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The Wine Merchant Top 100

The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners supplement 2020 Edition


Winners Supplement 2020 Edition

Published with the October 2020 edition of The Wine Merchant magazine www.winemerchantmag.com Š Graham Holter Ltd 2020 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT: 943 8771 82 Front page vine leaf graphic Š sunflake / stockadobe.com


Chairman’s report

Unusual quality in an unusual year DAVID WILLIAMS

Covid-19 has changed the way that the independent wine trade does business, and it meant that our usual judging event in west London was cancelled. For a while, The Wine Merchant Top 100 looked doomed, at least in 2020. Then we hit upon a solution: recruit more judges than ever, and ask them to judge wines in their own homes and workplaces

In the dark depths of late March, The Wine Merchant Top 100 2020 looked set to follow the same fate as thousands of other events this year. A tasting featuring dozens of judges travelling in from all over the country to spend a day slurping, spitting and animatedly chatting in a single enclosed space in London? It would be hard to come up with a set of circumstances that better matched the definition of a super-spreader event if you’d tried. As The Wine Merchant Top 100 team met over Zoom to finalise our decision to postpone the 2020 edition of the competition indefinitely, however, an idea began to formulate. Like other wine journalists, we were beginning to adapt to the new reality of “attending” tastings online. Why not do the same thing with the competition? It took us some time, and plenty of consultation with our ever-supportive collaborators, the logistical maestros at Sensible Wine Services, but we eventually struck on a formula that would follow the format of the previous seven editions of the competition as closely as possible, ensuring all entries were tasted blind at least twice, and all winners at least four times. To do that we had to employ more judges (36) than ever before. The team at Sensible collated and bagged up the 700+ entries ready for blind tasting, dividing them into flights to be sent by courier to the homes or shops of 26 first-round judges. Once they’d finished tasting, the firstround judges’ results were logged and ranked, and then some 329 wines were reflighted, rebagged for blind tasting and sent to our 10 second-round judges to settle on the final Top 100 and Highly Commended award winners. After weeks of tasting and re-tasting, impeccably socially distanced at all times, and countless Zoom calls and emails, we finally had our 2020 results in early August, some four months after our judging day was due to have taken place. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our judges and participating suppliers for enabling the production of another great Top 100 list – and for bearing with us as we worked out what to do. We couldn’t have done it without them. But, as I hope you will agree once you’ve been through the excitingly diverse, good value and frankly delicious wines featured here, it was all very much worth it.

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© Jane / stockadobe.com

LOCATIONS OF JUDGES, 2020

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WHITE WINE TROPHY (JOINT WINNER)

Ataraxia Chardonnay HEMEL-EN-AARDE RIDGE, WALKER BAY SOUTH AFRICA 2018 There was nothing to separate the two joint winners of this year’s White Wine Trophy – both were, in the words of one judge, “absolute knockouts”, loved by all the tasters that encountered them. The first of the two champions is a Chardonnay from an estate that has been winning fans all over the world of wine for a number of vintages now. It’s one of the fruits of a project that has brought together the perfect combination of skilled, passionate winemaker (Kevin Grant) and gorgeous, cool-climate site (in the aptly named Hemel-enAarde, or heaven on earth, valley). Described by Grant as “unapologetically wooded”, and produced from vines grown on the Ataraxia vineyard’s “stony, clay-rich Bokkeveld shale-derived soils”, the Ataraxia Chardonnay has “sherbety freshness, fresh oak and coconut,” said the judges, who also “loved the drive and energy” on display. “Well balanced and serious, its style is like a good young white Burgundy, with a really long finish,” the judges added. “It’s just class in a glass. An excellent example of its category.” Bancroft Wines RRP £28.49

ABV 14%

WHITE WINE TROPHY (JOINT WINNER)

Gerard & Hubert Thirot Sancerre, Domaine La Tonnellerie SANCERRE, LOIRE VALLEY FRANCE 2018 Our second joint winner of this year’s White Wine Trophy is a wonderfully traditional Sancerre from a domaine with a long history. It’s the work of fourth-generation Sancerre vigneron Hubert Thirot, who now oversees his family’s 13ha domaine, which is located just above the hamlet of Bué. For this top-scoring Sauvignon Blanc cuvée, the fruit is sourced from vines with an average age of 35 years, with traditional winemaking including five months of lees ageing in stainless steel. “It’s just so elegant, with bags of quality,” the judges said. “It has delicate white flowers, with more silex than fruit on the nose, while in the mouth it’s rich and satisfying with a nutty note, a long finish and balanced acidity. “Juicy with great drive. Grown up and moreish. I would absolutely stock this!” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £21.49 ABV 13%

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SPARKLING WINE TROPHY

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs CHAMPAGNE, 2008 There’s something rather reassuring when one of the big names of fine wine comes out top in a blind tasting. It suggests that, at least sometimes, high reputation is justified. Then again, it would have been hard for the judges to have awarded anything other than the highest marks to this celebrated 100% Chardonnay that was, as they said, “outright top quality prestige Champagne from a landmark vintage”. That vintage has been widely hailed as the region’s greatest in living memory, and the blend, as ever, is comprised entirely of wines produced from five Côte des Blancs Grands Crus. “Lovely bright green apple and citrus upfront with a mouthfilling, creamy texture. As it unfurls there are notes of fresh curd cheese,” the judges said. “This has a definite identity that comes fom the land, with plenty of energy and a really coiled, tight finish. A superb intensity yet without ever feeling like it’s intruding. Nigh on perfect. “ Hatch Mansfield RRP £154 ABV 12.5%

BEST VALUE SPARKLING WINE TROPHY

Cantina di Soliera Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC EMILIA-ROMAGNA ITALY NV The reputation of the great sparkling reds of EmiliaRomagna has taken a while to recover from the association with the industrially-produced oceans of poor-quality Lambrusco sold in supermarkets. But make no mistake, the quality wines made in the central Italian region are currently enjoying cult status in the UK’s independent retail (and restaurant) trade. Cantina di Soliera’s version hails from the cooperative’s best sites in the sandy-clay vineyards north of Modena, and uses Lambrusco di Sobara, which is widely regarded as the lightest member of the Lambrusco family. “It’s made in a modern style, and it makes for a very enjoyable Lambrusco, that is pretty, quaffable and great value,” the judges said. “It has notes of cassis, and it’s dry and food-friendly. Good quality Lambrusco is becoming more and more popular and at this price point it is not hard to see why! A worthy Top 100 winner.” Boutinot RRP £10.99

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ABV 11%


BEST VALUE WHITE WINE TROPHY

Domaines Paul Mas Les Tannes en Occitanie Marsanne IGP PAYS D’OC FRANCE 2019 The Wine Merchant Top 100 wouldn’t be the same without a strong showing from the indefatigable Domaines Paul Mas, and this year’s star performer from the over-performing Languedoc producer is a classy take on Rhône variety Marsanne. As ever with winemaker Jean-Claude Mas, it’s a wine produced with a keen sense of what works in the UK market (and indeed, anywhere else): the simple idea that, when it comes down to it, the best way to please customers is to produce a wine that offers far more in terms of quality and pleasure than the price point suggests. Or to put it another way: it over-delivers. “With a straw colour in the glass, this has a very Marsanne aroma of peach and marzipan,” the judges said. “The texture on the palate is lovely, with lots of flavour – it’s long, a little pithy and juicy. “An uplifiting style with complexity and freshness, it’s well made, correct, flavourful, and great value.” Domaines Paul Mas RRP £7.99 ABV 13%

RED WINE TROPHY

Ver Sacrum La Dama del Abrigo LOS CHACAYES, UCO VALLEY, MENDOZA ARGENTINA 2017 Nebbiolo doesn’t usually travel well. Indeed, it’s hard to think of any producer outside the variety’s Piedmont home that has even come close to matching the magic of Barolo, Barbaresco et al. Such, at least, was the view of the judges before they tasted the remarkable winner of The Wine Merchant Top 100 Red Wine Trophy 2020. It’s the work of cult Mendoza producer Toni Soler, who weaves his magic, from his garage and a rented warehouse, on a clutch of unusual (for Argentina) varieties, including Garnacha, Mencía and Teroldego, as well as Nebbiolo, in three vineyards across Mendoza. The result, in the case of this Nebbiolo, is, a “heady nose, with slight sour berry notes, and a wine that is very lovely in the mouth. “It’s silky smooth, soft, elegant and full of flavour. Not a chunky wine, but it has lovely energy and drive. It’s delicious, and warrants the quite hefty price. An excellent wine that I would definitely stock. (Standing ovation!)” Las Bodegas RRP £32.50

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ABV 13.5%


BEST VALUE RED WINE TROPHY

Palacio del Camino Real Crianza RIOJA SPAIN 2017 A well-priced Rioja Crianza is one of the staples of most independent wine merchant ranges. But beyond a cast of usual suspects and pale, valuedriven imitators, it’s not always easy to find a wine that works – one that, rather than dutifully filling in a spot on the list, really stands out from the crowd and provides a little excitement. Enter master Spanish brand builders Vintae, Luxury Wine Specialists. The name behind the rising-star Rioja brand Lopez de Haro comes up trumps again with a wine that ticks all the Crianza boxes but does so with considerable flair (and, our judges noted once the blind tasting was over, is nicely packaged, too). As the judges said: “It’s a lovely wine, not too complex, but that makes it easy to pick up on the very ripe dark fruits, notably plum. It’s soft, smooth and has a lovely long finish. “It’s an excellent Crianza, that could almost be Joven, with its decent fruit,” the judges continued. “For the quality, it’s an almost outrageously good value wine.” Vindependents RRP £10.99

ABV 13.5%

ROSÉ WINE TROPHY

Ultimate Provence Rosé IGP COTES DE PROVENCE FRANCE 2019 The Ultimate Provence vineyards sound impossibly idyllic. They cover some 20ha around the town of La Garde Freinet, at the northern foot of Notre Dame des Anges chapel, and according to the producer, are “set in wild countryside and bordered by a vast evergreen oak forest”. More relevantly, perhaps, for the creation of this year’s Rosé Wine Trophy winner, the terroir isn’t just good to look at. With its “shallow soil laid on a waterproof subsoil sandstone slab” it’s ideal for growing the Grenache Noir (30%), Cinsault (30%), Syrah (30%) and Rolle (10%) that make up the UP rosé blend. Idyllic, ideal conditions, then. But also, in our judges’ opinion an idyllic wine – a serious, highquality cuvée that very much fits in with current pale pink-drinking fashions. “A classic Provence rosé,” the judges said. “Pale, with soft crushed fruit on the nose; dry but with strawberry notes, and good, grippy feel. “It’s intense but totally charming, finishing well with a touch of firmness. Elegant. A class act.” Walker & Wodehouse RRP £17.93 ABV 12.5%

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FORTIFIED & DESSERT WINE TROPHY

Stanton & Killeen Grand Rutherglen Muscat RUTHERGLEN, VICTORIA AUSTRALIA NV The winner of this year’s Fortified & Dessert Wine Trophy is one of the acknowledged greats of a true original Australian fortified wine style. With the first vintages made in 1875, Stanton & Killeen has been going for seven generations across 145 years, and remains a family concern. And all that accumulated experience is put to full use in the production of Grand Rutherglen Muscat, which is a blend of wines that have spent an average of between 15 and 20 years ageing in barrel in the family’s cellar. “Exceptional nose. It’s like sticky toffee pudding, gingerbread and Christmas cake all rolled into one. The palate was sensational and incredibly velvety,” said one of the judges. “A treacly, molasses nose leads to an extremely viscous toffee palate with sloe and damson fruit and great length,” added another. “It’s exceptionally well made and the finish is longer than a marathon.” ABS Wine Agencies RRP £44.80

ABV 18.5%

BEST VALUE FORTIFIED & DESSERT WINE TROPHY

Château Bastor Lamontagne Sauternes SAUTERNES, BORDEAUX FRANCE 2018 Château Bastor Lamontagne is an estate with a long history in Bordeaux, dating back to the 18th century. But in recent years, and especially since its acquisition by the Moulin and Cathiard families in 2014, it has gained a reputation for producing Sauternes in a modern style. These come from a 52ha single vineyard, which is planted (80% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc) on siliceous-gravel soils in the Preignac commune, and are made in a way that emphasises the fruit. Certainly that idea of modernity chimes with the judges’ verdicts, with the wine earning high praise for its style and quality – but also for its “sensible” pricing that means “it would work very well, especially around Christmas”. Aged for 16 months in French oak barriques, 30% of which are new, the wine is “bold with honey and melon notes”, the judges said. “It’s a good wine and good value, and it does exactly what you’d want Sauternes to do at this price.” Famille Helfrich RRP £15.99

ABV 13.7% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Meet the judges

All of our judges are independent wine merchants. Each was sent a number of flights of bagged-up wines to assess in a blind tasting. The highest-scoring wines were then entered into a second round, in which they were again put through their paces by a different set of judges. Once the scores were collated, we could put together our list of winning and highly commended wines.

JOHN MORRIS

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CHRIS AND GOSIA BAILEY

LUCY CHENOWETH

Mr & Mrs Fine Wine, Southwell

The Old Garage, Truro

Chris and Gosia established their popular town centre shop and bar in 2014, also known as The Wine Bank.

Lucy’s wine shop and deli focuses on showcasing not just the best of Cornwall, but the best of the world with an emphasis on producers with great stories and ethics.

SARA BANGERT

The General Wine Company, Hampshire The sales director at The General Wine Co, Sara is a selfconfessed lover of “oaky wines, and big fat reds”. LLOYD BEEDELL

Chesters Wine Merchants, Abergavenny Set up by Lloyd and business partner Ben Southon three years ago, Chesters is a flourishing merchant in this busy market town. ANTHONY BORGES

The Wine Centre, Great Horkesley, Essex Anthony has worked in vineyards and wineries, studied oenology in France and been a wine journalist in California. Now he owns an award-winning shop and deli.

EUGENIO CICCARELLI

Vinarius, east London Eugenio, a qualified oenologist, has a background in winemaking and he says he has “worked in every role in the wine business since moving to the UK 16 years ago”. KELLI COXHEAD

The Wine Shop, Winscombe, Somerset WSET educator Kelli fell in love with wine while travelling in New Zealand. She created the Wine Tasting Co in 2009 followed by The Wine Shop in Winscombe in 2012.

LUCY CHENOWETH

CAT BRANDWOOD

Toscanaccio, Winchester Cat runs a wine shop and deli with a specialism in Italian wine. Regular events usually include wine tastings, a book club and board games evenings. JON CAMPBELL

DeFINE Food & Wine, Sandiway, Cheshire Jon and his team at DeFINE have built a thriving wine and restaurant destination over the course of 20 years. PENNY CHAMPION

Champion Wines, Chislehurst

Australian-born Penny opened her shop in 2011. Her business specialises in “tasty, small-production wines that don’t cost the earth.”

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Meet the judges DEINIOL AP DAFYDD

Blas ar Fwyd, Llanrwst, north Wales Deiniol founded Blas ar Fwyd in 1988, which now supplies businesses throughout Wales, championing a range of food and drink producers throughout the country. FINN DUNLOP

Macknade Fine Foods, Kent As general manager at Macknade, Finn has recently made a dramatic increase in the wine retail with the addition of a dedicated wine shop. JEN FERGUSON

Hop Burns & Black, south London Jen is the co-owner of this purveyor of all things tasty. Wine, cider, beer, hot sauce … and also a sideline in vinyl.

later, Chester Beer & Wine remains a favourite and friendly destination for local wine lovers. JULIA JENKINS

Flagship Wines, St Albans Prior to starting her own company in 2004, Julia was a buyer for various businesses, and marketing manager for Sainsbury’s wine department. DAN KIRBY

Corkr Fine Wines, Wrentham, Suffolk Dan splits his time between fine wine investment specialists Corkr Fine Wines, Fine Wine Auctioneer, Taversham’s, and running The Suffolk Cellar.

