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Jamie Goode's wines of the year 2003, part 1 – £8 and over

It’s that time of year again. Time for looking back. I’ve been privileged to taste a lot of wines in the last 12 months. Many I’ve had to spit out, with some regret, but I’ve also done my fair share of drinking. Before I begin my list, it’s worth mentioning that my wines of the year selection doesn’t necessarily represent the absolute ‘best’ wines I’ve tried over this period. Instead, here are the wines which for one reason or another I’ve seen fit to recommend to readers – one criterion, for example, is that they are currently available for purchase in the UK when I recommend them. Another criterion is value for money. I’m beginning here with the more expensive wines, costing £8 and above.

With my love for terroir, you might be forgiven for type-casting me as an old-world traditionalist. Not so: I’ve got fairly catholic tastes, and I think if you look hard enough you’ll find interesting wines just about any place where grapes are grown. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but there are some brilliant wines included in this list from Australia and New Zealand, for example, which reflect some of the diversity on offer from new world countries that critics often pan for making wines all in the same style.

Having said this, I do think that new world wines are over-plugged in the UK wine press. This is likely to be for a number of reasons. First, there’s generally better availability. Second, new world winemakers actively court wine writers in the UK and in the daily grind of the press tasting schedule you’ll taste a much better representation of new world wines than you will from the old. Most wine writers don’t pursue the small production gems from France, Italy, Germany, Portugal et al with anything like the enthusiasm necessary to build up a good idea of what’s really going on in these countries. So their wines aren’t written about much. I deliberately aim to redress this imbalance on this site.

Back to the list: I think it looks pretty mouthwatering. South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all performed pretty well with six picks each. Portugal, with three did OK. Italy could have done a bit better, and Spain might have expected more than its brace of mentions. Overall, there’s quite a spread here, and I think the balance is about right – this was not deliberate, but it’s nice to see.

The list below includes all the wines I’ve recommended in the £8 and over price bracket, arranged by country. Part 2 will list all the cheaper picks, and from both of these lists I’ll compile a top 12 mixed case of the year with a range of wines in different categories.  

see also: wines of the year 2003 part 2: under £8; wines of the year 2003 part 3: top picks

France (11)

Perrin Vacqueyras Les Christins 2001 Southern Rhône, France
Really appealing dense, spicy nose showing licqourice-edged black fruits. There's a lovely spicy structure to the fruit on the palate. A serious southern Rhône style that's as good as most Châteauneuf du Papes. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.99 Threshers, Tesco) 

Mas Foulaquier l’Orphée 2001 Pic St Loup Coteaux du Languedoc
A lovely expressive southern French red, showing a well defined spicy, leathery berry fruit nose with an appealing earthy, slightly meaty edge. The palate is savoury with a subtle herby edge to the fruit. Firm tannins and good acidity. Nicely judged. Very good/excellent (£8.95 Bentalls)

Château La Roque Cuvée les Vieilles Vignes de Mourvèdre 2000 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup
Deeply impressive varietal Mourvèdre from leading Languedoc commune Pic St Loup. Open, almost stern nose is savoury and intensely spicy with a meaty edge that makes me think of the Northern Rhône. The palate is firm, tannic and spicy with huge structure and nice acidity. It avoids being austere: there’s enough ripeness to prevent this. The spiciness and structure is typical of Mourvèdre, together with a slight meaty character that is very appealing. Brilliant but quite challenging; needs food. Very good/excellent (Tanners £8.95)  

Mas Foulaquier ‘Le Rollier’ 2000 Pic St Loup Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Pierre Jequier recently acquired this 8 ha estate in the soon-to-be appellation of Pic St Loup, and is making impressive wines. This shows ripe sweet red fruits on the nose. The palate is rounded and rich with mineral-edged ripe berry fruits. Quite elegant. Very good/excellent (£9.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)

Domaine de Ravanès 'Le Prime Verd' 1999, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
This varietal Petit Verdot from the Languedoc is remarkable. Opaque black/red colour. Spicy, minerally, liquoricey dark fruits on the nose, and a huge concentration of firm, tannic spicy fruit on the palate. Bold stuff: an enormous wine. Very good/excellent (£24.50 La Vigneronne)

Domaine Denuziller Pouilly Fuissé ‘Le Clos’ 2000, Burgundy
Up until 2 years ago, all the wine from the Denuziller's vines had been sold in cask to local negociants. Since then Gilles and Joël have been bottling some themselves, and the results are impressive. Quite a refined nutty nose with bright lemony, appley and herbal fruit. Creamy and quite classy. Taut, savoury palate is clean, crisp and minerally with good balance. Nice nutty texture. An impressive, classically styled white Burgundy. Very good/excellent (Berry Bros & Rudd £12.75)

