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The wineanorak's recommended wines for 2000
More expensive wines: over £8

Old world

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)

Rosso della Fabriseria Tedeschi 1998
A delicious, full flavoured red consisting of 35% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, from a 3 ha vineyard in the Valpolicella classico area. Concentrated red/black colour. Lovely spicy, exotic nose is followed with a palate of rich fruit and herby, medicinal complexity. Very good/excellent. (Majestic £11.99)

Bandol Cuvée Longue Garde 1998, Domaine Lafran Veyrolles
A second appearance in 'recommended wines' for this excellent Bandol estate, this time for the 1998 vintage. It's denser and fuller than the 1997, and although it's not as open on the nose, if anything this is slightly better than its predecessor. A varietal Mourvèdre, this is a deep red/black colour, with a slightly reticent herby, savoury nose. On the palate it shows dense, stony fruit and chunky, tight tannins -- a full-on wine with great ageing potential. Although it's not cheap, it's a bargain for this quality level. Very good/excellent. (La Vigneronne, £15.95)

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)

Côtes du Roussillon Tautavel 1997, Domaine des Chênes
A powerful, stunning wine of real character. Herby, medicinal, pungent nose. Concentrated, mouth-filling, meaty palate. Delicious and individual. Excellent. (£9.95 La Vigneronne)

Redoma 1994, Douro, Portugal
This Douro red from Niepoort is made from Tinta Amarela, Touriga Francesa and Tinta Roriz 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)

Erich & Walter Polz Grauburgunder 1998 Grassnitzberg, Südstermark, Austria
It's rare to see a high street merchant stocking Austrian wines. Full flavoured yet delicate, sophisticated dry white wine. Lovely smokey nose with a touch of honey. Dry spicy palate: quite rich, with a full texture and a nice smoky character. Very good/excellent. (£7.99 Oddbins).

Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin 'Les Bruandières' Grains Nobiles 1997, Domaine Cady
Stunning stuff: a rich nose of apricots, honey and spice is followed up with a ripe, rich, spicy and sweet palate. There's a honey and marmalade edge to this thick-textured wine. Complex and botrytised, the moderate acidity would lead me to drink this soon while it still holds together nicely. Very good/excellent. (Sainsbury £8.99/50 cl)

Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 1er Cru Vaucoupin 1997
Lovely concentrated-yet-subtle Chablis with a dense honey and mineral nose, followed up on the palate by honey, spice and mineral notes. Complex and well balanced with appropriate acidity, I'd drink this now. Good value, too. Very good+ (£9.99 Oddbins)

Château Montus Madiran 1998
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 beast with a pronounced barnyardy, cheesy, animal nose. It's all in great balance though: a lovely, individual wine, but please don't open for at least five years. Very good/excellent. (Majestic £9.99, La Vigneronne £11.95)

Bandol Cuvée Longue Garde 1997, Domaine Lafran Veyrolles
Mourvèdre is the grape here. Red/black colour, with a herby, savoury nose. Lovely palate: earthy, stony fruit combine with dense tannins to produce a dense wine with great potential. Very good/excellent. (La Vigneronne, £15.95)

Schloss Reinhartshausen 1988 Erbacher Schossberg Riesling Kabinett, QMP Ergeugerabfüllung
Intense, petrolly, waxy nose with a touch of botrytis: there are some semi-industrial, petrolly notes. Good concentration. Bone dry on the palate, with crisp, full palate and a spicy undercurrent. High acidity. All in all, it is a complex, unusual wine that makes a great food match. Great value, too. (£8.50, Handford Wines)

Château Phélan Ségur 1996, St Estephe, Bordeaux
This previously underperforming property was taken over in 1985 by the Gardinier family and, according to Le Classement of Bettane and Desseauve, ever since 1988 the quality of the wines has been on the upturn. Deeply coloured, with a rich, complex nose. On the palate sheer power (there is currently huge tannic structure) is combined with ripe fruit. It is herby, complex and exotic. Very good. It will be interesting to see how this one ages. Still on the shelves at Oddbins' regular branches, priced £19.

