88

2011 The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Domaine de La Noblaie Chinon, Loire

( £8.95, 13.5%, The Co-operative )

Unoaked Loire Cabernet Franc is one of my favourite styles wine: light, fresh and grassy, with subtle lead pencil aromas and a bright, cool climate finish. That’s exactly what you get here, with acidity that works really well with cheese and red meats.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Red, Cabernet Franc
90

2012 Steitz Grauer Burgunder Trocken, Rheinhessen

( £13.00, 13%, Chix and Buck )

You might be surprised to learn that Germany sells more Grauer Burgunder (aka Pinot Gris) in the UK than Riesling. The statistic is less depressing when you taste a wine like this soft, pear, fig and apple-like example from the Rheinhessen, however. A very appealing dry white with more acidity than is immediately apparent. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Germany, White, Pinot Gris/Grigio
94

2012 Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay, Nelson

( £37.80, 13.5%, Christopher Keiller )

Tim and Judy Finn’s Chardonnay is established as one of the three best Chardonnays in New Zealand and this vintage more than lives up to its reputation. It’s a leesy, creamy, deftly oaked wine with attractive stone fruit flavours, hints of cashew, oatmeal and toast and a focused, minerally finish. Superb stuff. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-17Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, New Zealand, White, Chardonnay
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
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
95

NV Henriot Blanc de Blancs, Champagne

( £44.00, 12%, Oddbins )

Sourced mostly from the Côte des Blancs and including 30% of reserve wines, Henriot’s Blanc de Blancs is a non vintage wine that tastes like a vintage release. It’s rich, toasty and just off dry with notes of brioche and toast and a subtle, tapering finish. One of the best Blanc de Blancs on the market. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, France, Sparkling, Chardonnay
92

2008 Domaine de Montcalmès, Coteaux du Languedoc, Languedoc Roussillon

( £20, 14%, The Wine Society )

One of the best reds in the Languedoc (and at a very affordable price, too), this blend of Syrah with 20% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre also proves that the region’s top wines age gracefully. It’s sweet and savoury with fruit flavours that nod towards Pinot Noir as well as more Mediterranean varieties, but with a dusting of wild herbs and a touch more alcohol.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, France, Red, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah/Shiraz
91

2010 Château Sainte-Eulalie, Minervois La Livinière, Languedoc-Roussillon

( £11.50, 14.5%, The Wine Society )

Syrah, Grenache and Carignan  combine to very good effect in this dense, spicy, garrigue-scented red from the best part of the Minervois appellation. It’s a sun-kissed number with ripe, yet full tannins, flavours of blackberry, rosemary, thyme and liquorice and a chalky undertone from its vineyard source. Inky and ripe, but fresh and fine at the same time. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, France, Red, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz