88

2011 Finest Côtes Catalanes Carignan, Roussillon

( £6.99, 13.5%, Tesco )

I sometimes feel as if I’m the president, founder and only member of the Carignan appreciation society, which is strange, given how good this grape can taste, especially when its vines are old. That’s the case here in this chunky Roussillon red, sourced from bush vines close to the Pyrenees. It’s a big, bold, appropriately rustic number with notes of thyme, rosemary and pepper spice, a touch of sweetness, bags of black fruits and a volatile lift. In short, classic Carignan. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, Red, Carignan
88

2010 All Saints Estate Durif, Victoria

( £16.00, 14%, Cockburn & Campbell )

Made from the comparatively rare Durif (aka Petite Sirah) grape variety, this carries its 14% alcohol with ease and seems much ligher than that on the palate. The All Saints hallmarks of freshenss and balance are attractively expressed here. There’s plum, some nutmeg spice, a nip of dry tannin and bright, almost Italianate acidity. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Australia, Red, Durif
91

2005 CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva, Alavesa, Rioja

( £21.49, 13.5%, Majestic )

A much more modern style than we’ve grown accustomed to from CVNE in recent years, this is youthful and vigorous for a Gran Reserva, with the emphasis on vibrant Tempranillo fruit. The freshness of the Alavesa vineyards is really evident on the palate. This is refreshing and fine, with sweet oak, medium weight tannins and nuanced red and black fruits flavours. An interesting change of tack by CVNE. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-18Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Spain, Red, Graciano, Tempranillo
91

2008 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California

( US$39, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

This doesn’t quite scale the same heights as this winery’s recent Chardonnay release, but it’s still an impressive West Coast Pinot, appealingly priced by the standards of some California reds. It’s a full bodied style with flavours of ripe red fruits and sweet vanilla oak and a touch of leafy forest floor. The alcohol is a little intrusive on the finish perhaps, but this is still a Pinot with depth and flavour.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: Under £5, 91-95, United States, Red, Pinot Noir
91

2010 Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro, Naoussa

( £10.50, 13.5%, The Wine Society, Theatre of Wine )

This is only the young vines version, but it gives you an idea of how classy Xinomavro can be as a grape. It’s part Nebbiolo, part Pinot Noir, part Nerello Mascalese, but also has a savoury note that is all its own. Scented red fruits, mid weight tannins, a whisper of oak and pine resin. Not many countries can deliver quality like this at just over a tenner.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Greece, Red, 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
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

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

2009 Louis Max, Clos de Vougeot, Burgundy

( ££££, 13.5%, Fine + Rare )

Very light in colour, although there’s nothing wrong with that in Burgundy. Leafy, balanced and aromatic with summer pudding and wild strawberry fruit. The palate is very different, showing more oak, slightly firm extracted tannins, medium acidity and not quite enough fruit to balance the dryness. This may oopen up over the next two or three years. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-19Similar Wines: Under £5, 91-95, France, Red, Pinot Noir
90

2010 Taste the Difference Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône Valley

( £8.99, 13%, Sainsbury's )

It was a smart move by Sainsbury’s to source their Crozes from the biodynamic wild child of the Rhône Valley, Michel Chapoutier. Sourced from three different terroirs in this comparatively large appellation, it’s a classis example of a cooler climate Syrah, albeit an unoaked one. Blackberry spice and smoked meat are the dominant aromas and flavours here, underpinned by good structure and supple tannins. Try chilling it slightly. 

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