Quinta do Passadouro LBV 1995, Niepoort
A lovely, premium unfiltered LBV, 100% foot trodden and fermented in lagares, and bottled unfiltered in 1999. Concentrated and herbal, with spicy tannins and notes of coffee and chocolate. There are also mineral, licqouricey elements. Complex and unlike most LBVs needing a few more years to show its best. Excellent. (Bentalls £14)

1998 Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Boudriotte, Ramonet
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)

Domaine de Baruel, Cuvée Fontanilles 1996, Vin de Pays de Cevennes, France
From a small 12 Ha domaine in the Cevennes, in the South of France, this is a remarkable Syrah-based wine of real interest and complexity. Lovely spicy nose of smoky Syrah fruit, leading on to a ripe, full palate with dusty, dry tannins and dense, firm structure. Absolutely superb, and needs a decade or so in the bottle to soften fully. Excellent. (La Vigneronne, £11.95) 

Antonopoulos Vineyards Cabernet - New Oak 1996, Country wine of Trifilia, Greece
What a terrible name for a wine! Don't let it put you off what is actually a very interesting bottle. This is a premium blend of Cabenets Sauvignon and Franc. Concenrated, opaque purple/black colour. Complex herbal nose with medicinal and some 'stinky' notes. The palate is dry and still pretty tannic, with big, southern medicinal, herby and animal poop flavours. This may sound unappealing, but it is actually a substantial, serious wine for anyone who wants to try something a little bit different. Will probably age nicely, too. (£9.99, Oddbins) 1/00

Domaine La Rocalière 1995, Lirac, Cuvée Prestige
Lirac is a generally undistinguished Southern French appelation on the west bank of the Rhône. It has similar soils to Châteauneuf du Pape, with large galet stones common in the vineyards. However, despite the generally low reputation of the appelation, this wine is a real stunner. The Domaine makes two cuvées, one a Syrah varietal, and this one entirely from Mourvedre. It is deep reddish brown, with a beguiling nose of meat, leather, smoke and herbs. Beautifully aromatic. Moderately tannic, but with a soft texture. Really approachable, with real complexity and interest: there are even some mineral-like notes. Excellent and highly recommended. (£8.49, La Vigneronne)

Les Clos de Paulilles Banyuls, Hors D'Age, Ambre, France
My first brush with a Banyuls: a fortified wine from the South of France that is supposed to be one of the few wines that pairs well with chocolate. Orange pink with honeyed nose of sweet strawberries. Hard to describe the flavours, but combining sherry-like and tawny-port like flavours with a some orangey, sweet, grapey fruit. Very delicious and a bargain. Much more interesting than Muscat de Rivesaltes, and a great dessert wine for a bargian price. (£8.99, Oddbins)

Leroy Bourgogne 1996, Burgundy
If you are shopping for inexpensive white Burgundy, what do you do? Go for a lesser producer with a better patch of land, or a wine from a better producer but an undistinguished vineyard? It's an interesting question. This time I chose to opt for the basic Bourgogne negociant wine from one of the best producers of them all, Lalou Bize-Leroy.
A yellow/gold colour, this wine shows lemony fruit with honeyed and mineral notes. Initially there is a bit of sulfur on the nose, but this blows away and as the bottle has been open for a while there are some mineral and smoky notes appearing. It is difficult not to be at least a little swayed by the name, but I hope that I'm not just 'imagining' complexity when I say that this wine is pure, fresh, balanced, and has a complexity that belies its humble appelation. Good to very good. (£9.99 Majestic, currently on sale at £7.99)

Lis Neris, Isonzo del Friuli Chardonnay 1998, Alvaro Pecorari
A real treat, this is an Italian Chardonnay that manages to combine the best of the old and new worlds. Pale yellow with a full nose. On the palate it has complex, nutty fruit with mineralic notes and light oak influence. With good concentration of flavour, this is a rich Chardonnay with real character. (£8.95, Berry Bros)

Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 1995, Douro, Portugal
Port lovers among you should check out this excellent wine which tastes more like a vintage port than an LBV: it is a traditional styled wine from Grade A fruit. Powerful, concentrated, spicy and still quite tannic, this is delicious now but will also repay a decade of cellaring. A real bargain. (Oddbins £9.95) The 1992 and 1994 vintages are equally good.

