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Recommended wines 2001: £8 and over

see also: recommended wines 2001: under £8 and wines of the year 2001

Altogether I recommended 51 wines in this category, and with these more expensive wines the old world:new world split was a little more even than with the sub £8 category, with 30 old world wines and 21 from the new. France came out on top again (17), but Australia (10) did better than I'd have expected, and there were strong-ish showings from New Zealand and Italy, with 5 each. The USA managed 3 entries (I didn't recommend any sub £8 wines from the States), but there were none from South America or Germany. Spain, Austria and the Lebanon managed a couple each; Portugal and the UK just one.

It's worth remembering that these are not the absolute 'best' wines I tasted this year. Many excellent wines didn't make the recommendations pages simply because they are not (or no longer) available in the UK marketplace, or are simply so expensive that the value for money just isn't there. As an example, I've tasted better wines this year from Albert Mann (Alsace) than his Tokay Pinot Gris Vieilles Vignes 1999, but it makes the list because it's readily available from Oddbins, whereas his excellent Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 1999 will extremely difficult for readers to track down (I've just noticed that Lay and Wheeler stock the 1998, so presumably they will have this soon). And the wonderful 1999 Côte Rotie from Jamet doesn't appear here because unless you ordered some en primeur, then there'll be none left for you. Still, having said this, it's an impressive list of wines, and I've chosen six to include in my mixed case of 12 wines of the year.

France (17)

Domaine La Courtade 1998, Côtes du Provence
From an ambitious domaine on the island of Porqourelles, this is a really attractive Mourvèdre-based wine in a modern mould. Lovely, exotic nose of deep, smoky fruit with liquorice and menthol. On the palate it is tannic and dense -- although it is oaky, there's a nice balance between this and the fruit. Very good/excellent (£13.95 La Vigneronne)

Albert Mann Tokay Pinot Gris Vieilles Vignes 1999, Alsace
From a tricky vintage a lovely expression of Pinot Gris. This isn't big and fat like some examples of this grape can be, but instead shows good balance. It displays rounded, ripe grapey/spicy flavours, and notes of honey, toffee apples and smoke, with a long spicy finish. Just a touch of residual sugar: the overall impression is quite dry. A rich, full flavoured food wine. Very good+ (£10.49 Oddbins) 

Mas de Daumas Gassac 1996, Vin de Pays de l'Herault
Possibly the most famous wine from the south of France, this almost lives up to its huge reputation, but there's a touch of greenness that stops it being really great. Deep red/black colour. Intense nose of complex cassis with a leafy mineral streak. Good concentration and complexity, with ripe fruit, firm tannins and a slightly green streak (although this isn't unpleasant). Almost claret-like in its balance. Very good/excellent (£12.99 Tesco)

Domaine de la Casa Blanca, Banyuls Tradition 1998
A fortified wine from the Roussillon region of France (near the Mediterranean border with Spain) this is made mainly from the Grenache Gris grape. Ripe, sweet, herbal nose -- slightly caramelized. Full, dense and rich on the palate, with great balance and sweet herbiness. This has plenty of what is known as 'rancio' character. Very good/ excellent (£10.95 La Vigneronne)

Rabasse-Charavin Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Cuvée d'Estevenas 1998
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but this is a breathtaking expression of Grenache from ancient vines and low yields. I was blown away by the full-on, attractive, fragrant and peppery nose. This leads to a palate displaying concentrated, ripe spicy fruit with a touch of sweetness to it. Very good/excellent (£10.67, A&B Vintners)

Bergerie de L’Hortus Classique 1999, Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc
Refreshingly, this new-wave southern French red is not some overoaked 14° alcohol monster, but instead is a classic example of why Pic St Loup is one of the most impressive communes in the Languedoc. The nose is deliciously meaty, herby, smoky and earthy, with some raspberry/damson fruit. The palate shows meaty, olive-laced fruit with quite high acidity and a lovely savoury character. Good balance. Very good/excellent (£8.50 Lea & Sandeman, Handford)

