The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners supplement
The Wine Merchant Top 100
Winners Supplement 2021 Edition
Published with the July 2021 edition of The Wine Merchant magazine www.winemerchantmag.com © Graham Holter Ltd 2021 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT: 943 8771 82 Front page graphic © Oksancia / stockadobe.com
Breaking records, but the formula is the same DAVID WILLIAMS
The Wine Merchant Top 100 2021 was a year of records. We had a record number of entries, a record number of Highly Commended winners and, proportionately as well as numerically, a record number of 90-plus points-scoring wines. Perhaps the most significant record this year, however, was the number of judges: 39 of the UK’s leading independent wine retailers took part. Although some of those participants judged solo, most invited their teams to join them – making the real number of Top 100 judges much higher. That’s significant because it’s a reflection of an ostensibly obvious point that nevertheless bears repeating: the quality of the results is entirely dependent on the quality of the judging. As ever, this year’s panel of judges reflected the essence of the Wine Merchant Top 100 philosophy: this is a competition for independent wine retailers judged by independent wine retailers. As such, each judge is asked to assess their wines with their buying head fully engaged and with a thought process that runs roughly: 1) How good is this wine? 2) How representative is it of its type? 3) Where would it fit into an independent range? 4) Is it good value for money? The latter stage doesn’t translate into a hunt for the cheapest wines. As you’ll see, in the Top 100 alone, the pricing goes from £8.99 to £240. But both of these wines – and all the wines in between – have made the final cut only because they’ve met the judges’ demand for the highest quality-toprice ratio. It’s an exacting standard that only the very best wines – the wines most likely to appeal to independent retailers’ customers – can pass. And that brings me to another 2021 record, albeit one that is based on rather more subjective data: we think this represents the finest, most diverse, exciting and delicious list we’ve put together in the The Wine Merchant Top 100’s nine years of existence. If competition for places among the Highly Commended wines was fierce, the jostling for the Top 100 was positively X-rated. We are sure that all the wines featured here would make fine additions to any independent retailer’s range. In a year that has been difficult in so many ways, The Wine Merchant Top 100 team would like to thank all our judges for their unstinting effort, expertise and enthusiasm in putting this year’s superb selection of wines together. Without them, this record-breaking vintage of The Wine Merchant Top 100 just could not have happened.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
© Jane / stockadobe.com
LOCATIONS OF JUDGES, 2020
JUDGES MARC HOUGH AND JODIE POLLITT, CORK OF THE NORTH, MANCHESTER
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
SPARKLING WINE TROPHY
Devaux D Rosé Aged 5 Years CÔTE DES BAR, CHAMPAGNE Complexity isn’t the only measure of greatness in fine wine. But if you have to take your time pinning down all the different flavours coming out of the glass, it’s certainly an indication that something special’s going on. And that’s what happened for each of our judges when they encountered this very special rosé from a house that is closely identified with the Côtes des Bar, a part of Champagne that is actually closer to Chablis than Reims or Epernay. A blend of 53% Pinot Noir with 47% Chardonnay, that has been aged, as the name suggests, for five years on its lees, it’s a cuvée in which our judges picked up tropical fruit, wild Scottish strawberries, liquorice, freshly baked brioche, sherbetty red fruits, spices and floral notes. And that complexity of aroma and flavour was made all the more appealing by the wine’s “dangerously drinkable” character. “It’s a pretty and elegant Champagne with a hint of sweetness on the palate that finishes dry with a touch of saline minerality,” said one judge on the unanimously enthusiastic panel. “Complex with a fine, delicate mousse – so refined.” Liberty Wines RRP £72.99
DRY WHITE WINE TROPHY
Bouchard Beaune Clos St-Landry Premier Cru Monopole BURGUNDY, 2015 Bouchard Père et Fils is one of those wine names that resonates with history, those familiar letters on the side of a bottle an instant assurance of the highest quality – all the more so in the 15 years since it was acquired by the great family-run Champagne house Joseph Henriot. Founded in 1731 it’s one of Burgundy’s oldest wine estates, and one of the largest landholders in the Côte d’Or, with 130ha, with vineyards in 12 grands crus and 74 premiers crus, including plots in fabled names from Montrachet to Meursault-Perrière. For this Dry White Wine Trophy winner, the source is the premier cru-ranked Bouchard Beaune monopole Clos St-Landry. “Outstanding Chardonnay full of character and balance with a long finish of almonds and oak,” said one judge. “Smoky nose, great fruit and lovely mouth feel. Excellent balance. Genuinely delicious,” added another. Fells RRP £70.00
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SWEET WHITE TROPHY
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance CONSTANTIA, WESTERN CAPE 2017 Another Trophy-winning wine that is steeped in history, Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance was a fixture on the tables of kings, queens and other potentates of the 18th and 19th centuries, a wine that was widely regarded as superior to the likes of Yquem and the best of Tokaji. The modern renaissance of its beautiful home estate, founded in 1685, has been widely acclaimed, with a leap in quality since its acquisition by Zdenek Bakala and Charles Harman in 2011. A naturally sweet wine, it is made from lateharvested Muscat de Frontignan grapes that are meticulously selected, and picked parcel by parcel, before being slow-fermented in 500-litre oak barrels until the fermentation finishes naturally. “Stunning,” said one judge. “This is super-complex with fresh, fragrant fruit flavours alongside a real depth of flavour. I can imagine this developing beautifully over the next decade thanks to its incredible concentration.” Mentzendorff RRP £60 ABV 14%
Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles Bandol Rosé BANDOL, PROVENCE 2019 The Provence style of rosé has become the one to copy all over the world, but not all Provence rosés are equal – and few pink wines anywhere come with the same mix of intensity, complexity, elegance and wild style provided by the small, traditional Bandol estate Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles. A blend of Mourvèdre produced using the saignée method with press wine Grenache and Cinsault, it hails from Jean-Marie Castell’s 10ha of vineyards on the red soil of Bandol. The vines enjoy the cool of the Mediterranean’s sea breezes and the protection of the Cadière d’Azur hillsides. “Attractive pink colour – a hint of garrigue on the nose, delicious plum fruit and a long, clean finish. Excellent value,” said the judges. “Cherry fruit nose, and lovely fruit on the palate. More concentrated than all the others in the rosé flight and yet very elegant, with a good long finish,” the judges continued. Boutinot RRP £20.99
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
RED WINE TROPHY
Marco Abella Mas Mallola PRIORAT, SPAIN 2018 David and Olivia Abella’s Priorat estate has been one of the most consistent performers at The Wine Merchant Top 100 over the years, and the 2021 competition was another triumph for the couple with this trophy-winner, one of three Top 100 successes this year. The couple began reviving David’s grandfather’s estate in the 2000s, working with a mix of 90-yearold and more recently planted vines. This typically complex red comes from a single plot situated at 650m above sea level on the rugged Catalan region’s famous slate soils, a blend of 70% Garnacha with 30% Carinyena which is aged for 15 months in French oak. The judges were unanimous in their praise. “Brooding dark mysterious nose of black fruits, lots of flavour. Ripe dark fruits, garrigue and spice, hints of cedar and a very long finish. Really complex and interesting wine, with silky tannins. A wine that every independent should stock,” said one judge. “Fabulous wine: multi-layered nose with vanilla and plum fruit,” added another judge. “It has a powerful mid palate and a long, lingering finish.” Vindependents RRP £27.50 ABV 14.5%
FORTIFIED WINE TROPHY
Sandeman 40 Year Old Tawny DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL NV Sandeman is one of the biggest names in fortified wine – both port and sherry— with the silhouette of “The Don” in his hat and cape one of the wine world’s most successful pieces of branding. When it comes to the quality of the wines themselves, however, the brand has arguably never been as well respected as it is today, after 20 years of investment by the Guedes family of Sogrape. Among other signs of the family’s commitment to reviving Sandeman was the construction of a magnificent modern winery in the Douro, at the spectacular Quinta do Seixo property. The house has earned high praise for its recent vintage releases, but in this year’s Top 100, it was the aged tawny ports that got the judges excited. “Fantastically balanced tawny, with wonderful fruit balance,” said the judges. “It lingers on the palate with spicy notes and muscovado sugar. Dark fruits, vanilla, nuts and chocolate notes all appear and contribute to the richness. “Very nutty, and gorgeously smooth, this is liquid heaven,” the judges concluded. Liberty Wines RRP £156 ABV 20%
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
BEST VALUE SPARKLING WINE TROPHY
Champagne Taittinger Nocturne Sec CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE NV Taittinger is one of the best-loved brands in the UK’s independent wine retail scene, so it’s no surprise this most stylish of Champagne houses has often found itself among the trophies, Top 100 places and Highly Commended awards since this competition started almost a decade ago. This year was no exception, with the judges giving high scores to numerous Taittinger wines, and this superb-value Sec Champagne beating off strong competition from both Champagne and further afield for the Best Value Sparkling Wine Trophy. Designed to be a smoother, subtly sweeter (with a dosage of 17g/l) style for late-night or postprandial sipping, it’s a blend of 40% Chardonnay with 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier. “Very fine mousse, with fresh biscuity and citrus aromas, some lovely elegant fruit and balancing acidity with some complexity,” said the judges. “The balance and mouth filling flavours are ideal in a wine that is very nicely constructed and accessible in style.” Hatch Mansfield RRP £44.15
BEST VALUE DRY WHITE WINE TROPHY
Bodegas Manzanos Finca Manzanos Tempranillo Blanco RIOJA, SPAIN 2020
Given that it was only cleared for use in Rioja wines by the region’s Consejo in 2007, Tempranillo Blanco has become the key component in some of the region’s most interesting dry white wines in remarkably quick time. A mutation of Rioja’s big red gun Tempranillo, it is an early ripener that retains its acidity along with plenty of aromatic interest –not least in the Rioja Baja vineyards of grower Victor Manzanos. Manzanos, who makes fine, terroir-driven wines in both Rioja and neighbouring Navarra, ages his Tempranillo Blanco in a mix of French and American oak for four months after fermentation in stainless steel. “Lovely sharp red fruits on the nose,” the judges said. “Perfectly balanced oak integration. “Vanilla hints with a blackcurrant acidity cutting through the richness. Rose’s lime cordial on the finish. Super wine.” Alliance Wine RRP £10.99
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
BEST VALUE SWEET WINE TROPHY
De Bortoli Deen Vat 5 Botrytis RIVERINA, AUSTRALIA 2017 In the 90 years since the family of Italian emigrés began making wine in their new Australian home, the De Bortolis have mastered many different styles of wine, and played an enormous part in placing Australia on the world’s vinous map. Among its many strengths today, the family firm is one of Australia’s outstanding producers of botrytised sweet wines, with its Noble One cuvée a regular feature in the list of the world’s greatest dessert wines. But the family’s portfolio of stickies is also noted for its consistently high quality-to-price ratio at all levels, with the Deen Vat 5 a prime example. Made from botrytis Semillon harvested over a sixweek period beginning in early May, it’s a “fabulous wine”, the judges said. “Positively oozing complexity and depth, all held in check by wonderful, deep acidity. Heavily botrysised, with waxy, honeyed, dried apricot notes complementing fresh mango and stone fruit, and a wonderful smokiness that lingers on the finish. Really very good. Even at twice the price!” North South Wines RRP £9.29
BEST VALUE ROSÉ WINE TROPHY
Adega Ponte Lima Rosé VINHO VERDE PORTUGAL 2020 Vinho Verde’s 21st-century renaissance has of course largely focused on its refreshingly aromatic and zesty white wines. But the region also has some fascinatingly different red grape varieties that are capable of making both refreshing reds, and – with this blend of Vinhao, Borraçal and Espadeiro – trophy-winning rosés. It’s the work of Adega Ponte Lima, a prime mover in modern Vinho Verde, and, with some 2,000 grower members, one of the most important co-operatives in Portugal. The co-op has drawn on all its varied vineyard resources for this rosé, which, according to the judges, is “super fun … it’s a happy, cheap, sunshine wine.” “Slight spritz, sweet red fruit and the sour edge balance fresh acidity,” the judges continued. “With watermelon and a touch of residual sugar, it’s a good quaffer. Crisp, langoustine scent and white flower and pink grape flavours.” Ehrmanns RRP £8.99
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
BEST VALUE RED WINE TROPHY
Domaine du Pré Baron Touraine Gamay TOURAINE, LOIRE FRANCE 2019 Gamay from the Loire can be every bit as vibrant, vivid and crunchily delicious as the more celebrated versions of the variety produced in Beaujolais. Indeed, in the hands of the right producer, it can provide summery red wines that offer refreshing depth of flavour with superb value for money. Jean-Luc Mardon is one such producer. Described by UK agent Boutinot as “quiet and fastidious”, this fifth-generation grower runs a domaine that extends to 43ha in Oisly, Touraine, all of it certified as sustainable by the Terra Vitis organisation. His Gamay is hand-picked and 100% carbonically macerated, with no oak, a recipe aimed at ensuring maximum fruit expression. “Fantastic value for this Morgon/Chiroubles-esque wine,” said the judges. “Structured and lifted, with light chalky texture and defined Gamay character without too much carbonic maceration influence. Long finish. Really terrific, and especially so at this price.” Boutinot RRP £10.99
BEST VALUE FORTIFIED WINE TROPHY
Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado Sherry JEREZ, SPAIN NV From the remarkably consistent verve and freshness of the big-selling Tío Pepe, to its range of extraordinary, rare, old VOS and VORS sherry, Gonzalez Byass is without question one of the world’s leading fortified wine producers. The quality shines through in the company’s Premium range, which encompasses five wines “made in a traditional style using the finest quality grapes from vineyards owned by Gonzalez Byass in the ‘Jerez Superior’ zone”. The Leonor Palo Cortado is the latest addition to this range, a fully oxidised style that is aged for an average of 12 years in American oak in the solera system. “Fascinating nose, bright and fruity with burnt sugar notes underneath. Very fine and detailed. Very enticing,” the judges said. “Gorgeous flavours of cocoa, vanilla, toasted hazlenuts and a rich, salted caramel finish and a light twist of savoury bitterness … an incredibly complex wine for the price; a fine example and a great buy.” Gonzalez Byass UK RRP £18.50 ABV 18.5%
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
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. They were told the wine style, and the recommended retail price, but had no other details. Every year our panel changes. This year’s judges were a mixture of first-timers and old hands, who were briefed by the organisers in a group Zoom chat before judging got under way.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Wine Down, Isle of Man
No 2 Pound Street, Wendover
In 2018, after 20 years in the industry, Anne and her chef business partner created Man’s first hybrid wine bar, shop and restaurant.
Michael is the manager and wine buyer, joining when the shop opened in 2010. He has over 20 years’ wine trade experience .
MARC HOUGH & JODIE POLLITT
Kirkness & Gorie, Kirkwall, Orkney
Cork of the North, Manchester
Duncan owns this family-owned wine merchant and deli, offering island produce and an award-winning wine selection.
DJ Marc established Cork of the North in 2016. Daughter Jodie is the manager of the second branch, in Heaton Moor.
PATRICK ROHDE, STUART SMITH & KIRSTY M C EWAN
GRAEME WOODWARD & MICHAEL JELLEY
Aitken Wines, Dundee The business, which includes a bar called The Wine Press, has a mission to make great and diverse wines available to everyone.
Grape Minds, Oxford An independent wine merchant established in 2018, offering a selection of wine, spirits and beers from across the spectrum. ALASTAIR & TERESA WIGHTON
KENNETH & HENRY VANNAN
Villeneuve Wines, Peebles and Edinburgh Owned by Kenneth and business partner Alister Rae, Villeneuve Wines is in its 39th year, supplying both the public and on-trade.
Alteus Wines, Crowborough Alteus is owned by this husband-and-wife team who love to explore the wine regions of South Africa and Portugal.
The Wine Library, London Tom has spent the past 10 years as manager/buyer at this small independent retailer based in the City of London. ALEXIS TEILLAY
The Cellar Door, Hull French-born sommelier Alexis has years of experience working for Michelin-starred restaurants in France and in the UK. STEVE TATTAM & WHILMARI SWIFT
Winyl, Manningtree, Essex Winyl sells not only wine and beer, but vinyl records. It specialises in vegan, organic and biodynamic wine. PATRICK ROHDE, KIRSTY M C EWAN & STUART SMITH
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Meet the judges PAUL MORGAN
Fourth & Church, Hove Paul is the co-owner of business, specialising in sherry, vermouth, natural and biodynamic wines from smaller family producers. ALEX GRIEM
Chilled & Tannin, Cardiff Alex and his team focus on low-intervention, organic wines from small producers and are aiming to be a carbon net zero business. ALAN WRIGHT
The Clifton Cellars, Bristol
Alan’s subterranean cellar has been a fixture on Bristol’s fine wine scene for decades. It closes this summer. JULIA JENKINS
Flagship Wines, St Albans Prior to opening in 2004, Julia was a buyer for various businesses, and marketing boss for Sainsbury’s wine department. SIMON EVANS
The Naked Grape, Hampshire Trading since 2004, The Naked Grape has three shops, offering wine and food matching, event planning and wine sourcing. TED SANDBACH & EMILY SILVA
The Oxford Wine Company, Witney Ted presides over one of the UK’s largest and most successful independent wine companies. Emily is studying for her MW. BRUCE EVANS
Grape & Grain, Crediton Bruce and his team have been supplying wines, spirits, local beers and ciders to a loyal clientele for almost 10 years. TED SANDBACH
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
GrapeSmith, Hungerford WSET educator Polly runs the GrapeSmith Wine Academy from the Berkshire indie where she works with owner Barnaby Smith. NOEL YOUNG
NY Wines, Cambridge Noel started this iconic independent business in 1991 and says his desert island wine would be an Australian sparkling Shiraz. MAXWELL GRAHAM - WOOD
Satchells of Burnham Market, Norfolk Established in the late 1880s, Satchells has the motto: “To us wine is not simply a drink. It’s a way of life.” MARTY GRANT
Corkage, Bath Marty runs his restaurant, wine bar and bottle shop in Chapel Row where he has recently been creating a new outside space.
M&M Vintners, Evesham The shop has been going strong for almost 20 years, with a specialism in French and German wines. DANIEL GRIGG
Museum Wines, Blandford Forum An award-winning South African specialist, Museum Wines also arranges wine tours to France, South Africa and Dorset. ROB HOULT
Hoults, Huddersfield Hoults is an established family business. The ever gregarious Rob describes his team as “enthusiastic if not slightly alcoholic”.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Meet the judges RICHARD EVERTON
Bottles Wine Bar & Merchants, Worcester Richard is in the midst of opening his second shop in the centre of Worcester, where he opened the original wine bar six years ago. TOM FLINT
Bottle & Jug Department, Worthing A specialist in natural and organic wine, and craft beers, Bottle & Jug is also a great advocate of English wines. JOHN BARNES
The Flying Cork, Bedford
LOUISE PEVERALL & BRUNO ETIENNE
John has over 25 years’ experience working in wine. While judging, he and his team discovered some new gems for the shop. LOUISE PEVERALL & BRUNO ETIENNE
La Cave de Bruno, London Most of the wines in the bustling East Dulwich shop and bar have been personally sourced from France. MATT THOMAS JEFFERSON BOSS, BARRY STARMORE, SARAH HATTON, VIRGINIA MYERS & HANNAH FORD
StarmoreBoss, Sheffield This award-winning indie has two stores and has been a highstreet stalwart for the past 20 years. FRANCIS PEEL, PATRICIA PEEL, HARRY BAINES & MARK MOTLEY
Whitebridge Wines, Stone, Staffordshire Based in a large warehouse, for the past four decades Whitebridge Wines has been serving trade and retail customers. HANNAH & SADIE WILKINS
Vineyards, Sherborne Hannah and her wife, Sadie, run their vibrant independent shop with a little help from their trusty bulldog, Hugo.
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Amps Wine Merchants, Oundle Philip is the fourth generation of the Amps family to run the business and 2022 will mark his 40th year as a wine merchant. LOUISA FITZPATRICK
Old Chapel Cellars, Truro Previously head of wine at St Austell Brewery, Louisa joined Jamie Tonkin at Old Chapel Cellars just over a year ago. SHUMANA PALIT
Ultracomida, Aberystwyth Spanish wine apecialist Ultracomida has three shops and bars and has expanded its warehouse to make extra retail space. JANE TAYLOR
Dronfield Wine World, Derbyshire
Jane describes her shop as the “tiny Tardis – small on the outside, but crammed full of amazing wines from all over the world”. PHOEBE WELLER
Valhalla’s Goat, Glasgow Phoebe is overlord of a shop that boasts “floor to ceiling craft beers, fine wines and spirits … liquid treasures, Cuban cigars, coffee and chocolates.” GRANT BERRY
Yapp Bros, Mere, Wiltshire Widely regarded as the UK’s leading importer of French regional wines, Yapp Brothers has been trading for over 50 years.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Sparkling & white wines Devaux Cuvée D Aged 5 Years Côtes des Bar, Champagne France NV This is the second inclusion in this year’s Top 100 list from the Côtes des Bar house’s exquisite D range, a white partner to the Sparkling Trophy-winning rosé that is every bit as thrilling. Sourced from Devaux’s best sustainably farmed parcels across 50ha of vineyards, it’s a blend of Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bars and Chardonnay from Vitry and Montgueux in the Côte des Blancs, with 40% reserve wines, including a portion from perpetual soleras dating back to 1995 and 2002. “Enjoyably persistent mousse, a lovely combo of fruit and acidity on the palate, and a hefty slice of toasty brioche on the finish,” the judges said. “It’s a premium price, but well worth the money, and it would sit well at this premium price point.” Liberty Wines
Champagne Drappier Carte d’Or Brut Champagne France NV This highly impressive non-vintage Champagne was much enjoyed by the judges. “A lively and expressive nose with ripe citrus, a touch of mandarin and a crunch of apple. Jasmine too,” they said. “Even crunchier on the palate, it’s rounded with some stone fruit, rich toast and a round creamy finish. Opulent and luxurious.” The wine is one of two in this year’s Top 100 from this house, a gastronomic wine that benefits from the richness of Pinot Noir which makes up 80% of the blend. Indeed, with 5% Pinot Meunier, this is very close to being a Blanc de Noirs. Some 5% of the base wine is matured in oak, and the final blend includes 40% reserve wines and a dosage of 6.5g/l. Berkmann Wine Cellars
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François
Champagne Drappier Clarevallis Organic Extra Brut
Champagne France 2007
Champagne France NV
Family-owned house Billecart-Salmon has a justified reputation for making some of Champagne’s most refined and elegant wines. The Cuvée Nicolas François is the house’s top cuvée, first made in 1964 as a tribute to the eponymous founder. It’s a blend of Grands Crus from the Côte des Blancs (Chardonnay) and the Montagne de Reims (Pinot Noir). 20% of the base wine is vinified in oak, and the finished blend ages for a minimum of 10 years on lees. “Beautiful, lifted floral nose, with lemon and vanilla cream. Palate is bright and juicy,” the judges said. “Perfectly balanced flavours and structure. Weightless. Elegant but still with a persistent finish. Very good.”
In a market as crowded as Champagne, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. But for our judges, Champagne Drappier’s latest cuvée – a blend of 75% Pinot Noir with Pinot Meunier and 5% of the rare-in-the-region Pinot Blanc, aka Vrai Blanc—does just that. “Now here is a unique Champagne that dares to be different,” the judges said. “A surprising aroma of fresh oranges. Bold and complex on the palate, with a savoury quality. Definitely a gastronomic wine that would really shine with fine food. We’d stock this for the seasoned Champagne drinker looking for something decidedly different.”
Berkman Wine Cellars
ABV 12% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé
Flametree SRS Wallcliffe Chardonnay
Champagne France 2007
Margaret River, Western Australia Australia 2020
The second wine in this year’s Top 100 from Taittinger is the latest rosé vintage of the great Champagne house’s prestige cuvée. It’s a blend of 30% Chardonnay Grands Crus from the Côte des Blancs and 70% Pinot Noir Grand Crus sourced from the Montagne de Reims, with the final blend “enhanced” with 15% Bouzy Pinot Noir red wine. It’s aged for a minimum of 10 years in the company’s SaintNicaise chalk cellars. “Creamy and rounded, with beautifully judged acidity dominated by succulent red fruits and a wonderful peachy, yeasty finish that is very expansive,” the judges said. “The length, fruit definition and elegance are very impressive.”
The second wine in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 from Margaret River star Flametree is a superb single-site Chardonnay. The site in question is the eponymous Wallcliffe, with the fruit fermented using wild yeasts – and then aged for 10 months – in French oak puncheons. “There is a creamy vanilla nose, and the palate is linear, crisp, toasty yet restrained, with a long long elegant finish. Excellent,” the judges said. “The wine just jumps out the glass at you – wonderful! There’s a slight sour/bruised nature to the apple but it’s nice for that – it keeps the palate tangy and fresh. It’s not too weighty, it’s very well-made, and very drinkable. Top stuff.”
Flametree Chardonnay Margaret River, Western Australia Australia 2020 Margaret River’s Flametree Wines have lit up the Wine Merchant Top 100 competition a number of times over the years, and this year is no exception for the leading Western Australian producer. First up is a Chardonnay that shows just how good the wines made from this variety can be in this maritime-influenced corner of Australia. “Melon and apple and tangy nectarine give a lifted nose. Lemon curd and creamy stone fruit on the palate which is bright and steely, with orange rind and cinders on the finish. Harmonious, lengthy, and energetic,” said the judges. “Very refreshing and perfectly balanced, it’s great for the price, which earns it an extra point.” Vindependents RRP £18.50
Giant Steps Yarra Valley Chardonnay Yarra Valley, Victoria Australia 2020 Even in a region that has forged a reputation for producing some of Australia’s very best Chardonnays, Giant Steps stands out as a leading Yarra Valley performer. This blend of fruit from across the estate’s collection of prime Yarra sites shows why. It’s fermented with indigenous yeast in 500-litre French oak puncheons (10% are new), and aged for eight months in 10% new and 90% used French oak. “Green pineapple and lime,” the judges said. “Lovely lees and malo character, tempering acidity, and refreshing to try a wine at this quality level that isn’t hanging its hat on ‘oak use’! Very good quality; beautifully made.” Liberty Wines
ABV 13.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
White wines Domaine Alexandre Chablis
Jean-Claude Boisset Saint-Aubin Premier Cru En Remilly
Chablis, Burgundy France 2019
Saint-Aubin, Burgundy France 2018
A family affair run by third-generation brothers Guy and Olivier, Domaine Alexandre has some 13ha of vineyards in the very heart of the Chablis appellation. Sensitivity is the brothers’ watchword, in both the vineyard and the winery, with low yields, and a light hand on the winemaking tiller from the press to racking – all in the service of “expressive wines with concentrated fruit”, according to UK agent Vindependents. “The nose is a little restrained but it opens up into fresh floral notes with a hint of white peach and yellow apple,” the judges said. “Fresh, crisp, and mineral, and with a nice structure and a long finish. “This is great Chablis for sub £20.”
One of the biggest names in Burgundy, JeanClaude Boisset is run today by the eponymous founder’s children Jean-Charles and Nathalie, with winemaking headed up by the very talented Grégory Patriat. Patriat, who has been with the company since 2002, brings the highest of standards to wines such as this premier cru, which is located a mere five minutes’ walk from Chevalier-Montrachet. “A wine of truly excellent quality,” the judges said. “Elegant intriguing nose of sweet spice, cinnamon and a hint of liquorice stick. On the palate, a delicate, harmonious blend of spice, ripe apple, and buttery ginger. The elegant finish lingers long, like angels dancing on your tongue. Pricey, but worth it. “
Domaine Christian Bellang & Fils Bourgogne Chardonnay Sous La Velle Burgundy France 2019 Having started working with his father Christian in 1995, Christophe Bellang is now in total charge of this high-quality domaine with vineyard holdings of 9ha in Meursault and Savigny-Lès-Beaune. Vines are grown according to the principles of lutte raisonnée. “Lovely, complex aromas of tarte tatin, quince, hazlenut and a touch of honey. Really interesting detail,” the judges said. “The palate is rich, full and silky but perfectly balanced. Cooked apples and pears. Acidity is perfectly balanced, which keeps the finish fresh but the flavour persists. Really good white Burgundy at this level. A great buy.”
Domaine Jean Fery Meursault “Les Dressoles” Meursault, Burgundy France 2018 Frédéric and Laurent Féry, sons of Jean-Louis Féry, are now in charge of this small, organic (Ecocert-certified) domaine in the village of Échevronne between Beaune and Nuits-SaintGeorges. The family has some 14ha “from the north to the south” of Burgundy, including the plot of 50-year-old Chardonnay vines in Meursault used for this Wine Merchant Top 100 winner. “Classic, rewarding nose of smoky oak and brown butter,” said the judges. “On the palate, this is simply unctious, boasting intense flavours of smoky buttered popcorn. An excellent, multilayered wine. At this price, any merchant would be very happy to list it. A rich, rewarding drop.” Daniel Lambert Wines
Vindependents RRP £23
ABV 13% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Vincent Girardin Bourgogne Blanc “Terroir Noble”
Helfrich Family Moillard Grivot Bourgogne Chardonnay
Burgundy, France 2017
Burgundy, France 2019
The man behind the name may have sold the business to Jean-Pierre Nié almost a decade ago, but this négociant has retained its high standards under longstanding head winemaker Eric Germain. With fruit sourced from a number of highquality sites, this Bourgogne Blanc is a cut above the usual, providing the quality and multifaceted character of wines from much starrier appellations at a fraction of the price. “Pour and pow,” said the judges. “Assertive leesy aromas, followed up on the palate by a strong salinity. It’s like swallowing a sea breeze. And on the breeze is the perfume of lemon blossom. Gradually oak starts to makes itself known, and the initial breeziness develops into a full rich finish. Delicious.”
A classic Burgundy negociant of the old school, Moillard Grivot works on sourcing the best grapes each vintage for the best prices to provide high-quality, characterful wines at highy competitive prices. This classically styled Bourgogne Chardonnay is a perfect demonstration of the Moillard-Grivot model, a wine that pleased the judges with its quality and value. “Lovely aromas of toasty oak and burnished lemons,” the judges said. “A rich creamy texture, balanced with tingling acidity. A long, harmonious finish. A white Burgundy that delivers pure pleasure – as long as you don’t mind its nod to new world oakiness. Drink with roast chicken or fish in creamy sauce.”
Helfrich Family Domaine André Lorentz Clos Zisser Gewürztraminer AOP Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr Alsace, France 2019 Few wines can match top-notch Alsace Gewürztraminer for sheer luxuriously perfumed decadence. And this bottling from Domaine André Lorentz is indeed top notch, coming as it does from one of the region’s best Grand Cru sites for the variety, Kirchberg de Barr. A south east-facing cru with marl-limestone soils at an altitude of 220350m overlooking the village of Barr, Kirchberg de Barr is known for its wines’ freshness. “Roasted pineapple, cooked peaches, lovely green apple freshness, raspberry Fruitella, dried coconut: like drinking a Tunnock’s snowball but with refreshing acidity,” the judges said. Famille Helfrich RRP £20.57
Casalfarneto Crisio Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG Classico Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy 2017 Founded in 1995, Casalfarneto is a 14ha estate in Ancona with an obsession with sustainability and environmentally sensitive best practice. The winery roof is entirely covered with vines, helping to maintain a consistent cellar temperature of 18-20°C. And the winemaking employs sustainable methods throughout the process, from grape to glass. It’s an approach that leads to seriously high quality wine, according to the Top 100 judges. “Lovely deep yellowy green colour. Full bouquet with toasty oak and nut tones. Deep and complex on the palate with great balance between oak and fruit. White peach and gentle lemon tones with a minerally spine. A top example of its type.” Vindependents
ABV 13.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
White wines Il Cascinone Fontanino Riesling
Marlborough New Zealand 2019
Piedmont Italy 2018 In a land of Nebbiolo and Barbera – not to mention Cortese and Arneis – the existence of Riesling in Piedmont sometimes may seem superfluous. But this cuvée, from a producer that has been part of the quality-focused Araldica group since 1999, shows just how much potential there is for this grape variety in the north western Italian region. “Really exceptional,” the judges said. “This grape in this region is already interesting. “This wine shows some fascinating development, with red apple compote and the faintest hint of smoke and slate. Racy dry finish, wonderful texture. Impressive.”
Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Riserva Trentino Italy 2018 With its vineyards running from Lake Garda to the foothills of the Dolomites, Mezzacorona, makes a range of pure, vivid varietal wines, with this Pinot Grigio a standard-bearer for the estate’s pristine style. The fruit is grown on vines that are trained in the traditional – and labour-intensive – Trentina pergola system, which Mezzacorona believes is the best way to ensure high quality grapes in the region. “Peach, cream and toast – wonderfully harmonious, beautifully made,” said the judges. “It’s gorgeous no matter the cost, but for the price this is a truly exceptional wine. Great body, great texture, hint of oak, delicious subtle fruit. We may never have tried a better wine for this price.” Berkmann Wine Cellars
Well-made New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc remains an absolute must-list in any wine merchant’s repertoire. And there’s no doubt this very superior bottling from one of Marlborough’s leading producers is well made, providing texture and weight along with the exuberant aromas. According to the judges, “it’s just what people want to smell in their glass. “A touch flinty and a bowl full of melon – there’s cantaloupe, galia and honeydew milling around in here, lovely touches of green pepper and even some flashes of black pepper, with rose petals finishing this off nicely. “Loving the freshness of the acidity balanced with the weightiness of the body.” Bancroft Wines
Third Floor Wines
Isabel Estate Sauvignon Blanc
ABV 12.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Quinta de la Rosa Douro Branco Reserva Douro Valley Portugal 2019 One of the most influential estates in the evolution of the modern Douro, Quinta de la Rosa was among the first producers in the region to take table wine as seriously as port. Its whites are every bit as enchanting as its reds, with this reserva standing out in this year’s Top 100 competition. A blend of Viosinho, Rabigato, Codega do Larinho and Gouveio, it was fermented in stainless steel with a short period of oak maturation. “Lovely texture and mouth feel, layered accessable green citrus fruit with a hint of sherbet holding it together,” the judges said. “It’s complex and stunning and great value.” Walker & Wodehouse RRP £15.95
Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc
Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc
Constantia, Western Cape South Africa 2017
Stellenbosch South Africa 2019
The legendary South African producer – a Trophy winner this year for its classic sweet white, Vin de Constance – teamed up with one of Sancerre’s most celebrated producers, Pascal Jolivet, for this cuvée. The partnership reflects a shared philosophy: a “minimalist” approach to winemaking and a desire to produce a “true expression of the Constantia terroir”. According to the judges, it all comes together “beautifully”. “Sweet tangerine, white peach and apricot,” they said. “Good intensity, good mouth feel with citrus on the end. Complex, layered and a long finish.”
The second Chenin from Kleine Zalze in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 selection was a big hit with the judges, who were impressed first by the quality and then by the “incredible value”. It’s part of a range of different varietal wines that draws on some of the estate’s best fruit, which is then aged in high quality oak barrels. “It’s a delightful aromatic wine with notes of ripe peaches and lychees with creamy oaky notes that are well integrated,” said the judges. “The palate is complex and well balanced by a light thread of youthful acidity. A rich taste of clean fresh fruit and oak. Really classy.” Hatch Mansfield
Mentzendorff RRP £24
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch South Africa 2018 Although there’s been wine made on this historic Cape estate since the 17th century, Kleine Zalze really began to earn its place as one of the country’s finest producers in 1996, when it was acquired by Kobus Basson and his family. One of the estate’s strengths is Chenin Blanc, as reflected in the presence of two Kleine Zalze wines made from the variety in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100, starting with this “gastronomic” star. “A lovely fresh yet complex wine with many notes of tropical fruits including mango and lychees together with crisp apples to balance the lovely textured creamy oaky palate,” said the judges.
