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top wines of January 2012

www.m-wines.com

under seven pounds

Hermits Hill, Botrytis Semillon 2008, Australia
These inexpensive and usually delicious little Botrytis dessert wines from Australia can be great bargains: at only £6.99 it wouldn't be a great sacrifice to stick one of these wines in the fridge to match with mid-week cheeses or the stickiest desserts. Made for M&S by de Bortoli, it has a fine barley sugar and gentle figgy nose, with some toast and little dried apricot fruit. On the palate there's some real juicy life about this with a cut of apple and of lemon, but nicely judged Botrytis adding rich notes and a medium-bodied texture as well as balanced sweetness. £6.99 per 37.5cl. Available online in cases of six half-bottles from marksandspencer.com

under a tenner

Domaine Les Grands Presbyteres, Wild Yeast Muscadet 2009, France
Screwcapped and with only 12% ABV this is a very modern Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie from Nelly Marzelleau, but a different take on the region's traditional style too. Apparently bottled after an experimental batch of wild yeast-fermented wine gave "stunning results," it does indeed have the tell-tale nose of yeast, earth and gently nutty notes of wild yeast fermentation going on to reveal a delicate saltiness and pear fruit. The palate has juicy, deliciously ripe fruit, the intensity feeling so natural and unforced, staying sweet but with a big lemon and sharp apple raft of acidity. Delicious, long, seafood-friendly and different. 8.00, WoodWinters. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

under twenty

Howard's Folly, Alvarinho 2010, Portugal
This is a thoroughly modern Vinho Verde made from the Alvarinho grape - the same grape as Spain's Albariño - which is simply exquisite: the nose is flooded with delicate floral and more direct lime and lemon fruit, with a fine hint of salty minerals too. On the palate it fills the mouth with flavour that is substantial and richly textured, yet that saline touch and the tangy core of zesty fruit is mouthwatering and deliciously drinkable. It is long, beautifully made and an excellent example of the New Vinho Verde. Lots more details and food-matching ideas in the video. Around £12. Stockists include Hanging Ditch, St Martin Vintners, Bowland Forest Vintners, Wine Service, Field & Fawcett, Halifax Wine Co, Sommelier Wines, Great Grog Co. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com. A Wine of the Week in January, see my full video review.

sky's the limit

Neige, Première Ice Cider, Canada
Is it a wine or is it a cider? The producer's own information seems to suggest the classifications are interchangeable, but as it is described as a 13% ABV cider on the label, that's what we'll call it. Made by the same techniques as Canada's famous icewines, the McIntosh and Spartan variety apples were harvested in late autumn from orchards in the Monteregie region of Quebec, bordering the state of New York. The pressed juice was then left outdoors into January, with a natural freezing and crystalization process concentrating the must to one quarter of the intial juice volume. The rich golden colour is appealing, and the nose has lots of fresh, ripe, concentrated red apple and pear skin aromas with a touch of honey and baked apple pie. In the mouth this has lots of tang and sharpness, despite a honeyed character and rich texture, the 151g/l of residual sugar giving persistent sweetness, but the finish tangy and lively. The label recommends having this with sharp cheeses, but I tried a glass with tarte tatin and it was fabulous. 92/100. Around £25.00, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Partridges, Paxton & Whitfield, Corks Out. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com