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Jamie Goode's wines of the year 2003, part 2 – under £8

In Part 2 of my wines of the year I’m listing my bargain picks, wines that are less than £8. The big surprise here is that South Africa has come out on top with 13 selections – one more than France. Italy, Portugal and Australia were also well represented. Interestingly, there were no wines from New Zealand here – they are generally more expensive and don’t offer great value at less than £8. Elsewhere, South America and the USA didn’t perform well and Spain might have expected more than three wines in this list.

A quick scan down the picks shows that there’s plenty of good drinking to be had in the £5–£8 bracket, despite the increasing dominance of the big wine brands.  Let’s hope that by the time I come to review my wines of the year 2004 this will still be the case: my worry is that we’ll see a continuing dumbing down of wine selections in the supermarkets and high street wine shops with the increasing prominence of taste-alike large production wines.   

See also: wines of the year part 1, £8 and over; wines of the year 2003 part 3: top picks

South Africa (13)

Goat d’Afrique ‘Indigenous Red’ 2002 South Africa
The latest addition to the Goats du Roam range is a dark, brooding Shiraz with a smoky, spicy nose and restrained black fruits. The palate is dense and concentrated with well judged spicy fruit and some firm tannins. Firm and quite rich but not overblown or confected. Very good+ 89 (£6.99 Oddbins) 

Steenberg Semillon 2002 Constantia, South Africa
Lovely crisp, grassy lemony fruit combining well with subtle toasty oak. The palate is concentrated and well balanced with the oak providing a nice foil for the toasty fruit. Very good+ (£7.99 Waitrose) If you can find the 2003, then this is even better according to a tank sample I tried: Lovely racy, forward nose showing classy, toasty, nutty, bready oak notes. Very fresh and lemony. The palate is rich, full and gently herby, with well integrated nutty oak. Delicious. Very good/excellent 

Excelsior Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Robertson, South Africa
An appealing bargain-priced Sauvignon. There's a hint of smoky minerality to the fresh, grassy nose. The palate shows a nice density of grassy fruit. More character here than you'd expect for the price. Very good+ (£4.99 Sainsbury)

Graham Beck Coastal Shiraz 2000, South Africa
Deep red/black colour. The nose shows forward berry fruit with a stern, spicy edge. The rich, concentrated palate has an attractive liquoricey edge to the spicy fruit, with some tannin. A modern, delicious wine. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Asda)

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Reknowned winemaker Beyers Truter is one of the partners in this operation, which unusually for South Africa makes both estate wines and brands made from brought in grapes. Beyers is an expert with Pinotage, which is the focus of production here, and this is a good example of what this grape is about. You'll either love or loathe the distinctive herbal, slightly cheesy edge to the fruity nose. On the palate ripe red fruits dominate. Interesting, savoury and a touch rustic. Very good+ (£5.99 Majestic)

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
I'm a fan of South African Chenin Blanc, and this is a very good one. Deepish yellow colour. Rich toasty nose with a nutty edge. Great concentration of nutty, herby fruit here with well integrated oak. Lots of flavour in a rich, savoury style. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£6.99 Waitrose)

Asda South African Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Western Cape, South Africa
If you can look past the rather naff label design, then this is hard to beat at this bargain basement price. Don’t expect profundity: instead, enjoy the crisp, bright fruit character, backed up with a subtle grassiness that’s a common signature of this grape variety. A great house white. Very good (£3.22 Asda)

Goats du Roam White 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
Brilliant commercial winemaking here. This white sibling of the highly successful red Goats du Roam is a blend of Cruchen Blanc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Muscat Frontignac. Lovely open fruity nose which is modern with an aromatic lift to the lemony floral fruit. The palate is rich and fruity with lots of personality. Very good+ (£4.99 Sainsbury)

Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Coastal Region
An intense, rich expression of Sauvignon Blanc boasting rich grassy fruit with a figgy edge. Quite aromatic. The palate is broad and fruity with tropical fruit notes and a slightly herby edge. Fresh, crisp and rich, this is impeccable commercial winemaking. Very good/excellent (£7.49 Sainsbury) 

Ken Forrester Scholtzenhof Petit Chenin 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Nicely savoury, herby nose with good intensity and straw-like notes. The palate is dry, savoury, rich and herby. Some depth to it and real varietal character, which is remarkable for the price. Almost profound. Very good+ (£3.99 Oddbins)

KWV Chenin Blanc 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
I really like the subtle herbal character to the savoury fruit on this inexpensive Chenin. It's a fresh dry white which makes a versatile house wine, and more interesting than most Chardonnays at this price. Very good (£4.99 Thresher)