Domaine La Rocalière Lirac Cuvée Prestige 1998
This large domaine makes two special Cuvées (in addition to their regular cuvée which is stocked by Majestic): one is a varietal Syrah, and this one is a varietal Mourvédre. It is impressive stuff for the price (I've previously enjoyed the 1995, which was superb). Deep red/black colour with an arresting nose of meaty fruit. Firm, tannic palate with some peppery fruit and chunky, full-on flavours. Nicely balanced. Impressive wine with nice ageing potential. Very good/excellent (£8.95 La Vigneronne)

Domaine de la Marfée, Les Champs Murmurés 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc
A 'garage wine' from the Languedoc: Thierry Hasard apparently vinifies this wine in the basement of his house in the centre of Montpellier, and first vintage was in 1997. This is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault A deep red/black colour, with a forward, smoky, liquorice nose. Complex and full, this has a lovely, rich palate with firm, spicy tannins and a nice mineral streak. With great balance, this is modern and delicious; for the long haul. Excellent (£18.75 La Vigneronne) 

Guigal Condrieu 1999, Northern Rhône
I have mixed feelings about Guigal's wines. Although the single vineyard Côte Rôties are cult wines, the rest of the range seems to hitch a ride on the back of their fame: I've been pretty unimpressed by most of the large negociant range. But one wine that's almost always one of the best examples of its type is the Condrieu. A rich, peachy, spicy nose leads to a lovely full, fat-textured palate with some floral notes. It’s a lovely, balanced, full flavoured example of Condrieu. It isn’t cheap, but Condrieu never is. Very good/excellent (Sainsbury £19.99)

Domaine Gros' Noré Bandol Rouge 1999, Provence
Alain Pascal's Domaine Gros' Noré is 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. 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. Excellent (£15 La Vigneronne)

Ogier Côte Rôtie 1996
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. Excellent (Berry Bros £14.95)

Domaine Bertagna 1997 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Plantes
This is a lovely red Burgundy. A full red/black colour, it shows a complex, deep, rounded nose of cherries with some spicy notes and a touch of caramel. On the palate there's still plenty of lush primary fruit, but underneath this there's an undercurrent of complex earthy, herby notes that suggest that this one still has some development ahead of it. Excellent (Berry Bros £26.95)

Domaine Les Aurelles 'Aurel' 1998, Coteaux du Langeudoc
From a domaine located near Pezenas started a few years ago by Karl Mauguin and Basile Saint-Germain. This is a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend from low-yielding old vines. A red/black colour, this has a ripe, herby, sweetly fruited nose. Soft spicy fruit is backed by firm tannins. It's chunky and savoury, and a bit like a very good Châteauneuf du Pape. Very good/excellent, but needs time. (£15.95 La Vigneronne)

Elian Daros Chante Coucou 1998 Côtes du Marmandais
A big chunky red from the South West of France, showing massive concentration and extraction. An opaque purple/red colour, the nose shows ripe blackcurrant fruit, with minerals, spice and smoky notes. The juicy palate has dense, firm tannins, ripe fruit and good acidity. Herb and olive notes add some southern complexity. This dense wine is a bit chewy at the moment and really needs a few years to develop some class to add to its power. Very good/excellent (£8.50 la Vigneronne)

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Herrenweg Turkheim 1993, Alsace
A deep yellow/gold colour, this expressive Riesling has a lovely rich nose with a citrus edge and some spicy notes. The full, fat palate has bags of ripe citrussy fruit and tangy acidity. It's quite complex and with a little bit of residual sugar there's nice balance here, and it's not too sweet and fat to pair well with food. Drinking beautifully now, and quite profound in a ripe style. Excellent (Wine Rack discounted to £9.99) [Note: you may have to hunt around a bit in various Wine Rack and Bottoms Up stores to find this. They used to carry an excellent and well priced Alsace range, which they seem to be reducing drastically. There are some bargains to be had, but watch out for poor storage conditions.]

