Domaine Thymiopoulos, Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro, Naoussa

( £12.50, 13.5%, Oddbins )

Xinomvaro can be pretty toothsome stuff, even when the vines are young. But this combines the Nebbiolo-like tannnins and dryness with some sweet, supple red fruits. The overall effect is vey tasty indeed, with hints of rose petal, raspberry and wild strawberry set against a background of savoury, spicy tannins. Delicious at the price.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Greece, Red, Xinomavro
88

2011 Mas Las Cabes, Jean Gardiés, Côtes du Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon

( £9.50, 13.5%, Oddbins )

Jean Gardiés is one of the leading names in the Roussillon, making balanced, herbal reds that have a true sense of place. Violets, thyme and rosemary combine appealingly here on the nose, backed up by flavours of raspberry and mulberry, medium weights tannins and a long finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Red, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
89

2010 Paololeo, Fiore di Vigna Primitivo, Salentino, Puglia

( £13, 14.5%, Oddbins )

Essence of Primitivo (aka Zinfandel) from the Salento Peninsula, this is rich, ripe and textured, but carries its 14.5% alcohol with ease. The focus here is on fruit rather than oak: plummy, spicy and sweet, with tobacco and Asian spices and enough acidity for balance. Needs robust food to show at its best.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-17Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Italy, Red
90

2011 Trinity Hill Syrah by John Hancock, Hawkes Bay

( £13.50, 12.5%, Great Western Wine )

This is only the “entry point” wine from Hawkes’ Bay producer, Trinity Hill, but what a cracker is it. The addition of a splash of Viognier gives a little more aroma, but it’s the Syrah that drives the wine and gives it focus. Violets, plums and cracked pepper on the nose and palate, with spicy tannins and oak adding extra complexity.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-17Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, New Zealand, Red, Syrah/Shiraz