Vergelegen Reserve Chardonnay Stellenbosch, South Africa 2019 There are few more historic estates anywhere in the world than Vergelegen, the Somerset West producer having been founded way back in 1700. A major renovation of the vineyards from 1989 helped usher in the modern era, during which Vergelegen has become one of the most decorated producers in South Africa. So no surprise, then, that this impeccable 100% Chardonnay should lead to yet another award – a place in the Wine Merchant Top 100. Sourced from the two Rooiland Vineyards on the Vergelegen estate, it has, according to the judges, “a buttery nose with hints of spices, which is very inviting, “A lovely mouth feel with touches of oranges and pineapple. A very long-lasting finish.” Fells
Hatch Mansfield RRP £24.15
ABV 13.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Proud to be different
Why we stop at 100 winners Winning is a great feeling. Coming away empty-handed is quite another. Competition judging can be a brutal business and to the wines that missed out on a Top 100 or Highly Commended placing this year, we can only offer our sympathies. It’s not unheard of for entrants to get rather cross about this. “Tim Atkin made this one of his wines of the year!” they might protest. “Platter gave it five stars! How could your judges be so reckless and ignorant as to overlook it?” There are reasonable discussions to be had about the nature of wine judging, the wisdom of 100-point scoring (which we ask our judges to apply during their assessments), and the inevitably subjective nature of any competition process. We try to iron out as many of the inbuilt problems as well as we can. Every year the panel changes, so if a particular wine consistently performs well, or poorly, that in no way means that The Wine Merchant Top 100 has a preference for particular styles of wine, and is prejudiced against others. The other point is that, unlike journalists and book publishers, our judges’ day-job is actually selling wine. They are asked to approach their judging duties in a commercial frame of mind. We could easily avoid awkward conversations with our supplier friends by enlarging the list of winners and making sure that most entrants walk away with at least some sort of reward. A Top 200, maybe? Why not 300 or 500? Perhaps double the number of Highly Commended wines? Our view is that to go down this route would simply devalue what it means to be named as a winner. We’re happy to take a different path.
Zevenwacht Tin Mine White Stellenbosch South Africa 2019 The Chenin Blanc-based white blend is one of South Africa’s greatest gifts to modern wine, and Stellenbosch producer Zevenwacht’s mix of Chenin with Chardonnay, Roussanne, Viognier and Sémillon is a prime example of the breed. It’s sourced from the Zevenwacht vineyard on decomposed granite soils at 200m-350m above sea level in the Polkadraai Hills ward of Stellenbosch, with the juice fermented and then aged for 10 months in 500-litre French oak barrels. “Fab nose, with really nice inviting tropical aromas,” the judges said. “This is very well integrated, with a heart of melon and guava. A very distinctive wine, that shows good use of blending. Really good stuff.” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies RRP £13.50
Clos de Lom Malvasia Valencia Spain 2019 Unirrigated bush vines of indigenous varieties grown on clay and limestone soils in classic Mediterranean conditions. That’s the recipe at family-run DO Valencia winery Clos de Lôm, which was founded by one S Dupuy de Lôme in 1836, and which has been balancing the best of tradition and modernity in the Alforins Valley ever since. It’s a recipe that makes for deliciously original wines from the local likes of Garnacha and Monastrell – and this 100% Malvasia. “Well-made wine, great varietal character, perfumed and floral,” said the judges. “Great definition and intensity; orange blossom, lychee, mandarin juice. With the right food pairing (Thai etc) this could be quite a star.” Vindependents RRP £18
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Martín Códax Lías Rías Baixas Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain 2018 Would the Albariño grape or the Rías Baixas appellation be where they are today without the efforts of Martín Códax? Such is the influence of this quality-conscious co-operative, comprising some 550 winegrowing families (and 13% of the DO’s production), it seems highly unlikely. With six to eight months on the lees (lías) after malolactic fermentation, with regular bâtonage, this is a serious take on Albariño with extra levels of texture and flavour complexity. “Camomile flower and fennel tea bouquet that follows through to the palate,” the judges said. “Underscored by a saline edge, a touch of vanilla and creamy mouth feel set against rapier acidity. Subtle and elegant with a bright finish. Loads of complexity and depth of flavour with a nice lightness of finish. Bitter lemon pith finish and tremendous length.” Liberty Wines RRP £22.99
Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain 2017 Pazo de Señorans is an estate devoted to Albariño, and it has been widely acknowledged as one of Spain’s leading white wine producers more or less from its very beginnings. The estate has always believed in Albariño’s ability to age, with wines with extended lees and bottle ageing taking their place in the portfolio algonside younger cuvées. In this case, five months on the lees and 30 months in bottle have created a “bouquet that starts with fresh white flowers and fades to a caramel perfume”, according to the judges. “Subtle and refined smoothness of texture with a Manzanilla-like salinity. Crisp grapefruit and a touch of white peach. Elegant and lengthy finish of flinty minerals with a rounded edge to set off the sour lemon.” Alliance Wine
Dominio do Bibei Lapola White Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain 2018 Javier Dominguez has been a key figure in the emergence of the rugged inland Galician region of Ribeira Sacra as a Spanish fine wine powerhouse in the past couple of decades. Dominguez and his family now have 45ha of vines in the 140ha estate, and they remain as committed as ever to the area’s indigenous vines, such as Godello, which leads the way in this exceptional dry white with a seasoning of Albariño and Doña Blanca. “White flowers, jasmine, and a light almost new oak note, this is young with fresh saline tones,” the judges said. “it smells, tastes and feels like a brilliantly elegant, classy, super-refined wine – and that’s exactly what it is: silky but vibrant, rich ripe fruits, toasty oak but subtle.” Liberty Wines RRP £28.99
Pazo de Señorans Albariño Coleccíon
Nielson Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Santa Barbara County, California, USA 2019 Described by the judges as a “great example” of modern Californian Chardonnay, this Top 100 winner comes from a producer that is in fact steeped in history: planted in 1964, the estate vineyard that lends its name to the operation was the first commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County. Here the wine is sourced from two Pacificcooled sites, and is aged for six months in French oak barrels, stainless steel, and concrete egg. “Aromatic nose full of bananas, nectarines and tangerines with a fresh, simple easy-drinking style. Pleasing mouth feel with a rich finish of citrussy nectarine notes,” the judges said. Boutinot RRP £19.99
ABV 14% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Kaiken Mai Mendoza Malbec
Sottano Selección del Enologo Malbec
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza Argentina 2016
Pedriel and Gualtallary, Mendoza Argentina 2019
Having already played a leading role in shaping the modern Chilean wine industry, Montes repeated the trick in Argentina with the creation of its Kaiken operation on the other side of the Andes. Mai is Kaiken’s top cuvée, a 100% Malbec sourced from 100-year-old vines at the estate vineyard in Vistalba in the Luján de Cuyo district of Mendoza, aged in French oak (70% new) for 18 months. “Opulent, with concentrated fruit, a mix of cassis and Ribena with sweet spice and cinnamon from lots of oak in a very layered flavour,” the judges said. “Delicious, comfort wine. One for decanter time but worth the wait.”
There’s a pronounced European influence in the wines made by brothers Diego, Pablo and Mauricio at the family estate in Pedriel, Mendoza. Working with fruit sourced from vines planted at around 1,000m above sea level, the family looks to make the most of the superb ripening conditions to make wines that match a certain elegance with fruit intensity and ripeness. That was certainly our judges’ experience of this cuvée. “A classy, big bold style, but with a lovely balancing structure,” the judges said. “Nice vanilla oak, layered dark fruit and ripe berries and mocha chocolate, secondary tobacco, and a finish to die for. A wine to lose yourself in.”
Norton Altura Malbec
Vallisto Malbec Extremo
Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina 2017
Cafayate, Salta Argentina 2018
According to Norton, this fine Malbec “was inspired by the connection between soil and elevation and microclimate in a special vineyard located in the Uco Valley in Mendoza”. More specifically, that means some 20-year-old vines planted on sandy/alluvial soils at 1,300m above sea level. The fruit is aged for 12 months in used French oak, after a three-day cold maceration and fermentation in small concrete vats. The result is something “very complex”, the judges said. “Layers of black fruit, vanilla, and cedar tones; a soft and evolved palate, quite muted in fruit, with dried plums and leather, boysenberry and damson, and hints of yoghurt. Quite a milky acidity, giving a mouthwatering finish. Very good!”
A project put together by established Cafayate producer Francisco Lavaque and celebrated consultant winemaker Macelo Pelleriti, Vallisto works with old vines up in the high altitude, north eastern Argentinian province of Salta. According to importer Las Bodegas, the wines are light on extraction and big on flavour and complexity, all qualities that our judges found to be very much in evidence in this single-vineyard Malbec. “It draws you in with a lovely plummy nose,” the judges said. “On the palate there are soft features and a lovely integrated spice character. “Very attractive juice with a velvety feel and a lot of complex flavour going on.”
Berkmann Wine Cellars RRP £19.99 30
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Las Bodegas RRP £19.50
Zuccardi José Zuccardi Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina 2016 Sebastián Zuccardi may be leading the winemaking way at this much-admired and much-loved family producer from Mendoza. But it’s his inspirational father, José Zuccardi – the man who did so much to put the producer on the world wine map – who is the dedicatee of this Uco Valley Malbec. Just a smidgen of Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) adds some structure to a wine that has, according to the judges, “lovely complexity on the nose”. They added: “Tightly coiled, chewy, dark, and intense and a beguiling acidity that keeps the wine from being too heavy. Elegant fruit with granite minerality and a touch of smoke. Well balanced and excellent value for money.” Hatch Mansfield RRP £35
Flametree SRS Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River, Western Australia Australia 2018 It’s been another triumphant year in The Wine Merchant Top 100 for this fine Margaret River producer, with this “delectable” Cabernet its third wine in the 2021 final selection. It’s part of Flametree’s innovative Sub Regional Series, which celebrates the different characteristics on offer across Margaret River, in this case Wilyabrup. Wild-fermented in open-top fermenters, it’s a wine that “leaves you wanting more”, the judges said. “Lovely integrated cedar and ripe raspberry aroma. The palate is smooth, dry, grippy with primary black fruit. There’s development showing on the finish and a complexity of flavours that will develop further.” Vindependents
Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz
Glaetzer Wines Anaperenna
Hunter Valley, New South Wales Australia 2017
Barossa Valley, South Australia Australia 2018
The Graveyard Shiraz is the top red label from an Aussie big hitter that goes back to 1972, when it was created as a hobby project by a trio of Sydney-based lawyers, among them one James Halliday. Today the Brokenwood empire extends across the country’s premium winegrowing areas, but Graveyard remains true to its roots – and its legendary status as one of Australia’s “first growths”. “Intense sweet fruit with delicate hints of spice like nutmeg and cinnamon, and a herbaceous thyme character with a refreshing uplift on the finish of eucalyptus,” the judges said. “A serious red to be sipped and savoured … take your time with this!”
Led by one of Australia’s most acclaimed winemakers, Ben Glaetzer, this family-run Barossa producer was founded in 1995 and made its name with terroir-driven wines made from old (sometimes very old) vines. A blend of mostly Shiraz with 18% Cabernet, Anaperenna embodies the expressive house style. “A dark, brooding colour leading to a nose which starts out quite restrained but then starts to peel back and show its true colours,” the judges said. “The palate is incredibly complex with a little nod towards the Rhône with some earthy, leathery notes. It’s a serious wine and it’s seriously good.”
ABV 14.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Langmeil The Fifth Wave Grenache
Montes Alpha Aconcagua Pinot Noir
Barossa Valley, South Australia Australia 2012
Aconcagua Valley Chile 2019
The protection and restoration of Barossa Valley’s incredible collection of old vines is at the heart of the Langmeil project, a winery that has been completely transformed under a quarter-century of ownership by the Lindner family . Among the treasures the Lindners have at their disposal is an old Grenache wine “garden”, the source of fruit in a wine that is aged for 19 months in 11% new French and 89% seasoned American oak. “Rich, fresh fruit nose with gently toasty oak aromas. Beautifully balanced with sweet concentrated fruit, soft embracing tannins and an incredible warming length,” said the judges.
In developing a vineyard on the granitic soils of the Coastal range in the Aconcagua Valley, with the cool breezes of the Pacific blowing in, Montes hoped to crack the Chilean Pinot Noir code. The response from the Wine Merchant Top 100 judges suggests the company may have succeeded. Aged in French oak (one third of it new) for 10 to 12 months, it’s a ”lovely wine with fruit dominating from the start to the finish”, the judges said. “Ripe sweet nose of red fruits, ripe red and black fruits with vanilla spice on the palate, and great weight. Delightfully rich with honey and black cherry fruit and a hint of tobacco on the finish. Excellent value.”
Berkmann Wine Cellars
Emiliana Coyam Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 The flagship wine of an estate that was a pioneer of organic and biodynamic winemaking in South America, Coyam has become a cult classic of Chilean wine. The blend itself could hardly be more eclectic: 43% Syrah, 29% Carmenère, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Mourvedre, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Carignan, 2% Malbec, 2% Garnacha and 1% Tempranillo: a real melting pot. And the wine is equally, deliciously distinctive. “A real delight, a wine that makes me happy to be tasting it,” said one judge. “There’s an awful lot going on here. The weight is reassuring and all of that wild forest fruit and warming spice just keeps on playing different tunes. A seriously good drop.” Boutinot RRP £21.99 22 32
Tabalí Talud Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Tabalí is an estate that is strongly associated with the northerly valley it pioneered as a serious winemaking terroir: Limarí. But the company makes fine wines elsewhere in Chile, including this Cabernet which comes from the very special, pebbly Dom vineyard in the west of Maipo’s coastal mountain range. “Sweet blueberry and mulberry fruit nose with a feeling of crushed fresh berries and enticing intensity,” the judges said. “Intense, enthralling perfume and lift, peppery spice, fine, bold tannins but an intensity and concentration of fruit that sets it off nicely. Good acidity gives a lovely energy. This finish goes on for hours.” Boutinot
ABV 14.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Helfrich Family Moillard Grivot AOP Nuits-Saint-Georges
Domaine Marchand-Grillot Gevrey-Chambertin “En Songe”
Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy France 2019
Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy France 2018
Classically styled village red Burgundy is still an important staple in most independent wine ranges, and this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 competition provided some excellent examples of this breed. According to the judges, this Nuits-St-Georges provided just the kind of style and quality merchants are looking for from a Burgundy of this level and price. “It’s appealing and quite full, with quite robust aromas of fine ripe berries and blackberries with damsons.” the judges said. “It’s youthful, and its best is yet to come, although it is already quite elegant and long on the palate.” Famille Helfrich RRP £48.06
Daniel Lambert Wines ABV 13.5%
Domaine Marchand-Grillot Gevrey-Chambertin “En Jouise” Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy France 2017 Tradition is at the heart of Domaine MarchandGrillot, a winery formed in 1950 from the marriage of the Marchands of Morey St-Denis and the Grillots of Gevrey-Chambertin. Jacques Marchand and his son Etienne are now running the estate, with Etienne, who has spent time studying business and making wine in Oregon, bringing new influences to the domaine. The first of two of the family’s GevreyChambertin cuvées in this year’s Top 100 has, according to the judges, “stylish perfumed aromas with lovely violets, soft silky berries, depth and complexity. Lovely texture and length.”
Domaine Olivier Guyot GevreyChambertin Premier Cru Les Champeaux Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy France 2018 This Marsanay-based grower has some wonderful parcels of vines throughout the Côte de Nuits – including some of the oldest vines in the region. One of the jewels in the crown of his 17ha holdings is the plot used to make this beautifully balanced Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru, which was planted in 1901. “Restrained refined fruit notes, delicious soft strawberries with some obvious yet integrated light tannins. Layers of ripe fruit evolve in the glass and linger on the palate,” the judges said. “This is great classic Burgundy.” Vindependents
Daniel Lambert Wines RRP £39.99
The second Gevrey-Chambertin cuvée from this impeccably run sixth-generation Burgundy producer was a real crowd-pleaser. “Another stylish wine with deep dark ripe fruit notes that have a structured balanced full mouth feel of blackberries and plums with soft strawberries with acidity and light tannins,” the judges said. “It fills the mouth with flavour and a long finish. Classic Burgundy. “ It’s the product of fruit grown using sustainable vineyard practices (the estate stopped using herbicides and pesticides 20 years ago). The family has 9ha of vines, in 47 different plots, in five Côte de Nuits villages.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Hanewald-Schwerdt Leistadter Herzfeld Spätburgunder
Weingut Schnaitmann Lämmler Spätburgunder GG
Leistadt, Pfalz Germany 2018
Remstal, Wurttemberg Germany 2018
This rising-star Pfalz producer is run by two of Germany’s brightest young winemaking talents, Thomas Hanewald and Stephan Schwerdt, who have assumed the reins at their family’s domaine. The duo largely concentrate on dry wines that “express vintage and vineyard”, according to their UK agent Vindependents, using Riesling and, in this case, Pinot Noir. “Full-on nose with intense violets, chocolate, earthy spice and some leather. Sweet red berry fruit, vanilla and spice contrast with fresh and well-integrated tannins,” the judges said. “Fine fine fine! Acidity not overwhelming but a Burgundian feel (Morey St-Denis?). Fruit fades to spice and tannins but lovely balance and grace.”
Having been winegrowers for more than 500 years, the Schnaitmann family finally began to make a wider name for itself beyond the local area when Rainer Schnaitmann started a winery in Fellbach in Württemberg in 1997. The wines made by the well-travelled Schnaitmann were soon making a splash, and by 2006 the estate had become a member of the association of top German growers, the VDP. Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are the estate’s strengths, with this “Grand Cru” bottling winning over the judges with its “very savoury complexity”. “Extremely distinctive, with a streak of bloody minerals,” they added. “Serious stuff.” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies
Vindependents RRP £36.50
Kloster Eberbach Estate Pinot Noir
Capezzana Ghiaie della Furba Carmignano, Tuscany Italy 2017
Rheingau Germany 2017 One of the Rheingau’s most historic estates, Kloster Eberbach was originally established in 1136 by Cistercian monks, and was a founding member of the VDP club of top German wine estates. Now covering 200ha, the estate has some 30ha of Pinot Noir in the villages of Rudesheim and Assmannshausen, the source for this cuvée, which is fermented in stainless steel and aged in large neutral oak casks. “Mineral and red cherry nose underlined by sweet spice and perfumed lift,” the judges said. “Sweet juicy red fruit with violet tinges. Fine tannins mingling with a touch of smoky char. Fresh acidity and gorgeous balance.”
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot grown on the gravelly (Ghiaie) soil found by the Furba stream in Carmignano, Tuscany, this Super Tuscan was first produced by Ugo and Vittorio Contini Bonacossi in 1979. The vineyards are sustainably managed, and the blend, now made by Benedetta Contini Bonacossi, gets 15 months in French oak barriques. “A deep, dark, complex wine full of berries, plums, damsons and smoky vanilla peppers and spice on the nose and palate,” the judges said. “The delicious full ripe fruit notes are balanced by the integrated oak structure and acidity. It is wonderful now but give it a couple of decades and it just may be even better.” Liberty Wines
Boutinot RRP £24.99 32 22 34
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Renieri Rosso di Montalcino
Damilano Le Cinque Vigne Barolo
Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany Italy 2018
Barolo, Piedmont Italy 2017
Renieri, part of the Bacci Wines family of five superior Tuscan estates, is a leading name in southern Montalcino, with a 120ha estate opposite Monte Amiata planted with 30ha of vines some 400m above sea level. Although the estate has a little Syrah and other French varieties, the Brunello clone of Sangiovese is of course the mainstay of the vineyard, used for both Brunello and this “beautifully made” rosso. “Really savoury style, with leather and earthy notes and typically Italian acidity and tannin,” the judges said. “Serious stuff – a baby Brunello that is ready to drink with food.”
Founded in 1890, Damilano is one of Barolo’s most established family estates, now in the hands of Guido, Mario and Paolo Damilano, great-grandsons of the founder, Giuseppe Bourgogno, and nephews of the key player in its modern development, Giacomo Damilano. The Cinque Vigne is, as the name suggests, a blend of fruit from five vineyards in Barolo, all with south east orientation. The result, according to the judges, is a “powerful, brooding wine with high tannins and earthy red and black fruit”. “There are notes of leather, truffle and tar, and it’s well structured on the palate with a touch of chocolate coming through.”
La Dama Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
Fèlsina Berardenga Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva
Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Veneto, Italy 2015
Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany Italy 2018
Husband-and-wife team Gabriele and Miriam Dalcanele are the names behind this overperforming boutique Veneto estate. The duo are committed to organics, having converted their estate back in 2006, and they produce a range of strikingly modern Valpolicella wines, including a straight Valpolicella, a Ripasso and this much-admired Amarone. “Superb style. Big and bold as it should be but with structure and a bitterness to match the sweetness, so it is balanced and not overblown,” the judges said. “A palate of sweet cherry and concrete. Very interesting and well made.”
Based in a 470ha estate to the north east of Sienna, Fèlsina Berardenga is an important producer in southern Chianti Classico, where, as UK agent Liberty points out, the style of the wines tends to be more akin to Montalcino than northern Chianti. Certainly, our judges thought this 100% Sangiovese from the south-facing 6ha Rancia vineyard had a Brunello-like power. “Aromas of toasted coconut and brooding dark fruits set the scene for this Tuscan blockbuster,” they said. “Price wise, this is certainly premium, but having a case or two of this in your shop is like sprinkling magic dust on your wine list. Quality. In every respect.”
Walker & Wodehouse RRP £29.99 32 22 36
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Liberty Wines RRP £63.99
Poggio al Tesoro Il Seggio Bolgheri Bolgheri, Tuscany Italy 2018 The Veneto’s Allegrini family have brought all their skill and flair to Poggio al Tesoro since acquiring the 70ha Bolgheri estate in the early 2000s. Aged for 15 months in a mix of new (30%) and used French oak barriques, this blend of 50% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot takes its name from Il Seggio, the creek that runs through Bolgheri. “A stunner,” said the judges. “Complex, silky berry fruits including strawberries, blackberries, and dark black cherries on the nose with a deep, peppery creamy spice note overlaying the fruit on the palate. This will age well.” Liberty Wines RRP £27.99
Cantine Povero Batu’ Barbaresco Barbaresco, Piedmont Italy 2017 The Poveros have been making wines in Piedmont since 1837, and the family estate, founded in 1948, is now among the region’s most forward-looking, with an emphasis on sustainability that takes in everything from pesticide- and herbicide-free vineyards to the solar-powered winery. The family make an extensive range of wines from Piedmont’s various zones, with this Barbaresco a real stand-out for the judges. “Intense brooding nose with spicy, sweet dark cherry, heady dusky rose and hints of sandalwood,” the judges said. “The palate is powerful with spicy dark fruit, sweet damson and plum leathery spice and oaky toasty complexity. Long and nicely balanced. “ Vindependents RRP £24
Should our Top 100 judging return to the capital?
The first Wine Merchant Top 100 judging day (or, more accurately, Top 50) took place in the spring of 2013. The magazine was a year old and we could see there was space for a competition devoted to the kind of wine sold in the independent trade, judged by indies themselves. Judging day is always hectic, but with guidance and support from our friends at Sensible Wine Services, everything seems to run smoothly. In 2020, when Covid threw everyone’s plans into disarray, we took the decision to judge wines remotely, with Sensible sending flights to our judges at addresses across the UK. With the situation not much better in 2021, we again opted for this stay-at-home approach. Assuming that life looks more like normal in 2022, judging day may well resemble its old self, and once again we’ll invite our panel to convene first thing at our venue in Fulham. But is that necessarily the right thing to do? We’re asking ourselves this question quite a lot – and would welcome thoughts on the subject. London-based judging is not particularly convenient for merchants based outside the south east of England. Travel is time consuming and expensive. There isn’t much time to dwell on the wines. Snap decisions are sometimes necessary. Remote judging is more inclusive, geographically speaking. Judges can take their time and invite other team members to join in. But we do lose that sociable element that has made judging day so enjoyable for those who have taken part over the years. Discussions, arguments and laughter are things that we, as organisers, are missing.
ABV 14.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Cantina Sobrero Langhe Nebbiolo
Hans Herzog Secret of Marlborough
Langhe, Piedmont Italy 2018
Rapaura, Marlborough New Zealand 2016
With the big guns of Barolo and Barbaresco becoming collectors’ favourites, it’s a good thing Nebbiolo produced in the wider Langhe area continues to provide good value and, in the case of small family firm Sobrero, quality that is easily on a par with the best on offer from the more famous addresses. Three-quarters of the family’s organic 16ha are located in the heart of Langhe’s Castiglione Falletto region, providing top-quality fruit for a wine with, “a lovely nose full of cherry, plum, spice and tar. It’s midweight with spicy dark fruit hints of dark chocolate and toasty oak. Tannins are firm but measured and the perky acidity works well. Impressive finish and length.”
The “secret” in the name here is an unusual variety for Marlborough, or indeed anywhere else outside its Italian home: the wine is a 100% Montepulciano . In the hands of Hans Herzog, an “artisan” organic producer, which only works with estategrown fruit, the variety works a treat in its New Zealand home, spending 30 months in a mix of French oak barrique and puncheons (20% new). “Amazing – the wine of the tasting,” declared one judge. “Creamy oak on the nose gives way to a deep well of bustling velvet hedgerow fruit on the stairway to heaven.” Vindependents
Graft Wine Company RRP £20
Vigneti del Vulture Piano del Cerro Aglianico del Vulture
Global Wines Casa de Santar Vinha dos Amores Touriga Nacional
Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata Italy 2018
Dão, Portugal 2014
Formerly a co-op, Vigneti del Vulture has been transformed since it was acquired by Valentino Sciotti, of Vesevo and Gran Sasso, in 2008. Estate manager Manuel Barbone works with consultant winemaker Alberto Antonini to produce wines that reflect the distinctive qualities of Aglianico grown on volcanic soils on the slopes of Mount Vulture. “A mix of hot, ripe fruit and cooler, fresher notes. Plush, and polished, with thick oaky flavours and dollops of fruit compote, all with a slightly sun-dried character,” the judges said. “The wonderful lingering tannins provide great structure and length. Super drinkable and excellent value for money.” Liberty Wines RRP £26.99 22 38
Casa de Santar is one of the Dão’s most important producers, with some 200 years of history and a commitment to making wines that reflect the region’s character. A big part of that character is Touriga Nacional, a grape variety that is arguably even more impressive in the Dão than it is in the vineyards of its more famous neighbour, the Douro. Aged for 18 months in French oak barriques, this take on Touriga is “a very nice expression”, the judges said. “Dark opaque colour in the glass. Dark fruited nose with sweet fruitcake and figs. Full bodied with sweet plums, dark berries and a hint of dark chocolate.” Global Wines RRP £31.99
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Global Wines Encontro 1 Bairrada, Portugal 2011 Founded with the intention of showing a different side to Portugal’s Bairrada region, Quinta do Encontro is a modern estate with an architecturally distinctive winery, as well as a thriving restaurant and wine tourism operation. But it’s only the wines that matter to the Top 100 judges, and they loved this 50/50 blend of Bairrada’s very own Baga with Touriga Nacional. “Beguiling nose, liquorice and blackberry, with cream and toast,” the judges said. “Rich and fleshy palate with generous, mouthfilling dark fruit compote flavours. Some tannic structure but all balanced with a very long finish. A very classy, complete wine. “It’s expensive for the region so a niche purchase but on quality alone, worth the price. Very good.” Global Wines RRP £47.99
Jordan Estate The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch, South Africa 2018 It was another good year in the Wine Merchant Top 100 for Gary and Kathy Jordan’s leading Stellenbosch estate, with two wines in the Top 100 and a further three getting Highly Commended awards. That’s no surprise when the quality of the couple’s wines – such as this “sumptuous” Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate’s Stellenbosch vineyards – remains so high. “It has a deep rich colour, quite a vegetal nose. Wow! In the mouth, it totally packs a punch, with smooth tannin structure and spicy, hedgerow fruit,” said one of the judges. “Silky, classy and moreish, it’s very well made and with everything in the right place. I would definitely stock this.” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies
Quinta do Mouro Red
Jordan Estate Cobblers Hill
Borba, Alentejo, Portugal 2015
Stellenbosch, South Africa 2017
Athough its first release was in 1998, this 22ha Alentejo estate, just outside the walled town of Estremoz, is, as Portuguese expert and UK agent Raymond Reynolds says, already firmly established as one of southern Portugal’s classic estates. The latest vintage of the estate red, a mature blend of Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a perfect illustration of the Mouro house style. “Gorgeous nose of cedar and gentle creamy oak,” the judges said. “Very perfumed with some savoury meaty notes, with black fruits underneath. Rich, dense, black cherry flavours, with cream. Chewy tannins and some power but all nicely balanced. Complex and delicious. Very classy.”
The second entry in the final Top 100 selection in this year’s competition from the Jordans is described by the couple as the “ultimate expression of the Jordan terroir”. Named in recognition of the family’s past as “master cobblers”, it’s a limited-edition Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc that uses the best fruit from the Jordans’ estate on the Stellenbosch Kloof. “A top quality blend,” the judges said. “Cassis, vanilla, and then cedar on the finish – smoky! It’s all very well integrated and balanced, with very good length. “A classic South African Cabernet-dominanted blend that is drinking well now.”
Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Kara-Tara Pinot Noir
Spice Route Chakalaka
Western Cape South Africa 2019
Swartland South Africa 2017
Kara-Tara is one of South Africa’s most promising new producers, a joint-venture specialising in Pinot Noir between the 2018 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year Rudger van Wyk, and José Condé of the highly respected (and fellow Top 100 winner) Stark-Condé. Named after the small town near Knysna, where van Wyk grew up, the grapes are sourced from top sites in the cool-climate Elgin region, home to some of South Africa’s most fragrant, fresh and elegant wines – all descriptors that one or more of our judges applied to this Pinot. “Lashings of intense black cherry fruit,” they added. “Great structure – good mid-palate and fine length. Superb value.”
Charles Back’s Spice Route project has been enormously influential in South Africa, helping to identify the Swartland as a premium growing area long before the recent influx of fashionable, surfer-dude producers. The project has some 100ha in Malmesbury and Darling, much of it dry-farmed bush vines, and a talented, long-standing winemaker in Charl du Plessis, who oversaw this blend of 27% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 22% Mataro, 11% Carignan, 8% Petite Sirah and 6% Tannat. “Ripe fruit nose, with very attractive layers of flavour on the palate, all very nicely balanced,” the judges said. “The spicy/toasty oak is nicely intergrated, with a long fruit-and-herby finish. Very well made.”
Lanzerac Pionier Pinotage Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch South Africa 2018 Lanzerac has a long and interesting history as a wine estate. Having started its life in 1692, it can also lay claim to producing the first bottled Pinotage. The estate, located at the foot of Stellenbosch’s Jonkershoek Valley, is today enjoying a revival under cellar master Wynand Lategan, with attention particularly focused on the vineyards, with renovations and new plantings, and an emphasis on Pinotage and Chardonnay. “Really dark colour, very concentrated dark fruits, a big palate of ripe fruits and creamy character, well integated oak, and a long spicy finish,” said the judges. “It’s a very big wine, but very well balanced.”
Stark-Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch South Africa 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is very much the signature variety at this leading Stellenbosch estate, with this single-vineyard wine a flagship cuvée. It comes from what the producer calls a “high elevation vineyard site” at 350m above sea level in the Jonkershoek sub-zone, featuring “finely textured decomposed granite soil, cooler temperatures and ample winter rainfall”. “It has a very European feel,” the judges said. “Elegant and attractive dark fruits, wrapped up in a touch of vanilla. “Sweet black fruits on the palate, layers of spice, cream fruit, beautiful balance and a very long, polished finish.” Museum Wines
Vindependents RRP £37
ABV 14.5% THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Waterkloof Seriously Cool Cinsault
Bodegas Borsao Cabriola by Borsao
Stellenbosch South Africa 2019
Campo de Borja, Aragón Spain 2017
Cinsault has become one of South Africa’s signature varieties in recent years, and Waterkloof was one of its earliest advocates – and most skilled exponents. The Seriously Cool Cinsault is sourced from 30- to 60-year-old bush-vine vineyards in the Helderberg area of Stellenbosch, with the fruit going through whole-bunch fermentation in large wooden fermenters. The wine ages for eight months in 600-litre French oak barrels. “Red fruits on the nose, lifted and elegant,” said the judges. “Ripe herby red fruits, hints of ripe strawberry, and a soft and supple finish. This is a really interesting wine – and a proper indies’ wine.”
The leading producer in Aragón’s Campo de Borja region, and a long-term independent retail favourite, Bodegas Borsao is responsible for some of the world’s best-value red wines. Its repuation largely rests on its old bush-vine Garnacha, but for this Top 100-winning cuvée Syrah joins the blend, with leading Australian Shiraz-maker Chris Ringland lending his wisdom in the winery. “Cooked cherry, caramel, sweet spice and black pepper, buttery, leather undertones, a super long finish with exceptionally integrated flavours,” the judges said. “This is so complex, and so enjoyable – can I get another bottle?”
Vilafonté Seriously Old Dirt, Paarl 2018
Marco Abella Clos Abella
Paarl, South Africa 2018
Priorat, Spain 2015
Vilafonté brought together three big stars of the wine world when it became the first US-South African joint venture in 1996: US winemaker Zelma Long, Cape wine leader Mike Ratcliffe and ex-Robert Mondavi vineyard manager Dr Phil Freese. The trio’s work in the foothills of the Simonsberg mountains is really beginning to pay off now, with some of the Cape’s finest wines, including this Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet blend. “Very dark colour, complex nose, and loads of layers that lead through to the palate,” the judges said. “It’s lovely! Warming, sweet spice, well balanced, complex, elegant and leaves you wanting more.”
The second of three Top 100-winning entries this year from competition favourite Marco Abella is a 70% Garnacha, 30% Carinyena blend from the producer’s El Perer vineyard. The soil here is carboniferous slate known locally as “saldó”, which the family says brings a pronounced minerality to the wines – helped no doubt by vines that are aged between 20 and 85 years. “Very attractive nose, lovely dark fruits, and a lovely coat of vanilla,” the judges said. “Complex, yet slightly rustic garrigue fruit on the palate; quite structured, but not too much. A very long finish with supple tannins. A very impressive wine.”
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Marco Abella Loidana
Cuatro Pasos Black Bierzo Mencía
Priorat, Spain 2019
Bierzo, Spain 2017
The third of Marco Abella’s trio of impressive Priorat reds in this year’s Top 100 is described by the family as “the perfect starter wine for those wishing to learn about the complexity of Priorat wines”. A blend of 55% Garnacha, 35% Carinyena and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon drawn from across the region, it’s aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. “Elegant and attractive nose of red and dark fruits, lovely balanced palate, with many layers of flavour, and a long finish of fruit and spice,” the judges said. “There’s lots going on in the glass, with fine acidity and classic Garnacha red berry fruit. Juicy and vibrant. Stunning value.”
The team at high-quality Rías Baixas cooperative Martín Códax (also featured in this year’s Top 100) here turns their attention to the Bierzo DO, further in land and across the border from Galicia in Castilla y León. Here Mencía is the focus using fruit from 80-year-old vines in the highest areas of Bierzo with altitudes of up to 800m above sea level. The wine is aged for six to seven months in French oak (75%) and American oak (25%). “A nose of polished oak furniture (old library) is set against white pepper and red berry fruit,” the judges said. “A lush mouth feel with cedar, toffee, vanilla and pine resin contributing to the complexity. Cocoa and eucalyptus notes add bitterness and lift. Lovely wine with nice acidity and fine, powdery tannins.”
Vindependents RRP £19.50
Liberty Wines RRP £17.99
Dominio do Bibei Lalama Red
Bodegas LAN Xtrème Ecológico Organic Rioja Crianza
Ribeira Sacra, Galicia Spain 2016
Rioja, Spain 2018
The second Top 100 entry for Javier Dominguez’s pioneering Ribeira Sacra producer – to be set alongside the high-scoring white Lapola – is a 90% Mencía blended with 10% local varieties. The wine was made in 500-litre open-top fermenters and aged in 300-litre oak barrels, and is sourced from 60-to-110-year-old vines grown on Ribeira Sacra’s steep slopes at altitudes betwen 300m and 700m. “Highly intriguing – something of Burgundy or the northern Rhône,” the judges said. “Spicy pepper with farmyard notes. Juicy forest fruit flavours back up the nose with a bit of sour cherry. It’s quite young still so will only get better with bottle age.”