KASIA KONYS - PIESZKO

POLLY GIBSON

GrapeSmith, Hungerford Polly is a WSET educator and runs the GrapeSmith Wine Academy from the Berkshire independent where she works alongside the owner, Barnaby Smith. TOM HEMMINGWAY

Highbury Vintners, north London Tom is the manager of this popular and long established north London indie, bought by James Nicholson last year. SAM HOWARD

HarperWells, Norwich Since 2014 Sam has looked after the private clients for HarperWells. This includes sourcing and selling fine wine collections to complement the retail operation. SAM JACKSON

Chester Beer & Wine, Chester Sam opened her shop in 2005 and, one change of premises

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KASIA KONYS - PIESZKO

Dunnell’s, Jersey Kasia recently completed her WSET Diploma and is the wine buyer for Dunell’s, which was recognised as IWC Small Independent Wine Retailer of 2019.


POLLY GIBSON

JON MOORE

Mumbles Wine, south Wales Jon was central to establishing this successful wine merchant in Mumbles, which has won IWC Regional Merchant, Wales for eight out of the last nine years. JOHN AND TOM MORRIS

Bradmans Wine Cellar, Duffield, Derbyshire Tom and his father John, a former England cricketer, have found success with their shop and bar and are set to open another branch next year. SIMON PARKINSON

Vinological, Chester A WSET educator, Simon has been in the wine business for 10 years. He has a particular passion for the wines of eastern Europe, as well as developing an enthusiasm for natural wines. CHRIS PIPER

Christopher Piper Wines, Ottery St Mary, Devon After working in Brouilly as a winemaker, Chris established Christopher Piper Wines in 1979. The shop is now a much-loved fixture of the Devon town.

CAROLYN SKEELS

DAVID PORTER

Lea & Sandeman, west London David joined the company in 2001 and has worked his way from the cellar via the shop floor to head office. He oversees the retail side of the business and is a member of the buying team. GERARD RICHARDSON

Richardsons of Whitehaven, Cumbria A high street stalwart since 1995, Richardsons specialises in fine wines, vintage port, hampers and coffee beans. Gerard is a wine columnist for several Newsquest publications around the UK.

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Meet the judges SOPHIE POULTNEY

RIAZ SYED

Grace & James, Birmingham

Stonewines, north London

Since Sophie and her husband, Henry, opened their shop, bar and deli in 2018 they have gone into business with old friends to help them launch Bristol based Kask Wine.

Riaz founded Stonewines in 2015. The business, a hybrid wine shop/coffee bar, has grown to be an important part of the local community.

CAROLYN SKEELS

STEVE TATTAM

Vintoto, Wakefield

Winyl, Manningtree, Essex

Founded in 2017, Vintoto is an independent wine and spirits shop located on Wakefield Westgate Station, offering a personal service to both commuters and the local community alike.

Specialists in biodynamic, organic and vegan wines, Winyl also sells rare and vintage vinyl. MATT THOMAS

JAMIE SMITH

Tring Winery, Hertfordshire Jamie is a sommelier and WSET educator with two decades in the wine trade. Along with his business partner, Alex Taylor, he launched a shop and urban winery early this year.

Vinoramica, east London Matt and his wife Tanya opened Vinoramica in 2017, a neighbourhood wine shop and bar in Highams Park, London. COLIN THORNE

Vagabond Wines, London MATT THOMAS

Colin has headed up the wine buying operation for the Vagabond group of shops and bars since 2010. SARAH WEBER AND RICHARD TRING

Weber & Tring’s, Bristol Sarah and Richard established their shop in 2013. The business, often described as quirky, specialises in French wine from smaller producers. HANNAH AND SADIE WILKINS

Vineyards, Sherborne Hannah has over 22 years of experience in the wine industry. She is proud to be independent and runs her vibrant business alongside her wife Sadie and their trusty bulldog, Hugo. HAL WILSON AND ALICE ARCHER

Cambridge Wine Merchants, Cambridge Established in 1993, the business now comprises seven branches and has a large wholesale arm. Alice is chair of the Champagne Academy and handles en primeur and private client sales. 18

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SARAH WEBER

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White wines Susana Balbo Wines Signature White Blend

Paringa Estate Peninsula Chardonnay

Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina 2019

Mornington Peninsula, Victoria Australia 2018

Argentinian master winemaker Susana Balbo’s Mendozan take on the Graves blend has become a bit of a cult favourite in recent years – and it was a big hit with this year’s judges. It’s a more-or-less equal-parts blend of the two Bordeaux white varieties Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc with Torrontés, and it’s floral aromas of the latter, according to the judges, that come through at first. Then it’s on to “lemon thyme, citrus, and fresh, herbal, zesty Sauvignon characters” with a palate that’s full of “fresh acidity, quite mouthwatering and not at all tart. It’s juicy and moreish. More than the sum of its parts, it’s a unique blend and very successful. Balanced and fine.”

Paringa Estate is one of the most celebrated names in the Victorian cool-climate hotspot of Mornington Peninsula. As well as producing a range of award-winning estate and single-vineyard wines from its own vineyards, Paringa also makes the Peninsula range, which is taken from vineyards that have been leased around the Mornington Peninsula and made to emphasise the purity of fruit and the region’s distinct character. The Chardonnay was described by the judges as “good and smart from the off. Not rich, not tart – simply spot on! “With its pure and sleek feel, it has such balance – a real winner,” the judges added.

Las Bodegas

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £19.25

ABV 12.5%

Hardys HRB Chardonnay

RRP £24.99

ABV 13.5%

Multi-regional blend, Australia 2016

Domaines Paul Mas Soleil Blanc de Lauriga Côtes du Roussillon, France 2018

One of the big names in Australian wine is on fine form in the year’s competition, with two Top 100 placings. The white entry is an example of that great traditional Australian winemaking art: the multiregional blend. In this case, the fruit is sourced from top-notch vineyards from Western Australia to Victoria, and regions including Yarra Valley, Margaret River, Pemberton, Tumbarumba, and the Adelaide Hills. The result is a wine with “lots of kerb appeal”, the judges said. “It has an instantly attractive nose, that is light with a soft tangerine note. In the mouth it’s delightful, with good balanced acidity, not too high or low. It’s refreshing and satisfying with a fruit-and-nut finish.”

Domaines Paul Mas’s exciting Roussillon estate is located right in the heart of Catalan France, not far from the border with Spain. It produces wines that are authentic expressions of the area, not least this superb rich but balanced dry white, a blend of 85% Grenache Gris and 15% Macabeu, which finishes its fermentation and ages in barrel. “Spicy apples, yellow stone fruit, caramelised pear; this is very juicy on the palate, and it’s pretty, floral, peachy but not sickly,” the judges said. “Savoury, white pepper, toasty, concentrated texture. Some bright grapefruit-like citrus characters on the finish provide nice lift and freshness. Very different and off-beat. Genuinely interesting. A classy wine, with good food potential, appropriately priced.”

Fine Wine Partners

Domaines Paul Mas

RRP £19.99

RRP £17.50

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ABV 13%

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ABV 14.5%


Highly commended Argentinian white

Domaine Ferrand Saint-Véran Burgundy, France 2018 A 10.5ha estate in the heart of Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine Ferrand has been run by Nadine Ferrand since 1984, and in her 35+ years at the helm she has earned a high reputation for her beautifully made Chardonnays. Now joined in the cellar by daughter Marine — the fourth generation of the family to work in the business — the Ferrands source the fruit for this Saint-Véran from a vineyard with 50-yearold vines in the village of Solutré Pouilly, on eastern and south eastern-facing sunny slopes. It’s made using indigenous yeast, and without oak to preserve the clarity of expression. “A classic white Burgundy from the Mâcon that is superbly well balanced, with defined acidity that welcomes you for a second glass,” the judges said. “A very worthy Top 100 wine.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £21.49

ABV 13.5%

Zuccardi Apelación Chardonnay, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£17.75, Hatch Mansfield): Smart, poised, serious quality Chardonnay.

Armenian white Armas Voskehat, Aragatsotn Province 2018 (£14.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Rosemary, savoury biscuits, and a hint of lime: intriguingly different.

Austrian white Weingut Rabl Grüner Veltliner Käferberg Reserve, Kamptal 2018 (£23.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Refined, complex and intense Grüner. Weingut Ecker Eckhof Grüner Veltliner Ried Mordthal, Wagram 2018 (£22.50, Vindependents): Spectacular example of how great Grüner can be. Weingut Ecker Eckhof Riesling Ried Steinberg Wagram 2018 (£19.99, Vindependents): Bright and elegant, soft fruits, peach and honeysuckle. Weingut Ecker Eckhof Roter Veltliner Ried Steinberg, Wagram 2018 (£23.99, Vindependents): Very interesting: bright fruit, with fantastic mineral tones.

Chilean white

Château de Rouillac Pessac-Léognan Blanc Bordeaux, France 2018 This fine Bordeaux estate has an intriguing past. In the 19th century it was owned by Baron Haussmann, the man who oversaw the rebuilding of Paris, and is said to have shared the fruits of his vineyard with Napoleon III. In the 21st century, current owner Laurent Cisneros and family have lifted Rouillac to another level, using sustainable methods, and employing the services of top consultant winemaker Eric Boissenot. This oak-aged blend of Sauvignons Blanc and Gris has “lovely weight and balance”, the judges said. “Nice acidity, not too astringent and a good blend of minerality and fruit (more orchard than citrus). Elegant and a very good ‘show wine’ at tastings. Lovely.”

Garage Semillon, Maule Valley 2018 (£21.47, Walker & Wodehouse): Honeyed warm fruit flavours. Long finish. Exciting and memorable. Emiliana Novas Riesling, Bío-Bío Valley 2019 (£11.49, Boutinot): Very drinkable, enjoyable; excellent value for money. Undurraga TH Chardonnay, Limarí Valley 2016 (£19.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Oak, peach and citrus zest, minerality and earthy notes.

French white Domaine Sève Pouilly-Fuissé aux Chailloux, Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy 2017 (£23.95, Davy’s Wine Merchants): Elegant, delicate with fine pastry and brioche notes. Caves Languedoc-Rousillon Comte de Morlières Réserve Chardonnay, IGP Pays d’Oc 2018 (£11.20, Delibo Wines): Rich, ripe, open and good value.

Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £42

ABV 13.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended

White wines

French White Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Blanc, IGP Pays d’Oc 2019 (£6.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Good, versatile white blend at an impressive price point. Château Paul Mas Belluguette, Languedoc 2018 (£15.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Top-notch Rhône-style; peachy but balanced white blend. Domaines Paul Mas Astelia Chardonnay, IGP Pays d’Oc 2019 (£24.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Multi-layered and high-quality: Languedoc meets Burgundy. Jean-Claude Mas Réserve Viognier, IGP Pays d’Oc 2019 (£8.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Pretty amazing value – lovely apricot fruit quality. Domaine Minchin Menetou-Salon Morogues ‘La Tour Saint Martin’, Menetou-Salon, Loire Valley 2017 (£18.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Textbook Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc: look out Sancerre! Domaine de la Rouletière Vouvray Sec ‘Les Calcaires’, Vouvray, Loire Valley 2018 (£15.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Very pleasant to drink and well made. Classic Vouvray, worth its price. Domaine de la Rouletière Vouvray ‘Patrimoine’, Vouvray, France 2015 (£20.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Beautifully made with lots of complexity. Gérard Bertrand, Château La Sauvageonne Grand Vin Blanc, Languedoc 2018 (£29.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Superbly balanced, well structured; very impressive wine. Louis Jadot Rully Blanc, Rully, Burgundy 2018 (£25.85, Hatch Mansfield): Lots of layers, tropical fruits, croissants – fantastique!” Domaine Prieur-Brunet Meursault Les Forges, Meursault, Burgundy 2017 (£53.85, Hatch Mansfield): Full, aromatic, sleek, complex – very classy. Joseph Mellot Pouilly-Fumé Domaine Des Mariniers, Pouilly-Fumé, Loire Valley 2018 (£18.85, Hatch Mansfield): Very good quality – well balanced with mellow, flinty notes. Moillard Grivot Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy 2018 (£19.99, Famille Helfrich): Good value Burgundy, with complexity and wide appeal. Chartron Trébuchet Mâcon-Villages, Burgundy 2018 (£13.99, Famille Helfrich): Very good typicity; great complexity for the price.

Château de Tracy Pouilly-Fumé Loire Valley, France 2018 One of the great historic names of the Loire, Château de Tracy has been owned by the same family since the late 16th century, and is today run by Juliette d’Assay. The château’s vineyards, where the vines have an average age of 29 years, are situated in the village of Tracy-sur-Loire, overlooking the Loire river itself on clay-flint soils. Winemaking is designed to express the purity of the fruit, with a long, slow, cool fermentation in stainless steel, followed by ageing on the fine lees before bottling in the spring after vintage. It all adds up to a wine that the judges thought was “pretty and inviting, with good bright lemony fruit, and an intensity and drive that is very impressive.” They added: “It’s juicy, peppy, bright and serious. Sophisticated.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £27.99

Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse Burgundy, France 2017 With a presence in the celebrated Pouilly-Fuissé “amphitheatre of climats” since 1840, Domaine Ferret is a grandee of Mâcon winemaking that continues to make some of the area’s finest wines today. The domaine’s Pouilly-Fuissé is a blend of its best parcels of Chardonnay, grown on clay and limestone soils. Half the blend is aged in lined concrete tanks, and half in used oak barrels (second to fifth use). For our judges, the combination led to a “very full nose; vanilla, honeysuckle, buttery pastry notes with caramelised pineapples. A very clean and silky mouthfeel with all the winemaking processes playing on the tongue. “Layers of pastry, brioche and juicy melon. We want it on our shelves – classic white Burgundy.” Hatch Mansfield RRP £33.60

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ABV 13.5%

ABV 13.5%


Domaine Bott-Geyl Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Sonnenglanz Alsace, France 2012 A reminder of the kind of deep sensual pleasures that only great, grand cru Gewurztraminer can bring, our judges loved Domaine Bott-Geyl’s “hedonistic” wine. “Beautiful yellow colour. The nose is to die for. Theres something there that reminds me of saffron,” one of the judges said. “The palate is full of waxy cooking apples, spices and, strangely, a hint of vanilla.” Another judge confessed that they usually “hate Gewurz , but my goodness I love this sexy beast. It’s worth every bloody penny.” High praise indeed for a wine from a family domaine that dates back to the late 18th century and which has been biodynamic since 2002. Vindependents RRP £33.99

Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Spätlese ‘Green Seal’ Rheingau, Germany 2018 A legendary wine from a legendary estate that was planted at the time of Charlemagne, and planted exclusively to Riesling in the early 18th century. The vineyard is south-facing and very steep: a gradient of 45° that climbs from 114 to 181 metres above sea level. The soil is a mix of quartz and red clay with loam and loess top soils. For the Green Seal, the winemaking is all about letting the terroir shine, with a long, slow, cool fermentation in stainless steel. “After a lush nose of peachy nectarine fruit, the palate shows similar ripeness with a delicious honeyed fruit character,” the judges said. “Wonderfully balanced acidity. A benchmark Riesling in the price bracket.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines

ABV 13.5%

RRP £44

ABV 9%

Dönnhoff Felsenberg Riesling Trocken GG

Weingut Hanewald-Schwerdt Dürkheimer Hochbenn Riesling

Nahe, Germany 2018

Pfalz, Germany 2017

A serial contributor to the Wine Merchant Top 100, the Dönnhoff estate is one of Germany’s great Riesling masters, its wines elegant ambassadors for the Nahe region. This year’s entrant from father Helmut and son Cornelius is sourced from the celebrated Schloßböckelheim Felsenberg vineyard, which, with its weathered volcanic porphyry soil, produces intensely mineral Riesling grapes that the Dönnhoffs ferment in a mix of large neutral oak barrels and stainless steel. “A very classy expression of Riesling with beautiful lime fruit and a hint of honeyed apple on the long finish,” the judges said. “Some wines have class in the same way as a Rolls Royce is no ordinary car.”

It was a vintage year for German Riesling in the Wine Merchant Top 100, and the third entrant from the category makes a delicious case for the distinctive charms of the Pfalz region. It’s the work of a forward-looking producer with a modern approach to packaging and marketing but a sensitive approach to terroir, with several top single-vineyard sites, including the Dürkheimer Hochbenn where this Riesling is sourced. “Outstanding for any price,” the judges said. “It has a great nose with loads of citrus fruits and a lively zesty acidic finish. “Good Riesling can stop you in your tracks, and this one does just that.”

ABS Wine Agencies

Vindependents

RRP £50

RRP £19.49

ABV 13%

ABV 13% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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White wines Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia

Tacchino Gavi di Gavi

Epanomi, Greece 2019

Gavi DOCG del Comune di Gavi Piedmont, Italy 2019

Gerovassiliou Malagousia is now firmly established as a modern Greek classic – an industry benchmark that consistently picks up awards. So successful has it been in helping shape modern attitudes to Greek wine, it’s easy to forget that the Malagousia variety was all but extinct when Evangelos Gerovassiliou replanted the family vineyard with it in the early 1980s. The grapes are all sourced from the family’s single 72ha vineyard, and largely fermented in stainless steel, with 20% vinified in seasoned French oak. “Fabulous nose with peaches and melons among other fruits; the palate is just sublime with creamy passion fruit and a lovely crisp finish,” the judges said. “It’s stunning and so well made.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £18.49

ABV 13.5%

The Tacchino family have been making fine wine at their estate in Castelletto d’Orba in Monferrato, Piedmont, for three generations. And the current generation, Alessio and Romina, are very much keeping up the good work, blending new ideas with old wisdom across their range, produced from 25ha of vines, half of which are south or south east-facing. The Gavi di Gavi is “uniquely Gavi”, the judges said. “No messing around – it’s very honest and pure. Lemon balm, green fig, a lithe and stony mineral palate and grapefruit pith emerge in the mouth. This is the smart, zippy and yet easygoing thirst-quencher people crave from Gavi. It has a definite sense of place about it, which is highly commendable.” Bancroft Wines RRP £16.49

ABV 12.5%

Cavit Bottega Vinai Trentino Pinot Grigio

Bibi Graetz Casamatta Bianco IGT Toscana Bianco

Trentino, Italy 2019

Tuscany, Italy 2018

In the right conditions, Pinot Grigio can make some of Italy’s most attractive whites – and Alpine Trentino is most definitely a region where the variety is at its happiest. In this case, the high-performing Trentino co-operative, Cavit, has sourced the fruit from members in the Valle dei Laghi, which, according to importer Boutinot, “has a sub-Mediterranean climate and medium fertile, well-drained soils”. Vinification at 20°C in stainless steel is all about keeping the fresh fruit – and, in the opinion of the judges, it was mission accomplished. “Lovely appealing fresh aromas with a hint of white pepper,” the panel said. “Light fruit on the palate that is refreshing with a hint of citrus – it’s a Pinot Grigio with flavour!”

Vermentino has been a slow-burning cult hit of the last decade, proving its mettle as a Mediterranean variety that can provide freshness and lift in warm climates. This Tuscan blend from artist-turnedwinemaker Bibi Graetz has Vermentino as the star main ingredient (60%), backed up with 30% Trebbiano and 10% Moscato, It’s an intriguing and unusual blend that certainly pleased the Wine Merchant Top 100 judges. “The texture is great; a nicely lively flow. Yellow fruit and a floral powdering on the back end. Interesting,” the judges said. “Dry, crisp and aromatic. Nice long clean finish, and a good price for Tuscan Vermentino – it offers good value for money.”

Boutinot

Walker & Wodehouse

RRP £10.99 24

ABV 13% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

RRP £10.46

ABV 12%


Highly commended

Franz Haas Manna Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy 2018 The flagship wine of north Italian star winemaker Franz Haas is an exotic blend of Riesling, barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Kerner and Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit is sourced from a range of terroirs and altitudes of up to 800 metres above sea level in the municipalities of Montagna, Egna, Aldino and Bressanone, with the constituent varieties vinified separately before being blended and aged for 10 months on lees. “A masterclass in blending similar disparate grapes into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts,” the judges said. “There’s a startlingly bright attack before it mellows into a peachy nectar on the finish. Smooth and rounded yet taut and tense; good fun. A massive like!” Liberty Wines RRP £31.99

ABV 13%

Tramin Gewürztraminer Alto-Adige, Italy 2018 Founded at the end of the 19th century, and with a long established reputation as one of the world’s finest co-operatives, Cantina Tramin has always put the accent on quality, obliging its members to adhere to a strict viticultural code of production. Today the 310 member-growers have some 260ha between them, with the fruit for this textbook Alpine Gewürztraminer being sourced in 10- to 40-year-old vineyards that range in altitude from 350 to 550 metres above sea level. “Very aromatic. Almost a WSET teaching tool for what Gewürztraminer ought to smell like,” said the judges. “Turkish delight, rose petals, peach and apricot juice on the racy palate. Highly wrought and baroque style. Undoubtedly impressive.”

Sauvion Les Eglantine Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, Loire Valley 2018 (£10.93, Famille Helfrich): Melon fruit; vibrant; great balance between fruit and acidity. Domaine Les Ors Chardonnay, Limoux, Languedoc 2018 (£12.89, Famille Helfrich): Cracking value; tastes like a wine at twice the price! Domaine André Lorentz Riesling, Alsace 2017 (£17.75, Famille Helfrich): Nice fruit, acidity and finish. Great wine for a good price. Arthur Metz Sushi, Alsace 2019 (£11.96, Famille Helfrich): A really good, drinkable Riesling blend that doesn’t sway too dry or too sweet. Domaine Fournillon Chablis, Chablis, Burgundy 2017 (£16.99, Vindependents): Really good balance of acidity and mouthfeel. Good freshness and length. Caves Languedoc Roussillon, Mare Nostrum Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc 2019 (£11.99, Vindependents): Well made easy-drinking wine; good value for money. Domaine Bott-Geyl Pinot Gris Les Eléments, Alsace, 2017 (£19.99, Vindependents): Mouthwatering; white flowers; elegance, finesse. Great length. Great wine. Famille Fabre, Chardonnay Domaine Grande Courtade Organic, IGP Pays d’Oc 2018 (£12.99, Third Floor Wines): Accessible, crowd-pleasing Chardonnay with good fruit concentration.

Georgian white Vachnadziani Krakhuna, Imereti 2018 (£11.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Smells like a bowl of oysters and entices from beginning to end. Simply glorious!

German white Dönnhoff, Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Kabinett, Nahe 2018 (£23.60, ABS Wine Agencies): Bright, limey fruit and a slight spritz; very accessible style. Bibo Runge Debutant, Rheingau 2018 (£15.50, Delibo Wines): Really bright fruit which would appeal to customers; good value too. Weingut AJ Adam In Der Sangerei Riesling Feinherb, Mosel 2018 (£27.49, Third Floor Wines): Very moreish! Good balance of sugar to acidity; subtle peach fruit.

Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £17.49

ABV 14%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended

White wines

Hungarian White Figula Winery Balatonfüredi Olaszrizling Sáfránkert, Balatonfüred, Balaton 2017 (£19.79, Best of Hungary): Punchy, complex, different – a hand sell, maybe, but good value and well worth the effort. Balassa Tokaji Furmint “Szent Tamás”, Tokaj 2018 (£38.95, Best of Hungary): Likeable Chenin Blanc/Riesling vibe: interesting salinity and spice. Dunavar Pinot Blanc, Pannon 2018 (£8.15, Famille Helfrich): Simple but pure and very pleasant summer drinking with character at a cracking price.

Italian White Tenuta Santa Seraffa Gavi del Comune di Gavi, Gavi, Piedmont 2019 (£12.99, Boutinot): A lovely soft, expressive wine at a reasonable price. Schenk Italia Casali del Barone 150+1 Langhe Bianco, Langhe, Piedmont 2018 (£10.99, Buckingham Schenk): Lychee, pear drop and soft balanced acidity – nicely made, nice value.

Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina del Sannio ‘Serrocielo’ Campania, Italy 2018 Campania’s Feudi di San Gregorio was the standout producer at this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 with a trio of wines in the final selection. The first is a gorgeous expression of the indigenous white variety, Falanghina, from the Sannio sub-region, which thrives on the area’s volcanic soils. For the Serrocielo, the wine is left unoaked, with five months of ageing on the lees for added texture. According to the judges it is a “wonderful wine. Tropical fruit, nectarine and clementine on the palate. A long and complex finish with fresh acidity and beautiful minerality. “A really well-made wine that would make a nice showpiece on the shelf.”

Michele Chiarlo Gavi del Commune di Gavi ‘Rovereto’, Gavi, Piedmont 2018 (£20.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Ripe fruity nose; a touch of salt on the palate – interesting, balanced with good depth of flavour.

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Tramin Pinot Bianco, Alto-Adige 2018 (£15.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Super-pure Alpine freshness; delightful, bags of character, good price.

Prophet’s Rock Dry Riesling

San Marzano Verdeca ‘Talò’, Puglia 2019 (£10.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Fresh and crisp minerality, candied pear, apricot and nectarine. Well balanced. Basilisco Sophia, Basilicata 2018 (£16.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Tropical fruit, nectarine and clementine; lovely minerality; complexity – wonderful! Vinicolo Tombacco Archivio Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo 2017 (£9.99, Lanchester Wines): Floral, ripe, gently interesting and drinkable; excellent value. Donnafugata SurSur, Sicily 2019 (£16.99, Liberty Wines): Exceptional wine, incredibly well structured, with great acidity and texture. Cantina Orsogna Vola Vole Passerina, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo 2019 (£13.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Lemon, lime and jasmine – wonderful! Full of flavour.

RRP £19.49

Central Otago, New Zealand 2018 Paul Pujol is an immensely well travelled winemaker. In a varied career, he’s worked at top estates in Alsace, the Loire, the Languedoc, Oregon and Burgundy. Now he’s bringing all his accumulated experience back home as he leads the winemaking team at Prophet’s Rock. Pujol works wonders with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but at this year’s Top 100 it was his work with Riesling grown in Prophet’s Rock’s 1ha schist-soil parcel that got the nod from our judges. “Nice bit of development on the nose, lemon and apple with vanilla hints and petrol,” the judges said. “The palate shows a more ripe fruit character with tropical hints and a long, developed finish. Wonderfully textured; this is well worth the money.” Walker & Wodehouse RRP £24

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THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

ABV 13.5%

ABV 11.5%


Paddy Borthwick Paper Road CPR Wairarapa, New Zealand 2018 The CPR stands for the unusual blend: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Paddy Borthwick is the man who, along with his father, Robin, began the task of converting an established farming family into a top New Zealand wine producer by planting a 27ha vineyard in the Wairarapa in 1996. With the fruit “picked at three different times and gently pressed over an extended period to allow slight skin contact”, the wine has a “long, slow fermentation” and is blended after five months on the lees. “Inviting nose of zesty lime and petrol (in all the right ways!) with a well balanced palate – more of that limey fruit. Mouthwatering acidity, yum!” the judges said. “It’s bloody delicious! So well balanced.” Armit Wines RRP £14

Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc Barrique Marlborough, New Zealand 2016 New Zealand’s winemakers are still masters of the explosively fruity style of Sauvignon Blanc with which they first burst onto the international scene. Increasingly, however, they are challenging the best of Bordeaux with the sophisticated, ageworthy, barrel-aged version of the variety, as exemplified here in the first of three superb wines in this year’s Top 100 list from Marlborough’s Saint Clair. Fermented and aged on its lees in seasoned French oak barriques, it’s a “lovely use of oak”, the judges said. “Well-integrated. Well-balanced. Limey-citrus, with butterscotch and cream. Lovely texture. Very interesting wine.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines

ABV 13.3%

RRP £19.99

ABV 13%

Paddy Borthwick Riesling

Saint Clair Riesling, ‘Origin’

Wairarapa, New Zealand 2019

Marlborough, New Zealand 2018

The second wine to make the Top 100 list from top family-run Kiwi producer Paddy Borthwick is an impressive just off-dry Riesling. It’s made from the family’s 1ha plot of Riesling, which was planted in 2007. The fruit has a long and slow fermentation at cold temperatures, with the winemaking team arresting the fermentation “when we feel the best balance has occurred between sweetness and acidity”. It’s a balance that was perfectly struck in the 2019 vintage, when the wine featured 3.5g/l of residual sugar. “A light nose but plenty of fruit on the palate,” the judges said. “Nice hint of lime on the finish that would make this a cracker with shellfish.”

The second of three Wine Merchant Top 100 entries from a star of the competition this year (and in many previous ones too) hails from a single vineyard in in Marlborough’s Blind River sub-zone of the Awatere Valley. Fermented in stainless steel, it’s made in a light but flavour-packed, off-dry, Germaninfluenced style, by the winemaking team of Hamish Clark and Stewart Maclennan, with 16 g/l of residual sugar. Crucially for our judges, however, the sweetness is “beautifully balanced”. “Aromas of elderflower, cola cubes and pear drops – almost pot pourri-like,” the judges said. “It’s like a sweet shop in your mouth. Absolutely delicious!”

Armit Wines

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £15

ABV 12.8%

RRP £14.99

ABV 10.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

27


White wines Vidal Sauvignon Blanc

Vila Nova Loureiro

Marlborough, New Zealand 2019

Vinho Verde, Portugal 2019

Every range needs a good-quality, classic Marlborough Sauvignon, and this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 judges certainly thought Vidal’s example was the perfect candidate. “Good value. Refreshing, with all that you would want from a Marlborough Sauvignon,” the panel said. “Mouthwatering acidity and well balanced, it’s fresh and lively and reflective of region. If you were showing staff how to recognise Sauvignon, this would be the one to use.” It’s the work of an estate that bears the hallmark of two of New Zealand wine’s most important wine personalities: founder (in the early 20th century) Anthony Joseph Vidal; and Sir George Fistonich, who bought the estate in 1976 and took it to its current, widely acclaimed heights.

One of the key trends in the green, Atlanticinfluenced Vinho Verde region of northern Portugal in recent years has been the rise of wines that show off the singular talents of the area’s indigenous grape varieties. Alvarinho may be the best known, thanks to the rise of Albariño from just across the border into Galicia in Spain. But Loureiro can be just as interesting – especially when it’s been treated as sensitively as it has been at the Lencastre family’s 42ha Casa de Vila Nova property. “Lime blossom, citrus, white nectarine. Fresh, citrusy, spritzy, bright, easy-going, quaffable, enjoyable. Delicious,” the judges said. “All in all, it’s just everything Vinho Verde should be.”

Hatch Mansfield

Boutinot

RRP £13.05

ABV 13%

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2018

RRP £9.99

ABV 12%

Gorka Izagirre by Gorka Izagirre Bizkaiko Txakolina, Spain 2019

Trinity Hill has been at the top of New Zealand’s wine business pretty much since its inception, by partners John Hancock and Robert and Robyn Wilson, in 1993. With experienced winemaker Warren Gibson overseeing production since 1997, the producer remains a model of consistent quality and – as our judges said of this impressive, barrelfermented Chardonnay – “excitement”. “Touch of reduction on the nose. Oak adds a serious feel. Nicely savoury,” the judges continued. “It’s fine framed. Detailed. Complex and yet light on its toes.”

The Basque Country’s signature white wine has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, with ambitious producers stepping up the quality. One of the leaders of the new wave is undoubtedly Gorka Izagirre, which has taken the local Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Zerratia varieties to new heights in wines good enough to serve at the winery’s acclaimed 3 Michelinstarred restaruant. The eponymous, stainless steel-fermented, 50/50 blend of the two Hondarrabis is the estate’s flagship, and according to the judges, it’s a “very stylish” creation. “Lovely zesty appealing wine with citrus notes and much minerality. Mouthwatering fresh taste with a hint of spice on the finish,” the judges said.

Liberty Wines

Boutinot

RRP £24.49

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ABV 13%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

RRP £14.99

ABV 12.5%


Highly commended Italian White

Jordan Wine Estate Nine Yards Chardonnay Stellenbosch, South Africa 2018 Gary and Cathy Jordan’s Stellenbosch estate has been setting the pace for fine South African wine for the better part of 30 years now. The Nine Yards Chardonnay is one of the couple’s flagship wines. It’s based on some of the best fruit from the family estate, which is fermented in a mix of 70% new and 30% used French oak barrels from various Burgundian cooperages. The wine is then aged on its lees in barrel for 10 months. “Excellent wine; excellent balance. Elegant, rich and creamy,” the judges said. “It has a pneumatic nose, of plasticine and slate, and there’s great poise and tension. “A very good example of a very good quality Chardonnay.” ABS Wine Agencies RRP £34.40

ABV 13.4%

Cà Dei Maghi Camparsi Bianco, Veronese, Veneto 2018 (£16.99, Vindependents): Fleshy fruit and nice balance; nice sense of place.

New Zealand White Ta Pa Family Vineyards Pa Road Chardonnay, Marlborough 2018 (£11.99, Buckingham Schenk): Enjoyable, balanced, good citrus finish and some very happy customers at 11.99! Esk Valley Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay 2019 (£13.95, Hatch Mansfield): Lovely aromatic nose; lovely sherbet palate; lovely wine overall. Saint Clair, Sauvignon Blanc ‘Wairau Reserve’, Marlborough 2018 (£22.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Elegant, refined, well-balanced. Good amount of fruit, with a tropical vibe. The Wine Portfolio, V Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2019 (£9.50, Vindependents): Textbook Marlborough SB; grassy, herbaceous, lime. Priced to stack high! Vidal Soler Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay 2018 (£28.25, Hatch Mansfield): Acacia, chamomile, lemon, vanilla; bread dough and toast. Lovely expressive Chardonnay.

Portuguese White

Jordan Wine Estate The Real McCoy Riesling Western Cape, South Africa 2019 The second contribution to this year’s Top 100 from the consistently high-performing Jordans is a Riesling with a name that references the tighter restrictions on the use of the Riesling name in South Africa. And there’s no doubt that this is The Real McCoy. Produced from 30-year-old vines grown on decomposed granite soils, it’s cold fermented in stainless steel, with fermentation arrested with a touch of sugar (8.2g/l) to balance out the electric acidity. “Good typicity for Riesling on the nose, lots of citrus and kerosene and a touch of melon. Off dry with lime on the palate,” the judges said. “It’s a very enjoyable, good-value seemingly cool-climate Riesling.” ABS Wine Agencies RRP £16

ABV 12.5%

Soalheiro Allo, Vinho Verde 2019 (£14, Raymond Reynolds): Really vibrant fresh wine with lots of character that shows the elegant style of Vinho Verde. Luis Pato Maria Gomes, Bairrada, 2019 (£12, Raymond Reynolds): Savoury notes, with soft peach, good mouthfeel with lively acidity and good length.

Spanish White Granbazan Etiqueta Ambar Albariño, 2018, Rías Baixas 2018 (£18.99, Boutinot): Great example of a more serious Albariño with a sense of place. Bodegas Naia Naiades Verdejo (Barrel Fermented), Rueda 2016 (£22.99, Boutinot): Rich, smooth, creamy with green fruits and vanilla. High quality. Bodegas Gómez Cruzado Rioja Blanco 2 Ano, Rioja 2018 (£14.99, Boutinot): Richly intriguing, layered but still fresh and balanced white Rioja. Bodegas Viñátigo Listán Blanco, Tenerife, Canary Islands 2017 (£18.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Grown-up winemaking with bells on! Creamy rich toasty nose, tropical fruit, character and charm.

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended

White wines

Spanish White Bodega Montecillo Rioja Blanco, Rioja 2018 (£14.75, Las Bodegas): Citrus, cream and vanilla; delightfully smooth-textured yet fresh. Martin Códax Lías Albariño, Rías Baixas 2017 (£21.99, Liberty Wines): well-balanced, complex; interesting depth of classic peach flavour; long finish. Mara Martin Godello, Monterrei 2019 (£13.99, Liberty Wines): Vivacious, great-value summer drinking and a superb example of the Godello grape variety. Marqués de Riscal Limousin Rueda, Rueda 2018 (£15.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Great depth of flavour; almond notes, citrus; long finish – excellent. Arousana Follas Novas, Rías Baixas 2019 (£13.99, Vindependents): A hit of peach and stony minerality; good depth and balance. Good example of the style.

South African White Tokara Chardonnay, Western Cape 2018 (£16.80, ABS Wine Agencies): Fruit forward, balanced, refreshing – serious value for a well made wine.

Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch, South Africa 2018 Kleine Zalze is one of South Africa’s most consistent performers, making wines that more often than not hit the QPR bullseye at a range of price points. This classic Cape Chenin is no exception. Using fruit from two 30-year-old Stellenbosch vineyards, the cuvée is made entirely from freerun juice, which is fermented and then aged for six months in used oak barrels. “Pale yellow with green hints and notes of bruised apple on the nose,” the judges said. “Quite fleshy ripe fruit with teasing juicy acidity. Lots of texture and length. Ripe stone fruits and a mouth-watering long finish. “Complex, textured, creamy and long, this is a stand-out, very high quality Chenin Blanc.”

Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin Valley 2019 (£20.85, ABS Wine Agencies): Very good, intense, typical cool-climate Elgin Sauvignon.

Hatch Mansfield

Zevenwacht The Tin Mine, Stellenbosch 2018 (£13.35 ABS Wine Agencies): Wonderfully appealing, intriguing character and super approachable.

Kayra Vintage Chardonnay

Wildeberg Coterie by Wildeberg Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Region 2019 (£12.49, Boutinot): Notes of asparagus, spring onion, tarragon, potato salad; really interesting wine with a long finish. Rikus Neethling Wines Bizoe Henriëtta, Western Cape 2017 (£22.95, Davy’s Wine Merchants): Deep flavour and character. Warm zesty fruit. Food friendly. Doran Vineyards Arya, Voor Paarderberg, Paarl 2018 (£10.99, Doran Family Vintners): Riesling-esque. Long finish. Exceptional value for the quality. MVH Signature Wines Chardonnay, Western Cape 2017 (£38, Graft Wines): Wow! Zesty, great minerality, creamy vanilla and butter. Stunning wine.

RRP £17.60

ABV 13.5%

Denizli, Aegean, Turkey 2013 “Fleshy stone fruits and toasted almonds on the nose. Proper oak, not astringent: butterscotch and peach making it mouth-filling and delicious. Creamy mouthfeel, elegant... we could go on.” As you can see, there was a lot of love for this Chardonnay among the judges at this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100. “This was outstanding. As a Chardonnay fan this really hits the spot (my official note for this says ‘f***ing delicious’).” It’s a “real find” for the ever-adventurous Hallgarten & Novum team, made by one of the key players in Turkey’s modern-day wine renaissance. Using fruit from two vineyard sites, including one planted at more than 900 metres above sea level, it’s fermented 50/50 in steel and oak, before being aged in neutral barrels. Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £17.49

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ABV 13.5%


Red wines Zorzal Malbec ‘Eggo Tinto de Tiza’

Zuccardi Apelación Malbec

Tupungato, Mendoza Argentina 2017

Vista Flores, Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina 2017

This superb Malbec is a demonstration of at least three up-to-the-moment vinous trends. First the location: the vines are planted at the highest point in Mendoza’s justifiably fashionable Uco Valley. Second, the winemaking methods: the Malbec grapes are fermented with natural yeasts and then aged in the winemaking vessel du jour: the concrete egg. Finally, the winemakers: the Michelini brothers, who between them have produced some of the most exciting new wave wines in Argentina in the past decade. It’s a recipe for a wine of “super drinkability – polished and full of interest,” the judges said. “A Cab Franc-like crunch and some soft minty notes and blackcurrant.”

One of Argentina’s most important producers is in a rich vein of form at the moment, with a range of innovative and exciting wines that have been well rewarded at this year’s competition. Leading the way in the Top 100 is what the judges called a “great” and “great value” Malbec. Sourced from vines grown between 980 and 1,180 metres above sea level in the Zuccardi family’s vineyards in Vista Flores, it is fermented with wild yeast and aged in a mixture of concrete and oak barrels. “Fresh black fruits and a touch of coffee on the nose,” the judges said. “Slighty grippy tannins that might settle down with age or some good red meat! Lots of spice and a lovely long finish.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Hatch Mansfield

RRP £19.99

RRP £17.75

ABV 13.5%

ABV 14.5%

Doña Paula Altitude 1350

Vallisto Criolla

Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina 2017

Calchaquie Valley, Salta Argentina 2018

All vines in Mendoza could be classified as a high-altitude in the global context. But the region’s winemakers have discovered that each gradation in height can make an enormous difference to the style of the finished wine. One producer representing those differences to delicious effect is Doña Paula, with this blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and rare Campanian variety Casavecchia hailing from two blocks in the company’s Alluvia vineyard in Gualtallary – at, you guessed it, 1,350 metres “Inky and opaque. Elegant nose, softer fruits and very well integrated components,” said the judges. “Very well made, excellent balance and very good value for money.”

In much the same way as some of Chile’s most adventurous producers have revived the reputation of the much-maligned País, so Argentina’s new-wave producers are rediscovering the potential of their Criolla. One such producer is Vallisto, which here uses vines planted at a staggering 2,600 metres above sea level in the Calchaquie Valley in the northern Salta province — and of a no-less remarkable 122 years in age. “Great nose,” the judges said. “Nicely aromatic. Vaulted cathedral whiff. So pale. Incense and lovely floral seasoning to the rich fruit. Bright cherry, touch of pepper. Very well made, and an excellent example of its category.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Las Bodegas

RRP £22.49

RRP £19.75

ABV 14%

ABV 13.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended South African White Man Family Wines Padstal Chardonnay, Coastal Region 2019 (£9, Man Vintners): Highly sophisticated flavours and quality for a sub-£10 wine. Man Family Wines Free-Run Steen Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region 2019 (£9, Man Vintners): Top stuff for the price: a crowd-pleasing white Burgundy-beater. Man Family Wines Lievlander Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region 2019 (£9, Man Vintners): Rich waxy nose; Danish pastries. Just-ripe tropical fruit. Nice steeliness. Man Family Wines Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape 2019 (£9, Man Vintners): Citrus, melon and pear. Good wine at a sensible price. Moreson Mercator Chardonnay, Franschhoek 2017 (£19.99, Museum Wines): Excellent for price bracket: ripe tropical fruits, well oaked and good minerality. Stark-Condé The Field Blend, Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch 2018 (£19.99, Museum Wines): Lively and tangy with waves of richer fruit. Gorgeous. Haut Espoir Cloudfall, Franschhoek 2019 (£16.99, Museum Wines): Peach and floral nose; medium body; lovely fruity palate; honeyed melon; long finish.

Argentinian Rosé Susana Balbo Signature Rosé, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2019 (£22, Las Bodegas): Exceptional balance and finesse. Can easily compete with top Provence.

French Rosé Chateau L’Ermitage Gris Marin Rosé Gris de Gris, IGP Sable de Camargue, 2019 (£9.49, Boutinot): Pale and interesting: stylish pink Provence at a good price. Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Rosé, IGP Pays d’Oc 2019 (£6.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Light dusty pink, soft, melon; stone fruit. Absolutely exceptional value! Domaines Paul Mas Jardin de Roses, Languedoc 2019 (£13.49, Domaines Paul Mas): Fresh acidity, good heft. Big citrus (grapefruit) notes, vanilla, red apple. Lovely! La Baume Languedoc Rosé, Languedoc 2019 (£11.98, Famille Helfrich): Peach, strawberry, floral notes: well balanced, creamy. Good value. Exhib Rosé, Cap d’Agde, Languedoc-Roussillon 2019 (£10.49, Famille Helfrich): Light, refreshing and at the price extremely useful!

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Highly commended German Rosé Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé, Pfalz 2019 (£12.25, ABS Wine Agencies): Gentle red fruit notes, bright and fresh – for everyday consumers and connoisseurs.

Spanish Rosé Bodegas Sarria Señorio de Sarria Viñedo No. 5 Rosado, Navarra 2019 (£11.49, Boutinot): A quality rosé for red wine drinkers – lots of red fruit, and a long finish.

Argentinian Red Bressia Monteagrelo Cabernet Franc, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2017 (£16.49, Boutinot): A full-on New World style – a fruit bomb with leather; packs a punch. Doña Paula 1100’, San Carlos, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2017 (£22.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Subtle tannins. Nice fresh style belies weight. Nice finish; juicy fruit. Zuccardi Los Olivos Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£11.60, Hatch Mansfield): A lovely little wine; smooth, good drinking and well made. Zuccardi Valles Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£14.25, Hatch Mansfield): Good structure (tannins and acidity) with nice fruit/spice profile. Zuccardi Apelación Cabernet Franc, Paraje Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2017 (£17.75, Hatch Mansfield): Dark fruit, perfect use of oak ageing to give complexity; vanilla, cedar, soft tannins. Susana Balbo Signature Malbec, Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£27.75, Las Bodegas): Opaque and silky; opulent, floral, dark fruit. Lingering oak. Quality. Bodega Staphyle Iris Doble Malbec, Mendoza 2019 (£9.99, Vindependents): Good little wine for price point. Offers fruit, juiciness and a touch of spice. Bodega Sottano Selección del Enólogo Malbec, Mendoza 2018 (£21.99, Vindependents): Vanilla, toast, spice, fruits, length, body. What a customer would want from their £20 Malbec. Cadus Signature Series Criolla, Mendoza 2018 (£15.99, Third Floor Wines): Very intense, appealing fruit; incredible softness: complexity, length, value. Kaiken Ultra Malbec, Mendoza 2018 (£15.49, Liberty Wines): Great balance, quaffable fruit, big in style and yet versatile; well made.

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Red wines Mauricio Lorca Recoleta Criolla Grande Mendoza, Argentina 2019 You wait eight editions of The Wine Merchant Top 100 for a Criolla, and then two come along at once. The second example of the revived Argentinian red grape uses the slightly less highly regarded Criolla Grande strain from vines in Rivadavia in eastern Mendoza at 700 metres above sea level – but, with a talented and innovative winemaker at the helm in Mauricio Lorca, it’s another great find from Argentina specialist Las Bodegas. “Again it’s so, so pale,” the judges said. “There are flavours of morello cherry and red petals, and it’s light and bright with great energy. “It’s bright, fruity, easy-drinking. Fairly simple, but good value and an unusual grape which means it’s very sellable.”

ABV 13%

Vallisto Barbera Cafayate Valley, Salta Argentina 2018 A deserved second entry for Vallisto, a project overseen by Cafayate wine producer Pancho Lavaque and star consultant winemaker Marcelo Pelleriti – and this time the eyecatching grape variety is Piedmont’s Barbera. The vines are grown at some 1,900 metres above sea level in Cafayate, and the winemaking includes “extensive” but – as is clear from the finished wine – “sensitive” pumping-over to create a deep-coloured and silky textured style. “With a perfumed, cassis, intense nose, on the palate there’s lots of spice, and beautiful balance and texture, and the finish is long,” one of the judges said. “An exceptional wine: really intense, in a riper, softer style. I would not have picked it as a Barbera!” Las Bodegas RRP £19.75 34

Barossa Valley, Australia 2017 Star winemaker Ben Glaetzer is at the helm of the family boutique firm, founded in 1995 and producing some of the Barossa Valley’s most sought-after red wines. Among them is the top-of-the-range Anaperenna, which draws on the old-vine riches of the Ebenezer sub district in the northern tip of the Barossa Valley. It’s a blend of fruit from 30 to 100-year-old Shiraz and 30 to 130-year-old Cabernet vines, which is fermented in open-top fermenters and aged for 16 months in oak. “Spicy. Fragrant. Warming. Creamy. A remarkably elegant palate. Very well poised. Moreish. Bright forward fruit flavours will develop well over time. Sweet fruit, but not overly so. Lingering spiciness,” the judges said. “A serious fine wine by any standard. A pleasure to taste.” Bancroft Wines

Las Bodegas RRP £11.75

Glaetzer Wines Anaperenna

RRP £44.99

ABV 15%

Jim Barry Wines Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Kirribilli Single Vineyard’ Coonawarra, Australia 2016 This famed Australian producer just seems to get better with every vintage, with the latest generation of the family building on the legacy of grandfather Jim, who founded the winery in 1959. Best known for their work in the Clare Valley, the family have some top-quality vineyards in Coonawarra, too, and these are the source for what the judges called a “classic Cabernet”, which has been matured for 12 months in French oak. “Deep ruby, lovely exotic nose with cigar box and cassis,” the judges said. “The palate is juicy, rich and layered with cassis, coffee, leathery tannin and nice acidity. Good balance, and still time to evolve.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines

ABV 13.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

RRP £21.49

ABV 14%


Highly commended Argentinian Red

Berton Vineyard The Black Shiraz ‘Winemakers Reserve’

Kaiken Obertura, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2017 (£29.99, Liberty Wines): Bang! Kapow! Super concentration of fruit, spice, gritty tannin. For red meat and chips!

Padthaway, Australia 2018

Australian Red

A regular winner in the Wine Merchant Top 100 over the years, Berton Vineyards has the all-too-unusual knack of producing interesting, characterful, well-made wines at a decent price – and at all price points. This latest contribution to our annual list is very much part of that honourable tradition – fulfilling a crucial role in any independent range by providing an affordable, but high-quality Australian Shiraz. “It’s superb value really, so what’s not to like at under £12?” the judges said. “Deep ruby, floral with violet and primary black fruits. Vimto and licorice on the intense full-bodied palate – kind of in your face, but rich and juicy.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £11.49

ABV 14.5%

Flametree Wines SRS Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon Wilyabrup, Margaret River Western Australia, Australia 2017 Founded in 2007, Flametree Wines hit the ground running by winning the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy with the winery’s firstever red wine. The Towner family’s Geographe-based producer has since gone from strength to strength with consistently high quality wines in Western Australia’s Margaret River. “The pure cassis nose is really attractive with a hint of cedar and toast, while the ripe and clean blackcurrant and red plum fruit on the palate is poised and wonderfully balanced with spices, crunchy acidity and enough tannin to allow the wine to age,” the judges said. “A traditionally built, well made, classy product.”

Spinifex Papillon Red, Barossa Valley 2018 (£17.21, Walker & Wodehouse): Lovely stewed red fruit – invitingly smooth and easy to drink. Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz, Grampians, Victoria 2017 (£17.03, Walker & Wodehouse): Good quality and good value. Vanilla, spice – bold and balanced. Sidewood Estate Shiraz, Adelaide Hills, South Australia 2018 (£15.95, Davy’s Wine Merchants): Bright acidity, peppery spice, immensely drinkable and exceptional value. Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon, Frankland River, Western Australia 2015 (£79.99, Fine Wine Partners): Creamy blackcurrant, eucalyptus, menthol. Dense, warming, full bodied. Weighty fruit; meaty. Houghton Thomas Yule Shiraz, Frankland River, Western Australia 2013 (£49.99, Fine Wine Partners): Dry, earthy with black fruit notes. Well balanced, with a sweet finish. Great wine. Polperro Even Keel Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 2017 (£32, Graft): Nice, elegant Pinot just beginning to evolve in beautiful ways. Turkey Flat Vineyards Grenache, Barossa Valley 2017 (£24, Mentzendorff): Elegant red fruit with white pepper spice; juicy strawberries; lovely fresh finish.

Austrian Red Sepp Moser Zweigelt Reserve, Burgenland 2017 (£22.99, Boutinot): Ripe, fleshy fruit bursts into your mouth – a full and moreish experience.

Chilean Red In Situ Syrah-Mouvedre-Viognier, Aconcagua Valley 2018 (£12.25, Delibo Wines): Stewed (in a good way) fruit; good mouthfeel and extremely long finish. Viña Perez Cruz Petit Verdot ‘Chaski’, Maipo Alto 2015 (£25.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Intense, powerful; fig and prune; good acidity; well balanced.

Vindependents RRP £32.99

ABV 14% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended Chilean Red Caliterra Pétreo Carmenère, Colchagua Valley 2017 (£16.15, Hatch Mansfield): Smooth, polished tannins and easy red fruit; plush but mellow. Errazuriz Max VIII, Aconcagua Valley 2017 (£16.15, Hatch Mansfield): Great structure, lush red fruits, plum, blackcurrant; vanilla, spice, good tannins.

French Red Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon Cuvée Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, Beaujolais 2018 (£23.11, Walker & Wodehouse): For the more serious Beaujolais punters, this is great juice, well made, feels authentic. Domaines Paul Mas Cuvée Secrète No Sulphites Merlot/Cabernet Franc Organic, IGP Pays d’Oc 2019 (£10.50, Domaines Paul Mas): Sumptuous brambly fruit and savoury tones; great fruit and structure. Château Paul Mas Clos des Mûres, Languedoc 2018 (£15.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Approachable, generous fruit with complexity. Quality Languedoc red. Domaines Paul Mas Château Crès Ricards Oenothera, 2018, Terrasses de Larzac, Languedoc 2018 (£17.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Typical garrigue notes, sings of Southern France. Sound value and a lovely wine.. Olivier Ravier Brouilly, Brouilly, Beaujolais 2018 (£14.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Clean, pure fruit; plush; velvety smooth tannins; very drinkable. Olivier Ravier Fleurie, Fleurie, Beaujolais 2018 (£14.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): At £15 it’s a bit of a steal. Great Fleurie. Could drink this all the time. Domaine de la Villaudière Sancerre Rouge, 2017, Sancerre, Loire Valley 2017 (£19.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Lovely red fruits; good length; allround summer-drinking crowd-pleaser. Château Preuillac Cru Bourgeois Médoc, Médoc, Bordeaux 2015 (£21.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Lovely wine. Balanced, expressive; feels luxurious. Terroir & Talents Chateau de la Terrière Brouilly Tradition, Brouilly, Beaujolais 2018 (£15.05, Hatch Mansfield): Smooth, juicy, good-value Brouilly. Domaine Prieur-Brunet Santenay Rouge 1er Cru Maladière, Santenay, Burgundy 2016 (£35.20, Hatch Mansfield): Complex, earthy; fine texture, fine wine. Calvet 1818, Bordeaux 2016 (£10.49, Famille Helfrich): A very good example of what entry-level Bordeaux should aspire to be.

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Red wines Hardys HRB Pinot Noir Multi-regional blend, Australia 2016 The second wine from Hardys’ Heritage Reserve Bin range to make it into this year’s Top 100 is a skilfully blended Pinot Noir from a range of cool-climate sites including Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. As with the HRB Chardonnay, this is a wine that shows Hardys’ continued ability to make wines that hit a high quality-to-price ratio at all price points, impressing the judges with its “charming, lithe” style. “Pale ruby colour, on the nose, it has strawberry and a touch of tomato leaf, hay and vanilla,” the judges said. “On the palate there’s sweet, ripe primary red fruit, some slightly stewed redcurrants, light but earthy tannins and sweet oak. Long, with some vegetal notes towards the end adding complexity.” Fine Wine Partners RRP £19.99

ABV 13.5%

Tabalí Micas Carmenère Peumo, Cacahapoal Valley Chile 2015 Best known for their work in putting the northerly Limarí region on the Chilean wine map, Tabalí here turns to a more traditional vineyard source. And what a source – the Micas vineyard in the Cachapoal Valley is one of the finest in Chile, with a stock of Carmenère vines that are almost 70 years old. Aged for 18 months in French oak, the vineyard shines through in “a very classy Carmenère offering great value”, the judges said. “Attractive leafy, earthy and plum scented aromas, hints of cocoa. A ripe palate bursting with black fruits, black forest gateau, cassis and cocoa, ... some overripe dried fruits and molasses.” Boutinot RRP £17.49

ABV 14.5%


Emiliana Signos de Origen ‘Los Morros’ Cabernet Sauvignon

Domaine Minchin Menetou-Salon Pommerais ‘La Tour Saint Martin’

Maipo Valley, Chile 2016

Menetou-Salon, Loire, France 2017

One of the world’s largest organic and biodynamic wine producers, Emiliana picked up a winery of the year award from Wines of Chile in 2016, the vintage of this wine, in part because of its pioneering commitment to sustainability. The green focus remains, but it’s the quality of wines such as this textbook Maipo Cabernet, as much as the ethics of its production, that has kept Emiliana at the forefront of the Chilean wine scene. “A nose of plum crumble with vanilla custard. Follows through with some jaminess. It’s ‘bouncy’ on the tongue with a light, dry finish,” said the judges. “Very classy with a huge mouthfeel, it’s Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon at its best.”

The quality and consistency of Pinot Noir in the Central Loire Valley just keeps on improving. That may have something to do with global warming, but it’s also down to the skills of winemakers such as Bertrand Minchin. Minchin has 17ha of vines in Menetou-Salon, 7ha of which are Pinot Noir. For this cuvée, 80% of the blend is matured in cone-shaped oak tanks, and the balance in traditional oak barrels. The process leads to a wine with “upfront cherries and strawberries which are bright with underlying dark forest notes”, the judges said. “There’s a lot going on here: mature fruits, fresh fruits, notes of earth, liquorice, and wild herbs. A silky plump body. Very good.”

Boutinot

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £18.49

ABV 14%

Kozlovic Teran West Istria, Croatia 2018 Croatia’s fine winemaking potential is starting to make inroads in the UK market, thanks to its array of native grape varieties. One winery that embodies the country’s modern winemaking scene is Kozlovic, a 100-year-old winery from the Istrian peninsula. Having already scored something of a cult reputation for its peachy Malvazija whites, now it’s the turn for high-acid local red variety, Teran, which is here grown on flysch, limestone and clay soils and aged in large oak barrels. “Sweet fruit, African spice, very appealing,” the judges said. “On the palate there’s plenty of bright, fresh acidity, which would be good for all-round drinking and a versatile partner to food. Good value.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £14.49

ABV 13%

RRP £20.99

ABV 12.5%

Gérard Bertrand Château L’Hospitalet Grand Vin Rouge La Clape, Languedoc, France 2018 If you still think the Languedoc isn’t capable of making fine wine that is a match and more for the Southern Rhône, rugby player-turnedwinemaker Gérard Bertrand’s outstanding Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre may be the wine to change your mind. Sourced from a vineyard overlooking the sea in the rising-star Languedoc cru of La Clape, the blend spends 12 to 16 months in new French oak barriques. “Spice and black fruits on the nose. Nice well structured palate with soft but evident tannins. Definitely a foodie wine,” the judges said. “It’s expensive, but some wines just ooze class and that’s the case here.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £36.49

ABV 14%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Red wines Mas Bécha ‘Barrique’ Rouge Côtes du Roussillon, France 2017 This impressive and beautiful estate in the Aspres terroir near the border with Spain in Roussillon has been in the hands of winemaker Charles Perez for 12 years. And the 25ha of organic vineyard Perez planted is now really beginning to hit its straps, as can be seen in this powerful Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre blend. The wine has been made according to Perez’s philosophy of minimal intervention, with ageing taking place in a mix of new and old Bordeaux barrels. “Oh, the nose on this one is superb”, the judges said, “with plenty of warm jammy fruits. “The palate is just as giving with fresh, vibrant summer fruits. Soft tannins and hints of vanilla complete a lovely wine.”

Caves de Juliénas-Chaintré Beaujolais Villages Cuvée Six Beaujolais, France 2018 Founded in 1928, Caves de Juliénas-Chaintré is one of the oldest, and most respected cooperatives in France. As it contemplates its 100th anniversary, the co-op has some 169 member growers, who between them cover 290ha across 18 appellations in Beaujolais and southern Burgundy, which gives it great scope for sourcing quality fruit for its range of cuvées. According to the judges, this village-level Gamay, with its “rounded palate full of soft ripe fruit with strawberry and raspberry notes” is “an easy-drinking, consumer-friendly wine, that is a good example of a wine in its category and at its price point.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Vindependents

RRP £21.49

RRP £10.50

ABV 15%

Château Sergant Lalande de Pomerol Bordeaux, France 2018 With the renowned Hubert de Boüard on board as winemaking consultant, Château Sergant is now making the most of its 21ha of sand and gravel soils just west of the village of Lalande de Pomerol. Merlot leads the way in the château’s estate wine, with 82% of the blend, and Cabernet Franc (11%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (7%) providing the structural and aromatic support. According to the judges, it’s “a great, very complex, very smooth and easy-drinking wine that delivers a depth of flavour and complexity that is not always found in wines from this category. “Great value, and will appeal to many different types of customer.”

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Caves de Juliénas-Chaintré Juliénas Tradition du Bois de la Salle Beaujolais, France 2019 The second wine from this high-performing cooperative in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 is what the judges described as a “great value example of a Beaujolais cru”. It takes its name from the 17th-century château in which the co-operative has had its Beaujolais headquarters since the 1960s. “A really good framework of ripe tannins supports the judiciousy spicy and ripe peony, violet and iris scents,” was the verdict of the judges. “Love this! A real Bojo, with a proper dark, earthy core and a surprisingly tannic frame behind it. Ridiculously good value here.” Vindependents

Famille Helfrich RRP £19.95

ABV 13%

ABV 14.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

RRP £12.99

ABV 12.5%


Highly commended French Red

Château Grandis Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux, France 2009 Genuinely artisanal operations are rare in Bordeaux, but Château Grandis definitely answers to that description. Current proprietor Brice Vergez works much like his father before him, carrying out as much of the work as possible by hand, and ploughing rather than using systematic herbicides between the rows of vines. Ranked as a cru bourgeois since the 1930s, the wine today is as good as it has ever been, with the Wine Merchant Top 100 judges enjoying the quality of a wine from a “sleeper vintage”. “Lovely wine, ageing beautifully with a perfect balance of cigar box and spices with delicious dark fruits all in the frame together, it’s full and flavoursome and, for £20, fabulous value.” Vindependents RRP £19.99

ABV 14%

Domaine of the Bee Côtes du Roussillon Villages Roussillon, France 2017 Justin Howard-Sneyd is a well-known figure in the British wine trade, with a long career as a buyer and consultant for, among others, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Laithwaites. But it’s in his role as a vigneron that he’s made this year’s Top 100 list, with another sumptuous example of sun-filled southern French red wine from his small domaine in the Roussillon. A more or less 50/50 blend of Grenache and Carignan, it’s “a lot of wine for the money”, the judges said. “I didnt expect the herby nose, but crikey it was lovely. Plenty of blackcurrants on the palate with hints of something veggie. Quite a concentrated, well balanced palate. Excellent value and a cracker to share with food.”

Plan de L’Homme Sapiens Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc 2018 (£22.69, Famille Helfrich): Lots of herb-edged fruit and rustic fun – spice and juiciness. Domaine Catherine et Claude Maréchal Bourgogne Rouge Cuvée Gravel, Burgundy 2018 (£26.99, Vindependents): Harmonious feel, great balance, come-hither fruit; drinking beautifully. Benoît Badoz Trousseau Marnes Rouges, Côtes du Jura 2018 (£21.50, Vindependents): Quirky, vibrant acidity, root ginger – it’s got it all going on! Would stock this! Domaine Les Caizergues Les Amoriers, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc 2017 (£18.99, Vindependents): Authentic spicy fruit – attractive, succulent, supple. Domaine La Sarabande Misterioso, Faugères, Languedoc-Roussillon 2016 (£13.50, Vindependents): Menthol, liquorice, attractively dry tannins; would sell. Domaine La Lôyane Cuvée Elie, Lirac, Rhône 2018 (£18.99, Vindependents): Cranberry, plum, herbaceous notes. Juicy. Long finish. Great wine! Good value. La Cave de Gigondas Vacqueyras Seigneur De Raveil, Vacqueyras, Rhône 2016 (£22.99, Vindependents): Plum and tayberry; darkly spicy; lovely length. Clos Bagatelle Sentiers De Bagatelle ‘Cuvée Donnadieu’ St-Chinian Rouge, St-Chinian, Languedoc 2017 (£15.99, Third Floor Wines): Brambly fruit, meaty-savoury, deep, full-bodied. Lots of wine for the price. Vidal-Fleury Ventoux, Ventoux, Rhône 2017 (£13.99, Louis Latour Agencies): Violets, plums, spice – wonderfully aromatic, soft and enjoyable. Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône, Rhône, France 2016 (£14.99, Louis Latour Agencies): Lovely wine, true regional identity, excellent value for money.

German Red Peth Wetz Estate Spätburgunder, Rheinhessen 2017 (£12.90, Walker & Wodehouse): Over-delivers for the price point – a very good wine with outstanding features. Kloster Eberbach Estate Pinot Noir, Rheingau 2016 (£23.99, Boutinot): Soft, fleshy red fruits. Great length; delicious and moreish; silky, sexy wine.

Domaine of the Bee RRP £24

ABV 14.9% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended

Red wines

Greek Red Diamantakis Winery Petali Liatiko, Crete, Greece 2018 (£13.99, Vindependents): Delicate cherry, unusual but appealing – great summer wine for the adventurous. Diamantakis Winery Diamantopetra Red, Crete, Greece 2017 (£15.99, Vindependents): Sweet spice, fresh tannins, quite savoury. Lots of complexity for the price.

Italian Red Avignonesi Desiderio Toscana IGT, Tuscany 2016 (£47,99, Vindependents): Big, powerful, cherry, tobacco, earthy, dried fruit; dry tannins. Impressive. Naturalmente Bio Perricone, Terre Siciliane IGP 2018 (£11.71, Walker & Wodehouse): Easy drinking, fruitforward. A real crowd pleaser; what’s not to like at this price? La Dama Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore Classico, Veneto 2016 (£15.62, Walker & Wodehouse): A pleasure to drink – great value, sure to be a bestseller. Lunadoro Rosso di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montepulciano, Tuscany 2016 (£15.49, Buckingham Schenk): Plum, a little sherry, cherry, red fruits. Medium body, tastes a lot more expensive than it is. Frescobaldi Chianti Rúfina Riserva Vecchie Viti Castello Nipozzano, Chinati Rúfina, Tuscany 2016 (£23.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Leather, tobacco, pepper; dark cherry, ripe raspberry. Smooth. Minerally. Frescobaldi Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Castelgiocondo, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany 2015 (£52, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Succulent, rich, big tannins but balanced; a wine you’d be pleased to own. Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015, Tuscany (£23.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Fresh, spicy, elegant. Great example of the style; surprisingly good value; memorable. San Marzano Primitivo di Manduria ‘Talò’, Primitivo di Manduria, Puglia 2017 (£14.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Grown-up Primitivo; lovely red fruits, hints of spice and a nice finish. San Marzano Primitivo di Manduria Riserva ‘Anniversario 62’, Primitivo di Manduria, Puglia 2016 (£26.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Heavy, fullbodied; outstanding. A statement wine that delivers.

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THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

Gaia Wines Estate Nemea Nemea, Peloponnese, Greece 2016 Modern Greek wine pioneers Leon Karatsalos and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos have earned a place in a number of Wine Merchant Top 100 lists over the years for their superb dry white Assyrtiko. But this year it was the turn of a red made 100% from the native Agiorgitiko to take our judges’ plaudits. Using fruit sourced from a single 7ha vineyard in Koutsi, Nemea, the wine is aged for 18 to 20 months in mostly new oak casks. “Polished aromas, with primary and secondary intermingled,” the judges said. “Dark plums. Spicy, rounded, good freshness. Elegant tannins. Lingering. Very fine. “It’s a very impressive all-rounder, with great definition.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £35.99

ABV 14.5%

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Contrada Rampante Etna, Sicily, Italy 2017 Pietradolce Contrada Rampante is a wine that embodies all the exciting reasons why Etna has become such a focus for serious wine lovers in the past couple of decades. Very old, pre-phylloxera vines grown on volcanic soils at high altitudes? Check. A blend composed entirely of Etna’s red grape extraordinaire, Nerello Mascalese? Check. A wine that is both hauntingly aromatic and powerful? Over to the judges: “This is a brilliant wine – power class and finesse in a glass that you don’t have to work hard to find,” they said. “Very good, very typical, with plush tannin.” Armit Wines RRP £37

ABV 15%


Vallone, Tenuta Serranova Susumaniello Salento, Puglia, Italy 2017 Family-run Vallone has been one of the key players in the revival of local red grape variety Susumaniello in the Salento peninsula in Puglia. The family planted some 10ha of bush vines of the variety in the sandy clay soils of their Castelserranova estate near Brindisi, and in this unoaked 100% Susumaniello cuvée, the variety’s many charms are there for all to taste. “A very good, medium intensity, garnet-coloured wine delivering youthful fruity aromas with vegetal notes (green pepper, eucalyptus and liquorice),” the judges said. “A complex palate with fruit (black cherry, blackberry, blackcurrant) and spice (black pepper and liquorice) and well-balanced alcohol, soft tannins and fresh acidity. Long length.”

Campania, Italy 2014 With a sparkling, a white and a red all making the final selection, you could host a meal with Top 100-winning wines from Campania’s Feudi di San Gregorio this year. Certainly our judges thought this prime example of Campania’s great indigenous red grape Aglianico would make a fine accompaniment for a range of rich, Italian dishes. Aged for 18 months in French oak, and then allowed to mature for a minimum of nine months in bottle before release, it’s a wine with a “bright red colour, notes of liquorice and pungent, soft ripe cherry fruit and with tannins that are soft and integrated, ” the judges said. “Authentic. Great value. Excellent quality. Tar and roses. The Barolo of the south!” Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Boutinot RRP £11.99

Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi

ABV 13%

RRP £24.99

ABV 14%

Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico

Michele Chiarlo Barbaresco ‘Reyna’

Tuscany, Italy 2015

Piedmont, Italy 2015

Tenuta Perano is one of the newest jewels in the crown of one of Tuscany’s grandest and most established producers, Frescobaldi. Covering 250ha in total in a natural amphitheatre in Gaiole in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, it has 52ha of vines planted to Sangivoese (plus a little Canaiolo). For the estate wine, the Sangiovese is aged in a combination of stainless steel and oak for 24 months. “A completely different take on Chianti, reflecting a more muscular and dense side amplified by the heatwave vintage,” the judges said. “Impressive and versatile with a lipsmacking sour cherry twang on the end.”

One of the world’s greatest exponents of Nebbiolo, Michele Chiarlo has two examples of the ethereal Piedmont grape in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 selection. The first is sourced from a steeply sloping 3ha site in Barbaresco planted on bluishgrey calcareous marl soil, with clay. After an extended maceration of 17 days on the skins, and fermentation at temperatures between 27°C and 32°C , the wine ages for 18 months in large oak barrels. “Definite tawny rim. Rich figgy notes; heady dried fruit,” the judges said. “Satisfying, well integrated tannins – brisk but balanced. Very well made wine.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £23.99

RRP £35.49

ABV 13.5%

ABV 14%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Red wines Michele Chiarlo Barolo ‘Tortoniano’

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

Piedmont, Italy 2015

Tuscany, Italy 2016

The second of a pair of top-class Nebbiolo from Michele Chiarlo in this year’s Top 100 selection takes its name from the Tortonian geological area of La Mora and Barolo – an area of sedimentary clay and Sant’Agata marl soils interspersed with grey-blue sandstone. The current proprietors, and sons of the founder Michele, Alberto and Stefano Chiarlo, aim to reflect that terroir as clearly as possible in the finished wines, which are aged for two years in oak casks and then a futher year in bottle before release. “It’s a Barolo with a classical feel,” the judges said. “Perfumed with rose petals and freezedried raspberries and a dark sloe berry note, too. “Well rounded and with no bitterness, it’s very smooth.”

“Lifted floral aromatics, all rose and iris. Pure and humming with life. An ever-so-slightly green edge but a lovely freshness and purity. Behaves in the style of Pinot Noir. “Loaded with dark fruit and classic flavours of Sangiovese. What a delight! With not a hair out of place, it’s an immaculate wine!” So said the judges of a wine that has clearly begun to reap the dividends of changes made by Virginie Saverys, scion of the owners of the Belgian shipping group CMB. Saverys, who bought the 200ha property – which includes vineyards in both Montepulciano and Cortona –in 2009, has spearheaded a conversion to organic and biodynamic production.

Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £48

ABV 14%

Fèlsina Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva Tuscany, Italy 2017 Rancia, a special vineyard in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, is the secret of this wine’s name –and its success with the Wine Merchant Top 100 judges. Located in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga, north east of Siena, the south-facing vineyard sits at an altitude of 400 metres, with vines aged from 38 to 62 years old. “A real aristocrat, right at the apex of quality, the price is high but the quality is remarkable,” the judges said. “Woody herbs, some mint too. Then a rush of balsamic which sets the tastebuds alight. The juice is full bodied and there’s heaps of sour cherry flavour. An extremely long peacock tail to the finish.”

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RRP £25.99

ABV 13.5%

Massolino Barolo Piedmont, Italy 2016 It was a year of superb Nebbiolo at this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100, and here’s another from one of the great names in modern Barolo, Franco Massolino. Massolino is known for his successful, gentle evolution of his family’s established estate, which was founded in 1898, and has vines (some of them up to 60 years old) in some of the finest sites in Barolo’s Serralunga d’Alba commune. All that subtle skill is on display in a wine the judges said has “so much complexity”. They added: “Bright, intense; roses, violets. On the palate it has an edgy tannic acidity; fresh and crunchy. A rocky-mineral note. And spices. The fruit is concentrated, with black cherry flavours. Notes of tapenade and anis. Still young, a firm frame, muscular, already showing well.” Liberty Wines

Liberty Wines RRP £57.99

Vindependents

ABV 13.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

RRP £49.99

ABV 14.5%


Highly commended Italian Red

Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco 2017 Piedmont, Italy 2017 Founded in 1971 by the eponymous vigneron, Giuseppe Cortese has had a great deal of critical success in the UK in recent years, coming out top in a recent Decanter Piedmont tasting, and now earning a place in the Wine Merchant Top 100. The family is blessed with some fine vineyard holdings in Barbaresco, including a 4ha tranche of the noted Rabajà site. Their entry-level Barbaresco has, according to the judges, a “textbook Nebbiolo shape and then good sweet, soft fruited core. An easy feel. “The nose offers an array of layers: blackberries, cassis, hedgerow fruit, almost honeysuckle: it’s like walking through an orchard. “Soft, super-fine tannins. Floral pick-me-up on the finish – great varietal expression.” Vindependents RRP £34.99

ABV 14.5%

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva Tuscany, Italy 2016 San Felice’s sprawling 650ha estate is home to one of Tuscan wine’s most important viticultural sites: a 1.6ha experimental vineyard, run in collaboration with the University of Florence, and featuring more than 270 indigenous varieties. But it’s the Sangiovese grown that makes up the lion’s share of the estate’s 140ha of vines – and which forms 100% of this good value, ready-to-drink Chianti Classico Riserva. “What a useful example of a top vintage and already raring to get in your glass,” the judges said. “Balsamic flavour, lots of small red cherry, and best of all for Sangio-phobes, the tannins are hyper smoothed out. The core of fruit lingers well on the finish.” Third Floor Wines RRP £18.99

Al-Cantara Etna ‘Lu Veru Piaciri’, Etna, Sicily 2016 (£19.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): A lovely fresh and approachable way into Nerello; plenty of crunchy red fruits with herbaceous notes. Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza La Court, Asti, Piedmont 2015 (£49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): traditional style with oxidative notes. Very well made and worth £50. Alpha Zeta A Amarone della Valpolicella, Valpolicella, Veneto 2016 (£29.99, Liberty Wines): A mega bargain. Supremely enjoyable – one to show off at dinner and not reveal the price! Tenuta Ormanni Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico, Tuscany 2017 (£18.50, Vindependents): Lovely expression and value. Ripe red fruits, plum and silky smooth. Cà Dei Maghi Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva Canova, Valpolicella, Veneto 2013 (£59.99, Vindependents): Aniseed, sour cherry, rounded vanilla and spice. Lovely long finish. A pleasure to drink. Monte Schiavo Caccialepre Rosso Piceno Tenute Pieralisi, Rosso Piceno, Le Marche 2016 (£13.99, Third Floor Wines): Full-bodied, succulent; leather, cherry, mint; dense, well balanced; lovely mouthfeel. Il Cascinone Crocera Barbera D’Asti Superiore, Asti, Piedmont 2017 (£9.99, Third Floor Wines): Very ripe, almost sweet fruit; commercial style; excellent value.

