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
94

2017 Scala Dei Prior, Priorat

( £33, 14.5%, Great Wine Co )

Based on Garnacha, with the remaining 35% made up of Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Prior is what Ricard Rofes calls a “key in the door of Priorat”, in that it introduces you to the different zones of the denominación. Wild, savoury and intense, with floral black cherry and damson fruit, a herbal undertone, pithy minerality and some clove spice from 30% whole bunch fermentation. One of the most structured wines in the range.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-28Similar Wines: £30-35, 90-94, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cariñena, Garnacha, Merlot
92

2011 Château des Fougères Clos Montesquieu La Raison, Graves

( £15, 12.5%, Tesco )

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to drink claret. I’m generally far too busy enjoying less classic fare to think about the Gironde, but red Bordeaux is just the thing with the turkey. This marriage of Merlot with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, curated by ace consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, is entirely unoaked, relying on fruit purity, fine tannins and supporting acidity. It’s just tipping over into middle age, with tobacco and autumn leaf aromas and fleshy red berry and fruitcake flavours. Really delicious at the price.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-24Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, France, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
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
88

2015 Poggio Civetta, Tuscany

( £6.99, 12.5%, Majestic )

If you’re looking for an easy drinking pink to quaff over the next few weeks, this pale rosé made from “typical Tuscan varieties”  is a snip at under £7 (as long as you buy five other bottles at Majestic). There’s a spicy, wild herb-like note to the raspberry fruit that’s backed up by a nip of tannin. 

BuyDrinking window: NowSimilar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Italy, Rose, Merlot, Sangiovese
90

2010 Marquis de Castéra, Medoc, Bordeaux

( £15, 13.5%, Borough Wines )

The second wine of Château Castéra, this is a stylish, Merlot-based claret with restrained oak, plenty of perfume and polished tannins. It’s good to see a 2010 wine of this quality that’s ready to drink on retail shelves, showing the balance that’s the hallmark of the vintage. 

BuyDrinking window: 2016-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, France, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

The shock of the new

by Matt Walls
When tasting my way through a large number of unfamiliar wines, there are a few tell-tale signs that I’ve encountered something special. Firstly, an involuntary smile creeps over my face....

What’s the future for Chinese wine?

by Tim Atkin
First time visitors to Beijing are often struck by the pollution that seems to blanket the city on a daily basis, reducing visibility and filling lungs with undesirable gunk. It’s...
92

2008 Domaine Bessa Valley, Enira Reserva, Bessa Valley

( £17.95, 14.5%, Salisbury Wine Shop, The Fine Wine Company )

It’s a real pleasure to see such impressive wines emerging from Bulgaria, a country that has lost its way over the last 20 years, but is now back on the right path. This wine is the flag bearer of the new wave. It’s a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, made by a group of owners that includes Stephan von Neipperg of Château Canon La Gaffelière, and it has a smooth, international feel to it. Minty, fruit sweet and stylishly oaked, it combines flavours of cassis, fruitcake and red berries with a sheen of vanilla oak. Good now, but will age for another five years with ease.

Drinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Bulgaria, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz