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The wineanorak's 'wines of the year': 2000
January 2000 saw the launch of wineanorak.com, and since then it has been a busy year. The site has grown enormously in this time, both in terms of content and also traffic, with two milestones reached in the summer -- the first commercial sponsors, and the first columnist (Greg Sherwood, since joined by Nick Alabaster and Cambpell Mattinson). And I've been busy drinking a serious amount of wine, in order to come up with my monthly reccomendations.

With a full set of 12 months' worth of hot tips to choose from, I thought it would be fun to try to select from this list my top dozen, split (almost equally) between each category (under £8 retail and over £8). I make no claim that these are the 'best' wines -- in fact, I think the word 'best' is meaningless when applied to wine. Instead, this is just a personal selection, gauged by no other criterion than interest and appeal. It's always a tough job choosing just a few from so many excellent wines, so I've also added the full list of recommended wines for the year 2000 for you to browse.

There are a few points worth noting. The under £8 category is predominantly white and it's predominantly new world, reflecting what I believe to be the current strength of the new world (inexpensive, well made white wines). In constrast, when budgetary constraints are relaxed a little, my favoured picks tended to be old world reds, and -- because value for money is still one of my criteria here -- the South of France features strongly, along with a representative from Portugal. This is where I feel the real bargains are in the wine world today.

The full list
All 114 of the anorak's recommended wines 2000
Under £8 | Over £8

The top 12...

Bargain picks: under £8

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 1998, Australia
One of the great wine bargains around, and you may be lucky enough to find some of the 1998 still on the shelves (watch out, the 1999 is not as good, although the 2000 is reported to be back on form). Huge, fresh, exhilarating nose of lime fruit. On the palate this is concentrated and intense, with fresh citrus fruit and some honey notes. Nice, crunchy intensity and good balance. Australian Riesling can age well, but I'd drink this while it has its youthful freshness. Excellent. (£5.99 Oddbins)

Tim Adams Riesling 1999, Clare Valley, Australia
Another Aussie Riesling. Why? Well, because Riesling has such a low public image, they are one of the great bargains of the wine world today.  Huge, powerful nose of lime fruits. Complex and intense, this wine is richly concentrated with an amazing array of citrus-like flavours. One of the most dramatic Aussie Rieslings I have tried. Very good + (£7.99, Tesco, Fortnums and Mason)

Warwick Estate Chardonnay 1999, Stellenbosch, South Africa
South African whites have improved dramatically in recent years, and this is one of the best I've tried to date. A premium wine at a bargain price, that sits nicely between the old and new world styles. Rich, intense, nutty and toasty Chardonnay with a dense, mineral-laced palate and good supporting acidity. This is a huge, savoury wine that represents excellent value for money. Really interesting, perhaps a little rough round the edges for some. Very good + (£6.99, Waitrose)

Lindemans Padthaway Chardonnay 1998, South Australia
This may sound like a daft assertion, but I rate this as one of Australia's finest Chardonnays, even though it is not in the super-premium bracket. Each time I've tried this Padthaway wine (a small region in South Australia that specialises in Chardonnay), I've been bowled over. Stunning nose and palate of ripe, tropical fruit, coconut, melon and spicy oak. Great balance and depth of flavour. Great value for money, very good/excellent. (£7.99 Unwins).

Château de Lancyre Grande Cuvée 1997, Pic Saint-Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc AOC
From a 73 Ha estate, this is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre matured for 12 months in barriques. A red/purple colour, this is wonderful stuff. A smoky nose is followed by a smoky, meaty, herby palate with medium body and quite high acidity. There are hints of tea and tobacco, firm tannins and some cherry fruit. Complex and refined, this is archetypal Pic Saint-Loup with quite a life ahead of it. Very good/ excellent. (£7.19, Tesco)

More expensive: over £8

Les Hauts de Montmirail 1998 Gigondas, Domaine Brusset
An example of the groundbreaking new wave wines that are being made in the South of France, this is a real head turner. 60% Grenache/ 25% Mourvèdre/ 15% Syrah; 60% new oak, 40% 1-2 year old barrels. A sweet, oaky and exotic wine, with smoky, mineralic, spicy and herby notes, and firm tannins, all wrapped up in fleshy, dark fruit. Good balance between the components. A blockbuster style; very good/excellent if this is what you are looking for. (£16.99 Bentalls)

Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 1998
Deep purple/black in colour, this is a meaty, intensely savoury wine, with flavours of herbs, olives and tar backed up by firm tannins and high acidity. There's a wild, medicinal edge to this powerful but expressive wine. Drinkable now, although it really needs to be paired with food in this youthful stage of its development. I'm very glad I picked up several of these. Very good/excellent (about £9, Worldmarechal)

Redoma 1994, Douro, Portugal
This Douro red from Niepoort is made from Tinta Amarela, Touriga Francesa and Tinta Roriz grapes, from vines with an average age of 55 years. It was bottled unfiltered in July 1997. An opaque purple black, this has a powerful nose of cherries and olives, with some garrigue-like herbal notes, some chocolate and some coffee. On the palate it is concentrated, with firm, dry tannins. This is a massive wine! Huge and savoury, dark and brooding, with bitter cherries and herbs coming to the fore, the oak it has seen is virtually undetectable. Imagine a bone dry, young port. Sensational stuff, distinctly Portuguese, and one of the most memorable wines I have had in recent months. (£13 Bentalls)

Château Montus Madiran 1998 (southwest France)
A beast. Mostly from the Tannat grape, but there's also a substantial contribution from other grapes. Dense purple/black colour. This is a dense, savoury, tannic wine with a pronounced barnyardy, cheesy, animal nose. It's all in great balance though: a lovely, individual wine, but will be even better with some bottle age. Very good/excellent. (Majestic £9.99, La Vigneronne £11.95)

1998 Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Boudriotte, Ramonet
A top class white Burgundy and an outstanding wine. Sensational nose: rich and profoundly complex, with exotic notes of spice, toasty oak, cabbage and minerals. On the palate, this is a huge savoury mouthful, with minerals, spiciness, wood tannins and high acidity. Should improve for decades, but approachable now. Excellent/outstanding. (If you can find any, this will be an expensive but satisfying splurge)

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 1998, Margaret River, Western Australia
Western Australia is a great source of delicious, classy Chardonnay. Traditional vinification with partial malolactic and French oak. Beautiful rich, toasty nose with exotic fruit characters and some spiciness. On the palate it is long, rich and toasty, with great complexity and concentration. A lovely wine in a full flavoured style. Excellent. (Majestic, Bentalls £12)

Shaw and Smith Unoaked Chardonnay 1998, Adelaide Hills, Australia
I'm not normally a fan of the 'unwooded Chardonnay' style of wine, but this is a stunner. A light gold colour, it has a spicy, honeyed nose. On the palate it exhibits intense fruit flavours, with more spicy and honeyed complexity coupled with a pronounced minerality. Excellent. (£9.29, Tesco)

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