Liberty Wines RRP £24.99 42
That one of Rioja’s younger bodegas (founded in 1972) is also one of its best is thanks in no small part to the riches of its vineyard holdings in Rioja Alta and Alavesa. Those include the Viña Lanciano estate, which contains the single organic plot that provides the Tempranillo for this Top 100 winner. The wine is aged for 14 months in new French oak barrels, and for a further nine-month minimum in bottle, before release. “Terrific wine,” said the judges. “It has a lovely dark, brooding colour, and a nose of morello cherry with a touch of vanilla running through it. “Lovely savoury notes on the palate, rich fruit and nice sappy acidity. Lovely.”
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Bodegas Ontañon Queirón de Gabriel Rioja Reserva Rioja, Spain 2011
Mas Blanch i Jové Saó Abrivat Costers del Segre, Catalonia Spain 2018
Queirón de Gabriel is the result of a 10-year project from the family-run Bodegas Ontañon, a new wine to mark the opening of the company’s winery in the village of Quel – and to express the highest-quality Tempranillo and Graciano in the family’s vineyards. The fruit is sourced from two high-altitude sites: Tempranillo from La Pasada vineyard at 790m and Graciano El Pozo 650m. It’s aged for 24 months in a mix of extra-fine-grained new French and American oak. “With its lovely balance of fruit, oak, and tertiary aromas and flavours, it’s complex, intense, and has really good length,” the judges said. “Really well made, it’s drinking beautifully right now.”
Mas Blanch i Jové is one of the most exciting producers in one of Catalonia’s rising star DOs, Costers del Segre. The estate runs to some 17ha of vineyards and benefits from the cooling breezes in La Pobla de Cérvoles, which is situated some 700m above sea level in the Les Garrigues region near the city of Lleida. A blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s aged for 12 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels. “Ripe sweet fruit, wrapped up in a gentle vanilla coat,” said the judges. “Slightly brooding bold dark fruits on the palate, with damson fruits, nice grip and good length.”
Marqués de Riscal XR Reserva Special Release Rioja 2015
Torres Purgatori, Costers del Segre 2016
Rioja, Spain 2015
Costers del Segre, Catalonia Spain 2016
There’s a rather charming story behind this wine. For roughly a century between 1869 and 1964, the head winemaker at Marqués de Riscal would mark off certain barrels with the letters “XR” to denote something special, or different. These “winemaker’s wines” were never marketed as such. But with the 2015 vintage, the bodega decided to honour the line of cellar masters that have shaped the house style by releasing a new cuvée with those very initials. “Elegant nose, quite refined and restrained but with plenty to pique the interest,” the judges said. “It’s silky and slips down very easily, feels well poised and at ease with the senses.” Richmond Wine Agencies RRP £35.99
One of the world’s most consistent producers, Torres has long since moved beyond its original Penedès home, and now has successful projects in sites across Spain, from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, to the Catalan DOs of Priorat and, for this impressive blend of Cariñena, Garnacha and Syrah, Costers del Segre. Aged for 15 to 18 months in French oak (40% new), it’s “a really black wine”, the judges said, “with a dark fruit nose, herbs and black fruits. “On the palate it’s quite chunky with bouncy acidity. The garrigue finish really follows through. Really liked by all tasters.” Fells RRP £21.49
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Red wines Viñas del Vero Secastilla Old Vine Garnacha Somontano, Aragón Spain 2016 Set in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Somontano, which got its DO status in 1985, has been an important region in the development of modern Spanish wine – and Viñas del Vero, with 40% of the entire region’s production, has played a vital role in the story. For this wine, the producer makes use of its outstanding stocks of old bush-vine Garnacha, from vineyards at up to 700m above sea level, with the wine given a 10-month sojourn in new French oak. “Liquorice, menthol, wild dried herbs, bitter orange peel … this is complex and intriguing,” said the judges. “Such a beautiful balance of acidity, tannins and fruit, this wine asks to be drunk again.”
Résonance Découverte Pinot Noir Dundee Hills, Oregon USA 2016 The arrival of some of Burgundy’s leading producers in Oregon is quite the endorsement for the quality of the region’s Pinot Noir. And few Burgundy names come bigger than Louis Jadot, which, in 2013, made the YamhillCarlton AVA in Oregon’s Willamette Valley the home of its first winery outside its native region. On the strength of the judges’ reaction to this “complex, beautifully made” Pinot Noir, it was a wise move. “Light, elegant, refined” the judges said. “Some violet and floral notes, light cranberry and vanilla – it’s even a bit buttery. Menthol creeps in and clove jumps out – this is lively and fresh, with decent length.” Hatch Mansfield RRP £50
Oak Knoll District, California USA 2018 Consistently ranked among California’s best Merlots, Trefethen’s Signature bottling benefits from the relative cool of some parts of the winery’s vineyards in the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley, a location which the winery calls “a sweet spot between warmer up-valley regions and the cool southern tip”. In 2018, a cooler than usual August and September allowed for longer hang times and complex flavours to develop – and that was certainly a factor in shaping the judges’ enthusiastic response. “Sweet blackcurrant and menthol on the nose, and then a well-measured combination of deep dark fruits and herbs. A nice lick of vanilla on the long, lingering finish. The premium price point is well deserved. A lot of wine for your money.” Daniel Lambert Wines
Gonzalez Byass UK RRP £27
Trefethen Signature Merlot
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Twill Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon USA 2018 Organic viticulture and low-intervention winemaking are the twin defining features of Oregon’s Twill Cellars. A specialist in Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the winemaking is based on an elevage of between 18 and 22 months for all wines, and minimal SO2 and enzyme additions. It leads in this case to a Pinot of “rich colour, and a vibrant, bright cherry aroma with a floral hint – a very attractive nose,” the judges said “It has an earthy mushroom beetroot character, and it works really nicely, with some oak on the palate, tannins and structure. It’s well developed but can age. Classic and elegant.” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies RRP £37.50
Helping good causes
We’re proud to support the Drinks Trust and other charities
All of our Top 100 judges give up their time for free, but we pay a token £100 to thank them for their efforts.
Vina Robles Petite Sirah Paso Robles, California USA 2018 If our tasters noted a certain European aspect to this wine – and more than one mentioned the Rhône – that’s hardly surprising. Viña Robles was founded by “two Swiss gentlemen who came across Paso Robles in the 1980s and decided to put down roots and craft wines which represent a bridge between old and new world styles,” according to proprietor Hans Nef. Whatever the stylistic intent, this was a wine much-loved by all the judges who tried it. “Intense black/purple colour. Strong black berry/black cherry fruits with a structured but mellow, velvety texture. “There are luscious sweet creamy fruits that last for ever, the tannins are balanced and the fruit dominates. Great length. Extremely good.” Vindependents RRP £26
Originally this money was intended to help with travel expenses, but now, with judging taking place remotely for the time being, nobody really needs any assistance with rail fares or petrol costs. In the past, some judges have waived their fees and donated the money to charity instead. So we gave our judges the option this year either to bank the cash (as they were perfectly entitled to do – time is money, and there are certain expenses to meet even when you’re judging at home or work) or to request we pay the fee to a nominated charity. The charity we suggested was The Drinks Trust, formerly the Benevolent, which does such a great job on behalf of so many people connected with the drinks industry who may have fallen on hard times. It was a pleasure to write the charity a cheque for £1,300 back in May. Several judges nominated local charities, which we were also very happy to support on their behalf. Every year, any surplus wines from the competition are donated to a number of fundraising events and charity auctions, which raises some useful revenue for all kinds of good causes. For a few years now, our own chosen charity has been the Children With Cancer Fund, based near us in Sussex. The volunteers there do amazing work with families who are facing up to this cruel disease, and we are proud to support their efforts in our own small way.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Fortified wines Campbells Merchant Prince Rare Muscat
Sandeman 30-Year-Old Tawny Port
Rutherglen, Victoria Australia NV
Douro, Portugal NV
As importer ABS Wine Agencies puts it: “This classification is rare by name and by nature. This is the pinnacle of the Rutherglen Muscats.” It’s made from a strict selection of the best parcels of concentrated, late-harvested grapes, which are added to the Rare Rutherglen Muscat solera, where the oldest base wine is 70 years old. Wine can only be drawn out of the solera once it’s reached exactly the same condition as the previous withdrawal. “Fresh but luscious. Burnt toffee, mocha and cocoa nibs,” said the judges. “Nutty and olive aromas on the nose, a deep liquorice palate, lovely finish … wow!” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies RRP £65
The second of Sandeman’s superb aged Tawny Ports to get a well-deserved place in the Top 100 alongside the Fortified Trophy-winning 40year-old, this 30-year-old had an only marginally less profound effect on our judges. A blend of wines between 25 and 30 years of age which have been ageing oxidatively in barrels in the Sandeman lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia, it’s “just a wondrous taste experience”, said one judge. “Port nectar! It melts in the mouth, and it’s extremely smooth and soft with bags of flavour. “Mixing all kinds of nutty, dried fruit and toffee flavours, even a bit of polished wood, olive and just a touch of freshness to keep it in check. Pass the port!” Liberty Wines RRP £76.99
Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Verdelho
Valdespino Oloroso Solera 1842 VOS Sherry
Madeira Portugal 2007
Jerez Spain NV
Henriques & Henriques has amassed more than 170 years of experience in fine fortified winemaking since it was founded in 1850. Today it has the largest collection of vineyard holdings on Madeira, giving master blender Humberto Jardím unusual levels of control over his production. The combination of winemaking skill, experience and vineyards makes for some seriously stunning wines, such as this 14-yearold Verdelho, which charmed the judges with its, “confit orange, sesame oil and leather nose, its lovely acidity and its roasted cashew and orange chocolate notes”.
The factors behind Valdespino’s position at the top of the sherry rankings are no secret. The first is grape supply: Valdespino is one of the largest landholders in Jerez, with 750ha of prime vineyard. The second is experience: Valdespino is one of the oldest bodegas in Jerez, having been founded more than six centuries ago. That brings great stocks of old sherry and accumulated wisdom All of which combines to create this superb Oloroso, which the judges said is “reminiscent of old Highland single malt. “A massive flavour rush; treacle, toffee apple, golden raisin, caramel, cardamom … the finish goes on and on. So delicious!”
Mentzendorff RRP £41
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Liberty Wines RRP £46.99
Highly Commended Wines Only 100 wines can make the final cut in the competition and that means that some excellent wines miss out on a placing. That’s especially true in a year when entries achieved a new record. But judging is all about fine margins, and our Highly Commended wines deserve huge credit for impressing our panel of independent merchants.
Highly commended wines SPARKLING WINES Australia Taltarni Vineyards Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée Rosé, Tasmania NV (£22.50, Vindependents): Lovely nose, texture and an excellent balance of fruit.
England Hambledon Première Cuvée, Hampshire NV (£45, Mentzendorff): Super focused and precise with pithy lemon fruit. Great concentration and racy acidity. Henners Brut, East Sussex NV (£31.99, Boutinot): Generous with notes of brioche and patisserie alongside the ripe fruit character. Henners Rosé, East Sussex NV (£37.99, Boutinot): Good intensity and good length. Very well balanced and executed. Moreish.
France Champagne Ayala Le Blanc de Blancs, Aÿ, Champagne 2014 (£58, Mentzendorff): Good length with fruit and savoury flavours mingling nicely. Chablis-esque. Billecart-Salmon Vintage, Champagne 2009 (£80, Billecart-Salmon UK): Rich aromas of caramel and toast. Deep and long finish. Champagne Castelnau Brut, Champagne NV (£43.50, Castelnau Wine Agencies): Lemons and biscuits on the nose, easy and fresh, fine bubbles. Champagne Delavenne Grand Cru Brut Tradition, Grand Cru Bouzy, Champagne NV (£37.50, Vindependents): BOOM! Great value, and will not disappoint customers. Champagne Delavenne Grand Cru Brut Rosé, Grand Cru Bouzy, Champagne NV (£42, Vindependents): Fullbodied; red fruits; spices – foodie Champagne. Champagne Germar Breton Brut, Côte des Bar, Champagne NV (£29, Vindependents): Excellent value: expressive nose of green apple, quince and brioche. Champagne Germar Breton Rosé, Côte des Bar, Champagne NV (£33, Vindependents): Light, fresh, crisp; easy drinking and good value.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Champagne Gremillet Brut Sélection, Champagne NV (£29.99, Boutinot): Good value with lovely biscuity, apple and grapefruit aromas. Champagne Irroy Rosé, Champagne NV (£43.30, Hatch Mansfield): Very fresh, smooth; raspberries and cream on the finish. Youthful and bright. Champagne Lété-Vautrain Rosé Royal, Vallée de la Marne, Champagne NV (£33.50, Vindependents): Rounded plum, cherry, dried fruit. Enjoyable. Value. Champagne Taittinger Brut Réserve, Champagne NV (£44.15, Hatch Mansfield): Well balanced. Lovely light mousse. Classic in taste. Champagne Taittinger Brut Vintage, Champagne 2014 (£60.55, Hatch Mansfield): A high-wire act balancing honeyed richness and freshness. Champagne Taittinger Folies de la Marquetterie, Champagne NV (£67.60, Hatch Mansfield): Fresh; pear, greengage, toasted hazelnuts; zingy, persistent finish. Domaines Paul Mas Château Martinolles Crémant de Limoux Brut, Languedoc NV (£14.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Salty minerals; citrus; extraordinary value.
Italy Ferrari Maximum Blanc de Blanc, Trentino Alto Adige NV (£27.99 Walker & Wodehouse): Citrus and gooseberry; creamy, refreshing; good depth.
New Zealand Akarua Central Otago Brut, Bannockburn, Central Otago NV (£25.99, Liberty Wines): Silky; fine salinity and minerality. Green pepper spice. Great value.
South Africa Colmant Brut Reserve, Western Cape NV (£24.99, Museum Wines): Lovely soft fruit. Great balance, complexity and length. Toasty and refreshing.
Spain Raventós i Blanc Textures de Pedra Blanc de Noirs, Cataluña 2016 (£41.99, Liberty Wines): Extremely interesting. Nutty, green apples; very dry finish.
WHITE WINES Argentina
Hay Shed Hill Block 6 Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia 2019 (£31.99, Bancroft Wines): Lovely poise and balance; fresh citrus; green herb.
Atamisque Catalpa Chardonnay, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2019 (£19.50, Las Bodegas): Ripe, aromatic; unctuous, glorious rounded palate; elegant.
Kilikanoon Mort’s Block Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley 2018 (£18.50, Mentzendorff): Excellent nose: Grand Prix pits. Linear off-dry palate. Racy.
Atamisque Serbal Viognier, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2020 (£13.50, Las Bodegas): Intense perfumed white flower, apricot and orange blossom.
Murdoch Hill Chardonnay, Onkaparinga Valley, Adelaide Hills 2018 (£29, Graft Wine Company): A wine of real craft. Subtle oak; great complex stuff.
La Cayetana Criolla Blanca, Lavalle & Los Chacayes, Mendoza 2019 (£22, Las Bodegas): Lovely texture and touch of oak. Rich and weighty with lovely length.
Smalltown Vineyards Rag & Bone Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia 2020 (£13.49, Boutinot): Smells like Riesling: limey, fresh; outstanding value.
Susana Balbo Wines Crios Torrontés, Argentina 2020 (£14.50, Las Bodegas): Moreish, aromatic, easy drinking and lovely balanced acidity.
Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Viognier, Eden Valley, South Australia 2017 (£16.99, Fells): Bright; umami; green herbs set off against a mineral edge.
Susana Balbo Wines Signature White Blend, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2020 (£19, Las Bodegas): Really good fruit. Zingy, bright finish. A very interesting wine.
Ver Sacrum Geisha Dragon del Desierto, Los Chacayes, Mendoza 2020 (£22, Las Bodegas): Refined and subtle with a racy lemon zest finish and lovely length. Zuccardi Apelacíon Chardonnay, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£17.75, Hatch Mansfield): Fresh, steely, elegant with emerging tropical fruit.
Austria Weingut Ecker-Eckhof Roter Veltliner, Wagram 2020 (£15, Vindependents): Clean, flinty minerality; balanced; eminently enjoyable. Franz & Friends Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterreich 2019 (£10.99, Boutinot): Really well made, nicely oaked; distinctive; a very pleasant glass of wine. Funkstille Grüner Veltliner, Niederosterreich 2020 (£11, Alliance Wine): Peach and apple juice; peppery backdrop. Good body; absolutely packed with fruit.
Australia Cranswick Wines Lakefield Moscato, South Eastern Australia 2020 (£10.50, Awin Barratt Seigel Wine Agencies): Vanilla-tinted highly moreish sweetness.
Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Chardonnay, Casablanca 2019 (£14.15, Hatch Mansfield): A very fresh tangy Chardonnay with a lemon-zest note. Emiliana Adobe Reserve Gewürztraminer, Rapel 2020 (£8.99, Boutinot): Made with welcome restraint; a hint of green freshness. Great price. Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Viognier, Casablanca 2020 (£11.49, Boutinot): Lovely balance and very good value. Well made. Chapeau! Emiliana Signos de Origen La Vinilla Chardonnay Viognier Marsanne Roussanne, Casabalanca 2018 (£15.49, Boutinot): Very aromatic nose; ripe, textured fruit; full, rich taste; great finish. Montes Zapallar Sauvignon Blanc, Apalta, Colchagua Valley 2019 (£17.99, Liberty Wines): Mango, citrus; Good mouth feel, acidity and length. Very enjoyable. Ventisquero Grey Chardonnay, Casablanca 2016 (£16.49, North South Wines): Lovely deep complex wine with fine tropical and citrus fruit aromas.
England Hush Heath Estate Balfour This Septered Isle, Kent 2018 (£20, Walker & Wodehouse): Wonderful wine; interesting in provenance, production and flavour.