Château Tour Grise Samur Brut (red label) 1999 Loire, France
This biodynamic sparkling white is a deep gold colour. It has a remarkable rich, honeyed, apricotty nose with a toasty, yeasty edge. The palate is savoury and complex – almost Sauternes like – with honeyed complexity and good acidity. Finishes dry. Very appealing and complex. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Devigne Wines, Welshpool)  

Domaine des Forges Coteaux du Layon Chaume 2001 Loire, France
Another sweet wine recommendation for September, this is a Chenin Blanc from the Loire. It kicks off with an intense, waxy, straw-tinged spicy nose with some herby complexity. The palate is quite richly textured with limey, herby fruit, some spiciness and good acidity. Quite complex, and really needs some time to evolve more complexity. Challenging and unusual, this is wonderful stuff. Very good/excellent 90 (£8.99 Waitrose) 

Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 2001 Northern Rhône, France
One of the leading producers in Crozes Hermitage, Graillot has fashioned a seductive fruit forward wine in the 2001 vintage that is excellent value at £10.99. There's a slightly creamy edge to the vivid raspberry fruit nose, which is pure and ripe. The palate is intense  with vivid raspberry fruit and a slightly meaty, olive-like edge. Good acidity - a modern wine that still retains a sense of typicity. Very good/excellent (£10.99 Sainsbury at sainsbury.co.uk/wine).  

William Fevre Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2000 Burgundy, France
This is a brilliant example of Chablis at its best, and its drinking very well now with a few years of bottle age. Quite an assertive, savoury nose with notes of herbs, straw and lemons. The palate is quite concentrated and savoury, showing a rich herby texture, good acid and some herby, waxy character. Tasty stuff with plenty of flavour. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Waitrose)

Yves Cuilleron Viognier 2002 Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Northern Rhône, France
This is better than most Condrieu. Really delicious elagant floral, peach and pear fruit nose shows a great deal of typicity: this is what Condrieu is known for. Soft, broad, rich palate with lots of personality. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£10.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)

Australia (6)

Tin Shed Wild Bunch Riesling 2002 Eden Valley, Australia
Hand picked from sixty year old vines in the Eden Valley, whole bunch pressed and naturally fermented. This has an incredible nose: full, limey and fresh with great balance. The liminess isn’t over powering, and there’s some minerality here too, together with a touch of herbiness. The palate is concentrated and broad with minerally, lemony fruit. Quite brilliant – a profound effort. Very good/excellent (£10.49 available from The Cellar Door, No.9 Winchester Street, Overton, Hampshire, RG25 3HR, Tel: 01256 770 397 Fax: 01256 770 944, E-mail: info@thecellardoor.co.uk Website: www.thecellardoor.co.uk)

Spinifex Indigene 2001 Barossa, Australia
60% Mataro and 40% very old vine Shiraz. The ferment was plunged by hand in old milk vats three times a day, pressed around 3 Baume and then finished in French and American oak barrels. Deep coloured. Forward nose of sweet raspberry and plum fruit with lovely spicy complexity, but it’s still nicely savoury and not at all over the top. The palate is rich and concentrated, showing nice balance: good depth of fruit well supported by spicy structure and smooth tannins. The Mourvèdre character is evident. It’s rare to find a wine this concentrated but which is still in balance. This is a spectacular effort. Excellent (£14.99 available from The Cellar Door, details as above)

Peter Lehmann Reserve Riesling 1997 Eden Valley, Australia
This is a brilliantly forward, intense style of Riesling that is showing some benefit from its six years' bottle age. Striking full nose shows intense, aromatic citrussy fruit. Great concentration on the palate which displays a toasty edge to the vivid, savoury fruit. Fresh acidity keeps things lively. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Sainsbury at sainsbury.co.uk/wine)


Knappstein Lenswood Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Adelaide Hills, Australia
Australia isn’t known for its Sauvignons, but with more wines like this, things could be changing. Lovely full, aromatic crisp nose with ripe, grassy fruit. Very classy. Good concentration of bright fruit on the palate. Crisp and fresh, this is very expressive. There’s a dollop of Semillon (3%) in here, apparently, and the four blocks of Sauvignon are fermented separately. Very good/excellent (for stockists contact McKinley Vintners,
020 7928 7300; info@mckinleyvintners.co.uk)