New world

Palliser Estate Sauvignon blanc 1999, Martinborough, New Zealand
A cracking wine. Intense varietal nose of gooseberries, elderflower and green pepper, with a bit of cut grass thrown in for good measure. Huge wine of dramatic proportions. On the palate it is quite fat with herbal notes and good acidity. Top notch New Zealand Sauvignon, but this extreme style may be off-putting to traditionalists. Very good/excellent. Yes, it is as good as Cloudy Bay, if you must make that comparison. (£9.99, Thresher)

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 1998, Margaret River, Western Australia
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, Bacchus £12)

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1994, Stellenbosch, South Africa
One of South Africa's top red wines, living up to its billing. Concentrated red/purple colour with a lovely nose of blackcurrants, herbs, minerals and cedar wood. On the palate this is savoury and beautifully rounded, with a dry earthiness. The firm tannins suggest that this has a good life ahead of it. Very good + (Oddbins £13.99)

Cloudy Bay Pelorus Vintage 1995, Marlborough, New Zealand
The high-end fizz from Cloudy Bay, this is a stunning alternative to Champagne at a very attractive price. Aged three years on yeast lees. Deep, complex nose; toasty and rich. Ripe, full and complex on the palate. A lovely fizz in a full flavoured style. Excellent. (Unwins, Majestic, Wine Rack £15.99)

Tatachilla Foundation Shiraz 1998, McLaren Vale
A remarkable, inky black wine with an enticing, ripe nose of blackcurrant, mint and eucalyptus. Dense, licqouricey and balanced on the palate: a huge wine, but approachable now. You know the deal: if you are a confirmed 'old world' wine drinker, looking for refinement and subtlety, you will hate this wine. But this is a brilliantly done example of the archetypal new world 'big' wine, and in its genre it's impressive. Very good/excellent. (Majestic £15.99)

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)

Rosemount Hill of Gold Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Mudgee, Australia
From the upcoming Mudgee region in New South Wales comes this full-throttle stunner by Rosemount. Dense purple/black wine of huge extract. Nose of ripe berry fruit and charred new American oak is followed up by a concentrated palate of dusty fruit and dry, firm tannins. A ripe, blockbuster Cabernet if you are not too shy of oak. Lovely now, but really needs a couple more years. Good value for money. Very good + (£9.99 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, £8.49 Thresher).

Catena Chardonnay 1999, Agrelo Vineyard, Medoza, Argentina
Beware: this is an oaky wine -- but to my mind it has the fruit to withstand this sort of oaking, and the oak is high quality. Overall, it's a classy, complex wine. Immediately you are hit by the full, smoky/toasty, nutty nose. Underneath this there is luscious, rich and concentrated fruit. Complex and sophisticated, I love it, but if you are averse to oak this in one to avoid. Very good + (£8.99 Majestic, also available elsewhere)

Glenguin Cabernet Sauvignon 'Orange Vineyard' 1998, Orange, NSW, Australia
From a cooler vineyard site, at an altitude of 700 m in the Central Highlands of New South Wales. It's a lovely, earthy, tannic Cabernet with real intensity. Deep purple/black with a lovely ripe forward nose of blackcurrants and a touch of cinnamon and spice from the oak. Concentrated, nose and tannic on the palate with noticeable (American?) oak. Firm dusty tannins finish off what is a uniquely Australian wine. Very good/excellent. (Bibendum £10)

Glenguin Shiraz 1998 Individual Vineyard, Hunter Valley
A lovely wine from this small Hunter producer, made from a dry-grown, low-yielding vineyard in Polkobin. It is big and dense, with spicy, earthy fruit, firm tannins and high acidity. Very youthful and vigorous, with a promising life ahead of it. As it evolves in the glass the characteristic Hunter Shiraz trademarks of old leather and tea emerge. A top class Shiraz, proudly displaying its regional identity. Very good/excellent. (£10, Bibendum). 8/00