Frankland Estate Riesling, Frankland River, Western Australia 2019 (£18.99, Bancroft Wines): Weighty. Spice, citrus, stone fruits, perfume. Great complexity. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Highly commended wines France Abbotts & Delauney Chardonnay, Languedoc 2019 (£10.99, Propeller): Easy-drinking Chardonnay: good finish, great value and very approachable. Domaine Alexandre Chablis Vieilles Vignes, Chablis, Burgundy 2019 (£22, Vindependents): Perfectly balanced between minerality, acidity and fruit. Domaine Belleville Rully 1er Cru La Pucelle, Burgundy 2019 (£34, Vindependents): Outstanding, fullflavoured Chardonnay: smoky, savoury, flinty. Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Chardonnay Les Ursulines, Burgundy 2019 (£19.99, Liberty Wines): Taut and minerally. Well balanced and complex. Domaine Bouchié-Chatellier Pouilly-Fumé La Renardière, Pouilly-Fumé, Loire 2019 (£19.99, Boutinot): Silky texture; nice weight; lingering finish. M Chapoutier La Combe Pilate Viognier, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, Rhône 2018 (£17.50, Hatch Mansfield): Easy to sell as an affordable alternative to Condrieu. Domaine La Creuze Noire Saint-Véran “La Côte”, Burgundy 2018 (£19.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Total harmony; long finish; incredibly moreish. Good value. Domaine des Deux Roches Mâcon-Villages Tradition, Burgundy 2019 (£16.99, Bancroft Wines): Crystallised pineapple; pleasant and fresh; well balanced. William Fèvre Vaillons 1er Cru Domaine, Chablis, Burgundy 2018 (£39.99, Fells): Powerful on the midpalate, good complexity and lemony, saline acidity. Helfrich Family Domaine Clavel Syrius, Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint Gervais 2020 (£12.24, Famille Helfrich): Apricot, peach; delicious streak of acidity. Helfrich Family Domaine Clavel Clair de Lune, Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint Gervais 2018 (£16.52, Famille Helfrich): Very rich with honey and stone fruit. Florent & Marine Justo Château La Bienveillance Blanc, Sainte Radegonde, Bordeaux 2019 (£14, Vindependents): Aromatic; passion fruit. Loads of fun. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Rhône 2018 (£14.99, Fells): Fruit-floral cocktail: stone fruit, citrus, blossom. A wholly joyful wine. Good value for money.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Domaine Lamy-Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet Pot Bois, Burgundy 2018 (£37.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Wonderful nut-brittle nose; citrus; stone fruit. Caves Languedoc-Roussillon Mare Nostrum Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc 2020 (£11.50, Vindependents): Mineral, crisp; lemons and apple; lots of fresh appeal. Château Lamourette, Sauternes, Bordeaux 2015 (£17, Vindependents): Super perfumed; alphonso mango. Well judged sweetness; zippy balancing acidity. Helfrich Family Domaine André Lorentz Riesling AOP Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr, Alsace 2018 (£16.46, Famille Helfrich): White peach; lime zest; honeyed. Helfrich Family Domaine Les Ors Chardonnay, Limoux, Languedoc 2019 (£12.93, Famille Helfrich): Lovely gentle oak; orange rind. A very food-friendly wine. Hugel Gentil, Alsace 2018 (£14.99, Fells): Good allrounder as introduction to Alsace whites. Light and delicate, dry aromatic style. Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Blanc, Languedoc 2020 (£6.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Amazing value: a big step up from the average entry-level quaffer. Domaines Paul Mas Les Tannes en Occitanie Marsanne, Languedoc 2020 (£7.99, Domaines Paul Mas): A lot of flavour for the money. Superb value. Domaines Paul Mas Château Paul Mas Belluguette, Languedoc 2019 (£15.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Wellbalanced and serious food wine; rich and full. Domaines Paul Mas Jean-Claude Mas Réserve Viognier, Languedoc 2020 (£8.99, Domaines Paul Mas): A brilliant introduction to the variety; value. Domaines Paul Mas Mas Astélia Chardonnay, Languedoc 2019 (£24.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Very engaging nose; delicate balance keeps you sipping. Domaine Philippe et Sylvain Ravier La Peyse, SavoieBugey 2016 (£24.95, Jeroboams): Big bouquet; rich, honeyed and mineral; great finish. Domaine Rocher des Violettes Touche Mitaine, Montlouis, Loire 2018 (£18.10, Thorman Hunt): Perfect for Thai/Chinese. Very easy sell at the price.
Domaine Hervé et Marie-Thérèse Richard Condrieu Cuvée “Amaraze”, Rhône 2019 (£35, Vindependents): Silky and voluptuous with complex flavours of honey, apricot and hints of spice.
Società Agricola Cortese Nostru Nerello Mascalese, Terre Siciliane IGP, Sicily 2019 (£12.99, The Wine People): Dense, lively flavours of red plum with some tarry old oak smokiness. Excellent value.
Serodes & Kovac Piquepoul le Minéral, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc 2020 (£15.50, Las Bodegas): Violets, minerality, pears, rounded finish – intriguing.
Curatolo Arini Zibibbo, Marsala, Sicily 2019 (£18.99, Liberty Wines): Turkish delight with great streak of acidity. Good long finish. Quite delightful.
Cave de Turckheim Riesling Grand Cru Brand, Alsace 2017 (£20.99, Boutinot): Fresh pineapple, mango, passion fruit; zesty lime; a whack of dried wild herb.
Donna Elvira Fringilla Falanghina, Irpinia, Campania 2019 (£13, Donna Elvira): Very good acidity. Fruity. Mineral/herbiness. Proper independents’ wine!
Vincenot & Fils Château Prince Les Ardoisières, Anjou, Loire 2018 (£27, The Wine Rack): Lemon, lime, honey, nuts. Nice texture and lingering savoury finish.
Franz Haas Schweizer Manna, Trentino-Alto-Adige 2019 (£31.99, Liberty Wines): Very aromatic with peach, lychee and rose; zippy bright acidity.
Domaine Vrignaud Chablis, Burgundy 2019 (£23.99, Liberty Wines): Grapefruit and floral nose; clean palate with citrus fruits and butter. Proper Chablis.
Agricola Marrone Langhe Arneis Tre Fie DOC, Langhe, Piedmont (£20, Vindependents): A bit spritzy. Orange blossom, ripe red apple. Lovely acidity and long finish.
Nals Magreid Kalk Chardonnay, Sudtirol, Alto-Adige 2019 (£17, Vindependents): Not a thing out of place: apple salad, slight cream, fresh grass; delicate.
Kloster Eberbach Estate Riesling Trocken, Rheingau 2019 (£16.99, Boutinot): Nicely spicy, old-school style; opens out beautifully. A real delight. Messmer Made in Pfalz Weissburgunder Trocken, Pfalz 2019 (£12.49, Boutinot): Could imagine many a glass being drunk in gardens across the UK! Weingut Schnaitmann Lämmler Riesling GG, Remstal, Wurttemberg 2018 (£30+, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Pretty and ethereal; keeps going; a delight.
Nals Magreid Punggl Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige 2019 (£24, Vindependents): Perfectly made, excellent balance and at its peak of drinking. Pieropan La Rocca, Soave Classico, Veneto 2019 (£33.99, Liberty Wines): Superb intensity; stone fruits, pinepapple, ripe red apples; a distinctive creaminess.
Poggio al Tesoro ‘Solosole’ Vermentino, Bolgheri, Tuscany 2019 (£22.99, Liberty Wines): Fresh and citrussy; elegant and complex; sweet ripe fruit.
Balassa Bor Tokaji Frumint Szent Tamás, Tokaji 2018 (£34.95, Best of Hungary): Intense stone fruits, lovely mouth feel. Great acidity. Quite a revelation.
Schenk Italia Gergenti Grillo Organic, Sicily 2020 (Buckingham Schenk): Tangerine nose, ripe fruit. Lively mineral palate; pear drops and poached pear.
Balassa Bor Tokaji Szamorodni Betsek Kvarc, Tokaji 2017 (£34.95, Best of Hungary): Excellent concentration. Luxurious, opulent, yet fresh.
The Wine People Miopasso Grillo Appassimento, Sicilia IGT, Sicily 2020 (£10.99, The Wine People): Good apricot fruit; nice structure; excellent value.
Caruso & Minini Naturalmente Bio Grillo, Sicily 2019 (£12.50, Walker & Wodehouse): Summer blossom; lovely palate: fresh, vibrant, inviting, balanced, smooth.
Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2020 (£13.99, Boutinot): Refreshing and zippy, nicely herbaceous with flashes of white pepper.
Poderi Colla Riesling, Langhe, Piedmont 2019 (£17.99, Boutinot): Very well made Riesling with zippy acidity and great poise.
Deep Down Wines Organic & Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2020 (£17.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): great structure, long finish and fabulously well-balanced acidity. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Highly commended wines Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2019 (£18.37, Bancroft Wines): Struck match and mango; grassy freshness; great verve and fluency. Seifried Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Nelson 2020 (£15.99, Fells): Bang on. Clean, fruity, appealing. Tropical abundance. A popular style. Te Mata Estate Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay 2018 (£19.99, Fells): Nice complexity with mango, apricots and almonds, plus a touch of thyme behind. Te Mata Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Hawke’s Bay 2020 (£19.99, Fells): Super zingy and grassy but not overly herbaceous; pineapple, grapefruit and lime sorbet. Vidal Reserve Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay 2018 (£16.45, Hatch Mansfield): Rich with nuts and mushrooms; apple and melon; good structure and finish. Zephyr MKII, Marlborough 2019 (£16.99, Alliance Wine): Smoky, wet stone; expressive. Pineapple; slightly nutty; citrus peel; very pretty. Zephyr Sauvignon Blanc, Blenheim, Marlborough 2020 (£14.99, Alliance Wine): Subtle herbaceous nose. Mineral, greengage and gooseberry. Loire style.
South Africa Black Elephant Vintners Dark Side of the Vine Semillon, Franschhoek 2017 (£59.99, Museum Wines): Complex, structured and balanced from start to finish. Holden Manz Wine Estate Proprietors’ White Blend, Western Cape 2018 (£21, Vindependents): Full-bodied Burgundian style; exotic fruit; citrus; butter. Jordan Nine Yards, Stellenbosch 2019 (£34.50, Awin Barratt Seigel Wine Agencies): Rich, ripe, tropical fruit and toast, but beautiful balance and length. Jordan Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2019 (£18.95, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Fantastic representation of South African Chardonnay. Kara-Tara Chardonnay, Western Cape 2020 (£19.99, Museum Wines): Green apple; fresh acidity, sea breeze citrussy nose. Oak brings serious depth. Lovely finish. Klein Constantia Clara Sauvignon Blanc, Constantia, Western Cape 2018 (£25, Mentzendorff): Floral nose, vanilla, rich and lush. Stunning delivery.
Lanzerac Mrs English Chardonnay, Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch 2019 (£30, Vindependents): Classic Chardonnay richness; nice mix of fruit and oak.
Calçada Wines, Quinta da Calçada Alvarinho, Vinho Verde 2020 (£12.43, North South Wines): Silky lingering white pear. Salty. Flinty. Stone fruit.
Lowerland Die Wonderdraai, Prieska, Northern Cape 2020 (£19, Graft Wine Company): Yoghurt, citrus, flint. Good freshness, creamy texture and nice balance.
Global Wines Encontro 1, Bairrada 2014 (£35.99, Global Wines): Complex and well put together. Savoury notes, well balanced with a lemon, apricot and mineral palate. Absolutely delicious.
Moreson Mercator, Franschhoek 2017 (£24.99, Museum Wines): A lovely nose of apricots, wood and fennel. On the palate it’s creamy and very rounded.
Global Wines Saturno Reserva, Alentejo 2019 (£25.99, Global Wines): Amazing concentration alongside a wonderful freshness. Gorgeous finish. Global Wines Casa de Santar Vinha dos Amores Encruzado, Dão 2016 (£31.99, Global Wines): Gorgeous savouriness, some salinity. Very complex. Quinta do Crasto Superior, Douro Superior, Douro 2019 (£16.95, Enotria&Coe): Homemade apple pie deliciousness. A stand-out for ease and enjoyability of drinking. Quinta do Mouro White, Borba, Alentejo 2017 (£50, Raymond Reynolds): Bruised apples, touch of tannin, dried apricot and a real zingy freshness. Very complex. 52
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Strange Kompanjie The Underworld Grenache Blanc, Western Cape 2020 (£11.99, Boutinot): Stunning summer wine that would work well with food. Strange Kompanjie Wonder Horse Palamino, Piekernierskloof 2020 (£14.49, Boutinot): Subtle green apple; white flowers; zingy lemon flavour. Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin 2020 (£21.25, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Excellent quality; saline; gooseberry. Waterkloof Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch 2020 (£13.49, Boutinot): Zingy and tropical with a little bit of freshly baked pastry.
Zevenwacht 7even Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch 2020 (£11.75, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Easy drinking. Good acidity. Good value for money.
Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Blanca, Somontano, Aragón 2018 (£13.50, Gonzalez Byass UK): Honeydew melon and papaya. Very pleasant.
Alter Ribeiro Blanco, Ribeiro, Galicia 2019 (£15.99, Liberty Wines): Aromatic lemon and lime; red apples; nice mouth feel; very easy to drink.
Bodega Garzón Albariño, Garzón, Maldonado 2020 (£31.00, Liberty Wines): Bright burst of rounded acidity with red apple skin and fresh minerality.
Conde Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria Blanco, Rioja 2019 (£23.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Burnt toast covered in butter and lime marmalade; creamy.
Noelia Bebelia Albariño, Rías Baixas, Galicia 2019 (£19.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Jasmine; wonderful bitter sourness set against a saline finish. Martín Códax Rías Baixas Albariño, Rías Baixas, Galicia 2020 (£16.99, Liberty Wines): Poached pear and mandarin; lovely length and weight. Fresh finish. Gallina de Piel Manar dos Seixas, Ribeiro, Galicia 2019 (£22.99, Liberty Wines) Good weight. Pear, spice, ginger, almond. Balanced, great acidity; long finish. Herència Altés Garnatxa Blanca, Terra Alta, Catalunya 2019 (£12.49, Bancroft Wines): Soft, creamy, elegant; citrus pith and grippy feel. Good value. Bodega Montecillo Rioja Blanco, Rioja 2019 (£16, Las Bodegas): Interesting blend (Tempranillo Blanco and Sauvignon Blanc); weighty and rich but balanced. Paco & Lola Follas Novas, Rías Baixas, Galicia 2020 (£14.50, Vindependents): Flinty minerals and white peach followed by zingy acidity. Pazo Señorans Albariño, Rías Baixas, Galicia 2019 (£19.99, Alliance Wine): Pink grapefruit acidity; salt and white peach. Subtle and elegant. Delicious. Rafael Palacios As Sortes Val do Bibei, Valdeorras Godello, Galicia 2019 (£49.99, Liberty Wines): Spicy notes; cashew; ripe citrus; grassy notes – complex. Santiago Ruiz Rosa Ruiz Albariño, Rías Baixas, Galicia 2019 (£21.99, Liberty Wines): Stone and tropical fruit; mild hint of coconut on the nose. Lovely perfume. Torres Pazo das Bruxas Albariño, Rías Baixas, Galicia 2019 (£14.99, Fells): Fresh ginger and grapefruit. Very refreshing and saline with a lengthy mineral finish.
Buena Vista North Coast Chardonnay, North Coast, California 2016 (£22.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Oak and butter and sweet fruit: expressive. Trefethen Signature Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, California 2019 (£32.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Lovely restrained style of US Chardonnay. Twill Cellars Willamette Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2018 (£37.50, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Very pure fruit. Huge elegance. Wine Hooligans Cycles Gladiator Chardonnay, California 2018 (£16.50, Castelnau Wine Agencies): Butter, cream, lipsmacking oily oak richness. Classic.
ROSÉ WINES France Maison Boutinot Collection Côtes du Thau Rosé, Languedoc 2020 (£10.99, Boutinot): Clean and mineral and crisp apple. Mouthwatering. Elegant. Helfrich Family Domaine de la Rouvière, Côtes de Provence 2020 (£14.82, Famille Helfrich): Elegant and delicate with a hint of fraise de bois. Domaines Paul Mas Jardin de Roses, Languedoc 2020 (£13.49, Domaines Paul Mas): Nice texture, lovely mouth feel; great for price point. Summer in a glass. Famille Negrel Mas de Cadenet Rosé, Sainte-Victoire, Provence 2020 (£17.50, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Delicate ripe red fruits; elegant. Domaine Tour Campanets Rosé, Provence 2020 (£12.83, Thorman Hunt): Very pale with a palate of strawberries and cream. Classic pastel Provence.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Highly commended wines Romania Cramele Recas Solara Rosé, Ville Timisului 2019 (£9, Alliance Wine): Very refreshing and drinkable. Creamy texture. An unexpected treat.
South Africa Brookdale Estate Mason Road Serendipity Rosé, Paarl 2020 (£14.99, Museum Wines): Raspberry, apricot and white pepper aromas. Tangy and nervy.
RED WINES Argentina Angulo Innocenti Limited Edition Cabernet Franc, La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£23.50, Las Bodegas): Very different Cab Franc: energetic, bold. Angulo Innocenti Malbec, La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£17, Las Bodegas): Fresh Uco Valley character, hints of violet; ripe red fruit; easy tannins. Atamisque Catalpa Pinot Noir, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£19.50, Las Bodegas): Very modern, vibrant style. Bright cherry, sweet spice, smoke. Atamisque Serbal Cabernet Franc, Tupungato, Uco Valley 2020 (£13.50, Las Bodegas): Velvet texture with a hint of stalk and a nice freshness. Benegas Don Tiburcio, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza 2017 (£19, Las Bodegas): Layers of cassis, berries, mocha and perfume, ripe finish. Sweet oak. Benegas Estate Cabernet Franc, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza 2016 (£19, Las Bodegas): Creamy and fullbodied mouth feel and lovely texture. Benegas Single-Vineyard Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£25, Las Bodegas): Fresh, floral and spicy. Nip of pepper. Strong finish; a perfect steak wine. Bressia Monteagrelo Cabernet Franc, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£16.49, Boutinot): very ripe, almost jammy red berry fruit; slightly viscous texture. La Cayetana Pinot Noir, Los Cacayes, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2018 (£29, Las Bodegas): Restrained and elegant; spicy with cinnamon and white pepper. Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza 2018 (£14.99, Liberty Wines): Sweet blackberry, blackcurrant and cedar; fine tannins. 54
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Sottano Cabernet Sauvignon, Perdriel, Mendoza 2020 (£12.50, Vindependents): Plum and blackberry; supple tannins; moreish and quaffable. Sottano Malbec, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza 2020 (£12.50, Vindependents): Lovely palate of chocolate, plums and menthol; very good for the money. Sottano Selección Malbec, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza 2019 (£18.50, Vindependents): Rich dark fruits and mocha, eucalypt, capsicum. Polished, rich and good. Susana Balbo Wines Brioso, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza 2018 (£40, Las Bodegas): Sumptuous cassis and mineral notes and lots of liquorice and pepper. Pulenta Estate VII Gran Corte, Mendoza 2017 (£39.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Intense berry fruit nose with a floral lift; fine tannins and acidity. Smart. Vallisto Barbera Extremo, Cafayate, Salta 2019 (£19.50, Las Bodegas): Lovely plummy nose. Soft features with an integrated spice character. Vallisto Criolla Extremo, Catamarca 2019 (£19.50, Las Bodegas): Juicy, vibrant and wonderful: spicy cranberries; cocoa nibs; structured tannins. Zuccardi Apelación Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza 2017 (£17.50, Hatch Mansfield): Smoky blueberries on the nose. Dried chipolte chillies. Dark and smoky. Zuccardi Los Olivios Malbec, Mendoza 2019 (£11.60, Hatch Mansfield): Nicely balanced Malbec with a savoury edge. Generous plum fruit. Very good value.
