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tasting the range at Majestic

by Tom Cannavan, 02/05

This was a tasting of wines available in Majestic Wine Warehouses, the UK's "by the case" specialist. Majestic have branches across the UK and an excellent web site with free delivery from your nearest store. Some of these wines will also be available in other retailers both in the UK and abroad.

Sparkling

Prosecco di Conegliano (Italy) Extra Dry NV
This has a pale green colour and stream of very small bubbles. On the nose, it has the hallmark sherbetty aroma that is typical Prosecco, with floral nuances and delicate pear and apple fruit. On the palate is bright and gently sparkling, with lots of juicy, uncomplicated fruit and a clean, slightly off-dry finish. Delicious and very good. £7.49

Taittinger (France) "Prélude" Grand Cru Champagne NV
Prélude is a new cuvée, a 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend from the vineyards of Aviz and Le Mesnil, Bouzy and Ambonnay. It has a light golden colour and beautifully composed nose, where sour apple and floral notes are underpinned by a little earthiness and spice. On the palate it is rich, with a mouthfilling mousse, and though there is plenty of bite form racy lime and tangerine fruit, there's a breadth of slightly more tropical, heavier fruit and an earthy, mellow quality that fills-out in the finish. There's a lovely mineral acidity here, and the balance to suggest this could cellar very nicely. £32.99

White

Terra da Vina (Italy) Roero Arneis 2003
Lovely bright wine, with sherbetty lemon zest and gentle mineral aromatics. Very clean, with a grapy, vibrant character. The palate has medium weight, but a gorgeous richness, with a peachy, downy quality to the fruit, shot through with citrus zest. This is clean, but powerful stuff, and is very good indeed. £5.99

Alois Legeder (Italy) Pinot Grigio delle Venezie "Riff" 2003
There's a lovely juicy, peachy aspect to this wine on the nose, with pure white fruit of pear and melon pushing through. It is very fresh in the mouth, with a fine grapefruity quality and clean as a whistle acidity. Very good. £6.99

Ronchi di Manzano (Italy) Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli 2003
This has a big skin-contact nose of rich, full, waxy aromatics with pear skin and herbs to the fore. It is equally powerful on the palate, with masses of tangy acidity and a vivid streak of fat, lemony fruit. Impressive, and very good indeed. £9.99

Panizzi (Italy) Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2003
Again, there's a skin-contact weight and complexity here, with a pronounced herbal note and mineral nuances. It is very clean and crisp, but there is plenty of fruit too, with a core of grapefruit into a dry, tangy finish. It hints at real ripeness and flesh, but stays elegant and very clean. Very good indeed. £7.99

Vesevo (Italy) Greco di Tufo 2003
Attractive nose, with plenty of floral notes, some boiled sweet character and juicy nectarine fruit beneath. It is fine and rounded on the palate, with sweet, ripe pear fruit dominating: there's a really intense fruit sweetness and weight here, with a rounded texture. Citrus acidity balances the finish in a concentrated and delicious wine. Very good indeed. £9.99

Domaine Caillaubert (France) VdP Chardonnay/Sauvignon 2003
From the VdP des Côtes de Gascogne, this combines buttery, fat peachy fruit and a bold lemony aroma, giving vibrancy and crispness, along with some honeyed nuances. The palate is honeyed too, with full, ripe fruit that is bold and sweet, filling the mouth before a cut of lemon acidity sweeps through. Very stylish, and very good/very good indeed. £6.99

Domaine Lafage (France) Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2003
Bold, crunchy, pear and apple-scented fruit with a nice suggestion of fat, waxiness and a stronger herbal influence beneath. The palate is very fresh: fresh-squeezed citrus fruit and tart green apple dominate, with incisive acidity sharpening up the longish finish. Very good indeed. £6.49

