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
89

2010 Thymiopoulos Rosé de Xinomavro, Naoussa

( £12.99, 14%, Theatre of Wine )

This is something of a curiosity, but there’s nothing wrong with that: copper-tinted, almost Pinot Noir like, with sweet and savoury fruit flavours, refresing acidity and a long, wild strawberry finish. It’s got a nip of tannin, too, which makes it perfect with food. Try it with a summer salad. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-13Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Greece, Rose, Xinomavro
93

2010 Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir, Nelson

( NZ $49.90, 14%, Contact the winery for details )

Lighter and more approachable than the Home Block release, but not far behind it in quality, this is a ripe, structured, red fruits scented Pinot with savoury, toasty oak, subtle, filigree tannins and some grip on the finish. Another wine that needs a year or two in bottle to show at its best.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-2017Similar Wines: Under £5, 91-95, New Zealand, Red, Pinot Noir
94

2010 Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir Home Vineyard, Nelson

( NZ$79.90, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

This is unashamedly New Zealand, even Nelson, in style rather than a Burgundian copy. It’s rich, savoury and textured, a wine whose pale colour belies its concentration, depth and complexity. The oak is a little too evident at the moment, but don’t hesitate to give it five or more years in bottle. Sweetly fruited, perfumed and very long.

BuyDrinking window: 2014-2020Similar Wines: Under £5, 91-95, New Zealand, Red, Pinot Noir
94

2010 Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay, Nelson

( £35 (approximately), 13.5%, Local stockists from the vineyard )

Neudorf’s status as one of the very best Chardonnay producers in New Zealand is only enhanced by this delicious new release: nutty, savoury, bready notes with well integrated oak, citrus acidity and nuanced lemon, vanilla and peach flavours. The wine has the concentration and structure to age further in bottle. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £30-£50, 0-80, New Zealand, White, Chardonnay
91

2010 Mere et Fils Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

( NA, 13%, Contact the winery for details )

The qualty of Australian Chardonnay has leapt forward like a roo on heat over the last few years. This cool climate example from the Adelaide Hills is typical of the quality on offer from Down Under. Wild yeast fermented in older oak, some creamy lees on the palate and fine, citrus-tinged fruit with an echo of apricot. Subtle winemakin from Matt Gant.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: Under £5, 91-95, Australia, 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