Meerlust Rubicon 1995, Stellenbosch, South Africa
A beast of a wine, displaying a dry, herby, menthol nose that gives way to a deep and savoury palate of blackcurrants, herbs, earthy notes and firm tannins. It is concentrated, hugely structured and savoury, and will probably need some serious cellaring to show at its best. Very good + (Fortnum & Mason, Oddbins, £14)

Danie De Wet Bataleur Chardonnay 1998, Robertson, South Africa
Remarkably expressive high-end South African Chardonnay, with a full nose of toasty, nutty barrel-ferment character and a concentrated palate of lemony fruit, minerals and high acidity. Despite the new oak, this wine is not at all fat: I suspect it was not allowed to undergo full malolactic fermentation, and the resulting bright acidity really brings this complex wine to life. Very good/excellent (£12, Fortnum and Mason)

Valentin Bianchi Malbec Reserve 1996, San Rafael, Argentina
A superb example of Argentina's 'own' grape. Lovely rich meaty and medicinal nose with a slightly burnt quality and some smokiness. Super-rich and soft on the palate with rich licqouricey character. Slightly odd, but lovely. Rich and supple. Very good/excellent. (£8.99 Oddbins)

Château Musar 1991, Gaston Hochar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
I've recently changed my views about Musar. Previously, I had considered some of the examples I had tried to be just too quirky and faulty to be enjoyable, but this 1991 is delicious. Pale red/brick colour. Lovely rich nose with exotic notes of tea, leather and sweet herbs. On the palate this is medium bodied with complex, savoury and herby flavours. Quite alcoholic on the finish. A really interesting, unorthodox wine. Very good/excellent. (Fairly widely available at about £11)

Wirra Wirra Chardonnay 1998, McLaren Vale, Australia
Made from small batches of fruit, some of which were fermented in new French oak, some in 1 year old French oak and some in stainless steel. Lovely smoky/toasty nose gives way to rich fruit on the palate, with figgy, buttery and mineralic notes. Pure and complex, this is superb stuff, without too much oak. Excellent. (£9.99 Waitrose)

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 1998, Walker Bay, South Africa
Sensational! Rich, mineral-laden Chardonnay with a smoky, bready nose. A lovely, complex wine with nicely handled oak. Although I've had this wine before on a couple of occasions, I've never really understood why people have described it as 'Burgundian'. Now I do: this concentrated yet nicely poised effort really impresses. (£11, Oddbins Fine Wine, Bentalls, Berry Bros)

Brokenwood Rayner Vineyard Shiraz 1998, McLaren Vale
Brokenwood, in the Hunter Valley, make three single Vineyard Shirazes: the most famous is the Graveyard, but newer releases, the Mistress (also Hunter) and this offering from the McLaren Vale are both in the same league. This is dense and richly fruited, with soft tannins and spicy oak. Rich and chocolatey, this has real McLaren Vale character, and is approachable now. Superb stuff. (Stocked by Oddbins Fine Wine/ La Reserve, around £18).

Lindemans Padthaway Chardonnay 1998, Australia
From a cool-climate region in South Australia that is well known for producing great Chardonnays, I was really impressed by this wine. Fully barrel-fermented, with a deep yellow colour. Intense, complex fruit character combines beautifully with new oak. Rich, intense and concentrated, with figgy, tropical fruit and spice notes. Superb stuff. Very good to excellent. (£8.49, Bottoms Up/Thresher)

Lindemans Pyrus 1995, Coonawarra, Australia
The second Lindemans wine to make my selection this month, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. It is seductive stuff. A big, minty, leafy nose gives way to soft, mint and berry flavours of great intensity and concentration. Tasty and more-ish. I'd drink this now while it still has the lovely intensity of fruit, rather than gambling on cellaring it. Very good + (Widely available at about £13)

Rosemount Mountain Blue 1997, Mudgee
A stunning blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from a less well known but extremely promsing wine area of New South Wales. An opaque purple colour, this is a huge, dense wine. It is richly oaked, with minty fruit and a slightly syrupy texture. Extraordinary stuff. Excellent, provided that you like this supercharged style.

