93

2018 Stepp Riesling S, Kallstadter Saumagen, Pfalz

( £15, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Gerd Stepp used to work at Marks & Spencer before he went back to his native Germany to make wine again. Our loss was the Pfalz’s gain, as this is one of the best dry Rieslings on the market for £15 or under. Sourced from the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard on soils with a high percentage of limestone, it’s wonderfully racy, taut and complex with some creamy weight from six months on its fermentation lees, pithy minerality, lime, jasmine and wet stone notes and a thrilling finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-25Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, Germany, White, Riesling
91

2018 Palataia Pinot Noir, Pfalz

( £9.00, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Gerd Stepp used to be a buyer at Marks & Spencer, but has now gone back to his original career as a winemaker in the Pfalz. People are often surprised to learn how much Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder) Germany produces and just how good it can be. For Pinot lovers who’ve almost given up on finding enjoyable expressions of their beloved grape under £10, this unoaked example is a godsend: smooth, supple and strawberry fruity with crunchy acidity and a sweet core.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-23Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, Germany, Red, Pinot Noir
90

2016 Tbilvino Qvevris, Kakheti

( £10.00, 12%, Marks & Spencer )

Marks & Spencer have culled a lot of the quirkier wines in their range of late, so I’m delighted that this left-field, skin-fermented white from Georgia, the so-called cradle of wine, is still on its shelves. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape in the limestone-dominated area of Kakheti, it has funky, earthy, quince and orange peel flavours and some tannic grip. Dry and unusual, it’s a textbook introduction to wines fermented in clay pots, or qvevri.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-23Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Georgia, Dry, White, Rkatsiteli
91

2017 Atlantis, Santorini

( £8, down from £12, 13%, Marks & Spencer )

Currently on a deal that has reduced its price by £4, this was worth buying at £12, but is especially so now. Made from Greece’s increasingly trendy Assyrtiko, with 5% each of Aidani and Athiri for company, this is a brilliant seafood white that’s crunchy, pithy and slightly salty, with lemon and lime zest fruit, an undertone of wild herbs and a long and very refreshing finish. If the summer ever starts again, drink a bottle outside in the sun. If not, imagine you’re on a Greek island. Drink young and well chilled.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-21Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, Greece, White, Aidani, Assyrtiko, Athiri
90

2018 Tapada de Vilar, Vinho Verde

( £7, 10.5%, Marks & Spencer )

One of a number of wines at Marks & Spencer to have benefited from a new lower price, this is just the thing for the warmer weather: a light, tangy, spritzy white made from three local Portuguese grapes – Loureiro, Arinto and a splash of Trajadura – and showing lip smacking flavours of green apple, citrus peel and white pepper. Wonderfully crisp and refreshing.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-20Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, Portugal, Dry, White, Arinto, Loureiro, Trajadura
90

2013 Palatia Pinot Noir, Pfalz

( £10 (down to £8), 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Gerd Stepp used to buy wine for Marks & Spencer before he returned to his former life as a winemaker in Germany. M&S’ loss is our gain (and they are still stocking his wines anyway) because this is an oustandingly well priced Pinot from a country that has more of the variety in the ground than New Zealand does. It’s a smooth, savoury, easy-drinking red with some spice, sweet plum and raspberry fruit, good texture and a long, supple finish underpinned by subtle oak. 

BuyDrinking window: 2015-18Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Germany, Red, Pinot Noir
91

2012 Tbilvino Qvevris, Kakheti

( £9, 11.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Fresh from a trip to Georgia, I recommended this wine on Saturday Kitchen as a way of pushing the vinous boundaries on daytime TV. I’m delighted that it was so well received. As orange wines go, this Rkaciteli from the country’s best wine region, Kakheti, is not that extreme, as only part of the blend was fermented and aged in clay amphorae (qvevri). But it’s still a very good example of the style: bone dry and slightly bitter (from the skins) with notes of orange rind and black tea and a lingering, dry finish. 

BuyDrinking window: 2015-18Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, Georgia, White, Rkaciteli
88

2011 Falua, Terius, Touriga Nacional, Tejo

( £8, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )

The Tejo is not the first place you’d go in search of Touriga Nacional (a grape that’s more often associated with the Douro and Dão), but this is excellent value and packs a real punch at the price. Full bodied, firm and concentrated, it’s floral and perfumed with appealing balckberry fruit and good underlying structure, relying on fruit rather than oak for its appeal. 

Drinking window: 2014-17Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Portugal, Red, Touriga Nacional
88

2012 Tikves Smederevka Rkaciteli, Macedonia

( £6.99, 12%, Marks & Spencer )

Its’ great to see a UK supermarket taking a punt on a Macedonian wine made from indigenous grapes (to be strictly accurate, Rkaciteli originated in Georgia, but Smederevka is a local staple). This is a white that has maintained acidity in warm conditions, a little like Assyrtiko in Greece, and it’s deliciosuly crisp and refreshing, with notes of fennel, lemon peel and a bitter twist that’s reminiscent of Italy. 

BuyDrinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, White, Rkaciteli, Smederevka
93

20 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro Valley

( £33 down to £24.75, 20%, Marks & Spencer )

Made for M&S by Taylor’s brilliant winemaker, David Guimaraens, this is the kind of Tawny Port that makes grown men (and women) cry. It’s a very fine fortified, with a delicious balance between nutty, figgy fruit, added spirit and mature, barrel-aged rancio notes. Very sweet and very long on the palate, it would make a perfect Christmas treat. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-25Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, Portugal, Fortified, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional
93

NV De St Gall Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne

( £29 down to £21.75, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Well up to the very good standards of the Union Champagne co-op, this all Chardonnay fizz from Premier and Grand Cru villages is a very refined drop: fresh, focused and well structured with lowish dosage (residual sugar) and hints of brioche and citrus fruits. A Champagne that will age well, too, on past performance. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-17Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, France, Sparkling, Chardonnay