Lebanese Red Oumsiyat Grande Reserve, Mount Lebanon 2018 (£17.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Complex, structured, potential to age. Food matching potential; good value.

Portuguese Red Quinta Dos Roques Tinto, Dão, Portugal 2016 (£15, Raymond Reynolds): Good depth, balanced. Steak wine with character! Great value. Niepoort Voyeur, Douro, Portugal 2018 (£24, Raymond Reynolds): Unexpectedly light; mineral, racy, very complex but supple; long finish with freshness. DFJ Vinhos Francos Grande Escolha, Lisboa 2015 (£20.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): A really cool wine. weighty yet light, intense yet elegant, broody yet approachable. New wave Portugal.

ABV 13.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended

Red wines

Portuguese Red DFJ Vinhos Casa do Lago Tinto, Lisboa 2018 (£9.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Amazing value, super fruity crowd pleaser with integrity. Hard not to like.

Spanish Red Aster Crianza, Ribera del Duero 2014 (£22.40, Armit Wines): Good freshness with acidity to the fore. Dark, mature fruits. Almost brambly. Good weight. Classy. Gómez Cruzado Honorable Rioja, Rioja 2015 (£28.99, Boutinot): Deep, almost black colour, ripe dark fruit, rich, rounded. Outstanding example of Rioja. Bodegas Sarria Señorio de Sarria Crianza, Navarra 2016 (£10.49, Boutinot): Eucalyptus, blackcurrant, liquorice, cassis; long, complex; very good value. Bodegas Borsao Cabriola By Borsao, Campo de Borja 2016 (£17.49, Boutinot): Silky-rich, slightly chewy mouthful of joy! Great barbecue wine, terrific value. La Bascula Catalan Eagle Red, Terra Alta 2018 (£11.49, Boutinot): Smooth ripe berries, plums and cherries; good structure for the price; enjoyable; over-delivers.

Marlborough, New Zealand 2017 Another successful year in the competition for Neal and Judy Ibbotson’s trailblazing Marlborough producer, with this single-vineyard Pinot Noir joining a Sauvignon and a Riesling in the Top 100. The vineyard in question is in the Delta region within the Southern Valleys subregion, where the vines are planted on clay soils. The winemaking regime includes a five-day cold soak, 18% whole bunch and 10 months’ ageing in a mix of new and used French oak barriques. “Class: this could pass off as a £100 Burgundy any day,” said one of the judges. “A very earthy nose and a deep complex palate of soft berries, spice and something autumnal that I couldn’t put my finger on but I loved anyway. ” Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Finca Casa Lo Alto Manzan Bobal, Valencia 2017 (£19.99, Buckingham Schenk): Big wine, powerful but with a lovely texture and dark cherry fruits.

RRP £26.99

Bodega Otazu Premium Cuvee, Navarra 2016 (£16.99, Buckingham Schenk: Blackcurrant, plum, dark cherry. Soft; integrated tannins; complex finish. Fantastic.

Gladstone Vineyard The Flying Winemaker Pinot Noir

Quinta de Quercus Uclés, Uclés 2016 (£16.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Ripe and intense black fruit. Full bodied but smooth. Herbal and concentrated. Ondarre Rioja Gran Reserva, Rioja 2011 (£15.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Smoky, forest fruit, caramel/butterscotch, dry raisins. Highly enjoyable fireside red. Finca Bacara Time Waits for No One ‘Stone Elephant’, Jumilla 2018 (£12.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Nice complexity; fruit forward; intense dried fruit and chocolate. Broad appeal. Good value. Cuatro Pasos Mencía, Bierzo 2017 (£12.99, Liberty Wines): Ripe redcurrants and cranberries; long finish with subtle woody spices. Very reasonable price. Cuatro Pasos Mencía Black, Bierzo 2017 (£17.99, Liberty Wines): Luscious ripe plum and blueberry. Deliciously smooth, great balance, really long finish.

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Saint Clair Pinot Noir ‘Omaka Reserve’

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

ABV 13%

Wairarapa, New Zealand 2018 As New Zealand’s wine industry matures, so the work of small independent producers becomes ever more important – providing the novelty and innovation that keeps a wine country relevant and exciting. Owned and run by Christine Kernohan, Gladstone is one such producer. Kernohan works exclusively from her own vineyards in Wairarapa, which are planted on old, free-draining river bed. As our judges said of the Pinot, Kernohan’s are wines with a distinctive personality. “Initially quite medicinal with clove and farmyardy hints, this opened up to show some lovely cherry aromas,” the judges said. “Ripe strawberry fruit with highlights of raspberry; elegant and with savoury structure. Not typical. but delicious.” Vindependents RRP £15.99

ABV 13.5%


DFJ Vinhos Consensus Pinot Noir Touriga Nacional Lisboa, Portugal 2016 Portugal is well known for being blessed with a vast range of high-quality indigenous grape varieties. But with most not being widely planted (if at all) elsewhere, it’s sometimes difficut for retailers to persuade their customers to try Portuguese single-varietal wines. That’s when judicious blending with a known international variety can help – as in this unusual 50/50 blend of local Touriga Nacional with Pinot Noir from DFJ Vinhos. “It’s an interesting blend that works really well,” the judges said. “Dark berry fruit on the nose with an appealing savoury, lightly smoky note. The palate shows ripe black fruit, a spicy hint and a long finish.” Richmond Wine Agencies RRP £13.95

ABV 13.5%

Bodegas Borsao Zarihs Campo de Borja, Spain 2015 Bodegas Borsao may be best known for its lush, superb-value Garnacha, but the Campo de Borja co-op also has some 400ha of Syrah vines, which provide the ingredients for Borsao’s second Top 100 entry this year. They’ve turned to Australian winemaker Chris Ringland to help them make the best of the Syrah, which grows at a 600-metre altitude on limestone soils in the foothills of the Moncayo. Ringland ages the wine in a mix of stainless steel (60%) and American oak, and the result, according to the judges, is “bloody lovely and very well priced. An absolute stonker with a place on most merchants shelves. Seductive aromas of red berry fruit with leather hints and a dash of vanilla. The palate is really well developed with red and black berry fruit and well integrated vanilla tannins.” Boutinot RRP £17.49

ABV 15%

Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos

Cuevas de Arom Pedra Forca

Campo de Borja, Spain 2017

Campo de Borja, Spain 2016

Campo de Borja’s quality-focused co-operative Bodegas Borsao is a master of Garnacha. Around two-thirds of the 375 member growers’ collective 2,400ha of vineyard are devoted to the variety, much of it in the form of old bush vines –such as the 60-year-old vines used to make Tres Picos, which are planted on clay and limestone soils 600 to 700 metres above sea level in the Alto Moncayo. The vines produce just 4.5 tonnes/ha, and the wine is matured for several months in new French oak barriques. “Lovely inviting nose with one of the creamiest autumn fruit-dominated palates I’ve come across,” said the judges. “Delicious and worth a place in the Top 100 for the creamy palate alone!”

New producer Cuevas de Arom shows a different, more elegant side to Campo de Borja Garnacha. It’s the project of three friends, including Master of Wine Fernando Mora, who work in tandem with members of the Santo Cristo co-operative who have some fabulous stocks of old, dry-farmed Garnacha bush-vines. The wines are aged in a variety of vessels from concrete egg to oak foudres, and, as their name suggests, the winery is based in the cool of a natural cave. “The overwhelming first impression is the aromatic fragrance of the Pinot Noir grape: pure and fresh, in the red fruit spectrum,” the judges said. “On the palate, red fruits blend in with ripe black fruits, summer berry fruits, and the juicy palate just keeps on giving. Uncomplicated, heavenly joy!”

Boutinot

Walker & Wodehouse

RRP £15.99

ABV 15%

RRP £13.37

ABV 14.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Highly commended Spanish Red Mas Blanch I Jové Saó Abrivat, Costers del Segre 2017 (£17.99, Vindependents): Dark fruit flavours. Intelligent use of the blend of grapes, really well executed. Marco Abella Mas Mallola, Priorat 2017 (£26.99, Vindependents): Delicious, full, silky mouthful – this is a great introduction to Priorat. Uvas Felices El Hombre Bala Old Vine Garnacha, Madrid 2016 (£22.99, Third Floor Wines): Masses of complexity; great texture; developed; well made.

South African Red Jordan Wine Estate Cobblers Hill, Stellenbosch 2016 (£33.65, ABS Wine Agencies): Strong dark fruits with tobacco notes, bold and dry with vanilla. Very good. Tokara Directors Reserve Red, Stellenbosch 2017 (£32.30, ABS Wine Agencies): Deep, dark and delicious with spice and black fruit. Balanced; fair price. Zevenwacht 7Even Syrah, Stellenbosch 2017 (£11.55, ABS Wine Agencies): Good wine, well structured and lasting fruit – all at the right price. Neethlingshof Malbec, Stellenbosch 2018 (£14.95, Delibo Wines): This is a cracking Malbec for the price. Spice, fruit, concentration and playfulness. Man Family Wines Skaapveld Syrah, Coastal Region 2018 (£9, Man Vintners): Bright blackcurrants. Outstanding quality wine at an outstanding price. Haut Espoir Gentle Giant, Coastal Region 2014 (£16.99, Museum Wines): Earthy with dark fruits and plum notes – smoky finish. Very good. Uva Mira Merlot, Stellenbosch 2016 (£24.99, Museum Wines): Bold, lush, plush and deeply flavoured. Nice oak integration. Ripe Cape Pomerol! Uva Mira Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2016 (£29.99, Museum Wines): Slick, polished, approachable. Has its own style; fruit-driven; bold intensity. Moreson Widow Maker Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2016 (£19.99, Museum Wines): Density of flavour; well composed with integrated oak; ageing very well. Stark-Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon, Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch 2016 (£29.99, Museum Wines): Inviting and rich. Classic Cab notes; a real grower with individual personality.

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THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100


Highly commended South African Red Haut Espoir Cabernet Sauvignon, Franschhoek 2007 (£39.99, Museum Wines): Leather armchairs, hot herbs, sunshine, baked fruits. Multi-faceted and layered. Worth every penny of its price. Holden Manz Visionaire, Franschhoek 2014 (£19.99, Vindependents): Complex and engaging blend showing lovely signs of maturity; good price.

United States Red Hope Family Wines Troublemaker Red Blend, Central Coast California NV (£23.60, ABS Wine Agencies): Great smoky bacon nose, beetroot and onion. Savoury pepper spice; blackberry. Great wine, long finish. Hope Family Wines Quest Cabernet Blend, Paso Robles, California 2017 (£22.50, ABS Wine Agencies): Really expressive with with bags of flavour; interesting blend and reasonable price for the quality. Hope Family Wines Treana Red, Paso Robles, California 2017 (£45, ABS Wine Agencies): Plum and black pepper; full fruit and grippy tannin. Fantastic. Hope Family Wines Treana Cabernet, Paso Robles, California 2018 (£25, ABS Wine Agencies): Blackcurrant and black cherry on the nose and palate. Spicy notes with a long finish. Hope Family Wines Austin Hope Cabernet, Paso Robles, California 2018 (£35, ABS Wine Agencies): Blackcurrant, green pepper, sweet spice and a long finish. Elegant wine. Cline Ancient Vines Mourvèdre, Contra Costa County, California 2017 (£19.99, Boutinot): Robust, punchy pronounced, well balanced tannin. Savoury, meaty. Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California 2017 (£23.50, Vindependents): Great wine with layers of flavour: blackcurrant, violets, cloves, vanilla, mulberry. Trefethen Estate Merlot, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, California 2017 (£45-£55, Daniel Lambert): Great tannins to balance the rich, ripe fruit flavour. Lush. Trefethen Dragon’s Tooth Red Blend, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, California 2017 (£38-£48, Daniel Lambert): Lush black fruit, vanilla, sweet spice; smooth blackcurrant, black cherry. Long finish.

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Red wines Bodegas Familia Chavarri Izarbe Rioja Reserva

Bodega Montecillo 22 Barricas Gran Reserva

Rioja, Spain 2009

Rioja, Spain 2011

Familia Chavarri is a terroir-driven producer with prime vineyard sites in some of Spain’s top winemaking regions. For their Rioja operation, the family have vineyards in Laguardia, Elciego and Lapuebla de Labarca – three of the most sought-after districts in Rioja Alavesa. For the Reserva, the vines are sourced from the 750-metre altitude plantings in Laguardia. A blend of 90% Tempranillo with 10% Mazuelo, it’s aged for 18 months in barrel and 18 months in bottle. “An exceptional wine,” the judges said. “An explosion on the palate, bags of fruit coming through – figs, plums – and then there’s savoury notes of smoky bacon and black olive tapanade and a nice pepper spice.”

A winery with a long history – it was founded in 1874 –Bodega Montecillo has been entirely revamped since it was bought up by the Osborne family company some 10 years ago. The winery’s revival has been masterminded by talented winemaker Mercedes Garcia Rupérez, with top viticulturist Carmelo Espinosa Muga overseeing the work of some 118 partner growers, who between them manage 1,100ha of vines. All the work is certainly paying off in the wines, such as this classy Gran Reserva, which, the judges said, “provides everything you’d want from a Gran Reserva Rioja. Fruit forward, full-on with spiciness in the cheeks and a lightly dry finish. Great blend and a beautiful wine.”

Buckingham Schenk

Las Bodegas

RRP £20

RRP £37.50

ABV 14%

Finca Biniagual Verán Binissalem, Majorca 2014 One of the key names in the current qualitydriven renaissance of Majorcan wine, Finca Biniagual is a family business that works from 34ha of vineyards in the village of Binissalem. In a site that has a winemaking history dating back to the 13th century, and which was entirely replanted in 1999, indigenous varieties have been a focus – and the local Manto Negro makes up 40% of the blend, with 35% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon in this powerful red. “Classic Binasselem, with layers of flavour, and very well balanced,” the judges said. “Overall, it’s a very impressive wine. Intense and powerful, with notes of dried fruits, fig and prune. Good acidity. A serious wine with complexity and balance.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £27.49

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ABV 14.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

ABV 13.5%

Marqués de Riscal XR Special Release Reserva Rioja, Spain 2015 A winery with a history that dates back to 1858, but that operates from a dazzling Frank Gehrydesigned modern facility, Marqués de Riscal has always balanced the old and the new. The company now has some 600ha of vines in La Rioja, Rueda and Castilla y Léon, and in each region it makes wines that combine ripe fruit and ageing knowhow – with this “extra special” Rioja being a perfect example. “Great aromas; on the palate there is a great balance between dark fruits, cedar, leather and the toasted, buttery flavours from the oak ageing– a delightful wine,” the judges said. “Has aged well, into a ‘fine wine’, and we think this will continue to improve.” Richmond Wine Agencies RRP £31.95

ABV 14%


Highly commended English Sparkling

Tokara Reserve Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch, South Africa 2017 The competition is stiff, but few vineyards anywhere have a situation as beautiful as Tokara’s on the southern slopes of Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch with dramatic views of False Bay and Table Mountain. A beautiful place, but also a perfect terroir for winemaking, with the vineyards growing at altitudes between 350 and 550 metres on weathered sandstone and decomposed granite soils. “Direct jammy nose. Opulent. A rich and smooth palate showing great typicity and verve,” the judges said. “Minty herby fruit notes, with soft ripe blackcurrant and a good mouth feel and texture. This is good value, too, for the quality.” ABS Wine Agencies RRP £28.20

ABV 14.5%

Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, California 2016 Napa Cabernet is one of the new world’s great wine styles, of course, and one with unusually widespread consumer recognition. It’s not always easy, however, to find an example that matches reputation to price and quality. Too often the wine is either too expensive or fails to meet quality expectations. Enter Black Stallion, which meets all the necessary criteria for a successful Napa Cab without being competely ridiculous on price. “A fantastic nose of blackcurrant and cherry with good depth, an elegant silky palate and well balanced tannin and acidity,” the judges said. “Not dominated by sweet jammy fruit but plenty of black cherry and fresh floral notes, all combining to deliver very well made wine.”