Austria Weingut Ecker-Eckhof Donatus Reserve, Wagram 2018 (£19.99, Vindependents): Aromas of spice and a touch earthy with black kirsch cherry flavours; meaty. Sepp Moser Classic Style Organic Zweigelt, Niederosterreich 2019 (£12.49, Boutinot): Pepper, cinnamon spice lifted by a faint mint note. Nice balance of fruit, tannins and acidity. Weingut R&A Pfaffl the.dot Austrian Cherry Zweigelt, Niederösterreich, Austria 2020 (£11.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Bright red cherry, cranberry; light, tannins; fresh acidity. Summer pudding in a glass.
Australia Alpha Box & Dice Mistress Touriga Nacional Tempranillo, South Australia 2019 (£19.99, Boutinot): Warm cherry tart; vanilla; rounded, chewy. Brash Higgins MCC Mataro/Cinsault/Carignan, McLaren Vale, South Australia (£23.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Lively; inviting; berries; cut grass. Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir, Tasmania 2019 (£18.75, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Delicate and well balanced with soft strawberry fruit. Flametree Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Margaret River, Western Australia 2018 (£19.50, Vindependents): Very drinkable and enjoyable; seamless. Glaetzer Wines Wallace, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2018 (£20.99, Bancroft Wines): Bold and entertaining with wonderful notes of spice and tar. The Hedonist Ecology Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia 2020 (£25, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Gentle, light, understated, delightful. Henschke Keyneton Euphonium Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2016 (£43.99, Liberty Wines): Great balance of fruit and tannin – velvety smooth. Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria 2019 (£24.99, Liberty Wines): Classic varietal flavours with beautifully balanced raspberry and liquorice. Robert Oatley Signature Series G-19 Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia 2019 (£13.95, Hatch Mansfield): Rich, warming, endless length. Excellent. Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Adelaide Hills, South Australia 2018 (£31.99, Liberty Wines): Soft and creamy, bubblegum flavour, inky colour, soft tannins. Seppeltsfield Grenache, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2019 (£19.92, Bancroft Wines): A serious wine, but lots of fun. Lovely bright fruit. Smalltown Vineyards Knock Knock Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2018 (£15.99, Boutinot): Nice, smooth, easy-going Shiraz; pepper, redcurrants. Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 2019 (£22.50, Bancroft): Cherry, vanilla notes, silky palate, elegant finish, pure class.
Tournon Mathilda Shiraz, Victoria 2017 (£14.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Very big and rich. Slight spiciness along with very sweet fruit. Like liquid blueberry jelly.
Chile Caliterra Edicion Limitada A, Colchagua Valley 2016 (£18.70, Hatch Mansfield): Fragrant, cassis character on the nose. Good fruit on the palate. A lovely wine. Emiliana Signos de Origen Los Morros Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo 2019 (£18.49, Boutinot): Vibrant ripe damson and blackberry; cedar and walnuts. Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon, Aconcagua Valley 2017 (£20.45, Hatch Mansfield): Fascinatingly exotic aromas; polished texture. Montes Old Roots Itata Cinsault, Itata 2019 (£17.99, Liberty Wines): Loads of black pepper; long length, crunchy cranberry, blueberry fruit. Delicious. Morandé Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva, Maipo 2018 (£15.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Deliciously fresh; hint of mint and bell pepper. Intense cherry. Viña Sutil Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo 2018 (£19, Castelnau Wine Agencies): Green pepper; rooibos tea; earthy note and spicy edge. Viña Sutil Limited Release Cinsault, Itata 2020 (£19, Castelnau Wine Agencies): Raspberry juice and red cherry. Delicious on its own but versatile food match. Miguel Torres Cordillera Carmenère, Cachapoal 2018 (£16.99, Fells): Very well balanced with a nice mix of floral, black fruit, spice and herbal notes. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Highly commended wines France Jean-Claude Boisset Pinot Noir Les Ursulines, Burgundy 2019 (£19.99, Liberty Wines): Dark deep fruit nose; light, elegant style; full of soft berries. Jean-Claude Boisset Chorey-lès-Beaune Les Beaumonts, Chorey-lès-Beaune, Burgundy 2018 (£37.99, Liberty Wines): Great complexity; elegance. Boutinot France Les Coteaux, Côtes du Rhône 2019 (£9.99, Boutinot): Redcurrant tartness and smoky hints; savoury, supple and good value. Boutinot France Uva Non Grata Gamay, France 2020 (£9.99, Boutinot): Beautifully bright blueberry and blackberry; vibrant acidity; exuberant. Domaine Bouyer Clos de la Cure Gran Cru St-Emilion, Bordeaux 2015 (£25.99, Boutinot): Still young but very good Bordeaux; good definition; fairly priced. Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte du Py, Morgon, Beaujolais 2019 (£19.99, Liberty Wines): Funky strawberry/cola sour: great fruit: warm and spicy. M Chapoutier Matilde Chapoutier Duché d’Uzès Rouge, Rhône 2017 (£13, Hatch Mansfield): Complex, spicy nose; smooth but with nice grip; plummy fruit. Domaine Chardigny St-Amour, Beaujolais 2018 (£15.92, Thorman Hunt): Sour cherry and black fruits with nuanced tertiary farmyard notes. Clos La Coutale, Cahors 2018 (£11.34, Thorman Hunt): Some complexity on the nose, with savoury notes, but a palate of crushed raspberries. Very quaffable. Ferraton Crozes-Hermitage Lieu-dit Les Pichères, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône 2017 (£28.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Bitter/sour cherry. Rich, dark fruit. Ginestet Château Castelbruck Cuvée Bruyères, Margaux 2015 (£31.49, Boutinot): Complex and classic. Rich and concentrated but harmonious. Guigal Saint-Joseph Rouge, Rhône 2016 (£28.99, Fells): Very complex nose – spicy and inviting. Very smooth palate and very deep, long-lasting finish. Domaine Olivier Guyot Marsannay Rouge La Montagne, Marsannay, Burgundy 2018 (£26.50, Vindependents): Appealing; mushrooms and berries.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Helfrich Family Domaine de la Baume Vieilles Vignes, Languedoc-Pezenas 2016 (£21.33, Famille Helfrich): Charmingly rustic with herbs. Helfrich Family Château des Jaume Sec, Maury, Languedoc-Roussillon 2019 (£15.16, Famille Helfrich): Soft, welcoming, juicy – delightful. Helfrich Family Domaine Roland Sounit Mercurey, Burgundy 2018 (£23.55, Famille Helfrich): Fruity, floral and enjoyable. Nice oak balance; cherry. Julienas-Chaintre Vignerons Associés, Tradition du Bois de la Salle, Julienas, Beaujolais 2020 (£13, Vindependents): Floral red fruits; blackcurrant. Louis Jadot Bourgogne Côte d’Or, Burgundy 2018 (£21.50, Hatch Mansfield): Classic Burgundy nose; juicy red fruit; really excellent for the price. Domaine Laougue Madiran 19.10, Madiran 2019 (£12.99, All For One Wines): A cross between a body builder and a velvet cushion. Excellent. Château Laurou Fronton Tradition, Fronton 2019 (£13.99, All For One Wines): Pleasingly rustic with bitter chocolate, tobacco, plums and cassis. Château Lafon Listrac Médoc, Bordeaux 2016 (£18.99, All For One Wines): Generous palate but with structure. Good quality; serious wine for the price. Domaine Lamy-Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Champs de Morgeot’, Burgundy 2017 (£23.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Lovely fruit; cinnamon and clove. Enjoyable. Domaines Paul Mas Château Paul Mas Clos de Savignac, Languedoc 2019 (£17.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Dark, almost black; absolutely beautiful. Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Rouge, Languedoc 2020 (£6.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Soft sweet ripe berry fruit. Juicy and easy; pretty remarkable price. Domaines Paul Mas Château Paul Mas Clos des Mures, Languedoc 2019 (£15.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Wonderfully balanced and structured; spicy. Château Montlau Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux 2016 (£15, Vindependents): Bright and very appealing; fleshy stewed fruit; a lot of interest; a good buy. Domaine Lucien Muzard Santenay Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy 2019 (£19.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Excellent fruit; classic palate; long finish. Value.
Domaine Lucien Muzard Santenay 1er Cru Les Gravières, Burgundy 2019 (£23.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Fresh, lively acidity; delicate red fruit; youthful. Château La Nerthe Les Cassagnes de La Nerthe Rouge, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019 (£23.99, Bancroft Wines): Floral nose; earthy, meaty palate. Oedoria Moulin à Vent, Beaujolais 2019 (£17.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Violets and vanilla on the nose; red fruits and spices on the palate – lively, with good depth. Domaine Philippe et Sylvain Ravier Mondeuse, Savoie-Bugey 2020 (£13.95, Jeroboams): Sappy and herbaceous. Distinctive, structured, interesting. Domaine de la Rocaillère Vieilles Vignes, Beaujolais 2018 (£12.99, Bancroft Wines): Well made superior summery bo-jo with good depth and interest. Château Saransot-Dupré Listrac Médoc, Bordeaux 2016 (£21.50, Vindependents): Light, fresh bouquet. Very pretty. Palate full of soft, blue fruit flavours. Terroir Talent Château de la Terrière Brouilly Tradition, Beaujolais 2019 (£15, Hatch Mansfield): Complex: strawberry, raspberry, minerals, violets.
Hungary Figula Winery Cabernet Franc-Merlot, BalatonfüredCsopaki, Balaton 2017 (£13.95, Best of Hungary): Minty, soft, herbaceous ripe fruit; easy-drinking. Vesztergombi Pince Szent László Bikavér, Szekszárd 2017 (£29.95, Best of Hungary): Floral fruity aromas; dark berries, cherries; smoky-creamy; silky finish. Vesztergombi Pince Vintage, Szekszárd 2017 (£47.95, Best of Hungary): Complex mature style – a Bordeaux blend with added native Kekfrankos and some Shiraz.
Italy Poderi Colla Barbera d’Alba Costa Bruna, Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont 2018 (£18.49, Boutinot): Lovely summer fruit compote; firm but balanced. Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany 2018 (£24.50, Winetraders): Refined and mellow; soft autumnal feeling with dusky tannins. Castello di Bossi Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany 2016 (£35, Winetraders): Delightful maturing Chianti, with leather, nutmeg and allspice.
Castello di Bossi Tempo Morellino di Scansano, Tuscany 2018 (£17.50, Winetraders): Red berry fruit with enjoyably grippy tannins and smoky nuances.
Luis Guntrum Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen 2018 (£16.75, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Spice and bonfire smoke behind juicy appealing red fruit.
Il Cascinone Avamposti Slarina, Piedmont 2019 (£13.99, Third Floor Wines): A touch floral; restrained, berries and forest floor; one for the adventurous.
Hanewald-Schwerdt Kalkriff Spätburgunder, Pfalz 2015 (£21.50, Vindependents): Umami, leather, mushroom; beautiful ripe black cherry fruit. Superb.
Il Cascinone Rive Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Piedmont 2017 (£16.99, Third Floor Wines): Soft, approachable, mouth-filling but fresh. Straightforwardly pleasurable.
Messmer Made in Pfalz Spätburgunder Trocken, Pfalz 2018 (£14.99, Boutinot): Vibrant violet and cherry aromas; caramel, vanilla; well-integrated tannins.
Giuseppe Cortese Morassina Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont 2017 (£21.50, Vindependents): Modern style of serious Barbera; structured; minty; dark cherry.
Weingut Schnaitmann Lämmler Lemberger GG, Remstal, Wurttemberg 2018 (£30, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Earthy pepper; spice; original.
Cà dei Maghi Valpolicella Classico, Veneto 2019 (£17.50, Vindependents): Super fragrant and floral; glacé cherry. Light touch but with concentration.
Villa Wolf Pinot Noir, Pfalz 2019 (£13.50, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Fresh, medium-bodied Pinot; nice acidity, medium-fine tannins; elegant perfume.
Cà dei Maghi Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, Veneto 2016 (£37.50, Vindependents): Intense black maraschino cherry. Rich and round. Quite opulent. Damilano Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont 2018 (£25, Winetraders): Super serious mini-Barolo; grippy tannins and Nebbiolo fragrance; good quality. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Highly commended wines Donnafugata Tancredi, Sicily 2017 (£41.99, Liberty Wines): Classic Cabernet flavours with plenty of sweet spice. A big blend with pleasant garrigue notes.
Principe Pallavicini Roma Rosso, Lazio 2017 (£18.99, Liberty Wines): Strawberry, vanilla, Vimto-like fruity sweetness. Light, acidic and fruity; individualistic.
Donnafugata ‘Sul Vulcano’ Etna Rosso Nerello Mascalese, Etna, Sicily 2017 (£29.99, Liberty Wines): Bright fruit, high acidity; excellent volcanic minerality.
Prunotto Langhe Nebbiolo Occhetti, Piedmont 2018 (£25.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Cherry-floral nose; red fruits, fresh acidity, nice complexity; long finish.
Fantini Farnese Edizione 19 Cinque Autoctoni, Abruzzo 2017 (£32.99 Liberty Wines): Class in a glass. Everything you want from a top Italian. Rich, smooth, herbs.
Renato Ratti Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont 2019 (£21.99, Fells): Tar, vanilla and herbs; lovely rich tannin, nice acidity with touch of cherry; ageworthy.
Agricola Marrone Barolo, Piedmont 2017 (£35, Vindependents): Nice modern style of Barolo; good tannins with black cherry and polished oak. Masi Bonacosta Valpolicella Classico, Veneto 2019 (£15.99, Berkmann Wine Agencies): Savoury, herbal, roasted meat, thyme, rosemary, umami. Properly gorgeous. Massolino Margheria Barolo, Piedmont 2017 (£98.99, Liberty Wines): Leather and tar nose. High acidity, rich tannin, creamy cherry and chocolate. Classy. Massolino Barolo, Piedmont 2017 (£51.99, Liberty Wines): Nose of spicy dark fruits with a hint of orange peel. Ripe berries with lifted cranberry notes. Tenuta Moriniello Chianti Riserva Biologico Fortebraccio, Tuscany 2016 (£16.99, Winetraders): Cherry; dried fruit; smoke, violet and toastiness. Mottura Vini del Salento Villa Mottura Primitivo Manduria, Puglia 2019 (£13, Vindependents): Smooth, almost medicinal; full of cherries. Truly excellent. Mottura Vini del Salento Primitivo, Salento IGT, Puglia 2020 (£10.50, Vindependents): Vimto fruitiness with rose petals/Turkish delight. Hints of banana bread and toffee. Nals Magreid Sand Lagrein, Gries, Bolzano, Alto Adige 2019 (£19, Vindependents): Detailed, richly fruited palate. Dark and juicy with some power. Fresh acidity. Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti La Villa, Piedmont 2019 (£14.99, Alliance Wine): Simple but attractive; violet hints; juicy and good acidity. Food-friendly. Cantine Povero Priore Barolo, Piedmont 2016 (£31.50, Vindependents): Cherry, plums and figs with a little hint of chocolate and a touch of sweet vanilla. 58
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Pieropan Ruberpan Valpolicella Superiore, Veneto 2017 (£23.99, Liberty Wines): Herbal; silky palate; sweet rich fruit; fresh, sappy acidity. Classy. Agricola San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany 2018 (£19.99, Third Floor Wines): Complex nose of truffle and pipe smoke; chalky, grippy tannins. Schenk Italia Casali del Barone 150+1 Barbera, Piedmont 2019 (£10.99, Buckingham Schenk): Joyous, gulpable red with good typicity; excellent value. Schenk Italia Boccantino Nero di Troia, Salento, Puglia 2020 (£11.99, Buckingham Schenk): Smooth, interesting wine. Very elegant and beautifully balanced. Sensi Vigne e Vini Calappiano Lungarno Rosso, IGT Toscana 2017 (£22.50, Vindependents): Very fullbodied; nice plummy fruit; touch of polished oak. Sensi Vigne e Vini Calappiano Vinciano Chianti DOCG, Tuscany 2019 (£15, Vindependents): Spice enhanced by good acidity and fruit intensity. Great food wine. Sensi Vigne e Vini Calappiano Vinciano Chianti Riserva, Tuscany 2017 (£19, Vindependents): Still young but will go far. Lovely length; good value. Sensi Vigne e Vini Calappiano Collegeonzi Sangiovese, IGT Toscana 2017 (£22.50, Vindependents): Complex: olives, tar, dark chocolate. Tenute Tomasella Cabernet Franc, Friuli Grave 2019 (£12.99, Buckingham Schenk): Juicy blackcurrant fruit complemented by savoury notes; very likeable. Torre a Cona Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Tuscany 2018 (£14.50, Winetraders): Appealing, easy-to-drink; medium-bodied, smooth, round; crowd pleasing.
Torre a Cona Badia a Corte, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Tuscany 2017 (£24.50, Winetraders): Impeccable balance and silky texture; Sangiovese to the fore.