Paul Cherrier (France) Sancerre Vieilles Vignes 2003
Quite delicate, with lemon and hints of passionfruit, and just a background suggestion of herbs and nettles. The palate is very sweet-edged and has quite an oily fruit quality, with a honeyed richness before a sweep of acidity. From a hugely hot vintage, and perhaps needs a touch more minerality to really shine. Good/very good. £9.99

Jean Pabiot (France) Pouilly-Fumé "Les Cerisottes" 2003
Very bright, crisp, with lots of lemon and sweeter fruit, hinting at tropical mango and papaya. The palate is clean and quite full, with good texture and weight and a fresh, zesty character. There's a nice sour lemon acidity that emerges on the finish. Very good. £9.99

William Fevre (France) Chablis "La Maladière" 2003
This classic Chablis has a lovely nose, with masses of crunchy, vibrant apple fruit and a certain nutty quality. The palate has a raft of tongue-tingling crisp orchard fruit and lemon, but there's a definite hint of honey and and a glimpse of richness that suggests this will also develop very nicely in bottle. Long and racy, this has perfect balance. £9.99

Orchys (France) St Véran 2002
This has a very honeyed nose, with an immediate richness of honeysuckle and oatmeal, with plenty of fruit. The fruit is sweet as it strikes the palate, but racy too thanks to a crisp lemon acidity. The mid-palate emphasises that honeyed edge, but this finishes clean, with a hint of raspberry tartness and plenty of verve. Lovely stuff that is very good indeed/excellent. £8.99

Louis Latour (France) Pouilly-Vinzelles "En Paradis" 2002
Very, very fresh and clean, crisp and sharp with lemon fruit and green apples to the fore. The palate is juicy and fruit-forward, though it perhaps lacks a little complexity. It is clean and quite long, and would be a better food wine than one to sip on its own. Good/very good. £8.49

Cave Prissé (France) Pouilly-Fuissé 2003
There's an oatmeally richness on the nose here, with some waxy lemon fruit and zest, and just a hint of more tropical, pineapple ripeness. The palate is bold and fruity with lots of greengage and green apple, and very clean grapefruit acidity. Terrifically enjoyable stuff that is very good indeed/excellent. £9.99

Christophe Cordier (France) Maçon Fuissé Vieilles Vignes 2003
This has a note of very ripe, pear-drop fruit before a mineral character emerges, with some lemon and a softening note of honey. It has a lovely palate, with masses of honey-edged, crunchy white fruit and a depth of herbal concentration. This is bold and assertive, with a touch of spice and good acidity in the long finish, and is very good indeed/excellent. £10.99

Henri de Villamont (France) Meursault 2002
There is a honeyed, bright, sweet confectionery edge to this, though beneath lies lush, ripe fruit with a hint of caramel and candy, and a buttery quality. The palate is full and creamy, with a broad texture and lots of tropical sweet fruit. A nice honed edge of lemon and zesty acidity lengthens the finish, in a lovely wine that represents good value. £13.99

Louis Latour (France) Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru La Garenne 2002
Nutty, rich, honeysuckle aromas dominate here at first, with a background of sweet vanilla and white chocolate. There is plenty of fruit, that is peachy and quite soft. The palate is fresh and bold, with a terrific quality of melon and pear, and a nice herbal complexity. The concentration is good, and it becomes quite chewy through the mid palate, with oatmeal and honey playing against fine acidity. Balanced and long, this is excellent. £25.00

Louis Latour (France) Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2002
Nutty, bold and quite creamy on the nose, there is a buttery quality, but also a great streak of powerful minerality. The palate is packed with lemony fruit, underpinned by a very nutty structure and a grip of pear skin, concentrated fruit and a hint of tannin. Very powerful, with good acids and plenty of depth. Could be one for the future. Very good indeed/excellent. £50.00

Viña Real (Spain) Rioja Blanco 2001
I'm a sucker for the traditional style of white Rioja, which tended to be oxidised and almost sherried, but there is absolutely no sign of that here in this pale gold coloured, modern yet distinctive wine. The nose is very lemony fresh, with notes of bread, butter and vanilla. On the palate the wine is still full of lemon fruit, ripe pear and apple and plenty of acidity. Chewy and round, with a creaminess to the texture, this finishes warm and spicy. A tantalising wine that is very food friendly. £6.99

Zondernaam (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc 2004
This screw-capped wine is brilliantly fresh; the essence of gooseberry and lychee, with a background of grassy, nettly character. The fruit on the palate it quite sweet, even a touch confected, but it is pure and zingy, with real crunch and zest, even as a more tropical character begins to fill the mid-palate, before clean as a whistle acidity in the finish. very good indeed. £6.99

Villa Maria (NZ) Private Bin Riesling 2004
Screw-capped again, this has a slightly tanky, confected aspect to the nose that will settle down. There are plenty of ripe fruit aromas, which are very fresh and limey. The palate is clean and again filled with lime fruit. It has a waxy texture and weight in the mouth, and the ripe, sweet-edged fruit is tempered by lots of citrus fruit and acidity. A lovely wine that will cellar, and very good indeed. £6.99

Marlborough Gold (NZ) Sauvignon Blanc 2004
This screw-capped wine, bottled by Delgat's, has classic herbal aromas of grass, asparagus and nettles overlaid on good gooseberry fruit. The palate has a similar impression, with those grassy flavours playing against citrus and more tropical fruit with a dry, herbal edge. It is juicy and delicious though, and has plenty of genuine Marlborough style for a low price. £5.85

Oyster Bay (NZ) Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Screw-capped, this has a scintillating nose of sherbet and lemon brightness, all tinged with a streak of grassy, green bean quality. The palate too has a brilliance to the fruit, with masses of sweet, pinapple-like tropical fruit streaked with lime. It has a powerful, lemony finish and is a very good effort indeed from this reliable producer. £6.45

Nautilus (NZ) Sauvignon Blanc 2004
There is a note of honey on the nose of this powerful, nectarine and gooseberry-scented wine, that suggest ripeness and perhaps a touch of barrel fermentation. There are grassy notes too, and hints of tropical fruit. It has a lovely palate, with masses of fruit sweetness and crunch, and though it is rounded and generous, a finely-crafted lime acidity really extends and adds verve to the finish. Very good indeed/excellent. £9.99

Marlborough Gold (NZ) Chardonnay 2003
This has a honeyed aspect on the nose, with a tropical fruit sweetness and undertow of vanilla. There's an unctuous quality to the fruit, of peach and nectarine. It is rounded and crowd-pleasing on the palate, with a tempering character of melon and white fruit amongst all that topicality and toasty vanilla. Very good indeed at a bargain price. £5.85

Knappstein (Australia) Hand-picked Riesling 2002
From the Clare Valley, there is a wonderfully pungent, flint and petrol lift on the nose here. There is also plenty of herbal quality, wax and a good base of lime fruit. It has a very nice palate, with a really sweet, ripe, almost floral edge to the fruit, and a succulent apple and pear quality. There is good acidity here too, in a style like a Herman Kabinett with more stuffing and power. Delightful and very good indeed. £6.99

Griffin Vineyards (Australia) Verdelho 2003
Touches of honey and greengage here, with crunchy apple fruit too. The palate has plenty of weight and rich texture, with hints of honey, and rip, full pear and melon fruit. There's a softer, peachy weight on the mid palate, before good, clean acidity in the finish, and a background touch of spice. Crowd-pleasing and very good indeed at the price. £4.99

Yalumba (Australia) Eden Valley Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2003
There's an oatmeal creaminess to this wine, with a pungent, herb and leafy gooseberry note over ripe pear and apple fruit. The palate displays good ripeness with lots of honeyed, sweet-toned fruit. There are elements of juicy nectarine and peach, before nicely balanced acidity that keeps the finish fresh. Lovely style, and very good indeed. £8.99

