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December 2005/January 2006

Previous months' recommendations: November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 | February 2005 | March 2005 | April/May 2005 | June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005

Roederer Brut Premier Champagne NV
We kick off this festive month's recommendations with three nice Champagnes. A deliciously rich Champagne with an aroma of warm toasty, herbs and lemons. It tastes rich and broad, with toasty notes at one end and the fresh lemony fruit at the other. A well balanced, almost complete wine. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£26.99 Oddbins, Waitrose, Selfidges, Harvey Nichols)

Pol Roger 1998 Champagne
Pol Roger is famous for being Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne, and the 1998 vintage is pretty good. It’s fresh and very savoury, with a tight, smoky, minerally aroma and a precise taste showing good weight and complexity. It’s only a baby at the moment: expect this to develop wonderfully over the next five years, but the class is already apparent. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£39.99 Sainsbury, Oddbins and Majestic, where it is £29.99 if you buy two)

Pierre Moncuit Grand Cru Champagne Blanc de Blancs NV
Pierre Moncuit is establishing a stellar reputation as a producer of Blanc de Blanc Champagnes from top village Le Mesnil, and this fizz represents great value for money. The fresh nose is showing appley, yeasty, lemony notes. There’s a nice savoury, yeasty depth to the palate which shows yeasty, toasty notes. Plenty of concentration and weight: a nice wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£15.50 H&H Bancroft Wines)

Stonier Chardonnay 2004 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Bored with Chardonnay? Well, try this superb example from a cooler part of Australia, near Melbourne. It combines really fresh herb-tinged fruit with the nice toast and spice notes that come from fermentation in oak barrels. Stylish and quite complex. I've been really impressed with the Stonier wines lately. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£9.99 Sainsbury) 

Domaine Roland Sounit Rully La Bergerie 2003 Burgundy, France
Lovely pungent classic white Burgundy nose with a touch of toasty oak combined with smoky, herbal fruit. Quite minerally. Lots of rich herb-tinged fruit on the palate with some lemony freshness and a nice savoury character and good concentration. Relatively serious and a brilliant bargain at the reduced priced.  Very good/excellent 90/100 (Co-op £9.99 reduced to £5.99 until 25 December)

Vergelegen ‘The Vergelegen’ 2001 Helderberg, South Africa
Perhaps South Africa’s best Bordeaux-style red? A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, with just a dash of Cabernet Franc. This is a beautiful wine with sweet, ripe red and black fruit backed up by ultra-smooth tannic structure and with a chalky, minerally edge. Modern-styled, but great balance. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£19.99 Tesco)

Glen Carlou Syrah 2004 Paarl, South Africa
I'm going to be recommending plenty of the wines I tried on my recent visit to South Africa, but I thought I'd get this one in quick while you can still get it - the influential Platter Guide has just named this as their wine of the year, so it will disappear from shelves fast. It's a modern, sleek, ripe style of Syrah with the sweet dark fruit supplemented by notes of black olive and savoury herbs. There's a subtle green streak I often find in South African reds, but it's in control. The vanilla oak adds a sheen to the fruit without dominating it: overall, this is quite a convincing, nicely structured wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£13.99 Oddbins) 12/05

Casa Castillo Las Gravas 2001 Jumilla, Spain
A blend of 50% Monastrell (Mourvèdre), 20% Cabernet and 30% Syrah, aged for 16 months in French oak. A good deep colour, this has a nice sweetly fruited nose with a lovely minerally, spicy depth and notes of herbs and dried leaves. The palate is quite soft with a good concentration of southern spiced fruit and some old leather notes. A lovely expressive, terroir-driven red. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£14 Winos Wine Shop Oldham, Off the Vine West Wickham, Ultracomida deli Narbeth) 

Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2003 Somantano, Spain
This is a beautiful red wine: expressive, modern yet good. It's made from old vine Grenache at 700 metres altitude. It has a wonderfully perfumed nose of sweet liqueur-like raspberry fruit with beguiling herby tobacco notes in the background. Very pure. The palate shows a good concentration of smooth red fruits with a substantial yet elegant tannic structure. The oak provides merely a supporting role and is well integrated. Lovely freshness to the fruit, with good acidity. Almost profound. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£16, see
www.wine-searcher.com for stockists

Château d'Arcins Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2002 Bordeaux, France
This is good claret at under a tenner - a rare beast. Dark, minerally, gravelly nose of savoury blackcurrant fruit, which has a nice earthy edge. The palate is midweight, minerally and shows a nice balance between the dark fruits and the savoury, gravelly structure. This is a satisfying wine that is drinking well now: it isn't big, but it's well proportioned. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£9.49 Oddbins) 

Carpineto Chianto Classico Riserva 2000
Wonderfu dark, tight, savoury black fruits nose with a smoke and tar edge, together with some minerals. The palate is complex and savoury with wonderful acidity and spicy tannic structure. There’s some gravel and bitter plum which meld well with the earthy tannins. A really top quality classic-styled Chianti. Intensely savoury and best with food. Very good/excellent 91/100
(£13.50 Averys)

Quinta do Noval Unfiltered LBV Port 1999
What a fantastic Port for the money. Deep coloured, this has a sweet, intense nose with vibrant, warmly spiced fruit and some complexity. The palate shows a great concentration of warm, sweet rich spicy fruit with good structure. It's perhaps a little tight and there's some heat, but otherwise this is an LBV that would put some Vintage Ports to shame. (£10.99 Oddbins, Direct Wines)

My rating system explained. Use www.wine-searcher.com to locate a stockist in your area and my directory of UK wine merchants for details of those listed here. See also: the wineanorak's shopping list - recommended wines from each of the main UK retail outlets. These recommendations are truly independent: I don't accept payment or other favours for inclusions, nor do I sell wine.

E-mail me with your recommendations or suggestions at jamie@wineanorak.co.uk