92

Dry Old Palo Cortado, Jerez

( £7.49, 19%, Marks & Spencer )

Great Sherry remains one of the wine world’s great bargains, even in half bottles like this one from the high quality Emilion Lustau operation. This is a classic Palo – with slightly more weight than an Amontillado, but similalry nutty, savoury flavours. Bone dry on the palate, with lovely, old barrel-aged notes of toast and grilled almonds and a salty note from five years spent in a Fino solera system. Great as an aperitif, but also amazing with tapas. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-20Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, Spain, Fortified, Palomino Fino
90

2011 Tercius Alvarinho, Vinho Verde

( £9.99, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Alvarinho is exactly the same grape as Albariño – it’s just grown on the other side of the Minho River in Portugal, as opposed to Spain. In fact, it’s one of the key grapes in Vinho Verde, althoiugh it’s often blended with other grapes. This is typically floral and fresh, but with more weight than many Vinhos Verdes, with notes of lime and pear and a chalky, palate-cleansing minerality. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-14Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Portugal, White, Albariño
94

NV Franck Bonville Grand Cru Champagne, Champagne

( £39, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer )

OK, this costs nearly £40, but so do plenty of Champagnes that aren’t anything like as good as this Blanc de Blancs from growers, Herny and Ludovic Beaufort. The wine tastes as good as it looks, with masses of rich, nutty, bready flavours, a lowish dosage and 20% reserve wines to add extra concentration and weight. This is what I’ll be drinking as we open the pressies on Christmas morning. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-20Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, France, Sparkling, Chardonnay
88

2011 Domaine de Paparotier Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Rhône Valley

( £8.99 down to £6.74, 15%, Marks & Spencer )

If you’ve got a sweet tooth but don’t want to spend more than £10 on a bottle of something special for Christmas, this southern Rhône fortified ticks all the right boxes. It’s a very elegant style, wtih subtle fortification, aromas of wild flowers, honey and peach and a refreshing finish that doesn’t cloy in the slightest. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-13Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Fortified, Muscat à Petits Grains
89

2011 Fiano Sannio, Campania

( £7.99, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )

The winemaker behind this southern Italian white is the famous Dr Riccardo Cotarella, who certainly appears to have a magic touch with this increasingly popular grape. It’s spicy and fresh with notes of pear and citrsu fruit and a tangy, unoaked finish. Very focused. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-13Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Italy, White, Fiano
90

2010 Los Molles Carmenère, Limari

( £9.99, 14%, Marks & Spencer )

Maybe I’m finally coming round to Carmenère, Chile’s USP. This hails from coastal Limari (it’s sourced from the Tabali winery) and has more freshness than most examples. It’s typically deep in colour, with notes of mint, blackcurrant pastille and plum, overlaid with sweet chocolatey oak and a zesty, grassy finish. Good now and should develop in bottle, too. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-17Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Chile, Red
90

2011 Château Clément Perlé, Gaillac, South-West France

( £8.99, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer )

It’s great to see a supermarket championing the undervalued wines of south-west France, so a round of applause for Marks & Spencer for listing this unusual blend of three local grape varieties. It’s quite a weighty wine for its 12.5% alcohol, with notes of honey and fresh earth, a soft, yet refreshing palate with a slight spritz and a tangy, refreshing finish. Try it as an aperitif or with fish or poultry. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, White, Loin de l'Oeil, Mauzac, Muscadelle
89

2011 Carmagnole Prestige, Caramany, Languedoc-Roussillon

( £9.99, 14%, Marks & Spencer )

Caramany is the westernmost of the Côtes du Roussillon’s top appellations. Its altitude and comparatively cool conditions, allied to granite and quartz soils, produce wines of remarkable freshness and poise, just like this one. Cracked pepper and spice, with red fruits and bright acidity. The old vine Carignan gives the wine some savoury ballast. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Red, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
91

2009 Château Ksara, Clos St Alphonse, Bekaa Valley

( £9.49, 13%, Marks & Spencer )

It’s great to see a few Lebanese wines breaking into the retail mainstream, especially at a price and quality level such as this. It’s a blend of mostly Syrah with 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and it underlines the country’s potential with Bordeaux-meets-the-Rhône-Valley style blends. Elegant, sweetly oaked stuff with restrained alcohol for the Bekaa Valley, some spice and an undertone of green pepper. A very modern wine from Lebanon’s oldest winery. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, Lebanon, Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz
91

2010 Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages, Domaine de la Meynarde

( £7.99, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )

I hope you’ll forgive me for choosing another 2010 Rhône red as my wine of the week, but they are just so delicious. This unoaked blend of mostly Grenache with 25% Syrah, 10% Carignan amd 10% Mourvèdre is quintessential stuff: ripe, but still refreshing with sweet plums and red fruits on the palate backed up by clove and pepper spice. I could drink a bottle of this in one sitting, especially with a good stew or barbecued ribs. 

BuySimilar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, France, Red, Grenache, Other Reds, Syrah/Shiraz
92

2009 Vasse Felix Semillon, Margaret River

( £13.99, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer )

2009 Vasse Felix Semillon, Margaret River (£13.99, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer). If you find some Hunter Valley Semillons a little austere, especially when they’re young, try a bottle of this western Australian example instead. Made by the talented Virginia Wilcock, it’s got lovely notes of toast, honeysuckle and cream soda, with zesty acidity and subtle vanilla oak. It’s very enjoyable now, but I suspect this will reward cellaring too.

BuySimilar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Australia, White, Semillon
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