Fox & Fox Mosaic Brut, East Sussex 2015 (£32, Fox & Fox): Exceptional wine; so different and memorable. FIne bubbles, yeasty nose, brioche. Lovely golden colour. Flavours of crunchy ripe red apple.

French Sparkling Domaines Paul Mas Prima Perla Traditional Method Chardonnay, Languedoc-Roussillon NV (£12.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Brilliant budget-priced traditional method – great alternative to Champagne. Domaines Paul Mas Château Martinolles Crémant de Limoux Brut, Limoux, Languedoc NV (£14.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Crisp apples and lovely acid balance; nice creamy mousse; good value. Champagne Marc Hébrart Cuvée Spécial Club Brut Premier Cru, Champagne 2015 (£57, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Super soft bubbles, baked apple, soft buttery biscuit notes. A beautiful fizz. Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Les Meuniers de Clémence Extra Brut Premier Cru, Champagne NV (£53, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): A real quality wine, a step above many offerings at a similar price point. Taittinger Brut, Champagne 2014 (£60.55, Hatch Mansfield): Unctuous texture. Preserved lemons; Braeburn apples; raspberry, this is a lovely vintage Champagne. Taittinger Les Folies de la Marquetterie, Champagne NV (£67.60, Hatch Mansfield): A special occasion Champagne that would definitely sell! Taittinger Nocturnes Rosé Sec, Champagne NV (£56.15, Hatch Mansfield): Beautifully made – really accessible with delicious fruit quality. Perle Noir Brut, Crémant d’Alsace NV (£16.65, Famille Helfrich): Good value for a proper sparkling wine with fresh apples and cream appeal. Champagne Delavenne Père & Fils Grand Cru Brut Réserve, Champagne NV (£39.99, Vindependents): Grapefruit and citrus, some soft peach and then toast/ brioche. Super easy drinking. Champagne Delavenne Père & Fils Grand Cru Brut Tradition, Champagne NV (£36.99, Vindependents): Well balanced, relentless bubbles. A bold flavoured fizz that would sit well in its price bracket.

Bancroft Wines RRP £40.49

ABV 15%

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Highly commended

Red & sparkling wines

French Sparkling Champagne Delavenne Père & Fils Grand Cru Brut Rosé, Champagne NV (£41.99, Vindependents): Persistent fizz; beautiful colour; raspberries and strawberries softened with creamy nuttiness.

German Sparkling Bibo Runge Provokateur Sekt, Rheingau NV (£26, Delibo Wines): Brilliant combination of Riesling acidity and some richer fruity tones. Something different.

Italian Sparkling Contero Moscato d’Asti, Asti, Piedmont 2019 (£16.99, Liberty Wines): Peach, melon and elderflower, gentle fizz, delightful balanced sweetness. Nani Rizzi Az Agr di Spagnol Denis Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry, ConeglianoValdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Veneto NV (£15.99, Vindependents): Nice ripe character, good balance. A really tasty Prosecco.

South African Sparkling Bon Courage Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve, Robertson 2012 (£18.35, ABS Wine Agencies): Wonderful wine; vibrant and fresh. Great balance of fruit, sugar level and acidity to cut through. Moreson Miss Molly Petit Rosé Franschhoek NV (£14.99, Museum Wines): Very good quality sparkling; pale with silky mousse and dry, refreshing flavours.

Australian Dessert & Fortified Stanton & Killeen Classic Rutherglen Topaque, Rutherglen, Victoria NV (£22.70, ABS Wine Agencies): Toasty; hint of iodine, buttery; balancing acidity. Treacle undertones; lovely clean finish. Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Muscat, Rutherglen Victoria NV (£16, ABS Wine Agencies): Delightful balance, delicious figgy notes; too easy to drink! Stanton & Killeen Grand Rutherglen Muscat, Barossa Valley 2017 (£44.80, ABS Wine Agencies): Figs & Toffee and coffee; strong, rich, smooth. Fantastic.

Résonance Vineyard Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon, USA 2013 An emerging star of Pinot production in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Burgundy producer Louis Jadot’s American outpost, Résonance, has 13ha of vines (8ha Pinot Noir) in the YamhillCarlton AVA in the foothills of the Coast Range. With an avowed intent to make “expressive wines with a Burgundian accent”, there is a sense of tried-and-tested French ideas being applied and adapated to a new world setting. For this cuvée, the winemaking is traditional with ageing of 15 months in French oak barrels, half of which are new. “Lovely floral notes and wild strawberry, raspberries and damson on the nose,” the judges said. “Pronounced and perfumed berry notes with gentle acidity. It’s quite clearly a high quality Pinot Noir.” Hatch Mansfield RRP £56.70

ABV 13%

Bodega Garzón, Tannat Reserve Maldonado, Uruguay, 2018 Tannat is Uruguay’s answer to Argentinian Malbec: a relatively obscure southwestern French variety that has been totally transformed in a new world setting. The country’s leading producer, Bodega Garzón, based 11 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, takes its Tannat from some of the 1,000-plus small vineyard parcels in its ownership. For this Reserve, the Tannat is fermented in large cement tanks, before being aged for 12 months in used French barriques and casks. “A wine with good, clean-lined, sculpted fruit,” said the judges. “It has nice cut, too – but the oak line and the dark fruit sweetness build considerably. Interesting!” Liberty Wines RRP £19.99

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ABV 14.5%


Bodega Garzón Tannat Single Vineyard

Digby Fine English Vintage Rosé Brut

Uruguay, 2018

West Sussex, England, UK 2014

The second of Bodega Garzón’s impressive Tannats to make this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 makes full use of the family-owned firm’s micro-parcel approach. Each tiny parcel is planted to provide a different element to the finished wine, covering multiple micro-climates and varying degrees of humidity, on free-draining granitic soils and with Atlantic breezes providing a moderating influence. “Polished feel, sweet and rich fruit – but never too much. Nice lifted aromatics too,” the judges said. “An amplified Tannat – but a nice clean scrub of tannin on finishing keeps this fresh and flowing.”

While many sparkling wine producers have been inspired by Champagne, it’s fair to say that not all that many have taken their cue from the fizz producers of the USA. But it was on a trip to the West Coast that Digby co-founders Trevor Clough and Jason Humphries came up with the idea for what would become one of England’s finest producers based in West Sussex. This Pinot Noir-led blend of the traditional Champagne duo was described by the judges as “delicate onion skin in colour; very good definition, balanced, nuanced”. They added: “The great English summer in a glass. Looks as good as it tastes and epitomises English sparkling.”

Liberty Wines

Digby Fine English

RRP £31.99

ABV 14.5%

RRP £44.99

ABV 12%

Coates & Seely Britagne Brut Rosé

Palmer & Co Blanc de Noirs Brut

Hampshire, England, UK NV

Champagne, France NV

Already well known for his work overseeing Quinta do Noval and Pichon-Longueville, among other AXA Millésime properties, as well as his own Douro project Quinta da Romaneira, Christian Seely began his English sparkling project with Nicholas Coates in Hampshire in the late 2000s. A decade later, and the estate is now well established as one of England’s finest, with this rosé only cementing its reputation. A blend of 80% Pinot Noir with 20% Pinot Meunier, it has “bright acidity; earthy, dry, and crisp, with light apple and floral notes, subtle and a hint of boozy warmth,” the judges said. “We thought this was such a lovely wine – the dream wedding bubbles. It really stood out for us and was 100% pleasure.”

Palmer & Co was founded in 1947 as a kind of mini-co-operative when a group of seven likeminded growers decided to pool resources and work togther. Today the firm has more than 415ha of vineyards: 200ha cover 40 crus in the Montagne de Reims, with the balance found across the Côte de Sézanne, the Côte des Bar and the Marne Valley. It’s an enviable resource that enables it to produce such richly complex wines as this 100% Pinot Noir. “Pistachio, ripe peach, burnt butter and fig on the finish. Loads of weight here but not at all heavy. Tastes fully mature yet full of life,” the judges said. “It has depth and weight yet remains lively and focused. A Champagne for a steak dinner!”

Walker & Wodehouse

Walker & Wodehouse

RRP £32.95

ABV 12%

RRP £45.63

ABV 12%

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Sparkling & fortified wines Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé Champagne, France NV It was a good year for one of the great names in Champagne at this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100, with a trophy winner and two more wines in the final selection, plus a bunch of Highly Commended awards, too. The second wine on the list is the house’s flagship rosé, which gets much of its character from the addition of 15% still red wine from the best Pinot Noir plots in the Montagne de Reims and Riceys, while the 30% Chardonnay portion brings the trademark Taittinger elegance that helped to wow the judges. “Delicate pink, elegant nose with some red berry and cherry fruit notes also on the palate,” the judges said. “Pinot Noir creates the light notes in what is a very stylish rosé with a long, balanced finish.” Hatch Mansfield RRP £52.15

Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina Dubl Spumante Campania, Italy NV The third of this top Campania producer’s trio of Top 100 winners this year is a rare outing in the UK for a Campanian sparkling wine. It’s the fruit of a collaboration between local viticulturist Pierpaolo Sirch and legendary Champagne producer Anselme Selosse that aimed to make fine sparkling wines that reflected the local terroir. This cuvée uses the Falanghina variety and is made in a traditional method, with 18 months on the lees after a second fermentation in bottle. “Rich, powerful nose, almond and nuts, good bready character, nice long full finish – bags of character,” the judges said. “This is just a great example of a solid Italian for consumers looking to get past Prosecco.” Hallgarten & Novum Wines

ABV 12.5%

RRP £19.49

ABV 12.5%

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé Brut

Tokajicum Winery Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos

Champagne, France 2007

Tokaj, Hungary 2016

One of the world’s great prestige Champagnes was a strong challenger for the Wine Merchant Top 100 Sparkling Wine Trophy this year. This cuvée, a blend of grand cru sites that is 70% Pinot Noir from the Montagne des Reims and 30% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, plus a 15% dose of Bouzy Pinot Noir red wine, is a magnficent foil to this year’s sparkling trophywinning Comtes Blanc de Blancs. “There’s a high degree of purity and the balance of flavours is extremely well handled,” the judges said. “Clearly only the best grapes went into this. It may not grab attention immediately but, as they say, luxury doesn’t shout, it whispers.”

Tokajicum is an important player in the continued evolution of the great, historical sweet wines of Tokaj, with some 20ha of vineyards, many of them planted with vines of 40 years or older, in some of the region’s top sites. For this 6 Puttonyos wine, a blend of Furmint and Hárslevelű grown on volcanic loess soils is aged for 30 months in oak. It yields a wine of “scintillating richness, sweetness and fine acid balance”, the judges said. “Peach, honey and something quite earthy in character on the palate. It’s very rich and great – a must for the Top 100.”

Hatch Mansfield

Best of Hungary

RRP £235.55

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ABV 12%

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

RRP £27.29

ABV 10.5%


Highly commended Portuguese Dessert & Fortified

Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Bual Madeira, Portugal 2000 Madeira is one of those wine styles that the trade just loves but consumers tend to ignore – until they actually taste a top example and, in many cases, become converts for life. Our judges certainly thought that this wine, from one of the island’s historic producers, would induce that effect. It’s made using the traditional Canteiro process, with the wine heated naturally in barrels over some months “to enhance concentration and consistency” before being aged in oak casks. “The nose was exceptional. I lost track of the different nuances and could enjoy sniffing this all evening. Plenty of nuts, raisins and honey on the palate,” a judge said. “Exceptional wine and a style that should be more widely enjoyed.” Mentzendorff RRP £41

Fonseca, Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port, Douro 2014 (£16.50, Mentzendorff): Slick, polished, with ripe forest fruits and chocolate. Great value; serious wine. Henriques & Henriques, 10 Year Old Bual, NV, Madeira NV (£20.75, Mentzendorff): Fruitcake, cinnamon, cherry, dates, dried apricot and sweet spice. Lovely finish, nice acidity.

Spanish Dessert & Fortified Bodegas Fernando de Castilla Antique Fino Sherry, Jerez NV (£22.99, Boutinot): Top quality Fino Sherry. Lovely balance and longevity of flavours. Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana La Gitana ‘En Rama’ Manzanilla, Jerez NV (£13, Mentzendorff): Long and complex with a wonderful nuttiness. Exellent value for money.

United States Dessert & Fortified

Cline Late Harvest Mourvèdre, Contra Costa County, California 2017 (£35.99, Boutinot): Lovely smoothness. Gorgeous rich flavours: chocolate-dipped black cherries. Nice point of difference.

ABV 19%

Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado Sherry Jerez, Spain NV Owned by Norwegian ex-Osborne man Jan Pettersen, Fernando de Castilla has become one of the leading lights in top-end Sherry. A sip of the bodega’s Palo Cortado goes a long way to explaining why. It’s an example of the rarest form of Sherry (it makes up a mere 1% to 2% of production), one which starts its life ageing under flor as a Fino or Amontillado, but then loses its layer of yeast and ages oxidatively like an Oloroso. “Golden brown colour with mince pie aromas on the nose. The palate shows dried fruit and citrus peel with a salted caramel note,” the judges said. One added: “This is absolutely amazing. If I could give this wine 110% I would.” Boutinot RRP £37.99

ABV 20%

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Leading suppliers 2020

Supplier

Top 100 placings

Highly Commended

Points

1

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

28

37

121

2

Vindependents

10

31

61

3

Boutinot

10

21

51

4

Hatch Mansfield

8

16

40

5

ABS Wine Agencies

5

17

32

6

Walker & Wodehouse

6

7

25

7

Liberty Wines

5

9

24

8

Las Bodegas

6

3

21

9

Famille Helfrich

2

12

18

10

Domaines Paul Mas

2

11

17

Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 place, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.

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THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100


Leading countries 2020

Country

Top 100 placings

Highly Commended

Points

1

France

22

60

124

2

Italy

19

28

85

3

Spain

10

28

58

4

South Africa

5

28

43

5

Argentina

8

13

37

6

Australia

8

10

34

7

New Zealand

9

5

32

8

Portugal

3

8

17

= 9 Germany

3

7

16

=9 USA

2

10

16

Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 place, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.

THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100

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Profile for The Wine Merchant magazine

The Wine Merchant Top 100 supplement 2020  

All the winners from the 2020 edition of The Wine Merchant Top 100, a competition organised by The Wine Merchant magazine for wines in the i...

The Wine Merchant Top 100 supplement 2020  

All the winners from the 2020 edition of The Wine Merchant Top 100, a competition organised by The Wine Merchant magazine for wines in the i...

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