89

2011 Benjamin Darnault, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Languedoc-Roussillon

( £10.99, 14.5%, Naked Wines )

A heady, wild cocktail of Syrah and Grenache from the hills of the Roussillon region of southern France. Youthful, fiery, spicy, with notes of lavender, thyme, sweet red fruit and liquorice. Needs food, preferably rich food, to show at its best, but this is an unoaked star, with bags of flavour and focus. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, France, Red, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
93

2009 Domaine de l'Espigouette for Harvey Nichols, Plan de Dieu, Côtes du Rhône Villages

( £12.50, 14.5, Harvey Nichols )

A really first class Rhône blend specially blended for Harvey Nichols by Domaine de l’Espigouette. It’s a spicy, full-throated number from a warm vintage, based on Grenache but with 15% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre for support and complexity. It’s still youthful (though very drinkable) with dense black fruits, lovely balance and the sort of perfume that really reminds you of the south of France. Heady stuff. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-17Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, France, Red, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah/Shiraz
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
90

2008 Château Trillol Corbières, Corbières, Languedoc

( £8.95, 14%, From Vineyards Direct, The Wine Society )

If you’re a fan of wild, Medieterranean herb-scented reds from the hills of the Corbières, this should be right up your grande rue. The oak is subtly done here, allowing the spicy, heady fruit to express itself. The tannins are svelte and nicely integrated, the fruit dense yet supple, the finish long and refreshing. The altitude of the vineyards is what gives the wine its balance and length.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Red, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
91

2011 Lagar de Costa Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia

( £11.50, 12.5%, The Wine Society )

The old vine (60 years to be precise) concentration really comes through in this refreshing Galician white. Focused, minerally and very long on the palate with notes of lemon zest and lime and a hint of spritz. A really classy Albariño that’s worth paying a little extra for. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, White, Albariño
97

2002 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, Reims, Champagne

( Approx £100, 12, Widely available )

If I had to choose just one Blanc de Blancs Champagne to lay down on a regular basis, this would be it. It’s hard to believe the wine is 10 years’ old, given its freshness and perky acidity. Floral, understated, citrus and brioche aromas sashay into a pure, focused, beautifully defined palate showing flavours of citrus, fresh bread and lighty grilled nuts. The finish on the wine goes on for a minute. Great now, but tuck some away if you can keep your hands off it.  

Drinking window: 2012-20Similar Wines: Under £5, 96-100, France, Sparkling, Chardonnay
90

2011 Château Rouquette sur Mer, Cuvée Arpège, La Clape, Languedoc

( £9.95, 13.5%, The Wine Society )

If you’re looking for a rare southern French white with lots of personality, this blend of Roussanne and rare Bourboulenc from cosatal La Clape deserves a slot in your wine rack. It’s rich and slightly honeyed with notes of wax and pear and a spicy, textured finish with just a hint of grape skin bitterness. A white wine with grip. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, White, Bourboulenc
89

2011 Auzells, Costers del Segre, Catalonia

( £9.95, 13%, The Wine Society )

Made from no fewer than eight varieties (with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Muscat among them), this is an intriguing nothern Spanish white that combines perfume with fruit intensity. Grapey, fresh and lime-scented, it’s a focused, floral dry white with a hint of bitterness on the finish. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Spain, White, Albariño, Chardonnay, Macabeo, Muscat of Alexandria, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc
91

2010 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas White Wine, Beiras

( £10.95, 12%, The Wine Society )

A taut, minerally, screwcapped white blend from a producer whose white wines age really well and are just as good as his more famous reds. Fresh, unoaked and slightly smoky with hints of jasmine and ginger spice and a long, satisfying finish. Portugal’s answer to Chablis, with a hint of Riesling thrown in, this proves that local grapes like Bical and Cercial are capable of producing thrilling, bottle-matured white wines. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-17Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Portugal, White, Bical, Cerceal, Sercialinho