Nepenthe Riesling 2001 Adelaide Hills, Australia
No oak or malolactic fermentation. Striking expressive nose is very exciting, with lifted floral, limey notes. Vivid crisp, limey palate with good acidity. A lovely fresh expressive style of Riesling that should age for up to a decade. Very good/excellent (Waitrose £8.99)

D'Arenberg The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier 2002 McLaren Vale, Australia
I'm a little hesitant about recommending this, simply because it is a wine in a very distinctive style that some will like but others will hate. The nose is sweet and ripe with seductive berry fruits. The palate shows lovely rich, sweet fruit with some spicy tannins: very forward and offering immediate gratification. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£11.26 Bibendum, www.bibendum-wine.co.uk; Oddbins)

New Zealand (6)

Wither Hills Chardonnay 2001 Marlborough, New Zealand
Screwcapped, this is an extremely impressive New Zealand Chardonnay. Lovely intense nose with ripe, tropical figgy fruit and some toasty, slightly coconutty oak influence. The palate is fruity and concentrated with some spicy, savoury oak. Brilliant balance and concentration of flavour is the key here. Very good/excellent 91 (£8.99 Oddbins) 

Craggy Range Les Beaux Graviers Vineyard Chardonnay 2001, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
The first of the prestige range of wines from this pace-setting New Zealand producer, this is fantastic. Deep coloured with a beautifully elegant creamy, toasty nose and vivid fruit. The palate is very classy with integrated fruit and oak, nutty complexity and an intense character. Excellent (expected to retail around £20, contact Capricorn wines on 0161 909 1300 for more details)

Villa Maria Riesling Reserve 2000 Marlborough, New Zealand
Ripe, almost exotic citrussy nose, with floral hints and a touch of melon. The palate shows brilliant balance between the ripe concentrated citrus fruit with a rounded texture. Quite structured, with just a hint of residual sugar. Brilliantly intense and drinking well now. Superb balance. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Oddbins)

Jackson Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Marlborough, New Zealand
100% Massey clone Sauvignon Blanc from Jackson Estate’s own vineyards. Lovely expressive fresh aromatic grassy nose with some floral hints and herbal complexity. The vividly fruited palate shows nice balance. Fresh and lively. Very good/excellent (Majestic, Waitrose, Oddbins £8.99)

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
It's the straight Sauvignon Blanc from Cloudy Bay that has become so famous, but for the last few vintages they've been making an unusual oaked version, dubbed Te Koko. The 2000 vintage has a lovely rounded herby nose with a hint of grassiness underneath. The palate is rich and intense with some real depth to the grassy fruit. This bold dry white wine is rounded, complete and delicious. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£16.99 www.sainsburys.co.uk/wine)

Wither Hills Pinot Noir 2002 Malborough, New Zealand
Lots of care has been taken with this wine, and it has paid off. A range of different clones of Pinot Noir have been used, and in the vineyard the vines have their crop thinned and leaves plucked, before hand picking of the fruit. Very rich raspberry and cherry fruit dominates the nose: bold and sweetly edged with some meaty complexity. There is a savoury spicy edge to the vivid fruit on the palate. Delicious in a rich style, and quite classy. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£13.99 Waitrose, Majestic)

South Africa (6)

Tom Lubbe Wines The Observatory Syrah 2001 Swartland, South Africa
Winemaker Tom Lubbe takes an old-world approach, inspired by his time working in Bordeaux with Alexis Lichine. This is a brilliantly individual wine. The lovely sweet savoury spicy nose is full, intense and complex. The palate is quite rich but with a lovely balance between the rich, vivid fruit, the spicy tannins and good acidity. Complex and tasty. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£22.95 Berry Bros)

Kumala Winemaker's Selection Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
I wasn't expecting a great deal from this wine - an upmarket brand from an undefined vineyard source ('Western Cape' is a catch-all encompassing the vast majority of  South Africa's winelands) - but I try to be open-minded, and was actually very impressed. It shows a sweet, cinnamon-spiced nose with rich fruit and a chocolatey, tarry edge. Very smooth and accessible. The palate is surprisingly elegant with smooth, sweetly spiced fruit and elegant tannins. Good concentration, but the winemakers have clearly been aiming at elegance rather than raw power. Impressively crafted, this is a high quality red. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Threshers)