Cape Mentelle Semillon/Sauvignon blanc 1998, Margaret River, Western Australia
From the same company as New Zealand's Cloudy Bay comes this deliciously full flavoured white wine. The fresh citrus character of Semillon (50%) is combined beautifully with the grapefruit and gooseberry character of Sauvignon blanc (50%). This wine has opulent fruit and fresh bracing acidity in harmony. Clean, fresh and complex, this is very good. Excellent food compatibility for modern bistro-style cooking, too. (£8.75, Bentalls, £9.49 Majestic)

Campbells Old Rutherglen Muscat (NV), Australia
Rutherglen Muscat is a unique wine style, perhaps only paralleled by the wonderful Pedro Ximenez sherries that make rare appearances on retailers shelves in the UK. Rich, aromatic and complex, this raisined dessert wine is smooth and deep. It is soft and beautifully integrated, but you won’t want more than a glass, or else it becomes a little cloying. It is like drinking liquid Christmas pudding. This is an old oak solera begun in the 1950s. (£13.99 Oddbins Fine Wine)

Veritas Heysen Vineyard Shiraz 1997, Barossa Valley
Huge, sweetly fruited chocolate-laden Shiraz. Soft texture and rich, complex, seamless palate make this very more-ish stuff. It is a big wine. There is plenty of oak and some might find it a bit soupy, but I find this style immensely reassuring on a cold winter's night. (£11.99 Noel Young Wine)

Rockford Dry Country Grenache 1996, Barossa Valley
This has the typical Grenache characteristics that are quite hard to describe: the nose is peppery and rubbery, slightly burnt, with spicy raspberry-like fruit on the palate. It is juicy and delicious, and the fruit partially hides quite a substantial structure. Complex and interesting, this is excellent stuff. (£8.49 Fullers)

D’Arenberg Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, McLaren Vale
Concentrated purple black colour. Fiercely tannic in its youth, this is a huge wine. Pure cassis, lots of fruit and big tannic structure. Needs a long time, but may be absolutely sensational in a decade -- perhaps more so than even the excellent Dead Arm Shiraz from the same producer. (Oddbins Fine Wine, £14.99)

Grant Burge Old Vine Shiraz 1997 Filsell Vineyard
Made from 80 year-old vines, this is a deep red/black wine with a seductive nose of American oak. On the palate there is sweet, concentrated fruit flavours and hints of menthol, licqourice and pepper. Concetrated, intense and tasty, but perhaps a little too reliant on the American oak. Good. (£8.99 Fuller's)

D'Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz 1997, McLaren Vale
A dense, purple/black colour. Incredible, wild nose of freshly crushed raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and licqourice. Concentrated and intense primary fruit dominates. Firm tannins and not too sweet, this is incredible, knockout stuff, which is really way out on the fringes of acceptability: some will love it, some won't be able to drink it! Personally, I think it is wonderful stuff, preserving by fortification the essence of the freshly crushed old vine Shiraz grapes. (£11.99 or £6.99/half, Oddbins)

Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve Sauvignon blanc 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
Astonishing, piercing flavours of pure gooseberry fruit, with a touch of herbaceousness. This is very much at the lean and zippy end of the Sauvignon blanc spectrum, with taut, firm acidity and structure. Fine example -- almost Loire-like. Very good. (£9.99 Oddbins)

D'Arenberg Twenty-eight Road Mourvèdre 1996, McLaren Vale, Australia
I apologize for recommending another wine by D'Arenberg, but they do seem to be making some really compelling fine wines at good prices. From a 4 acre plot of elderly bushvines, this is the first separate bottling of Mourvèdre by D'Arenberg: these grapes previously went undiscosed into other wines. Deep red/black colour, with a big, sweet, lifted nose of cinnamon and spice. On the palate, this is spicy and rich -- concentrated but still quite medium bodied -- with flavours of cinnamon and licqourice, assertive but smooth tannins and some oak influence. Apparently, there are different clones of Mourvèdre, each contributing different flavour character. The clones used in this wine convey soft, spicy character, whereas others have more of a gamey, animal edge to them, which is absent in this wine. It is a tasty and unusual wine and well worth checking out. (Bibendum £8.49, also stocked by larger branches of Oddbins).

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