Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore DOC 2010, Italy
The 2010 is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. After fermentation in stainless steel the wines was aged for 18 months in barriques, around 70% of which were new. The colour is a saturated dark ruby with a tinge of purple. The nose is all restraint, class and sophistication as a delicate game and cedar emerges, then riper black fruits, but tobacco and smokiness, a certain earthiness, swirl around the blackcurrant giving this contemplative complexity. In the mouth it is hugely refined: there’s a sheen of gloss, of vanilla and coffee, and there is no shortage of sweet, bursting and creamy black fruits, but the tension of the super-slick tannins and fine cherry-skin acidity tug away at the finish. Hints of earthiness, spices and minerality give a real edge of precision and grip as much as the tannins, into a long, very fine and pure finish. A superb wine this, surely with two decades of cellaring potential, its burgeoning richness and structure beautifully balanced. 96/100. £147.10, Hedonism Wines. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Sadie Family Wines, Palladius 2010, South Africa
Another of the wines that put Sadie on the map, 22 barrels were made this vintage and the alcohol comes in at 14.5%. Based on Chenin Blanc, Palomino and Grenache Blanc, with little bits of Semillon, Semillon Gris, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Verdelho and, finally, a touch of Viognier. From decomposed granite and slate soils, and some table mountain sandstone. All grapes are hand sorted into 500 litre neutral barrels for fermentation. Huge, honey and nut-layered stone fruits and that deep golden colour again, the apple and peach subsumed under minerality and that nutty, dry character. Beautiful silky texture here, with such intensely sweet fruit, concentrated nectarine and then that flowing but nutty dryness into a very long finish. 95/100. Around £40, see all stockists on wine-searcher.
Altos los Hormigas, Malbec Clasico 2011, Argentina
Altos Las Hormigas is a specialist producer, focused on Malbec, and founded by Italian winemaker Alberto Antonini and partners in the 1990s. Whilst some of their more expensive wines verge too close to the ‘blockbuster’ style, I particularly enjoyed this 2012 Clasico. The nose soars from the glass, with a solid raspberry and blackcurrant fruity lift, given more fragrance with floral and gently herbal notes, a touch of game too. It is complex and inviting as the sweet solidity of the fruit washes across the palate, again that red fruit edge and fine acidity ensuring this has energy and life, despite the welter-weight of supple fruit smoothed by vanilla and chocolate. A wine to savour now, but will cellar for a few years too. 90/100. £9.76, thedrinkshop.com. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Millton Vineyards, Opou Chardonnay 2010, New Zealand
For me, arguably the star of the mid-priced range from biodynamic superstar estate Millton Vineyards from Gisborne on New Zealand’s North Island. Fermented in oak barrels with natural yeasts, but only around 12% of the barrels are new. It has a lovely Brazil nut aroma and fine creamy character and plenty of vibrant, punchy orange and lime. Delicious wine, such gorgeous vibrancy punching through the oak, pristine, singing and vivacious and model stuff. 92/100. £12.99, Vintage Roots. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Fernando de Castilla, Antique PX Sherry, Spain
Based on a 40-year-old solera, £25 for a 50cl bottle may be pricey but there are few sweet wine in the world that reach these heights of sheer fabulousness. Coffee and walnut, liquidised raisins and fragrant tobacco help this to also out-PX other PXs. Massive wine, with outrageous concentration and vivid depths of flavour that will scoff at your puny efforts to outdo it with the richest of Christmas puds or chocolate desserts. 94/100. £25.69, The Great Grog Company. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Champagne Salon, Blanc de Blancs 1999, France
It is always a treat to have the chance to taste one of Champagne’s rarest wines, from the singular house of Salon who make just one wine, from one grape (Chardonnay) from one Cru (Le Mesnil) and only in the best years. This is not a Champagne that instantly wows, but unravels and beguiles. Fabulous nose, instantly creamy, buttery, but immensey tight and fine too, like a very high quality young white Burgundy. Hints of apple skin grip and structure, but also such delicate floral nuances. On the palate that impression of silky, intense, natural concentration is mesmerising as is its sense of completeness and balance. Despite a low dosage, it is very fruity, but it is that long, creamy and dreamy mineral finish that so impresses. £220, Corney & Barrow. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Blandy’s Verdelho Madeira 1887, Portugal
Since taking up his post as CEO of the company in 2011, 34-year-old Chris Blandy has begun to shake things up in this most historic Madeira house, but it this little slice of history (that pre-dates his birth by a mere 92 years) that proved the highlight of my few days spent on the island. Mahogany in colour, aromas of green fig, olive, spices and toast, then chestnut, shellac and old polished wood. Fabulously complex with touches of chocolate and burnt toast too. On the palate ripe, figgy richness makes for absolutely seductive stuff, with coffee and green walnut liqueur, toasting nuts and honey. But it is complexity and freshness that sings out in a beautifully balanced wine. 98/100. Not currently for sale in the UK.
Sainsbury’s, Winemakers’ Selection Californian Sauvignon Blanc 2012
What can I say about this shocker? California is not the place that leaps to mind for Sauvignon Blanc, and certainly not for cheap Sauvignon Blanc. True to the adage that you get what you pay for, this is dilute, sweet and totally nondescript. I know sweetened up Californian ‘blush’ wines sell by the bucketload, and so does Sauvignon Blanc, but this exercise in putting both together seems cynical, and the wine is really horrible. £5.99 at Sainsbury’s