Château Fleur Cardinale 1995, Saint Emilion
It's rare to find anything serious from Bordeaux at less than a tenner, but this St Emilion is super stuff with real class. Nice softly perfumed nose with herby, smoky and cedary notes leads to a well balanced palate, showing some minerality and smooth tannins. A great interpretation of a classic style. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Bentalls) 

Jean Heywang Klevener de Heiligenstein 1998, Alsace
Apparently, the rare variety of Klevener (not the same as Klevner, which is used a synonym for Pinot Blanc in Alsace), has been a speciality of Heiligenstein since 1742. This is a rich yellow/gold colour, and shows a rich, ripe nose with a spicy edge and some botrytis-like notes. There’s a touch of sulphur and some mineral-like elements too. It is soft, honeyed and mineralic on the palate with lovely texture and length. There’s just a touch of residual sugar: it is not bone dry but it’s not all that sweet, either. A complex wine, best with food. Very good/excellent (£10 La Vigneronne)

UK (1)

Ridgeview Cuvée Merret Belgravia NV, England
Along with Nyetimber, Ridgeview are making the UKs best Champagne-style wines. A blend of the three main Champagne varieties, this is a stunning effort from fizz specialists Ridgeview. It has a grapey, yeasty nose which is followed up on the palate with a lovely bready character, fine bubbles and great balance. The overall impression is of a sophisticated, polished product. Very good/excellent (Available direct from the producer, 01444 241441)

Australia (10)

Rymill Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 Coonawarra, Australia
Beautifully perfumed nose showing leafy blackcurrant with cedar notes and a mineralic core. The palate is full, with lovely fruit and some real complexity: no new oak apparent. A delicious drop. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Majestic) 

Lost Lake Shiraz 1999, Pemberton, Western Australia
Deep red/black colour. Very interesting nose of mint and herbs (thyme and rosemary). Powerful, odd-but-fascinating herbal palate: tastes like a Provencal hillside. Firm tannins. Lovely stuff. Very good/excellent (£10.52 Domaine Direct)

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 1998, South Australia
Often dubbed the 'poor man's Grange', Bin 389 is normally an excellent, ageworthy wine in its own right. Like most of the other Bin series, this is a multi region South Australian blend, and the 1998 is 57% Cabernet/43% Shiraz. Aged for 14 months in new (22%) and used American oak. It has a huge ripe, spicy nose with complex menthol notes and herb and berry fruit elements. The palate is dense, rich and full: this is a classically styled, complex wine of great weight and power, that will presumably age very nicely. Although the price has crept up in recent years to £15, comparatively this is still good value for a wine with a track record for ageing like this. Excellent (£14.99, widely available)

D'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 1998, McLaren Vale, Australia
Surprisingly, still available on the UK market at opening price, despite being awarded 96 Parker points a while back. Rich, exotic nose is quite striking, showing complex notes of tarry, liquoricey fruit and menthol-edged new oak. The palate is rich and dense with lush fruit, hiding a whack of tannin. It's a substantial wine, potentially very good indeed in time. I'd buy a few bottles of this and tuck it away for a few years. Remember, in the USA this sells for at least twice the UK price. Very good/excellent (£17.50 Bibendum)

De Bortoli 1996 Rare Dry Botrytis Semillon, South Eastern Australia
De Bortoli are famous for their sweet botrytised 'Noble One', but they also make this oddity, a dry white wine made with a proportion of botrytised grapes. It's a full golden colour, with a remarkable nose of honey, citrus fruit, spice and marmalade. The palate is spicy and bone dry, with more of the distinctive marmalade/apricot botrytis character. A very unusual wine, but one with real appeal -- so unusual, it is likely to make just as many enemies as friends. Personally, I love it. Very good/excellent (£8.95 Berry Bros)

Green Point Brut 1996, Domaine Chandon, Yarra Valley, Australia
Australia's classiest fizz? The rear label discloses that this is 55% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay (I wonder what the missing 1% is?), aged for 30 months on the yeast lees. A full golden colour, this has a rich, yeasty, bready nose. The intense, creamy palate shows lovely balance and good acidity, with attractive butterscotch undertones. One of my favourite new world sparkling wines. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Oddbins) 

