92

2009 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, Kumeu

( £18.99 down to £14.24, 13%, Waitrose )

Master of Wine Michael Brajkovich makes some of the most elegant Chardonnays in the southern hemisphere. This is a precise, beautifully articulated wine that could brush shoulders with a Puligny-Montrachet. There’s a hint of creamy fatness from fermentation lees, understated toasty oak and a backbone of freshness and acidity. These wines aget very well in bottle, so don’t be afraid to keep this. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, New Zealand, White, Chardonnay
91

2009 David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner Semillon, Elim

( £14.99 down to £11.24, 13%, Waitrose )

Why don’t the South Africans plant more Semillon in the Cape, given how successful the variety seems to be there. This one from the cool, ocean-influenced area of Elim is toasty, herbal and very refined, with lovely lime and citrus blossom flavours and the potential to age, Hunter Valley-style, in bottle. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2014Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, South Africa, White, Semillon
89

2011 Les Nivières, Saumur, Loire Valley

( £7.99 down to £5.99, 13%, Waitrose )

Unoaked Loire Cabernet Franc remains one of the great bargains of the wine world: deliciously distinctive and refreshing. This one from the Cave de Saumur is consistently tasty, a supple, grassy, well balanced red with supple tannins, medium body and a refreshing cassis and green pepper finish. Even more impressive in a tricky vintage like 2011. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Red, Cabernet Franc
91

NV Graham Beck Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut, Western Cape

( £13.99 down to £10.24, 12%, Waitrose )

Pieter Ferreira is way ahead of anyone else making sparkling wine in the Cape at the moment, as demonstrated by this partially-barrel fermented fizz. It’s sappy and fresh, but with attractively yeasty autolysis notes, very fine bubbles and a tapering finish. A New World fizz that’s better than a lot of cheap Champagnes. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2014Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, South Africa, Sparkling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
94

2010 Domaine du Grapillon d'Or, Gigondas, Rhône Valley

( £18.99 down to £14.24, 14.5%, Waitrose )

This was one of the very best wines at the Waitrose tasting, a very smart southern Rhône red based on Grenache with 20% Syrah for added backbone. It’s a ripe wine, with 14.5% alcohol, but it’s subtle and elegant, too, reflecting the balance of the 2010 vintage. Supple and sweet, with notes of wild herbs, red fruits, medium tannins and a nuanced, finely crafted finish. This outclasses a lot of Châteauneuf-du-Papes. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, France, Red, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
94

NV Bertrand de Bessac, Cuvée du Marquis Brut, Champagne

( £29.99 down to £24.49, 12%, Waitrose )

A blend of 60% Pinot Noir from the Aube and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, this has a hefty proportion of toasty reserve wine to add to the ripe fruit from the 2009 vintage. The result is a delicious fizz with real complexity, power and depth as well as the backbone to age. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, France, Sparkling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
93

2008 Domaine Courbis Champelrose, Cornas, Rhône Valley

( £19.99 down to £14.99, 13%, Waitrose )

Cornas can make some of the chunkiest wines in the northern Rhône, but this is much more refined than many examples. It’s got lovely lifted crackedf pepper and clove spice on the nose, with subtle oak, hints of grilled meat and red fruits and a fine, refreshing finish. The wine will comfortably age for another eight years or more. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-20Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, France, Red, Syrah/Shiraz
92

2010 Domaine des Forges, Côteaux du Layon, Loire Valley

( £7.99 down to £5.99, 11.5%, Waitrose )

You only get a half bottle of this for your money, but I wouldn’t complain. When they are this good, Loire sweet wines wipe the winery floor with similarly priced stickies from Sauternes. There’s some old oak used to age the wine, but it’s just there as a background note, supporting the stylish, minerally, honey and ripe pear flavours. This is liquid tarte tatin, a delicious Coteaux du Layon from the Premier Cru slopes of Chaume. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, France, White, Chenin Blanc
90

2010 Torre del Falco Nero di Troia, Puglia

( £7.99 down to £5.99, 13%, Waitrose )

Nero di Troia is often regarded as the third best of Puglia’s native grapes, behind Primitivo and Negroamaro, but it can be just as good in my book. This one is bright and aromatic, with no oak to clutter the pristine fruit flavours. It’s minerally and refreshing on the palate with red cherry and raspberry notes and a tang of acidity. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Italy, Red, Nero di Troia
94

2010 Rustenberg Straw Wine, Coastal Region

( 13.49, 10.5%, Waitrose )

Made from grapes dried on straw mats to concentrate their sugars and flavours, this is a remarkable, barrel-aged blend of Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Crouchen, with rich, mouthcoating flavours of apricot syrup, honey, vanilla pod and citrus fruit. There’s a slight volatile lift that adds to the complexity of the wine here. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2016Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, South Africa, White, Chenin Blanc, Crouchen, Viognier
89

2008 Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley

( £9.99 down to £7.49, 14%, Waitrose )

Pure Cabernet from the Maipo Valley is one of the most distinctive wine styles in the New World. And this is a classic of the genre, with notes of mint and blackcurrant leaf and an undertone of green pepper and mint. Refreshing and nicely balanced, with the oak adding a subtle sweetness to the wine. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-16Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Chile, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon
97

1977 D'Oliveiras Reserva Terrantez, Madeira

( £55 down to £41.25, 20%, Waitrose )

Bottled in 2008 (which means it spent more than 30 years in cask), this is the sort of wine that everyone should drink once in their life. It has the classic green tinge of mature Madeira, as well as the marked acidity of the best examples. Savoury, complex and fine, this has a classic cheesy undertone, with mature, smoky, incense-like aromas and flavours. Yes, it’s expensive, but at 25% off, now is the time to buy it. Or offer it as a Christmas present. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-30Similar Wines: £50-£100, 96-100, Other Countries, Fortified, Terrantez