Warwick Estate Chardonnay 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
I'm a fan of Warwick's Chardonnay, which offers great balance between the fruit and oak, together with good acidity. The 2002 is a solid offering, with typically well integrated nutty oak and some forward tropical fruit underpinned with lemony acidity. Very good+ (£7.99 Waitrose)

Raats Family Wines Chenin Blanc Unwooded ‘Original’ 2002 Coastal Region, South Africa
Another impressive South African Chenin. Intense nose of rich, herb-tinged fruit with some lemony floral notes. Concentrated ripe fruit on the palate which is very herby and intense. Almost sweetly fruited, but the overall impression is dry. A bold style that would suit spicy fruit. Very good+ (£6.99 Oddbins)

France (12)

Ermitage du Pic St Loup 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup, France
Lots of interest here with this rich, meaty red - more than you'd expect for the price. Beguiling nose of meaty, savoury red berry fruit follows through with some fairly complex chocolatey fruit on the palate. Drink with relish over the next couple of years. Very good/excellent (Waitrose £5.99)

Château de la Fessadière Muscadet 2001, Loire
Tired of taste-alike Chardonnays and one-dimensional Sauvignons?  Try this organic Loire white for something completely different. Supermarket Muscadet has a (mostly deserved) reputation for being thin and tart, but this example packs a good concentration of limey, herby, minerally flavour. With high acidity, this is a little challenging but ultimately very rewarding. Great value for money. Very good/excellent (Sainsbury £4.99)

Domaine Plantade Syrah Merlot 2001 Vin de Pays d’Oc
A brilliant cheapie. Very appealing with good definition to the spicy edged berry fruit, together with some chalky leafy structure. Very good+ (Majestic £4.49, but currently only £3.82 if you buy any six Languedoc wines)

James Herrick Syrah 2001, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
This new world-style Syrah from the south of France is unoaked, which allows the vivid, slightly spicy berry fruit to shine. Rich and concentrated with a nice savoury edge, this is a dense, attractive red. Great value for money. Very good+ (£4.99 Oddbins) 

Château du Parc 2002 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
The south of France is becoming hard to beat for value-for-money red wines. This example is a satisfyingly rich red blend that displays a good concentration of spicy berry fruit. Really good value here. Very good+ (£4.99 Marks & Spencer)

Château Mourgues du Gres Costières du Nîmes 'Les Galets Rouges' 2000, France
A concentrated, deep-coloured red wine, this has an enticing meaty, slightly cheesy nose—sounds bad, but it’s actually very appealing. The palate shows lovely medium-bodied savoury character, with meaty dark fruits and some tannin. Real savoury character here. Very good/excellent (£5.99 Ballantynes)

Radcliffe's Regional Classics Haut Poitou Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Loire, France
One of the new Thresher own-label wines, this is very successful. Really forward herby, grassy, gooseberry nose. Palate is grassy and zippy with lots of green herby flavours. Fresh and full, and quite tasty. Very good+ 87/100 (£6.49 Threshers)

Château Cazal-Viel Cuvée des Fées 2001 St Chinian, Languedoc, France
Low yielding vines, mainly Syrah, producing a chunky, characterful southern red. Delicious sweet herby fruit on the nose. The palate is expressive and savoury with good concentration. Tasty. Very good+ 88/100 (Waitrose £6.99)

Domaine de Coudoulet 'Marsalan' 2002 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Lovely ripe savoury, spicy, liqouricey fruit on the nose. The palate displays vivid, rich chewy spicy fruit with lots of flavour. Brilliant stuff for the price. Very good+ 88 (£5.55 Berry Bros & Rudd)

Sainsbury's Classic Selection Sauternes 2001 Bordeaux, France
From illustrious property Château Guiraud this is a lovely, nicely poised classic Sauternes. It has a rich, sweet nose with a subtle marmalade and lime edge to the fruit. The palate is thick-textured and sweet. It's not a massively botrytised style, but it shows wonderful balance. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£8.99/half bottle, Sainsbury)

Domaine Léonce Cuisset 2001 Saussignac, France
A sweet wine from the Dordogne that’s a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Chenin Blanc. Lovely grapey, peachy nose with some subtle herby notes. Rich, sweet, thick-textured palate with lovely balance to the delicious ripe, herb-tinged fruit. Quite delicious and brilliant value. Very good+ (£6.99 Sainsbury per 50 cl)

Château Planèzes Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2000 France
From old vineyards on schistous slopes in the Roussillon, here's a wine with a lovely sense of place to it. Sweet berry and black fruits on the nose are quite enticing, leading to a concentrated palate showing rich, spicy fruit with a savoury edge. Very good+ (£6.99 Marks & Spencer)

Italy (6)

Natural State Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2001, Italy
50% aged in French oak for 7 months. Inky red/purple colour. Vivid sweet fruit on the nose with a savoury edge. Very appealing chunky modern fruit on the palate with some spicy structure. Lovely modern wine with lots of intense fruit. Modern but very good. Very good+ (Waitrose £4.99)