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 1998, South Australia
Providing you like the house style (and I do), the Penfolds 1998 reds are a spectacular bunch of wines. It's a shame that they've seen some price hikes over recent years, but the Bin 28 still offers some value for money. Sourced from the Barossa and Clare Valleys and aged for 14 months in American oak. A deep red/purple colour this has a full, spicy nose with attractive minty notes and bags of ripe berry fruit. The full, dense palate shows great intensity and lovely spicy oak notes. A full throttle, ripe wine that should age nicely. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Oddbins)  

Pirramimma Premium Shiraz 1998, McLaren Vale, Australia
I've probably been a little 'old world-centric' in my recommendations over the last few months, so I'll try to counter this with my next three recommendations. This splendid, well priced wine from the McLaren Vale is the ultimate winter warmer. An opaque red/purple colour, this has an exotic, ripe, lush nose with some new-oak-derived menthol notes. The thick, inky palate shows ripe, liquoricey, almost Port-like fruit. It's quite delicious in the full-throttled McLaren Vale style: very oaky, but the fruit can just about handle it. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Majestic, but buy 2 save £3 from Nov 5th)

Cullen Estate Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 1998, Margaret River, Australia
Organically produced and barrel fermented with natural yeasts. Classy white with a sophisticated toasty nose and seamless palate, with ripe, complex fruit. Really impressive stuff, but not cheap. Very good/excellent (Adnams £11.95)

Yellowglen Vintage 1998 (Victoria, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale), Australia
This is an impressive Aussie sparkling wine, made from two-thirds Pinot Noir and a third Chardonnay, grown in various high-quality vineyard areas in South Australia and Victoria. A pale yellow colour with a fine mousse, the nose shows classy yeasty and bready notes. The palate is subtle and balanced, with good acidity. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Oddbins)

New Zealand (5)

Millton Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 1998, Gisborne
From a New Zealand's best known biodynamic producer, this is quite restrained on the nose, but it has a great impact on the palate, showing flavours of rich, nutty, bready flavours. Complex and seamless, this is a very classy Chardonnay: subtle and restrained. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Tesco)

Montana Reserve Chardonnay 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
Tried twice recently with consistent notes; I'm not afraid to recommend large production, branded wines when they are this good. Lovely nose shows ripe peach and tropical fruit, combined well with toasty, nutty oak. The palate is deep, rich and nutty, with lots of fruit and quite a dash of oak influence. There's also a herbal edge and a bit of spice and coconut in the background. Great concentration of flavour. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Tesco)

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999, Martinborough, New Zealand
No longer playing second fiddle to the whites, New Zealand reds have steadily been building their reputation over the last five years or so, and at the forefront of this quality revolution are the Pinot Noirs from the Martinborough region (also known as Wairapa). The eponymous Martinborough Estate is one of the top producers here, and I actually preferred this, their regular Pinot Noir, to the far more ambitious (and expensive) reserve bottling. It's a deep red/purple colour, with a pungent, medicinal edge to the sweet berry fruit on the nose. The palate is lovely, rich and savoury, with quite firm tannins and good complexity. Very good/excellent (c. £14, Oddbins, Wine Rack)

Montana Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
A single vineyard Sauvignon, some of which is fermented and aged in oak to add complexity. The nose is intense and refined with restrained herby, gooseberry notes. The palate is crisp and classy, with spicy, savoury fruit. This isn't an in-yer-face style of Sauvignon; instead it oozes a taut, restrained, classy aura. Very good/excellent (Oddbins c. £10)

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)

USA (3)

Yorkville Cellars Petit Verdot 1997, Rennie Vineyard, Mendocino, California
It's rare to find varietally bottled Petit Verdot, so I was keen to try this example from Californian organic producers Yorkville. It's a fairly serious wine, with an opaque purple colour and deep extraction. There's an exotic nose of herbs and olives, which is followed up with a firmly tannic palate showing liquoricey fruit and a dusty, chalky texture. It’s a very attractive, powerful red which wears its new world origins on its sleeves. Tasty stuff. Very good+ (Waitrose £8.99)