Lanzerac Classic 2000, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Matured for 15 months in new French oak barrels, this is quite brilliant, in a modern style. Very striking, intense nose displaying complex liquorice and menthol notes together with vivid ripe fruit. The palate is rich, bold and intense; dense and modern with ripe fruit and firm tannins. Hugely satisfying and intense. Very good/excellent (Waitrose £11.99)  

Glen Carlou Shiraz 2001 Paarl, South Africa
The Shiraz grape is gaining ground in South Africa, and this is possibly the best example to date. It displays a roasted, tarry nose with good intensity of fruit. Vivid, bright tarry fruit. Great intensity here with a spicy finish and lively acidity. Remarkable stuff. Very good/excellent (Oddbins £12.99)   

Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2001, Paarl, South Africa
South Africa isn’t well known for its Pinot Noir, but this example, from the Paarl region, is simply brilliant. The assertive nose shows cherryish, herby fruit with just a tinge of pleasing medicinal complexity. There’s lovely bright fruit on the palate with good acidity keeping things lively. A sophisticated, thought-provoking wine. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Oddbins)

Beyerskloof Synergy Cape Blend 2001 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Cape blends are the new thing in South Africa – reds made with at least 30% and less than 70% Pinotage in the mix, which seems to bring out the best in this unusual variety. This example shows quite a classy herby nose with some menthol notes. The palate displays well structured, spicy, earthy berry fruit with a hint of green olives. Lovely weight. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Tesco)

Italy (4)

Inama Binomio 2000 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Italy
As well as making stunning Soave, Stefano Inama has turned his hand to Montepulciano, and this concentrated yet elegant blockbuster red is the result. It has an intense, exotic nose of ripe liquoricey fruit with spice and menthol notes. The palate is super-concentrated and spicy with intense berry fruit and some well integrated oak. Modern, supercharged style but full of character. Excellent (contact Winetraders UK on 01865 251 851 for availability details)

Lis Neris Pinot Grigio 2001 Isonzo del Friuli, Italy
Lis Neris has been in the hands of the Pecorari family since 1879, and this wine is fermented and matured exclusively in stainless steel. If you are used to bland, characterless Italian Pinot Grigio, this may come as a bit of a shock: it has more in common with a richly flavoured Alsace Pinot Gris. Quite a deep colour. Intriguing savoury nose is rich with a meaty, bacon/cured ham character and some smokiness. The palate is fat and richly textured, but with good acidity to provide balance, and a herbal edge. An appealing full flavoured white. Very good/excellent (Berry Bros £9.95)

Inama Soave Classico ‘Vigneto du Lot’ 2001 Italy
Soave pacesetter Stefano Inama has hit gold with this brilliantly intense white. From an experimental vineyard planted in 1993: instead of pergola training, the Garganega grapes are grown in a permanent cordon and are spur pruned. 50% new Allier oak is used. Striking rich herby, toasty nutty nose. Rich exotic ripe palate with straw and herb edge to the savoury nutty palate. Excellent (£16.50 availabe from UK agents Winetraders, 01865 251 851 )

Le Due Terre Sacrisassi Bianco 2000 Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy
A blend of the indigenous Ribolla Gialla with Tocai Friulano, together with some Sauvignon Blanc, this is a remarkable white wine. The knockout pungent nose is almost wildly aromatic – herby, fat and smoky with good intensity. The palate is fat, fruity, herby and complex. Striking and intense this is dry with layered fruit flavours and a hint of smoked bacon. Excellent (£14.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)

Portugal (3)

Niepoort Batuta 2000 Douro, Portugal
It seems a shame just to recommend wines that are easily available; from time to time you have to allow me the indulgence of including something that relatively few will be able to find, purely on the grounds of excellence. Batuta is Dirk Niepoort's flagship wine, made from ancient vines at Quinta do Carril. Modern, intense spicy nose is quite tight with some roast coffee notes. The palate is hugely concentrated yet still quite elegant with firm spicy tannins and well structured berry and black fruits. Needs time to fulfil its huge potential. Excellent (Availability: selected independents - contact UK agent Raymond Reynolds [danny@raymondreynolds.co.uk] for details; if you see the debut vintage, 1999, then snap it up promptly, it's sensational. £45 retail)

