92

2016 Château du Moulin Rouge, Haut-Médoc

( £20.95, 13%, Davy's )

I don’t drink much claret these days, but I had a bottle of this during an online MW Mates tasting with my friend Anne McHale MW and it made me fall in love with Bordeaux all over again. Château du Moulin Rouge, which predates the famous Parisian cabaret with a similar name, is a very well-placed Cru Bourgeois between Margaux and St. Julien making wines of cru classé quality. Unusually for the left bank, this is Merlot dominated, with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. For me, it confirms the class and balance of the 2016 vintage, showing flavours of plum, back cherry and cassis complemented by notes of cedar wood and graphite, appealing freshness and fine, deftly integrated tannins.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-28Similar Wines: £20-25, 90-94, 92, France, Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
90

2018 Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend, Stellenbosch

( £11, on offer at £9 until February 14, 14.5%, Tesco )

You can only applaud a winery – especially one as famous as Kanonkop – that makes 1.7 million bottles of a wine of this quality. Dominated by Pinotage, with the remaining 63% made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it’s a floral, textured, well-structured cuvée with notes of mint and dried herbs and a core of cassis and raspberry fruit.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-25Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, South Africa, Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinotage
98

2018 Concha y Toro Don Melchor, Puente Alto, Maipo Valley

( £95, 14.5%, Cru World Wines, Harrods, Hedonism Wines, Penistone Wine Cellars )

2018 is rightly regarded as one of the best Chilean red wine vintages of the last 30 years, so it’s no surprise that the latest release of Don Melchor is so special. Made from 181 lots covering 151 different vineyard parcels, it’s a pure, refined expression of the Andes-cooled Puente Alto terroir. This is only the second time that the blend has included all four Bordeaux varieties on the estate – it’s 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot – and the wine is suitably nuanced and well balanced. Scented and floral, with some wild herb top notes, it’s an icon that marries energy with power and grip. The tannins are polished, the fruit intense, with cassis and red berry flavours complemented by fresh acidity and scented coffee bean oak.

BuyDrinking window: 2023-33Similar Wines: £95-105, 95-100, Chile, Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot
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

Capital ventures

by Matt Walls
When London’s first urban winery opened in 2013, I was cynical. But London Cru is still going strong, having since won multiple awards for its wines and gained listings in...
89

2015 Domaine des Garennes Le Brossay, Saumur, Loire Valley

( €4.80, 12.5, Contact the winery for details )

A youthful, easy-drinking, well-priced Cabernet Franc grown on clay and limestone soils on the Champ de Liveau plateau, this is grassy and refreshing with supple tannins, plenty of the perfume that’s typical of the variety and a twist of graphite. Very attractive at the price.

BuyDrinking window: 2017-20Similar Wines: Under £5, 86-90, France, Red, Cabernet Franc
91

2013 Trinity Hill The Gimblett, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay

( £17, 13.5% )

An impressive, four-way blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, assisted by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a dash of Petit Verdot, that nods towards the Médoc as much as its native New World. Floral, refined and well balanced with stylish, savoury oak, a solid backbone of tannin and a tangy, refreshing finish. A wien that slides over the tongue. 

BuyDrinking window: 2017-21Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, New Zealand, Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
92

2014 Domaine de la Noblaie Le Temps des Cerises, Chinon, Loire Valley

( £8.95, 13%, The Wine Society )

Is Loire Cabernet Franc finally getting the recognition it deserves, partly because of the rise in the grape’s fortunes elsewhere? If so, it’s about time. Where else can you find a wine as complex as this Chinon for under £9? It’s a classically grassy, refreshing red with no apparent oak and remarkable elegance and fruit purity. Drink it chilled, and drink lots of it. 

BuyDrinking window: 2016-20Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, France, Red, Cabernet Franc

Marlborough: The Fear of France?

by Matt Walls
If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll love Marlborough in New Zealand. Of its 22,903 hectares of vineyards, 19,639 of them are planted with it. Undoubtedly this feels like an awful...
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
88

2013 Oller del Mas, Petit Bernat, Pla de Bages

( £9, 14% )

A great value blend of Picapoll Negre, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made in an easy drinking style, with a touch of oak for added structure and complexity. Supple, attractive, raspberry and red cherry fruit with smooth tannins and balancing acidity. A really good quaffing red. 

BuyDrinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Spain, Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Picapoll Negre, Syrah/Shiraz

Spend less, drink better

by Matt Walls
The UK is a nation of bargain hunters. There are more pound shops on Britain’s high streets than bookstores. When it comes to wine we’re no different; most of what...