Pasqua Maruggia Rosso del Santo 2001, Italy
70% Sangiovese, 30% Primitivo. Deep coloured, this shows taut, savoury black fruits on the nose with a liquoricey richness. The palate displays juicy, savoury, tarry-edged black fruits with a firm spicy edge. Really lovely, and brilliant for the price. Very good+ (Majestic £3.99)  

Inama Soave Classico Superiore 2001 Italy
Soave is normally a dull, thin, joyless, cheap white wine. Not this example, from one of the region’s leading producers, Inama. Made from the little-known Garganega grape, it is a concentrated, richly flavoured dry white wine with herby, minerally character. Distinctive and quite individual, but worth every penny. Very good/excellent (£7.99 Sainsbury)

Tria Syrah 2002 Sicilia, Italy
Remarkable stuff. Intense nose of luscious raspberry fruit – bold and liqueur like. Ripe, rich raspberry fruit dominates the palate, which shows immense concentration. Lovely pure fruit is the key. Very good/excellent (£5.99 Waitrose)

Marks & Spencer Nero d'Avola Syrah 2002 IGT Sicilia, Italy
A vivid purple colour, this displays delicious bright summer fruits with a nice savoury twist. Showing good concentration, this is a lovely vivid wine that offers great value. Some winemaking trickery (microoxygenation) has been used here. Very good+ (£4.49 Marks & Spencer)

Villa Lanata Barbera d'Alba Sucule 2000 Piedmont, Italy
A heavy, grand bottle, but the contents live up to it. The nose displays sweet, tarry liquoricey fruit, which leads to a palate showing concentrated sweet berry and black fruits. Lovely. Very good/excellent (£7.49 Majestic)

Portugal (5)

Quinta da Alorna Casa da Alorna Colheita Seleccionada 2000 Ribatejo, Portugal
A blend of Trincadeira, Tinta Miuda and Castelão. Lovely red berry fruit nose with a spicy richness. Richly fruited, spicy, chunky palate. This has a lovely texture and is very modern and boldly fruited. Cherryish finish. Still distinctly Portuguese. Very good/excellent (£6.95 Selfridges, Lay & Wheeler, Villeneuve, Christopher Piper, Laymont & Shaw)

Dourosa 2001, Douro, Portugal
Developed by Waitrose and Sophia Bergqvist at Quinta de la Rosa, part of this blend is aged in barrel, but most sees no wood. Really appealing nose with ripe, inky, liquoricey fruit. The palate shows lovely herbal fruit characters with plenty of Douro personality. Ripe and tasty. Very good+ (
Waitrose £6.99, on offer this month for £5.99)

Quinta da Fafide Estate Reserva 2001 Douro
From an estate in the hot Douro Superior in northern Portugal, winemaker Rui Madeira has fashioned an attractive, expressive wine. Vivid red purple in colour, it has a spicy, herbal nose with some complexity. The palate is savoury, with lovely expressive, vivid fruit. Delicious, and showing lots of Douro character yet in a relatively modern style. Very good+ (£7.99 Marks & Spencer)

Solorico 2001 Ribatejo, Portugal
The Ribatejo is emerging as a great source of flavour-packed reds at wallet-friendly prices. This wine shows ripe, liquoricey fruit with a spicy edge. Appealing. Very good+ (£4.99 Marks & Spencer)

João Portugal Ramos Trincadeira 2001 Alentejo, Portugal
OK, this big, dense, chunky red isn't strong on finesse. But what it offers is plenty of rich, ripe new-world-style berry fruit with attractive (if slightly obvious) spicy oak. Lots of character here. A great barbecue red. Very good+ (£6.99 Waitrose)

Australia (5)

Chapel Hill Verdelho 2001 McLaren Vale, Australia
From Chapel Hill’s Kangarilla vineyard, where the vines are trained to offer three levels of ripeness. No oak used. Deep coloured. Intriguing nose shows herby, tropical fruit with some floral notes. Rich, concentrated palate displays some herbal complexity with good acidity. Very appealing. Very good/excellent (Waitrose £7.49)

Peter Lehmann ‘The Barossa’ Grenache 2001, Barossa, Australia
Quite pale in colour. Lovely sweet herby nose with some pepper spice on the nose. The palate shows appealing herby edged strawberry and raspberry fruit. Very moreish and nicely savoury. Very good+ (Sainsbury £3.99) Oddbins and Tesco both have the screwcapped 2002, which is at least as good, but costs a pound more: still highly recommended.