Quinta de Macedos 2000 Douro, Portugal
One of the crop of new wines from the Douro, Paul Reynolds' Macedos comes from 7 hectares of old Rio Torto vines. It's a field blend of mixed varieties, foot-trodden and handled natrually. Just 2800 bottles released. It has a lovely forward intense nose which is very sweet, chocolatey and rich - almost overpowering. The palate is vividly fruity with lots of herbal, spicy complexity. Hugely concentrated this is ripe and sweet but with enough spicy structure to make it work. A little bit alcoholic. Very good/excellent (£17.95 Availability: selected independents - contact UK agent Raymond Reynolds [danny@raymondreynolds.co.uk] for details - aside: Raymond is Paul's brother)

Cartuxa Reserva 1997 Evora, Alentejo, Portugal
Lovely old-fashioned lifted herby nose with a sweet edge: quite expressive. Midweight palate is beautifully poised with caramel, spice and herby notes. Complex and expressive, I think this is wonderful albeit a little old fashioned. Very good/excellent (£16.95 La Vigneronne – now Handford)

USA (3)

Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2001 California
With 17% Petite Syrah and 7% Carignan in the blend, this is a lovely more-ish wine with quite a bit of complexity to the spicy berry fruit. It's rich and dense but there's some savoury structure, too, together with some herby notes. Expensive, but worth the money. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£18.49 Bibendum, www.bibendum-wine.co.uk

Bonterra Chardonnay 2000, Mendocino, California
This organic wine is fermented in a mix of new and old French and American oak barrels, and is a really good interpretation of full-on Californian Chardonnay. Very appealing sweetly fruited nose with ripe fruit and toasty oak. The palate is concentrated and shows bold vanillin oak flavours and ripe fruit, with a creamy, bready richness. Appealing but not for the oak-shy. Very good/excellent (Waitrose £8.99, and several other outlets: this is pretty widely available)

Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 2001 Carneros, Napa, California
Majestic are now stocking virtually the full range of wines from Saintsbury, one of California's most adept performers with Pinot Noir. I like them all, but this is probably the best value. Quite assertive spicy, savoury nose with taut, rich berry fruits. The rich palate has a lovely spicy structure under the rich meaty-edged fruit. Elegant and concentrated. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£17.99, but £15.29 if you buy any 2 Californian wines, Majestic)

Spain (2)

González Byass Noé Pedro Ximénez, Jerez, Spain
Pedro Ximénez is a grape variety grown in the Jerez region in the far south of Spain, and any sherry labelled thus will be super-concentrated and super-sweet. It's not something you'd want to drink a whole bottle of, but it makes a perfect after-dinner sipper or even a winter warmer. This, one of the best examples, is a dark, rich, raisiny, ultra-sweet sherry. Viscous stuff, with flavours of toffee and raisins – you won’t forget this one for a while. (£10.69/half bottle, Tesco)

Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses 2000 Priorat, Spain
Sweet dark fruits on the nose with a liquoricey, herby edge. Midweight, spicy herby palate shows some minerality. It opens out to reveal rich raspberry fruit with some ripe, herby complexity after a while. Smooth yet firm tannins. Not a big wine but quite an expressive and elegant one which may well develop over the next few years. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Majestic)

Germany (2)

Franz Künstler Hocheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Spätlese 1999 Rheingau, Germany
Delightful intense lemony nose with herby, appley richness. Rich, thick-textured palate shows great balance between the sweetness and acidity. A delicious, medium sweet Riesling that's quite expressive. Very good/excellent (Inner Cellar branches of Waitrose, and Waitrose Wine Direct £13.99)

JL Wolf Wachenheimer Riesling 2001 Pfalz, Germany
Tesco are stocking a number of premium Rieslings, and this is one of the best, hailing from Ernst Loosen's Pfalz estate, JL Wolf. It's a lovely full flavoured white wine with a citrussy intensity to the fruit. Good acidity keeps things lively, and because it’s dry this would make a great fish wine. Worth every penny. Very good/excellent (£8.49 Tesco)

Canada (1)

Cave Spring Riesling 'Indian Summer' Late Harvest 2000 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
I've never been taken by Canadian wines before, but this sweet white is lovely. Intense, sweet, piercing limey nose. Lovely rich sweet lemony palate with great balancing acidity. Intense, bright and fruity. Very good/excellent (£9.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 

Chile (1)

William Fèvre Don Victor Chardonnay Reservado 2000 Maipo, Chile
A relative rarity. A chilean wine that doesn't bore me rigid! Rich, intense herby nose with a smoky, toasty, nutty edge. Full on, yet still quite elegant. The palate is rich textured, nutty and herby with some ripe fruit. Pretty classy, with some elegance. Very good/excellent (£8.75 Berry Bros & Rudd)

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