Saintsbury 'Garnet' Carneros Pinot Noir 1999, Carneros, California
It's rare that Californian wines make my recommended list. It's not that they aren't tasty enough, it is just that they rarely offer good value for money. 25% new oak is used to produce this 'entry level' Pinot Noir. It may be the lesser of the Pinots that Carneros superstars Saintsbury produce in terms of price, but it is a classy wine in its own right. The lovely cherry/herby nose is attractive and savoury, with a slight medicinal edge. There's lovely balance on the palate, with cherry fruit and nice complexity. A real treat. Very good/excellent (£11.90 Justerini & Brooks, although they are currently selling the 1998 vintage) 

Ridge York Creek Petite Sirah 1998, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
The least expensive of Ridge's wines, giving a good example of the house style that has made this Californian winery so successful. It's a really impressive example of Petite Sirah, often considered to be a lesser variety. The attractive herby/spicy nose leads to a powerful, tannic palate. This is a huge, dense, chunky wine -- it's almost impenetrable at the moment. Still balanced despite its size. Very good/excellent (c. £15, La Vigneronne, Handford and other independent wine merchants)

Italy (5)

Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani 'Vigna Tecc' 1999, Piedmont, Italy
Dolcetto is a grape that's had to live in the shadow of its big brother in Piedmont, Nebbiolo (the grape of Barolo), but Einaudi take this supposedly 'lesser' grape pretty seriously. A single vineyard wine from the Dogliani commune made only from the oldest vines. It's a beautiful deep purple colour and displays ripe, sweet, black cherry fruit on the nose. The palate is soft, sweet and fruity, and shows great concentration. Gorgeous. Very good/excellent (£10.95 Lea & Sandeman)

Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nippozano Reserva 1997 Chianti Rufina
A serious Chianti with some structure, this has a savoury nose of herbs and olives. On the palate there are savoury, spicy, herby notes, good fruit (damsons and cherries) with great balance and some complexity. It has a spicy edge and dry tannins that are firm enough to suggest that this wine will age nicely. Very good+ (£8.99 Oddbins)

Anselmi San Vicenzo 1999 IGT Veneto
Nice minimalist packaging conceals a lovely full flavoured Italian white wine from overachieving producer Anselmi. There's an attractive smokiness to the nose, and the fresh, creamy, herby palate shows savoury, grapey fruit. Nicely balanced and with a beguiling complexity that makes me want to try his more serious single vineyard bottling. Very good/excellent (£8.50 Fortnum and Mason)

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 1997, Tuscany, Italy
The first vintage of this, the new flagship wine of the 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)

Saint Jurosa 1998, Lis Neris - Alvaro Pecorari, Friuli Isonzo, Italy
I've enjoyed other less expensive bottlings of Chardonnay from Pecorari, and this is his highly impressive top effort with this grape. A yellow/golden colour, it has an almost breathtaking nose of toasty, nutty new oak and ripe, savoury fruit. The palate is classy, with good concentration, lean-but-full fruit and plenty of oak. However, although you'd certainly classify this wine as oak-driven, the oaking is very sophisticated and is brilliantly integrated. Very good/excellent (Berry Bros £13.95)

South Africa (3)

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 a rich, savoury edge. Lovely stuff. Excellent. (Around £12, stockists usually include Bentalls, Fortnum & Mason, Oddbins Fine Wine)

De Wetshof Estate Bateleur Chardonnay 1998, Robertson, South Africa
Geisenheim-trained Danie De Wet is a Chardonnay specialist, and this is his top wine -- in my book this is a real winner. It has a stunning, complex, nutty nose; not overblown, but quite restrained, with hints of butterscotch, minerals and toast. On the palate the wine shows a spicy complexity: it's mineralic, has good lemony acidity and is concentrated yet lean. Thoroughly enjoyable, and not at all the typical new world style, despite the relatively prominent oak influence. Excellent (£12 Fortnum & Mason)

