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The wineanorak's wines of the year 2001

Over the last couple of weeks I've been going through the process of picking the wineanorak's wines of the year. Each month, I've been recommending wines in two categories, under £8 and over £8 (£7.99 seems to act as an important psychological barrier in UK wine retailing), and from these I've selected a mixed case of my favourites, with six wines from each. It's been a difficult job, but below is my personal top 12 for 2001. 

I'd emphasize that these aren't necessarily the absolute 'best' wines I've tasted this year. Many of the fine wines I've had the privilege of guzzling simply aren't available on the market, or are so expensive that the value for money isn't there. So there's a pretty good chance that you'll still be able to buy many of the wines here from the outlets indicated, and the good news is that none of them costs more than £20. Even in these days of high wine prices, there are still a lot of very good yet affordable bottles out there if you're prepared to search for them.

More expensive wines (£8 and over)

Ogier Côte Rôtie 1996, Northern Rhône, France
A profound wine from the Northern Rhône. Stunning nose: meaty, herby, pungent, medicinal but at the same time delicate and with a floral edge. On the mid-weight palate the firm tannins and high acidity balance beautifully with the dense, earthy fruit. It's savoury and delicious: the antithesis to the new oak, high alcohol, overripe fruit international style that's so prevalent these days. Tried twice, some months apart, with consistent notes. Excellent (Berry Bros £19.95)

Domaine Gros' Noré Bandol Rouge 1999, Provence, France
Alain Pascal's Domaine Gros' Noré is now one of the leading Bandol estates, and has catapulted to fame since releasing its first wines just two years ago. I was impressed by the 1998, but if anything the 1999 is even better (and reports from someone who's tasted cask samples of the 2000 say it's better yet). A deep purple/red colour. I'm very taken with the intense nose, currently dominated by ripe, liquoricey fruit. The palate is tannic and powerful; savoury and dry. There's a great density of herby, olive-laced fruit. It's quite clean, but still packed with character. Tried again, more recently: it's firming up a bit, suggesting that this may be one for the long-haul. Excellent (£15 La Vigneronne)

Montana Fairhall Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 1997, Marlborough, New Zealand
I think this is the first New Zealand red that I've recommended on these pages, and it's a stunning effort. The rich, classy, complex nose shows sweet blackcurrant and red berry fruit. On the palate a lovely mineral character underlies the rich, spicy berry fruit. Full-on but still well balanced. Excellent (£11.99, some Oddbins stores)

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 1997, Tuscany, Italy
The first vintage of this, the new flagship wine of this estate, made from Sangiovese and aged for 18 months in barrique. A concentrated red/purple colour, this delicious wine shows a herby, slightly medicinal nose with tar and leather notes. The palate is firm and tannic, with lots of structure and dense red berry fruit. There's a lovely savoury character and the finish is bone dry. Very good/excellent (£18 Noel Young, £20 Chandos Deli)

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 1999, Walker Bay, South Africa
I'm a big fan of this wine, which is nicely poised between the new and old world styles, as are many of the best Chardonnays from the Cape. Wonderful toasty nose: complex, nutty and full. Rich and balanced on the palate with an intense, savoury edge. Lovely stuff. Excellent. As an aside, I've also tried the 2000 vintage on a couple of occasions recently, and if anything it's a bit more full-on in style. (Around £12, stockists usually include Bentalls, Fortnum & Mason, Berry Bros, Oddbins Fine Wine and independent wine merchants)

Bründlmayer Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein Alte Reben 1998, Langenlois, Kamptal, Austria
A sensationally bold interpretation of Riesling. Pretty alcoholic at 14%, but not unbalanced. Beautifully enticing smoky, spicy nose (some botrytis here?). The concentrated, rich palate shows complex notes of lime, spice and honey, with a bone dry finish. Quite delicious. Excellent (Bibendum £18)

The bargain picks (under £8)

Anselmi San Vicenzo 2000, IGT Veneto, Italy
Soave with a difference (deliberately declassified to IGT status), I recommended Anselmi's 1999 San Vicenzo here a while back; I'm pleased to say that the 2000 is even better. A blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave, it has a lovely, rich floral nose with a nutty edge. The palate is rich, full textured, fruity and nutty. Delicious stuff. Very good/excellent (c. £7, Fortnum & Mason, Chandos Deli, Noel Young)

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2000, France
Nicely packaged in a heavy bottle, this is a deep purple coloured wine showing great concentration. There's an attractive roast coffee/burnt edge to the peppery nose. The palate is savoury, with grippy tannins, peppery fruit and a drying, slightly green finish. There are also hints of olives and coffee. A great food wine. The 1999 is still around; this is a bit fleshier and probably more rewarding for currrnt drinking. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Handford, A&B Vintners)

Château Grande Cassagne 'Les Rameaux' 2000, Costières de Nîmes, France
Pure Syrah, this is a brilliant wine for the money. Very deep coloured with a delicious savoury nose displaying roasted, meaty notes and spicy, coffee elements. Palate shows good concentration of rich, spicy savoury fruit with a lovely liquoricey edge. Wonderfully rich and a superb food wine. Highly recommended. Very good/excellent (La Vigneronne £6.95) 

Materne Haegelin Tokay Pinot Gris 1999, Alsace, France
I am really taken with the latest releases from Materne Haegelin, who offer authentic Alsace wines at very good prices. The Riesling Bollenberg and Gewürztraminer (also stocked by Majestic) are both impressive, but my favourite is the beautifully poised Tokay Pinot Gris. The nose shows notes of smoky bacon and herbs, with a fresh, acidic lift, and leads to a richly textured palate that finishes dry. A full-on food wine: one for the Christmas turkey? Very good/excellent (Majestic £7.99, currently on offer at buy 2 save £2 = £6.99)

Tim Adams Semillon 1998, Clare Valley, Australia
Tim Adams refuses to work with Chardonnay; instead, he makes superb Riesling and Semillon. A yellow/gold colour, this fine example of the latter has a striking nose of lemony fruit, coconut and herbs. Complex and savoury on the palate, with powerful fruit flavours and a savoury, herby edge. Unusual stuff: with great concentration and intensity, this is a super food wine. Very good/excellent (Majestic, Tesco £7.99)

La Cuvée Mythique 1998, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
A blend of Val d'Orbieu's best parcels of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan, this is a superb, dense, fruit-packed red at a very good price. Deep coloured, it has a lovely nose of ripe fruit, herbs and well-judged oak. On the concentrated palate there is sweet fruit and oak, underpinned by firm tannins. In style, this sits somewhere in between other new wave Languedoc reds (which tend to be more terroir-driven) and Aussie Shiraz. It's a wine to buy by the case for drinking over the next few years. This is now being replaced on the shelves by the 1999, which is good but not quite as substantial as the 1999. Very good/excellent (£6.49 Majestic, Waitrose)

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