93

2018 Pepe Mendoza El Veneno, Alicante

( £22, 14%, The Wine Society )

Pepe Mendoza is one of the best producers in the historic region of Alicante, bringing bags of energy and creativity to the denominación de origen. Called “poison” because of the strong character of the bush vine vineyard that supplied it, this pure Monastrell is fresh, bright and intense, with plum and black cherry fruit, some spices from 50% whole bunches, very subtle wood and tannins that are grippy but not overwhelmingly so.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-26Similar Wines: £20-25, 90-94, Spain, Red, Monastrell
92

2019 Thymiopoulos Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes, Naoussa

( £10.95, 13%, The Wine Society )

Xinomavro is one of those grape varieties that ought to be wider known, but isn’t because it’s mostly confined to northern Greece. Crafted by the talented Apostolos Thymiopoulos, this example from Naoussa is way less toothsome than some examples, partly because it’s made with fruit from young vines. Peppery, spicy and scented, it’s like a cross between a Gamay and a Nebbiolo. with rose petal aromas, red cherry and raspberry fruit, tangy acidity, hints of liquorice and mint and a nip of underlying tannin. Ludicrously good value at only £10.95.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-25Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Greece, Red, Xinomavro
91

2019 Viñalta Malbec, Mendoza

( £9.00, 14%, Marks & Spencer )

Frenchman Hervé Joyaux Fabre makes some of the best value Malbecs in Argentina, as well as some equally smart top-end wines in Mendoza, Patagonia and back in Cahors. This red from the excellent 2019 vintage is entirely unoaked, leaving the variety to sing at the top of its lungs. Floral, enticing and juicy, it has supple, undulating tannins, zesty acidity and a core of bramble and blackberry fruit. Just the thing to cheer you up now that the clocks have gone back.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-24Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, Argentina, Red, Malbec
94

2017 Rustenberg John X Merriman, Stellenbosch

( £15.99, 14.5%, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Dunells, Frontier Fine Wines, Great Grog, Lea & Sandeman, Majestic, Portland Wine Company, Waitrose )

Stellenbosch struck gold in 2017, with one of the best ever red wine vintages in the Cape. This refined, well-structured Bordeaux blend, made at one of the most historic properties on the Simonsberg, is unbelievably good value and would wipe the winery floor with similarly priced wines from south-west France. Cassis, black cherry, graphite and cigar box notes are framed by fine, age worthy tannins and bright, refreshing acidity. Some retailers may be on the very good 2018, but the 2017 is the one to go for.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-27Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, South Africa, Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot
92

2017 Famille Perrin Réserve du Mistral, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Rhône Valley

( £11.99, 13.5%, Waitrose )

This impressive wine is sometimes described as a ‘mini Châteauneuf-du-Pape” but it’s much better than that. In fact, it’s superior to many supermarket CNDPs and cheaper, too. Made by the Perrin family who own Château de Beaucastel, it’s a poised, scented, integrated cuvée of mostly Grenache with 15% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, with fine red berry fruit, a dusting of Mediterranean herbs, understated wood and a refreshing, medium-bodied finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-27Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-95, France, Red, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah