The 50 Best; 50 FINE WINES FOR A VINTAGE CHRISTMAS

Christmas is coming and the cellar is bare? Don't fret. For this week's 50 Best, The Independent's wine correspondent, Anthony Rose, has selected the best red, white and sparkling wines to drink this winter - whether you want change from a fiver, or you really want to splash out on something special

Contact Numbers: Asda (0500 100 055); Bordeaux Direct (0118 903 0311); Bottoms Up (01707 385 000); Majestic (01923 298 200); Martha's Vineyard (01707 385 000); Oddbins (0181-944 4400); Safeway (0181- 756 2929); Sainbury's (0800 636 262); Somerfield (0117 935 6669); Tesco (0800 505 555); Threshers (01707 385 000); Unwins (01322 272 711); Victoria Wine (01707 385 000); Victoria Wine Cellars (01707 385 000); Waitrose (0800 188 884); Wine Rack (01707 385 000)

1

1997 NEUDORF MOUTERE CHARDONNAY, NEW ZEALAND

In the Moutere Hills of Nelson, at the northern tip of South Island, Tim and Judy Finn produce one of the southern hemisphere's finest whites from ultra-low-yielding Chardonnay vines. A beguiling bouquet of grilled almonds and honey reveals a finely crafted style, showing a powerful richness and intensity of butterscotch flavours. These combine with a nutty complexity derived from Burgundian cellar techniques. New Zealand's convincing answer to Premier Cru Puligny- Montrachet.

How much: pounds 20

Stockists: Ben Ellis (01737 842160), Transatlantic Wines (01162 692749)

2

1994 CAMARTINA, QUERCIABELLA, ROSSO DI TOSCANA, ITALY

Don't be fooled by the humble Rosso di Toscana appellation. This is an amply proportioned red, with superb concentration and a veneer of stylish, vanilla-scented oakiness. The degree of savoury, black cherry- like vibrancy and the firm, tannic backbone of the Sangiovese grape is derived as much from low yields in the estate's well-tended vineyards as the steady winemaking hand of Guido de Santi. Winner of Italy's coveted Three Glass Award, this ruby-purple hued Tuscan rosso puts the super into super-Tuscan.

How much: pounds 24.95

Stockists: Lea & Sandeman, London SW10 (0171-376 4767)

3

WAITROSE CUVEE 2000 CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE

Ten years old, and disgorged only in May this year, this superior 1990- vintage Champagne, made by Daniel Thibault for F Bonnet from Cote de Blancs grapes, is coming nicely into its own in time for the Millennium bash. Why wait, though, when you can enjoy the highly complex Blanc de Blancs style with its tremendous layers of Chardonnay fruit flavour and nuttiness right now.

How much: pounds 25

Stockists: Waitrose

4

1997 THELEMA CHARDONNAY, THELEMA MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS, STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA

Gyles Webb's Thelema Mountain Vineyards is one of the Cape's foremost estates. From the vineyards, on the slopes of Simonsberg, this is one of the few Cape Chardonnays that has deservedly smashed the pounds 10 barrier. An enticingly smoky dry white, with aromas of oatmeal and buttered popcorn, the stylish, nutty, oak complexity is balanced by the tropical, citrus-fresh fruitiness of cool-climate Chardonnay grapes.

How much: pounds 12.99

Stockists: Tesco Wine Advisor Stores

5

1995 DOMAINE SANTA DUC, GIGONDAS, FRANCE

From Yves Gras, the star of Gigondas in the southern Rhone Valley region, this is a rich, powerfully constructed style, made up mainly of old-vine Grenache, with dollops of Syrah and Mourvedre. With aromatic white-pepper and spice galore on the nose, this blend has the backbone, concentration and vibrant fruit of the excellent 1995 vintage to keep improving for another five to 10 years. And at this price level, it knocks Chateauneuf-du-Pape into a cocked mitre.

How much: pounds 10.75

Stockists: Direct Wine Shipments, Belfast (01232 238700)

6

1995 SEAVIEW PINOT NOIR/ CHARDONNAY BRUT, SOUTHCORP WINES, AUSTRALIA

Sourcing its grapes from cool vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley and the winningly named Tumbarumba, Seaview's brilliant Ian McKenzie has once again created a full-flavoured, golden blend of Champagne grapes, which combines richness of nutty, yeast-enhanced fruit with a crisp, lemony finish and the capacity to develop a toasty character with age. Due on the shelf in time for Christmas, this is a Wine Challenge fizz of the year.