Morris Muscat NV Rutherglen, Australia
To make this classic sweet wine, ripe Muscat grapes are fermented for a short while before being fortified and matured in large oak casks. Different vintages are blended together to produce the final wine. It is a brown/orange colour with a lovely aromatic nose, combining notes of raisins, tea and herbs. The palate is sweet, rounded and raisiny. A great winter wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£6.99 Tesco)

Yalumba Y Viognier 2002 South Australia
Yalumba are the Australian specialists with the trendy Viognier grape, and this dry white shows lovely peach and pear fruit with a floral edge, together with a soft, rich texture. A pretty wine, perfect for sipping on its own. Very good+ (£6.99 Tesco)

Banwell Farm Riesling 2002 Eden Valley, Australia
Marks & Spencer's range has improved greatly of late, but they still have the annoying habit of rebranding wines with their own label. This impressive Riesling is made by Barossa-based producer St Hallett, and to my palate is exactly the same as the St Hallett Riesling, which also comes highly recommended. It is a striking white wine displaying lots of savory, limey fruit with a spicy edge. Delicious, bone dry and great with seafood. The pinnacle of St Hallett's range, in my opinion. Very good/excellent (£7.99 Marks & Spencer)

Spain (3)

Viñas del Vero Chardonnay 1998, DO Somontano, Spain
Continuing a rather white theme to this month's recommendations, this is  an impressive Spanish expression of Chardonnay. The appealing forward, intense nose displays lots of barrel ferment character. Bready, toasty and rich on the palate, which is concentrated with lots of savoury nutty fruit and new oak. Quite an oaky wine but lots of flavour and intensity. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Oddbins)

Palacio de Bornos Verdejo 2002 Rueda, Spain
Aromatic, full grassy nose is very appealing and leads to a full flavoured savoury palate that finishes dry. Satisfying and with good food compatibility – tasted blind you’d swear this was a Sauvignon Blanc. Much classier than normal at this price point. Very good+ (£4.99 Waitrose)

Navardia Rioja 2001 Spain
Produced by Bagordi, this organic Rioja is a real star. It’s a blend of Tempranillo with some Merlot and has a lovely spicy, toasty-edged nose, with rich, vivid fruit. The palate shows lovely clean chewy, spicy fruit. Modern and fruit driven but still showing lots of personality. Very good+ (£5.99 Marks & Spencer)  

Hungary (2)

Budai Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Hungary
With a forward, rounded grassy nose, this well made Sauvignon Blanc packs a fair punch of gooseberry fruit and would give many higher priced examples from New Zealand a good run for their money. Well made, this fresh dry white is much better than you’d expect for the price. Very good+ (Sainsbury £3.99)

Hilltop Riverview Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio 2001, Tolna Region, Hungary
A wine that tries to hide its Hungarian origins a little, but which offers lots of flavour for the money. Clean, pure fruity nose with a hint of smoky bacon from the Pinot Grigio, and some fresh honeyed fruit. The palate is dry and crisp with good acidity and lots of character. Made in a modern style. Very good (£3.99 Tesco, Waitrose)

Argentina (1)

Anubis Malbec 2001, Mendoza, Argentina
From old vines with an average age of 60 years, this Malbec is aged in new French and American oak barrels. The nose is appealing and modern, with forward spicy, berry fruit. The palate shows a good concentration of vivid, herb-tinged fruit with rich oak and good acidity. Quite a bit of interest here. Very good/excellent (Waitrose £5.99)  

Germany (1)

Dönnhoff Riesling QbA 2001 Nahe, Germany
Dönnhoff is a legendary name to fans of German wine, and is recognized by many to be the best estate in the Nahe region. This may only be a lowly QbA, but it is a lovely expressive wine. Savoury, intense nose leads to a lovely rounded palate which is rich and citrussy with good acidity. Good concentration and purity. Very good+ (£7.99 Lea & Sandeman, SWIG, Tanners)  

Chile (1)

Vinos Organicos Emiliano (VOE) Novas Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Colchagua, Chile
This organic Chilean red is a blend of 63% Carmenere, 34% Cabernet, 2% Syrah and 1% Mourvedre, with roughly two thirds aged in French and American oak barrels. Very deep coloured. A bit shy on the nose initially, but on the palate it is a powerful, richly fruited wine, with a spicy edge to the full textured palate. It is very ripe with lots of blackcurrant and berry fruit, but there’s more to it than just pure fruit with some nice structure. Very good+ (£5.99 Vintage Roots)

USA (1)

Co-op California Idyllwild Malbec 2002 Lodi, California
Malbec is a grape that is more commonly associated with Argentina, but this Californian example is brilliant for the money. Very pure, sweet liquoricey fruit dominates the nose with a lovely vivid, meaty edge. Pure juicy fruit on the palate with a spicy character. Very good+ 87/100 (£4.49 Co-op)

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