Catena (Argentina) Alamos Chardonnay 2003
An old favourite still on good form, this has a charry, burnt toast edge with a hint of espresso dominating the fruit for the moment. The palate reins the oakiness in, and although that warming coffeeish note persists, a raft of tropical fruit and great cut of lemon zest powers through. Excellent value for money in a very good wine. £5.99

Concha y Toro (Chile) Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Typically vibrant, decisive passionate fruit aromas of Chilean Sauvignon, but a gooseberry hint adds interest, and there's an inviting ripe fruit quality. It is very sweet-edged and crowd-pleasing on the palate, with a tropical fruitiness and good acidity giving the necessary sharpness. Very good. £4.69

Montes (Chile) Alpha Chardonnay 2003
If you like your Chardonnay big, sweet and buttery, this is for you: fabulous overripe nose, with Burgundian character, vanilla and very sweet fruit. The palate is flooded with tropical fruit, a buttery aspect and full, rich texture. There's a boldness about this wine that is very likeable, though it is held in check by a clean, savoury acidity. Very good indeed/excellent. £9.99

Saintsbury (California) Carneros Chardonnay 2002
Big, flashy, toasted charry oak and sumptuous, broad aromas of caramel, honey and ripe fruit add up to am immediately impressive wine. The palate has a liquorice note suggesting full extraction and new oak, but there is a very good fruit quality too, balanced against savoury acidity and even a hint of minerality. Very good indeed/excellent. £12.99

F.W. Gymnasium (Germany) Trittenheimer Apotheke Hochgewachs 2000
Majestic continue to unearth parcels of terrific value German wines. Though the fireworks of those initial parcels a few years ago have never quite been repeated, there is still much to recommend. This is herbal and slightly honeyed, with stone fruit aromas. On the palate there's a nice level of sweetness, with greengage fruit and a little minerality emerging. It stays sweet, and finishes quite elegantly with taut acidity. Very good indeed. £5.49

Bert Simon (Germany) Serriger Herrenberg Kabinett 2000
A nice hint of minerality here, over herbs and plummy fruit, flint and a nice smoky quality. The palate has good fruit and sweetness, with peaches and a downy, soft quality before decent balancing acidity emerges into the finish. Not complex, but very good. £5.49

F.W. Gymnasium (Germany) Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett 1999
An absolutely perfect aperitif wine, but would also suit light, fruity desserts. It has a mineral, firm note on the nose, with some waxy qualities and a lot of zesty lemon fruit. There's a blast of gorgeous fruit sweetness as it hits the palate, and it is really quite rounded and poised, with ripe pear and boiled sweet characteristics, but all freshened by good acidity into a long finish. A real bargain, and very good indeed.

Hauth Kerpen (Germany) Wehlener Sonnenhur Kabinett 1998
Quite a high, herbal and floral nose, tinged with a petrolly minerality. The palate is lovely; streaked with schisty minerality over broad, juicy tangerine and peach fruit. This has fine balance and is very good indeed. £5.99

Bert Simon (Germany) Serriger Wurtzberg Kabinett 1994
Rather a caramelly nose, and slightly attenuated on the palate. This is not convincing on this example. Moderate.

Weller-Lehnert (Germany) Piesporter Goldtröpchen Spätlese 2002
This has a lovely fruit quality on the nose, with a suggestion of oatmeal and honey, some herbal qualities and sweet lychee fruit. There is fine sweetness of fruit on the palate; it is very mouth-filling and peachy, with a tropical edge and soft, balancing mineral acidity. very good indeed. £5.99