Azamor Selected Vines Vinho Regional Alentejano, Alentejo 2014 (£22.99, Liberty Wines): Ripe black plummy fruit and a touch of spice; lovely acidity.
GD Vajra Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont 2019 (£24.99, Liberty Wines): Rich and juicy palate with a fine herbal edge. Supple and complex. Well balanced.
Quinta dos Carvalhais Dão Touriga Nacional, 2017 (£22.99, Liberty Wines): Well made. Earthy deep red and black fruits and a hint of fruitcake spice.
GD Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont 2019 (£25.99, Liberty Wines): Classic fresh, summery Nebbiolo; liquorice and red cherry; herbs; ripe, rounded tannins.
Casa Ferreirinha Quinta da Leda Douro Tinto, Douro 2017 (£47.99, Liberty Wines): Stunning balance of black fruits and mocha. A warming winter wine.
Vesevo Taurasi, Campania 2013 (£29.99, Liberty Wines): Beautifully mature; dried fruit, toffee. Complex, balanced; luscious long finish. Excellent.
DFJ Vinhos Consensus Pinot Noir Touriga Nacional, Lisboa 2016 (£13.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Interesting blend with broad appeal. A good purchase.
The Delaforce Family Temilobos Single Vineyard, Douro 2016 (£15.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Black cherry and violets; well structured; peppery finish.
Akarua Bannockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2019 (£29.99, Liberty Wines): Bright fruit; subtle earthy notes. Lots of red-berry summer fruit; great length. Akarua RUA Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2019 (£19.99, Liberty Wines): Young, approachable, easy drinking. Good intensity. Good finish. Good price point. Akitu A2 Pinot Noir, Cromwell, Central Otago 2017 (£31, Mentzendorff): Classic New Zealand Pinot. Violets, wild flowers, tomato, roasted meat, harissa. Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir, Nelson 2016 (£23.60, Walker & Wodehouse): Lovely, developing intensity on the nose. Well balanced, attractive Pinot. Seifried Aotea Pinot Noir, Nelson 2018 (£24.99, Fells): Beautiful, elegant, dark fruit rich, earthy, menthol; delicate style; good finish; complex; needs time. Te Awanga Estate Wildsong Organic Syrah, Hawke’s Bay 2019 (£16.89, North South Wines): Very pleasant, pale Syrah; macerated strawberries; medium body. Te Mata Alma Pinot Noir, Hawke’s Bay 2018 (£44.99, Fells): Complex Pinot but with great ageing potential. Long finish. Very intense. Brooding nose. Te Mata Estate Pinot Noir, Hawke’s Bay 2018 (£24.99, Fells): Intense red fruits: strawberry; cranberry. Lovely balance of oak. Very long finish; approachable.
Portugal Jose Abreu Lopes Mota Capitao Potocarro Autocarro 27, Peninsula de Setubal 2018 (£12.50, Vindependents): Full, plump. Good, hearty wine.
Global Wines Casa de Santar Reserva Tinto, Dão 2014 (£21.99, Global Wines): Fresh eucalyptus with mocha and chocolate. Slick fruit and depth of flavour. Quinta do Paral Tinto, Vidigueira, Alentejo 2018 (£16.99, Propeller): Petit Verdot to the fore; sui generis and all the better for it. Quinta do Paral Colheita Selectionada, Vidigueira, Alentejo 2017 (£26.99, Propeller): A big, powerful red but all in balance. Herdade Do Peso Alentejo Reserve, Alentejo 2017 (£28.99, Liberty Wines): Smooth, mouth-filling; finegrained tannins. Classy and hits the price point. Quinta de la Rosa Estate Tinto, Douro 2018 (£15.50, Walker & Wodehouse): An easy-drinking big red. Thick, dark and brooding. Beautiful black fruits; mocha; smoke. Symington Family Estates Quinta do Ataide Douro Red, Douro 2016 (£14.99, Fells): Black forest gâteau in a glass. Deep, intense, expressive, impressive.
South Africa The Copper Crew Merlot, Elgin 2018 (£4.20, 25cl can, The Copper Crew): Ripe black plums and hedgerow fruit; grippy tannins; a touch of herbaceousness. Fairview The Beacon Shiraz, Paarl, Swartland (£29.99, Liberty Wines): Juicy red berries; long finish with lingering vanilla and wild herbs; complex, dark.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Highly commended wines Andreas Syrah, Wellington, Coastal 2018 (£22.50, Museum Wines): Black fruits, vanilla, soft, subtle spice. Herbal notes. Soft tannins. Drinking now.
Warwick Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2017 (£29.99, Fells): Layers of flavour, great balance and a long extended finish with pepper and spice.
Gabriëlskloof The Blend, Bot River, Walker Bay 2018 (£14.99, Liberty Wines): Earthy, rustic, black cherry, oak, spice. Well balanced and integrated.
Vergelegen DNA, Stellenbosch 2014 (£24.99, Fells): Cassis, cedar, mint, vanilla, chocolate and coffee; long finish. Developed and mature.
Hartenberg Wine Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2017 (£18.49, Bancroft Wines): Structured tannins; very elegant; lovely glass of wine.
Warwick Estate Cabernet Franc, Stellenbosch 2017 (£25.99, Fells): Very intense. Stewed plums, white pepper, ripe red cherries, Oak. Good finish.
Holden Manz Proprietors’ Blend Red, Franschhoek, Western Cape 2015 (£27, Vindependents): Long, balanced, deep red fruit. Minty. Complex.
Warwick Estate The First Lady Pinotage, Western Cape 2019 (£12.49, Fells): Meaty and inviting. Dry cherry. Good for the price point. Good length and tasty.
Jordan Estate Black Magic Merlot, Stellenbosch 2018 (£18.25, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Absolutely fabulous benchmark Merlot – superb.
Zevenwach Tin Mine Red, Stellenbosch 2017 (£13.50, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Fragrant nose. Soft, jammy, approachable; decent length.
Klein Constantia Estate Red, Constantia, Western Cape 2017 (£24, Mentzendorff): Very deep plum, sumptuous dark berries; very fine but fresh tannins. A keeper.
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2016 (£36.20, Hatch Mansfield): Luscious, lick-your-lips wine; patisserie; sweet spice pastry. Moreson The Widow Maker Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2018 (£24.99, Museum Wines): Dark ruby, hedgerow spice. Red cherries. Well integrated oak. Serious. Painted Wolf Wines Guillermo Pinotage, Swartland 2018 (£16.60, North South Wines): What Pinotage can achieve with good winemaking. Complex, lingering. Anthonji Rupert Wyne Optima, Western Cape 2016 (£22.98, Bancroft Wines): Cassis, blackberry, sweet spice, forest floor. Good structure/acidity/tannins. Stark-Condé Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal Region 2019 (£6.99, Museum Wines): Delicious, great BBQ wine. Completely overdelivers. Tokara Reserve Collection Syrah, Stellenbosch 2017 (£28.25, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Beautiful new world Syrah. Herbal nose. Eucalyptus, dark fruits. Uva Mira The Mira Cabernet, Stellenbosch 2017 (£29.99, Museum Wines): Elegant, lingering, delicious finish. Really flavoursome and smooth.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Finca Allende Rioja Tinto, Rioja 2013 (£26.67, Bancroft Wines): Really inviting nose. Velvety palate with spice, oak and structure; good acidity. Alter Ribeiro Tinto, Ribeiro, Galicia 2018 (£15.99, Liberty Wines): Intensely juicy. Farmyard, blackberry, dark chocolate; tarry pitch note. Mouthwatering. Bodegas AltoLandon Mil Historías Bobal, Landete, Manchuela 2019 (£12.99, Alliance Wine): Szechuan pepper spice; red fruit. Good acidity; concentration. Bodegas AltoLandon Mil Historías Garnacha, Landete, Manchuela 2015 (£12.99, Alliance Wine): Sweet strawberry, raspberry and cranberry; dusky tannin. Bodegas Amaren Ángeles de Amaren, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja 2015 (£25.99, Alliance Wine): Pronounced fruit; creamy vanilla finish. Soft; entering lovely maturity. Aster Finca el Otero, Ribera del Duero 2016 (£35.70 Armit Wines): Intense, concentrated black fruit flavours. Juicy, and outstanding value for money. Aster Crianza, Ribera del Duero 2015 (£22.35, Armit Wines): Superb: silky, powdery tannins and well defined fruit, oak and umami flavours. Botas de Barro Almansa 2018 (£11.99, Propeller): Fresh fruity nose, black colour. Herbal, intense fruit, tar and liquorice. Balanced. Great value.
Bodegas Luis Cañas Seleccíon de la Familia Rioja Reserva, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja 2016 (£24.99, Alliance Wine): Deep, spicy, silky, extremely engaging.
Bodega Navajas Reserva Tinto, Rioja 2013 (£12.50, Walker & Wodehouse): Really drinkable and an absolute steal at the price – snap it up!
Familia Castaño Hécula Monastrell, Yecla, Murcia 2019 (£10.99, Liberty Wines): Rounded, clean, bright. Bramble fruit; lifted aromas; fine acidity. Great value.
Bodegas Ontañon Rioja Ecologico, Rioja 2019 (£10.99, Boutinot): light cherry fruit in a very modern style. Soft and sweet on the palate; great for the price.
Clos de Lom Garnacha, Valencia 2019 (£18, Vindependents): Ripe sweet fruit: raspberry jam sponge; pepper; some tannin and bright acidity.
Bodegas Ontañon Queirón Mi Lugar Rioja Vino de Quel, Quel, Rioja 2018 (£25.99, Boutinot): Precisely balanced. Serious, indulgent, luxurious wine.
Clos de Lom Isidra, Valencia 2018 (£23.50, Vindependents): Smoky blackberry fruit, with cherry drops and vanilla-strawberry notes.
Descendientes de J Palacios Petalos, Bierzo 2019 (£20.46, Bancroft Wines): Macerated sweet strawberries and berry fruit with white pepper lift.
Finca Constancia Parcela 23, Castilla La Mancha 2019 (£12, Gonzalez Byass UK): Full-bodied and luscious texture with fine, dry tannins; dark fruit and liquorice.
Bodegas Peique Ramón Valle, Bierzo 2019 (£15, Vindependents): Blueberries, pencil shavings, white pepper. Supple tannins and lovely length. Good value.
El Coto Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja 2016 (£16.99, Liberty Wines): Excellent fruit; excellent colour. Drinking well – does not disappoint.
Palacios Remondo La Montesa Crianza, Rioja 2017 (£19.49, Bancroft Wines): Fragrant lavender, macerated strawberries, soft oak. Gentle sweetness.
CVNE Asua Crianza, Rioja 2017 (£11.95, Hatch Mansfield): Delicious on its own and great value for the price – “would consider this for our range”.
Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Zeta, Sierra de Gredos 2018 (£21.99, Bancroft Wines): Delicious raspberry and red cherry fruit. Excellent balance and real compexity.
De Alto Aurkitu Garnacha, Baja Montana, Navarra 2019 (£11.99, Alliance Wine): Ripe hedgerow fruit; lots of berries on the palate. Yummy.
Torre de Oña Finca San Martín Crianza, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja 2017 (£14.70, Armit Wines): Very well structured, with savoury, tarry stewed fruit. Very good.
Dehesa de Rubiales Alaia Prieto Picudo Tempranillo, Castilla y León 2019 (£9.49, Boutinot): Spicy pepper; sweet-sour feel. Fine tannins; mouth-filling texture.
Finca Villacreces Pruno, Ribera del Duero 2018 (£17.99, Liberty Wines): Serious, gastronomic wine with lively acidity and layers of flavour. Impressive.
Bodega Enate Crianza, Somontano, Aragón 2017 (£14.49, Daniel Lambert Wines): Mellow but very ripe fruit, herbal undertone, black fruit and capsicum.
Vintae Wine Specialists Bardos Clea Reserva, Ribera del Duero 2018 (£18, Vindependents): Crunchy black fruit, mocha hints and dried herbs – a real winner.
Bodegas Martínez Lacuesta 125 Anniversario, Rioja Alta, Rioja 2010 (£55, Vindependents): Deliciously rounded and refined. Perfectly balanced. Top quality.
Vintae Wine Specialists Bardos Clea Crianza, Ribera del Duero 2018 (£14.50, Vindependents): Red berry spice; soft and juicy. Nicely balanced and good value.
Mas Blanch i Jové Troballa Negra, Costers del Segre, Cataluña 2019 (£17.50, Vindependents): Dry, earthy and complex. Loads to enjoy.
Bodega Montecillo Viña Monty Garnacha Reserva, Rioja Alta, Rioja 2015 (£55, Las Bodegas): Big, bold: power with restraint. Excellent winemaking.
Bodega Garzón Tannat, Garzón, Maldonado, Uruguay 2019 (£19.99, Liberty Wines): vibrant, enjoyable, rich and open. Brooding but not sulky. Very good.
Finca Museum Cigales Reserva, Castilla y León 2015 (£18.99, Liberty Wines): Oak, chopped fresh coriander, liquorice, blackberry fruit palate with a spicy finish. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Highly commended wines USA Domaine Carneros Avant Garde Pinot Noir, Carneros, California 2019 (£26.90, Hatch Mansfield): Red cherry juice; refreshing and easy drinking. Delightful. Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre, Contra Costa, California 2018 (£18.99, Boutinot): Distinctive cassis and mint; well balanced tannins. Sweet fruit finish. Cline Cellars Late Harvest Mourvèdre, Central Coast, California 2017 (£17.49, Boutinot): Super interesting. Flavours of dark fruit and a distinct menthol note. Cline Cellars Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel, Lodi, California 2018 (£13.49, Boutinot): To be enjoyed without food as much as with: a crowd pleaser, with wide appeal. Decoy Limited Red Wine, Napa Valley, California 2018 (£38, Top Selection): Ripe, fine tannins; excellent balance between the acidity and alcohol. Decoy Limited Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, California 2018 (£38, Top Selection): Perfect ripeness of primary fruit with spice and pleasing stalkiness. Domaine Drouhin Oregon Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon 2017 (£37.99, Berkmann Wine Cellars): Superb quality upmarket Oregon Pinot. Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State 2017 (£29, Wanderlust Wines): Lush but really nice balance of cassis; ripe tannins. Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, Anderson Valley, California 2017 (£21.99, Fells): Plums and dark cherry, nice tannin, very fruit forward – lots of appeal. Experience Wines Trail 3150, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, California 2016 (£30, Castelnau Wine Agencies): Exceptional flavour concentration and balance on the palate. Rich dried fruit and citrus peel.
Trefethen Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District, California 2018 (£35.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Really fleshy and spicy; plum and leather; Good finish. Vina Robles The Arborist, Paso Robles, California 2019 (£22.50, Vindependents): Open and inviting with a little Christmas cake warmth and a nice lick of acidity. Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California 2018 (£24, Vindependents): Intense, concentrated and clean blackcurrant; savoury edge. Wine Hooligans Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon, California 2018 (£16.50, Castelnau Wine Agencies): Tangy; long baking spice finish. Superb price. Wine Hooligans Portlandia Pinot Noir, Oregon 2019 (£27, Castelnau Wine Agencies): Black cherry bomb. Very vibrant. Vanilla and cedar from oak. Very lively.
FORTIFIED WINES Australia Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, Rutherglen, Victoria NV (£14, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Crêpe Suzette; orange syrup, silky texture. Lots of pleasure. Campbells Isabella Rare Topaque, Rutherglen, Victoria NV (£65, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Toffee and liquorice; caramel and coffee; delicate finish. Campbells Rutherglen Topaque, Rutherlgen, Victoria NV (£15, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Orange caramel and toffee; really elegant and persistent.
Portugal Blandy’s 10-Year-Old Bual, Madeira NV (£22.99, Fells): Elegant nose with caamel, walnut and oloroso sherry aromas. Nutty on the palate with good acidity.
Nielson Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, California 2017 (£23.99, Boutinot): Leather smoky, meaty, smoked bacon. Pronouced and expressive nose.
Blandy’s Duke of Cumberland, Madeira NV (£15.99, Fells): A good beginner’s Madeira: light-bodied with tropical fruits and lovely oxidised characteristics.
Scheid Ranch 32 AVA Pinot Noir, Monterey, California 2018 (£17.97, North South Wines): A great hot summer’s day drink; soft vanilla adds depth.
Fonseca Crusted Port, Douro NV (£18, Mentzendorff): Very smooth and long-lasting on the palate with lots of ripe fruits of the forest type. Sumptuous.
Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California 2018 (£27.99, Liberty Wines): Powerful, but poised. Deep dark fruits, with a hint of sweetness.
Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro NV (£39.99, Fells): Smoky mezcal-like nose; high quality; really smooth and mellow texture. Great length.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Malvasia, Madeira NV (£21, Mentzendorff): Earthy nose; overcooked caramel aromas; syrupy texture; smoky. Quinta do Infantado 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro NV (£15.99, Liberty Wines): Light, fruity, easy to drink: a very accessible style of tawny port. Justino’s Colheita, Madeira 2003 (£49.99, Liberty Wines): Expressive nose with orange peel and raisin; herbs, bitter orange and dry fruits; long finish.
Spain Equipo Navazos I Think Manzanilla En Rama, Jerez NV (£11.99, Alliance Wine): Markedly saline nose, mouthwatering palate. Perfect style of manzanilla. Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso, Jerez NV (£15.50, Gonzalez Byass UK): Intense raisin. Very enjoyable. Good price and an accessible style. Gonzalez Byass Viña AB Amontillado, Jerez NV (£17, Gonzalez Byass UK): Gorgeous nose, rich with caramel and nut. Rich and mouth-filling. Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth, Jerez NV (£15, Gonzalez Byass UK): Brilliant nose; very balanced and layered. High quality and interesting. Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana Oloroso Seco Faraón, Jerez NV (£13, Mentzendorff): Leather, cedar, raisins, vanilla. Very appetising. Plump golden sultanas. Valdespino Fino Inocente Pago de Macharnudo, Jerez NV (£19.99, Liberty Wines): Fudgy; white chocolate flavours. Delicate; well-balanced. Very good quality.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Leading suppliers 2021 Supplier
Top 100 placings
Awin Barratt Siegel
Berkmann Wine Cellars
Daniel Lambert Wines
Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 spot, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100
Leading countries 2021
Top 100 placings
Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 spot, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.
THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100