How much: around pounds 8.49

Stockists: widely available

7

1997 JORDAN CHARDONNAY, STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA

Melony, tropical-fruit flavours are crafted, Burgundian-style, into a stylish, rich dry white with subtle aromas and peachy flavours, fermentation in small oak casks adding an element of understated vanilla fudge-like complexity. This estate-grown Cape white from California-trained Gary and Kathy Jordan shows that South African Chardonnay can compete with anything on the world stage at this price level. A name to watch.

How much: pounds 7.99-pounds 8.49

Stockists: Unwins, Waitrose

8

1994 BARON DE LEY RIOJA RESERVA, SPAIN

Baron de Ley is a dynamic, new-wave estate which has flouted tradition by planting Cabernet Sauvignon and using French oak casks in order to bring Rioja into the modern world. From the exceptional 1994 vintage, this is a stylish Tempranillo-based Spanish red in which strawberry fruit, spicy vanilla oak and smooth tannins are all integrated into a mellow, flavoursome style, with Cabernet Sauvignon adding an international dimension.

How much: pounds 6.99

Stockists: Asda

9

1998 AUSTRALIAN OAKED COLOMBARD

From Thomas Hardy & Sons, this fresh, full and fruity dry white from south-east Australia shows that, despite the country's rising prices, it's still possible to locate good-value Aussie whites with character. Based on the Colombard grape of south-west France, whose full-bodied, sunshine fruit is given a lemony twist and an extra layer of spice from the oak treatment meted out to it to create a crisply refreshing, versatile style of dry white.

How much: pounds 3.49

Stockists: Safeway

10

1997 BRIGHT BROTHERS ATLANTIC VINES, BAGA, VINHO REGIONAL BEIRAS, PORTUGAL

Since flaxen-haired Australian winemaker Peter Bright settled in Portugal, he has made Portuguese wines a speciality, developing a natural affinity with those made from native grape varieties. This robustly fruity red has the typical beeswax aroma of the Baga grape from the Bairrada region, with a juicy red-berry fruitiness and a characteristically robust aftertaste.

How much: pounds 3.99

Stockists: Tesco, Asda 1997 CONDRIEU LES CHAILLETS, VIEILLES VIGNES, CUILLERON, FRANCE

Condrieu-specialist Yves Cuilleron is fast gaining a reputation for the outstanding, powerful whites he's making from the Viognier grape in this rarest of French white-wine appellations in the northern Rhone. Wrung from 50-year-old vines, his Les Chaillets (it means "terraces") is a full- bodied, intense dry white with the characteristic floral, apricot scents of the Viognier grape, and a delicacy belying an underlying richness and compact structure from partial ageing in oak casks.

How much: pounds 21.99

Stockists: Oddbins

12

1996 RIDGE VINEYARDS SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS CABERNET SAUVIGNON, USA

Ridge is among California's elite, thanks to the brilliance of Paul Draper, champion of single-vineyard winemaking, American oak, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. His Montebello (pictured right: no photograph was available of the featured Cabernet Sauvignon) commands Chateau Latour prices, but this more readily approachable Cabernet is made in suppler style, with fragrant, minty aromas, flavours of black fruit tinged with mint and spicy oak, and a sophisticatedly silky texture. Drink now or keep for up to seven years.

How much: pounds 20

Stockists: Adnams, Southwold (01502 727222)

13

BILLECART-SALMON CHAMPAGNE ROSE BRUT, FRANCE

Salmon by name, salmon-pink by colour, the association of the family name with one of the best rose champagnes is purely coincidental. Based at Mareuil-sur-A, this small, independent Grande Marque house makes a delicate, crisp style of pink fizz, whose red fruit aromas and flavours are transformed into a classic, harmonious blend of textured fruit with a sophisticated dry finish. Not for the strawberryade faction of Champagne fanciers.

How much: pounds 26.99 (7 for 6 offer: pounds 23.13)

Stockists: Oddbins

14

1996 TALLEY CHARDONNAY, USA

Well-known locally for the quality of his giant green, red and yellow bell peppers, Brian Talley works hillside vineyards whose location, just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Arroyo Grande, makes them ideal for the cultivation of Burgundy's Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Pacific mists and breezes help towards an elegant, restrained style of California Chardonnay, with rich fruit, suggesting butter and nut fudge, which is full-flavoured but in no way overblown.

How much: pounds 14.99

Stockists: Oddbins

15

1997 NEBBIOLO LANGHE, ALDO VAJRA, ITALY

In the mist-cloaked Langhe hills of Barolo, the monkish Aldo Vajra ploughs a very individual furrow between traditionalists and modernists to produce a variety of elegant styles of rosso. Catch a glimpse of the quality of the as-yet-unreleased 1997 Barolos in this fragrant red, whose ripe, cherryish fruit is accompanied by a hint of the Nebbiolo grape's floral, tarry quality. The wine is still youthful, but just starting to become approachable in a charming, deliciously different style.

How much: around pounds 12.49

Stockists: Swig, London NW3 (0171-431 4412); Valvona & Crolla, Edinburgh (0131-556 6066)

16

1992 GREEN POINT LATE DISGORGED BRUT, AUSTRALIA

Dr Tony Jordan has worked wonders at Moet et Chandon's sparkling-wine plant, Green Point, in the Yarra Valley north of Melbourne. Taking a cheeky leaf out of Bollinger's "Recently Disgorged" book, the five and a half years this blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier has spent in the bottle on its yeast lees gives it a brioche-like, mature biscuity character and a creamy-rich, nutty foam which manages a tightrope walk between dried- fruit complexity and astonishing freshness.

How much: pounds 14.99

Stockists: Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up

17

1998 SPRINGFIELD SPECIAL CUVEE SAUVIGNON BLANC, SOUTH AFRICA

The zingy, nettley aromas of this pale, almost water-white Robertson- district Cape Sauvignon Blanc are underscored by a refreshing spritz and intense grassy, gooseberry-like richness of fruit. A halfway house between the assertive tropical fruit of New Zealand Sauvignon and the more restrained, elegant character of Sancerre, this sprightly, crisp white, after promising to come good for a couple of years, has now delivered.

How much: pounds 6.99

Stockists: Sainsbury's, Waitrose

18

1996 CLOS MALVERNE AURET CAB SAUVIGNON/ PINOTAGE, SOUTH AFRICA

Old vines, basket-pressed and matured in French and American oak, add up to an impressive Cape red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds colour, blackcurrant fruit and, ultimately, international perspective to the native Pinotage's wild red-berry fruit character. The clarity of the fruit is given full rein in this distinctively flavoured, successful blend in which Pinotage, although in a minor key, holds its own with confidence.

How much: pounds 7.99

Stockists: Victoria Wine Cellars

19

1998 ANTU MAPU SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA, CHILE

This Maule Valley dry white justifies its International Wine Challenge "White Wine of the Year" award. Grapefruit zesty and grassy aromas lead to flavours of gooseberry and passionfruit on the palate, all kept nicely in balance by the refreshing zip of the new vintage in Chile. Sauvignon Blanc as fresh, zippy and characterful as this vividly demonstrates how Chile is starting to beat the rest of the world at its own game.

How much: pounds 3.99

Stockists: Tesco, Waitrose

20

1996 HECULA, SPAIN

From the Yecla zone in the Levante, this is a good value, modern Spanish blend. Combines the local Monastrell grape with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to create a wine with spicy aromas and richness of fruit, with a veneer of smoky oak and robust fruit tinged with cinnamon and clove spiciness.

How much: pounds 4.99

Stockists: Asda

21

TOKAY PINOT GRIS, CUVEE STE CATHERINE II, CLOS DES CAPUCINS, DOM. WEINBACH, ALSACE, FRANCE

Collette Faller and daughters make one of Alsace's finest, most concentrated white wines from the spicy Tokay Pinot Gris grape. Here, the intriguingly smoky, spicy bouquet is underscored by a rich, medium-sweet apple and peach fruitiness with a sprinkling of ginger spiciness. Despite the enormous concentration of fruit, the wine is as fresh as an Alpine flower and its youthful elegance ensures that there's a few years of bottle development to go.

How much: pounds 23.50

Stockists: Justerini & Brooks, London SW1 (0171-493 8721)

22

1989 NUITS SAINT GEORGES CLOS DES FORETS, DOMAINE DE L'ARLOT, FRANCE

Although the cellar of the Domaine de l'Arlot dates back to the 17th century, Jean-Pierre de Smet, a protege of Jacques Seysses at Domaine Dujac, makes an agreeably modern style of red burgundy in the Cote de Nuits. This near-10-year-old Pinot Noir is just reaching a perfect peak of maturity, with a slightly animal whiff and a deliciously gamey, red- fruits character beneath a veneer of well-crafted oak. Game, sauce and match.

How much: pounds 26.99

Stockists: Wine Rack 1990 POL ROGER CHAMPAGNE BRUT, FRANCE

Pol Roger's pedigree puts this high-class champagne head and shoulders above most other houses in this landmark vintage. Drawn from 18 grand and premier cru vineyards with a blend of three-fifths Pinot Noir grapes and the balance Chardonnay, the aromas are delicately savoury and smoky. While a foam cushion of delicate pin-prick bubbles teases the palate, the stunning fruit quality give this richly textured fizz an effortlessly stylish, ethereal character.

How much: pounds 30.99-pounds 32.49

Stockists: Bordeaux Direct, selected Sainsbury's and top independent wine merchants

24

1996 COTEAUX DU LAYON, BEAULIEU, L'ANCLAIE, CH DE PIERRE BISE, PAPIN-CHEVALIER, FRANCE

The vineyard slopes of the Layon tributary of the Loire produce some of the finest, raciest, sweet white wines in the world from the Chenin Blanc grape. Vouvray, Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux are the best-known (and priciest) but villages such as Beaulieu also have their fair share of luscious gems, such as Claude Papin's gorgeous late-harvest compte of liquid peach, pear and apple fruitiness, whose lingering viscous richness is refreshed by the crystal clarity of pure fruit flavours.

How much: pounds 10.95 (50cl)

Stockists: Lea & Sandeman, London SW10 (0171-376 4767)

25

1994 KANONKOP PAUL SAUER, SOUTH AFRICA

The onomatopaeic Kanonkop is perhaps best known for the Pinotages made by Beyers Truter. But this fine Cape blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc shows the quality of the fruit obtained at this leading Stellenbosch winery on its 21st anniversary. Through a velvet sheen of vanilla oak, the pure, ripe cassis fruitiness melts effortlessly in a voluptuously textured red that's readily drinkable but can be stashed below stairs until kingdom - or a new president, at least - come.

How much: pounds 13.99

Stockists: Majestic, selected Tesco stores

26

1994 DEUTZ BLANC DE BLANCS, MARLBOROUGH CUVEE, NEW ZEALAND

Montana's fruitful entente cordiale in New Zealand with Andre Lallier of Champagne Deutz has already led to the success of the Deutz Marlborough Cuvee. Building on that success in a fizz using mainly Chardonnay grapes sourced from Marlborough, Montana has launched this new high-class vintage sparkler, whose yeasty aromas and lemon-citrus tang make it one of New Zealand's classiest fizzes.

How much: pounds 11.49 (7 for 6 offer: pounds 10.28)

Stockists: Oddbins

27

1996 ANNIE'S LANE SEMILLON, CLARE VALLEY, AUSTRALIA

Without having to use oak barrels as a prop, David O'Leary has brought crystal clarity of fruit and flavour to this distinctive Clare Valley Semillon. Citrus-zesty aromas and lemon curd-like and quinine flavours in a smart package make for a smart bottle at a smart price. The fact that Australian Semillon is often as good, if not better, without oak shows that it is often intrinsically more characterful than its popular Chardonnay counterpart.

How much: pounds 6.99

Stockists: Safeway

28

1996 CHATEAU PAVEIL DE LUZE, MARGAUX, FRANCE

"Modern" for some means "whack on a lot of oak to compensate for the lack of fruit". Not in this case. Here the quality of the abundant ripe fruit is allowed to express the Margaux vineyard character in a medium- weight, elegantly poised style whose deftly handled oak adds an almost imperceptible touch of class to the charm of the juicy, green pepper-tinged fruitiness. From a historic property, this is the epitome of elegantly styled, modern Margaux.

How much: pounds 8.99

Stockists: Oddbins

29

1997 ROBERTS ROCK CHARDONNAY, SOUTH AFRICA

If you're looking for an affordable Chardonnay with character, this cunningly crafted, poor person's white burgundy-style Cape Chardonnay should keep you smiling. The aromas are clean and restrained, just showing a touch of baked banana and smoky oak character, while the palate has some of the vanilla-fudge flavours of good New World Chardonnay kept in attractive balance by a citrusy finish.

How much: pounds 3.99 (December offer of 12 for 11: pounds 3.66)

Stockists: Waitrose

30

1995 WAITROSE SPECIAL RESERVE CLARET, FRANCE

If you've discovered that affordable good claret has become an oxymoron, it's a tribute to Waitrose that it has been able to source a good sub- pounds 5 red from the consistent 1995 vintage. There are no hard edges on this Merlot-based claret from the hillside vineyards of the Cotes de Castillon. Lightly herbal aromas lead to an attractively succulent, medium-bodied red which is tinged with green pepper and red-fruit flavours.

How much: pounds 4.95

Stockists: Waitrose

31

1996 CHARDONNAY/ WELSCHRIESLING TBA NOUVELLE VAGUE NO 4, AUSTRIA

At Illmitz, in the unique climate provided by the shallow Neusiedlersee, Alois Kracher, the alchemist of TBA (Trockenbeerenauslese), transforms individually selected bunches of grapes left to shrivel and concentrate on the vine into luscious sweet wines. In a range named in homage to Jean- Luc Godard, the extraordinary aromatic intensity of orange and lime marmalade turns to flavours of almond pastry and crystallised fruits of indecent richness and length of flavour.

How much: pounds 23.99 (37.5cl)

Stockists: Noel Young Wines, Cambridge (01223 844744)

32

1996 DRY RIVER PINOT NOIR, MARTINBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND

East of Wellington, the gravel terraces of Martinborough's former sheep- grazing pastures have turned into golden nuggets for the producers of fine red burgundy styles. Neil McCallum's Pinot Noir is arguably the best in the land, a deep red wine as intense as its maker, gorgeously perfumed and full of cherry and fraise du bois fruit characters, seductively silky tannins, stylish French oak and an overall balance and complexity that compares favourably with Burgundy's Vosne-Romanee. It will need five years to reach its peak.

How much: pounds 20

Stockists: Justerini & Brooks, London SW1 (0171-493 8721)

33

1990 VEUVE CLICQUOT VINTAGE RESERVE CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE

Made from two-thirds black grapes and the rest Chardonnay, this 1990 fizz was aged for six years in the chalk cellars of Reims before release. With hints of malt and dried fruits on the nose, the widow's merry spirit lives on in this powerfully full-bodied vintage Champagne, which is creamy- textured and powerfully intense, with added complexity from subtle underlying nutty, honeyed notes and a fresh citrus-fruits character.

How much: pounds 33.99

Stockists: Tesco and independents

34

1996 RIESLING FURSTENTUM, DOMAINE ALBERT MANN, ALSACE, FRANCE

From the dynamic Domaine Albert Mann family's Alsace Grand Cru vineyard of Furstentum, this distinctive Riesling is as different a bouilloire de poisson from its German counterpart as it's possible to imagine. The sweet, lime and grapefruit zesty aromas suggest super-ripe, late-harvested grapes, while rich, ripe peachy, medium-dry fruitiness on the palate is balanced by a crisp, grapefruit zesty tang.

How much: pounds 13.88

Stockists: Lay & Wheeler, Colchester (01206 764446) 1996 VASSE FELIX CABERNET SAUVIGNON, MARGARET RIVER, AUSTRALIA

In a region whose classy reds often surpass even those of better-known Coonawarra, Vasse Felix has turned itself into a winery whose stature is now on a par with the classified growths of Bordeaux. Wonderfully pure and concentrated, this is a delightful Cabernet, with rich chocolatey, mint-flecked aromas and the intense blackcurrant clarity of cool-climate fruit. A Western Australian beauty which will improve with age.

How much: pounds 14-pounds 15

Stockists: Bennetts, Chipping Campden (01386 840392); Christopher Piper, Ottery St Mary (01404 814139)

36

CHARLES HEIDSIECK CHAMPAGNE, MISE EN CAVE 1994, FRANCE

Although it sticks the year on the label, the highly successful new Mise en Cave series launched by Charles Heidsieck is in fact a non-vintage Champagne taking advantage of a clever marketing wheeze. Fortunately the quality of the fizz more than lives up to expectations, with floral, buttered- toast aromas and nutty, honeyed nuances of flavour, plus a smooth texture which combines richness with lively acidity and intensity of flavour.

How much: Normally pounds 21.99, but pounds 18.99 at Safeway to 1 Jan. Also buy two and save pounds 10 at Bottoms Up

Stockists: Safeway, Bottoms Up

37

1996 CORBANS PRIVATE BIN CHARDONNAY, GISBORNE, NEW ZEALAND

With all the fuss about Marlborough Sauvignon, it's easy to overlook the fact that New Zealand's other regions produce some of the finest Chardonnays in the world. From Gisborne, the district which sees the sun first every morning, this is a high-class Chardonnay which has been fermented in oak to create a toasted richness. The tropical passionfruit flavours are rounded out with a richly nutty, buttered character balanced by a streak of cool-climate acidity.

How much: pounds 9.99

Stockists: Victoria Wine Cellars; Martha's Vineyard

38

1996 PLATINUM DE LOACH ZINFANDEL, USA

California has only recently rediscovered its valuable heritage of ancient Zinfandel grapes, which produce powerful, warming, raspberry-like reds capable of reaching as implausibly high alcohol levels as 18 per cent. From one-time San Francisco fireman and Benny Hill lookalike Cecil de Loach in Sonoma Valley, this is a more moderate style, whose lightly peppery, mulberry and raspberry jam flavours are spiced up and rounded out by maturation in American oak.

How much: pounds 8.15

Stockists: selected Unwins

39

1997 CONO SUR GEWURZTRAMINER, CHILE

Until recently, Concha Y Toro's small winery at Cono Sur in Chile's Chimbarongo Valley has been mainly associated with good-value Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Adding a commendable new string to its bow of the kind at which Alsace classically excels, this fragrant, rose-petal- scented dry white is redolent of the grape's lychee-like exotic character and the zing of the latest vintage.

How much: pounds 4.49-pounds 4.99

Stockists: Victoria Wine Cellars, Martha's Vineyard, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Oddbins

40

1997 MAS SAINT VINCENT, COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC, FRANCE

There's as much as 80 per cent of the northern Rhone's Syrah grape in this southern-French blend, along with a dash of Mourvedre, creating a modern, accessible style of red. Fragrant with thyme and spice, the palate shows the benefits of the lightest possible filtration: a very supple, ripe, full-flavoured Mediterranean wine with undertones of mulberry and blackberry fruit in a surprisingly smooth finish for this sun-warmed region.

How much: pounds 4.99

Stockists: Oddbins

41

1996 PULIGNYMONTRACHET, LES FOLATIeRES, GERARD CHAVY, FRANCE

The expressively toasty, lees-derived aromas and flavours of this classy white from Burgundy's Cote de Beaune region bring to mind California's creatively modern approach to winemaking. The minerally intensity of flavour on the other hand and exceptional complexity of Chardonnay fruit flavours bring you right back to Europe and the world-famous vineyards of Puligny- Montrachet. Great white burgundy at a relatively modest price for a premier cru.

How much: pounds 23.75

Stockists: Waitrose

42

1995 HENSCHKE MT EDELSTONE SHIRAZ VINEYARD, KEYNETON, EDEN VALLEY, AUSTRALIA

Stephen and Prue Henschke's exceptional Eden Valley reds made from ancient, low-cropping Shiraz vines are to Penfolds' Grange what the elegance of Cote Rotie is to the power of Hermitage. Elegance and drinkability single their reds out from the many more headbanging wines of the Barossa Valley ilk. This is an alluring Shiraz with undertones of liquorice spice and coffee, and a seductively supple blackberry fruitiness. Drink it young, die old.

How much: pounds 25.17

Stockists: Lay & Wheeler, Colchester (01206 764446)

43

1988 LANSON NOBLE CUVEE CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE

This is a remarkably complex de luxe blend made from two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Pinot Noir grapes from the classic 1988 vintage. Showing floral, lightly honeyed and biscuity characters, the bouquet imbues the mouthfilling cushion of bubbles with a remarkable hazelnut complexity and irresistible melt-in-the-mouth texture. Thanks to the vintage quality and the wine's natural acidity, it retains an amazing degree of freshness and finesse.

How much: pounds 52.99 (6 for 5 offer: pounds 44.16)

Stockists: Wine Rack

44

1993 TOKAJI OREMUS, 5 PUTTONYOS, HUNGARY

1993 was a landmark vintage for Tokaji - the first of the post-Communist era to produce bountiful quantities of botrytis-affected and raisined grapes. Amber gold, with an exotically spicy nose of ginger and marmalade and a veneer of vanilla oak, this very modern Tokaji, from the Spanish venture Bodegas Oremus, is unctuously rich on the palate with lusciously ripe, liquid crystallised dried apricot fruit and an orange zesty fresh tang to make Sauternes look leaden. Drink it with fresh fruit or blue cheese or simply make a meal of it.

How much: around pounds 15 (50cl)

Stockists: D Byrne, Clitheroe (01200 423152); Selfridges (0171-629 1234)

45

1996 FOXEN PINOT NOIR, USA

Influenced by the air-conditioning of the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara's vineyards have proved themselves one of California's hottest spots for superior, aromatic Pinot Noir. There's lovely sweet loganberry jam and fraise du bois notes in the aromas of this low-yielding Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir, with just a light touch of toasty oak to harmonise the flavours, and a nip of rhubarby acidity to instil a natural exuberance into Richard Dore and Bill Wathen's Foxen Vineyards estate red.

How much: pounds 15.99

Stockists: Majestic

46

LE MESNIL BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE

This golden rich, lightly smoky fizz is made at the Champagne co-operative in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger entirely from Chardonnay grapes. Thanks to at least three years ageing on its lees in bottle, there's a degree of maturity in the malty aromas, plenty of flavour and a rich, mouthfilling mousse of bubbles which slowly dissipate into an elegantly crisp, classic Blanc de Blancs finish. Good value for a sparkler of real style and finesse.

How much: pounds 15.49

Stockists: Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up

47

1987 ERBACHER MARCOBRUNN RHEINGAU RIESLING, SCHLOSS SCHONBORN, GERMANY

Just over a fiver for a pukka, 11-year-old estate Rhine Riesling may be a sad reflection on the sorry state of the German wine industry, but it's good news for the rest of us. This bright green, off-dry Kabinett is not just wonderfully honeyed and aromatic, but it's intensely flavoured with a lime-zesty quality, richness and intensity and above all, amazing freshness for a white wine of this age. If you love German Riesling, snap it up. If you don't yet, you soon will.

How much: pounds 5.99

Stockists: Victoria Wine Cellars; Martha's Vineyard; selected Somerfield stores

48

1995 CHATEAU MONTUS, MADIRAN, FRANCE

With Chateau Montus, Alain Brumont has done much to soften the tannic impact of south-west France's traditional Tannat grape. Sweet-scented oak mingles with a hint of the farmyard in this modern take on the rustic style of Madiran. There's plenty of concentrated, rich fruit in the local Tannat grape, whose robust Gascon tannins are toned down by low-yielding ripeness and maturation in small oak casks. Decanting before serving, however, wouldn't hurt.

How much: pounds 9.99

Stockists: Majestic

49

1997 DOM. OURNAC VIOGNIER, FRANCE

From Jean-Yves and Piere-Andre Ournac in the south of France, this is a stylish dry white made from the Viognier grape, which normally commands a considerably higher price in the rare, but exotic wines of Condrieu. This may not quite reach the heights of Condrieu, but then nor does its relatively humble price. All the same, it's scented with attractive peach and banana fruitiness, with characteristic, succulent apricot flavours in delicate balance.

How much: pounds 4.99

Stockists: Oddbins

50

1996 NORTON MALBEC, ARGENTINA

The rediscovery of Malbec, the grape of Cahors and its ancient Black Wine, has made Argentina's emerging wine industry all the more interesting for its unusual mix of grape varieties, which include Bonarda, Sangiovese and Tempranillo. Produced without oak or filtration in a well-balanced, expressive style, this muscular Malbec from Norton has aromas of wild red fruits and intensely-flavoured red berry fruitiness. A good springboard for the delights of Argentina.

How much: pounds 4.99

Stockists: Tesco

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Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
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Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
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