94

2015 Neudorf, Moutere Chardonnay, Moutere, Nelson

( £35, 14%, Contact the winery for details )

Consistently one of New Zealand’s best Chardonnays, this is a rich, leesy, barrel-fermented style that treads the line (successfully, I might add) between opulence and pithy freshness. Citrus, oatmeal and honeyed notes are complemented by subtle vanilla sweetness and lovely, understated concentration.

BuyDrinking window: 2017-22Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, New Zealand, White, Chardonnay
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
90

2014 Domaine des Garennes Empreinte Blanc, Saumur, Loire Valley

( €10, 13, Contact the winery for details )

Youthful, pithy and still quite tight, this barrel-fermented Chenin needs more time in bottle to show what it’s really capable of. Apple, citrus and pear flavours are complemented by stony minerality, some vanilla spice and a tangy, focused finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2017-20Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, White, Chenin Blanc
92

2015 Granbazán Albariño, Etiqueta Ambar, Rías Baixas

( N/A, 12.5%, Contact the winery for details )

Grown on granitic soils close to Cambados – the self-styled capital of the Albariño grape – this is a remarkable old vine cuvée from one of the best producers of the grape in Rías Baixas. Scented, pure and beautifully balanced, with undertones of lime and apple, it unfurls impressive richness on the palate with pear and stone fruit flavours and a fine, linering finish.

Drinking window: 2016-20Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, White, Albariño
94

2013 Richard Kershaw Wines Chardonnay, Elgin

( N/A, 13.5%, Contact the winery for details )

Englishman Richard Kershaw has followed up his 2012 release with a wine that’s every bit as good. This is a smoky, minerally,  citrus-tinged, stylishly constructed Chardonnay that whispers of its cool climate origins in Elgin. Discreet and subtle, it’s a wine with texture, harmony and palate length. One of the Cape’s best examples of the grape.

BuyDrinking window: 2014-18Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, South Africa, White, Chardonnay
91

2011 LaFou El Sender, Terra Alta

( £10.15, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

The use of oak is restrained here (one of the distinguishing features of this impressive Terra Alta winery) allowing the fruit to express itself. It’s a subtle, finely crafted blend of mostly Garnacha with 30% Syrah and 10% Morenillo (yup, I had to to look that one up, too), showing, sweet red fruits, subtle vanilla spice, bright acidity and polished tannins.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Grenache, Morenillo, Syrah/Shiraz
94

2008 LaFou De Batea, Terra Alta

( £26.17, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

The top red wine from LaFou is an impressive blend of mostly Grenache with lesser amounts of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, again showing judicious oak handling, refreshing minerality and ripe, but not over-ripe flavours of plum, chocolate and red fruits, with hints of tapenade and a brisk, refreshing finish. This is winemaking of a high order.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
90

2009 Château Marsyas, Békaa Valley

( £££, 14.2%, Contact the winery for details )

An impressive Lebanese blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, which benefits from the consultancy of Bordeaux’s celebrated Stéphane Derononcourt. The high altitude of the vines (900 metres) is reflected in the freshness of the wine, which has notes of honey and cinnamon, a twist of orange peel and a long, well-balanced aftertaste.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Lebanon, White, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
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
94

2009 Marimar Estate Chardonnay La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California

( US$35, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

This is the most elegant Chardonnay I’ve tasted yet from this Green Valley winery, marking a step change in freshness, minerality and balance. The wine is still Californian in style, but the oak and acidity are nicely intertwined adding a refeshing backrop to the pear and citrus fruit. The lees work is exemplary, too. A wine that wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of top Meursaults. Bravo. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: Under £5, 91-95, United States, White, Chardonnay
91

2008 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California

( US$39, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

This doesn’t quite scale the same heights as this winery’s recent Chardonnay release, but it’s still an impressive West Coast Pinot, appealingly priced by the standards of some California reds. It’s a full bodied style with flavours of ripe red fruits and sweet vanilla oak and a touch of leafy forest floor. The alcohol is a little intrusive on the finish perhaps, but this is still a Pinot with depth and flavour.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: Under £5, 91-95, United States, Red, Pinot Noir