Vergelegen 'The Vergelegen' 1998, Stellenbosch, South Africa
The flagship wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, that is aged for 22 months in new oak. It's a classy red, showing a lovely density of rich fruit with a nice leafy edge to it. With well integrated oak, it's well integrated despite the great concentration, and there's a minerally complexity. Very good/excellent (£17.99 Oddbins, Sainsbury)

Portugal (1)

Gouvyas Reserva 1997 Bago de Touriga, Douro, Portugal
The Bago de Touriga winery was set up in 1995 by João Roseira and oenologist Luis Soares Duarte, and this reserva wine is made from a blend of Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesca. Aged in new Portuguese oak for 10 months, just 5000 bottles were produced. A bright red/purple colour, this wine is full of personality. It has a complex nose of ripe cherries, spice, herbs and tar, with some high-toned floral elements. The palate is full, spicy and mouthfilling, with high acidity and firm tannins. The Portuguese oak is evident: there's no doubt about where this wine came from. This is lovely stuff that will probably age well for many years. Very good/excellent (£10 Reserva y Cata, Spanish internet shop that delivers to the UK)

Spain (2)

Finca Allende Rioja 1996, Spain
A new-wave wine from Rioja, made from 100% Tempranillo aged in French oak barrels (as opposed to the American oak normally used in this region). It's a lovely rich olive- and herb-laced wine with ripe, concentrated sweet fruit and a soft texture. Tasted blind, I'd probably have put this in the southern Rhône; it is full of herby interest but avoids the trap of being too rustic or overoaked. If you like thin, fruitless, vanilla-laced Riojas, this wine won't be for you. Very good/excellent 05/01 (£13.49 Handford Holland Park, also at Everywine and Virgin wines)

Marques de Grinon Dominio de Valdepusa Petit Verdot 1999 La Mancha, Spain
The Dominio de Valdepusa range is stronger than ever in the 1999 vintage, and I'd happily recommend all their wines. I've chosen to single out this one, though, because it's rare to find varietal Petit Verdot wines. This is a superb example of what this grape is capable of. A dense wine showing an nose of liquorice and raspberry fruit, with a nice smoky edge. The palate displays lush, raspberry laced fruit and chunky tannins. Hugely concentrated and needs time, but a lovely wine. Very good/excellent (Quite hard to find; Noel Young have stocked previous vintages of this wine, so they could be worth trying: price around £13. The Cabernet and Syrah are more widely stocked; try Tesco and Unwins, but steer clear of 96/97 vintages which aren't as good).

Austria (2)

Heidler Gruner Veltliner Spiegel 2000, Kamptal, Austria
A pale yellow colour, this has a subtle, rounded lemony nose with a touch of spice. The palate shows good balance, with a nice mineral character and some lemony notes, together with a peppery edge. Good extract and concentration. Pretty classy stuff, and will probably improve with short term cellaring. Finished dry and spicy. Very good+ (£8.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 

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)

Lebanon (2)

Château Musar 1994, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
A very attractive, forward example of Musar, one of the most individual wines on the market. Light in colour with a browning rim. Full, bold, dangerous nose (high volatile acidity that just stops short of being faulty) with sweet, exotic herbal notes and hints of old leather and tea. Spicy, rich palate is warm and sweetly fruited, with high acidity, very little tannin, ripe cherry and strawberry fruit. Overall, beautifully balanced and complete. Very good/excellent (Sainsbury, Majestic and elsewhere, about £11)

Château Musar 1996, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
The latest release of this unusual, characterful wine. 1996 is described by Musar as a more elegant year for them; it's interesting to compare it with the equally good but different 1994 and 1995 versions. A deep red colour with a bricking rim. Appealing and expressive 'southern' nose with a pronounced edge. It's only a touch volatile; otherwise it's remarkably clean. The palate is firm and tannic, with some warm, spicy character. Complex and elegant, this is delicious stuff, with potentially a long life ahead of it. It reminds me of a solid Châteauneuf du Pape in character. Very good/excellent (£12.50 La Vigneronne, Handford)

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