94

2013 Thousand Candles Syrah, Yarra Valley, Victoria

( £45-50, 13.5%, Alliance Wine )

Bill Downie is best known for his extraordinary Pinot Noirs, which rank among the best in Australia, but he’s no slouch when it comes to making Syrah either, as this Southern Yarra Valley example demonstrates. Spicy, refreshing and subtly oaked this is made using what Downie calls “enhanced biodynamics”. The acidity, structure and perfume of the wine, with a savoury undertone from whole bunch fermentation, are deliciously well integrated. 

BuyDrinking window: 2015-20Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, Australia, Red, Syrah/Shiraz
93

2011 Les Blancs Manteaux, Domaine de la Noblaie, Chinon, Loire Valley

( £13.50, 13%, Haynes, Hanson & Clark )

The “white coats” in the name refers to the limestone soils that give this remarkable Cabernet Franc its refreshing minerality. Pure, almost transparent winemaking allows the terroir to speak. Grassy, elegant and refined with a long, polished finish and filigree tannins.

BuySimilar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, France, Red, Cabernet Franc
90

2010 Seméli Reserve, Nemea

( £10.95, 14%, The Wine Society )

It’s not the easiest grape in the world to love (those tannins can be a little firm, like a Greek version of the Portuguese Baga grape) but Agiorgitiko is that country’s best variety. This is a very fruity example, but it’s still got backbone and acidity behind the chalky red cherry and pomegranate flavours. Make sure you eat this with robust food or cheese.

Drinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Greece, Red, Agiorgitiko
93

2012 Massolino Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont

( N/A, 14%, Liberty Wines )

Fascinating to taste this wine under screwcap and cork and perform a contrast and compare job. They are both excellent, as you’d expect from a top producer in an outstanding vintage, but I slightly prefer the brightness and purity of the screwcapped wine. Fresh and elegant, with pure raspberry and cherrystone fruit, subtle oak and the chalky minerality that’s so typical of Serralunga. 

BuyDrinking window: 2014-18Similar Wines: 91-95, Italy, White, Nebbiolo
94

2012 Kusuda, Pinot Noir, Martinborough

( N/A, 13.5%, Hallowed Ground )

Is this New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir? It’s certainly in the top half dozen examples of the grape, a wine that nods towards Chambolle-Musigny as much as its native North Island. It’s a subtle, fragrant red with silky tannins, sustaining acidity, chalky minerality and a stylishly judged balance of oak, fruit and tannin. Winemaking of a high order. 

BuyDrinking window: 2014-18Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, New Zealand, Red, Pinot Noir
93

2011 Paul Bertrand, Crocus, Malbec, Cahors, South West France

( £34.99, 14.5%, The Vineking )

What do you get when you cross Paul Hobbs, one of the leading New World wine consultants and a man who makes his own wines in Argetina, with a Frenchman producing wine in Cahors? The answer is something pretty special, a rich, ripe, but well balanced Malbec that sits midway between France and Argentina in style, with some of the perfume and plushness of the former and the structure of the latter. Inky, floral and refined with notes of plum and black cherry and sweet oak. 

Drinking window: 2014-18Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, France, Red, Malbec
93

2010 Los Amigos, Rogue Vine, El Insolente Single Vineyard, Itata Valley

( POA, 12.8% )

Like the 2008 vintage of El Inosolente, this is made entirely from bush vine Carignan grown in the Itata Valley. If anything, it’s a step up in quality, which is saying a good deal. Deeply coloured and concentrated, yet not heavy or ponderous in any way, this is a wine that’s all about fruit and balance rather than oak and extraction. Perfumed, savoury and refreshing, with bramble and balckberry fruit, firm but harmonious tannins and a long, refreshing finish. 

BuyDrinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: 91-95, Chile, Red, Carignan
88

2012 The Society's Corbières, Corbières, Languedoc-Roussillon

( £7.25, 14%, The Wine Society )

You can find cheaper Corbières on the market, some of which will challenge your dental enamel, but this delivers plenty of wine at the price. Sourced from Château Ollieux Romanis, it’s a youthful, wild herb-scented red with the accent squarely on fruit rather than oak. Juicy, bouncy and bright, it’s just the thing for a summer (or late spring) barbecue. 

BuyDrinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Red, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
89

2010 Lindes de Remelluri, Viñedos de Labastida, Rioja

( £16.99, 13.5%, Davis Bell McCraith )

Things have changed for the better, now that Telmo Rodriguez is back at Remelluri, one of Rioja’s first estates. This is a more forward expression of Tempranillo than the bodega’s more expensive releases, with bags of bright, brambly, red berry fruit, medium weight tannins and a sweet, succulent finish that emphasises gluggability. 

Drinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Spain, Red, Tempranillo
92

2011 Cambridge Road Syrah, Martinborough

( POA, 12.5, Les Caves de Pyrene )

“Martinborough in a cool year on a razor’s edge,” is how Lance Redgwell describes the growing season that produced this impressive Syrah from the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s got the classic, cool climate notes of black pepper and smoked meat, combined with notes of incense, iodine and subtle oak. Spicy and intense, yet refreshing at the same time, it’s the kind of wine that makes you wonder why the Kiwis don’t plant more Syrah. 

BuyDrinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: 91-95, New Zealand, Red, Syrah/Shiraz