93

2010 Cantine Russo Mon Pit Methodo Classico Spumante Brut Rosé, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 12.5%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

Nerello Mascalese is versatile enough to make terrific sparklers – like this bready, toasty rosé spumante. The fruit is spicy, and rather savoury, with an intriguing nose that reminded me of red onions (it wasn’t oxidised, I should hasten to add). The mousse is soft but persistent. Bone dry, refined and complex – a serious Rosé, Bravo!

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Sparkling, Nerello Mascalese
95

2007 I Vigneri Aetneus Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( £20, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

This wine isn’t currently available in the UK – a great shame. But it’s so good that I had to include it. Made by Salvo Foti’s cooperative “I Vigneri”, using very low-intervention (wild yeasts, no sulphur, no filtering, organically grown fruit), this is a superbly focussed, elegant expression of Nerello Mascalese. Dominated by fresh red cranberry fruit, smoky minerality and piercing acidity, the wine is underpinned by extremely refined tannins and feels effortlessly balanced – no mean feat given the high alcohol.

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese
93

2008 Vinyes dels Aspres S'Alou, Empordà

( E24, 15%, El Celler Petit )

Sourced from the oldest vines on the property, David Molas’ Grenache-based red is strongly marked by Syrah on the nose and palate. The granite soils and high altitude give the wine real freshness and minerality, despite the high alcohol. Perfumed, with violets and liquorice on the nose, sweet blackberry fruit, supple, grainy tannins and a lift of herbal spice. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-17Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
91

2005 CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva, Alavesa, Rioja

( £21.49, 13.5%, Majestic )

A much more modern style than we’ve grown accustomed to from CVNE in recent years, this is youthful and vigorous for a Gran Reserva, with the emphasis on vibrant Tempranillo fruit. The freshness of the Alavesa vineyards is really evident on the palate. This is refreshing and fine, with sweet oak, medium weight tannins and nuanced red and black fruits flavours. An interesting change of tack by CVNE. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-18Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Spain, Red, Graciano, Tempranillo
90

NV Bolney Estate Cuvée Rosé, Sussex

( £24.99, 12.5%, Naked Wines )

Just when you were beginning to think that English fizz is a little over-hyped, along comes a stylish, well-priced number like this Pinot Noir-based cuvée. Coral pink in colour, showing some toasty, yeasty bottle development on the nose, small bubbles and a savoury, wild strawberry finish. One to baffle a French wine snob with.  

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £20-£30, 86-90, England, Sparkling, Pinot Noir
94

2009 Assyrtiko de Mylos, Santorini

( £25, 14.5%, Theatre of Wine )

There can’t be many more complex Greek whites than this old vine Assyrtiko from the volcanic island of Santorini. Rich and textured, wtih aged flavours of toast and honey underpinned by steely acidity. There’s a lovely undertone of Mediterreanean herbs here, a hint of sweetness and a long, minerally finish. Very complex stuff. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-16Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Greece, White, Assyrtiko
91

2008 AA Badenhorst Family White, Swartland

( £24, 14.5%, Swig )

After an impressive tenure at Rustenburg, Adi Badenhorst is doing some really exciting things at his new project in the Swartland. This fruit salad white blend of mostly Chenin Blanc with Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is a stunner. There’s a sheen of French oak, but what distinguishes the wine is its fruit depth and complexity: perfumed and blossom-scented with notes of honey, ginger spice, fresh apples, peach and a crunchy, refreshing finish. A producer to watch, given his track record.

BuySimilar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, South Africa, White, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Other Whites, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier
95

2006 Fow Hollow Hunter Valley Single Vineyard Semillon

( £22 down to £16.50 for a case, 11.5%, Marks & Spencer )

This looks and tastes suspiciously like Vat 1, Tyrrell’s sublime Hunter Semillon. It’s light and unoaked, but with lovely aged aromas and flavours of toast, cream and citrus fruit. On past performance, these wines age for decades, but you’ll have trouble keeping your hands off the screwcap here. Wonderfully complex. A bargain on the 25% off deal, so hurry.

Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Australia, White, Semillon
93

2007 Passopisciaro, IGT Sicilia

( £29.99, 14%, Corney & Barrow )

If your impression of Sicily is of a sweltering island making chunky reds, cheap, New World-style whites and Marsala, you haven’t discovered the Nerello Mascalese grape from Mount Etna yet. Andrea Franchetti’s Burgundian-style red, sourced from vines as old as 120 years, is remarkable: perfumed and elegant, with notes of red cherry and wild strawberry, savoury tannins, refreshing acidity and impressive length and complexity.

Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Red, Other Reds