Sweet

Concha y Toro (Chile) Late-Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2001
This is an absolutely brilliant little dessert wine from Concha y Toro, which is loaded with honey and botrytis on the nose, with a fine barley sugar aromas and very juicy tropical fruit beneath. On the palate lovely nectarine fruit has plenty of verve about it, with a grapefruity tang counter-balancing all that unctuous sweetness. A wine that punches way above its weight. £4.69 per half

de Bortoli (Australia) Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2002
An Australian classic, de Bortoli's 2002 is a really good example of their full-on, luscious Sauternes-style wine. There is an extra layer of toast and butterscotch that adds a sumptuous edge to the nose, with unctuous, creamy scents of tropical fruit and honey. A lemony note keeps things sharply focused. On the palate it coats the mouth with thick, full texture and a sweet marmalade quality. There really is magical richness here, with a cut of tangerine acidity giving balance and length. Great stuff. £12.99 per half.

de Bortoli (Australia) Show Liquor Muscat
Thick, viscose, essence of espresso, walnut and black plum on the nose, with raisins and muscovado sugar. This is unctuous and thick on the palate too, with more coffee, treacle and toffee notes and a long, delightful finish with gentle but persistent acidity. Cracking stuff. £9.99

Red

Domaine de Nugues (France) Beaujolais Villages 2003
A lot of people who wouldn't normally give Beaujolais the time of day are getting all hot and bothered about the 2003s. That is due to the extraordinary vintage conditions, that were so hot and sunny that the Beaujolais ripened as if it was in the Barrossa, leading to wines with as much as 15% alcohol and the full-bodied, ripe appeal of top Pinot Noir. This is a perfect example (though only 13% ABV) with its rounded, sweet, red-cherry nose, tinged with rose-hip and floral notes, but deep and fruity too. It is terrifically juicy on the palate, with robust red fruit and a real bit of bite and concentration. Tannins add a liquorice edge in the long finish. Very good indeed. £6.99

Hospice de Beaujolais (France) Reginié 2003
Quite a vivid, vibrant nose with a touch of caramel and red cherry fruit. The palate is full and silky-textured. It is very ripe, but there's a peppery rasp of tannin and acidity adding lots of structure and depth. Impressive and very good indeed. £6.99

Domaine de la Perrière (France) Mercurey 2002
Warming, earthy, berry-scented fruit on the nose, with a hint of chocolate and caramel, and an earthy sweetness. The palate has a medium-bodied, but full texture, with ripe cherry fruit and a hint of an earthier, more vegetal quality. There is a good acid balance, but this is a wine that cries out for food. Very good/very good indeed. £8.99

Henri de Villamont (France) Gevrey-Chambertin 2000
Maturing nicely now, this 2000 has a touch of barnyard aroma at first, with earthiness, some leafy notes and a cherry fruit quality. The palate has a good weight and texture, with solid red fruit and a raspberry edge of tartness. There is a nice warming background of oak and sweet fruit playing against solid acidity in the finish. Very good indeed. £14.99

Pousse d'Or (France) Santenay 1er Cru Les Gravières 2001
Pousse d'Or are one of the great names of southern Burgundy, and this special parcel at Majestic is an outstanding bargain. There is a lovely ripeness to this wine, with a suggestion of caramel and ripe, cedary fruit on the nose. The palate is very sweet-fruited, with a beautiful weight of succulent black fruit and a fine sense of depth and silky, spicy length. It is well-balanced and finishes with lots of purity and concentration. Very good indeed. £14.99

Pousse d'Or (France) Volnay 1er Cru 2000
This has a really lovely nose, suggesting real ripe fruit sweetness of cherry and briar, with a touch of creamy vanilla. There's a hint of rose-hip fragrance too. It has lovely balance in the mouth, with a sumptuous red fruit quality, an earthy softness and a tugging grip of liquorice tannin. Fleshy and full on the mid-palate, it has a long, balanced finish and is excellent. £19.99

Château de Pitray (France) Côtes de Castillon 1999
There's a lovely sweetness here, with a cedary quality to black fruit and a leathery, rustic note. The palate has a dry, savoury edge to ripe black fruit, with notes of black cherry and lighter raspberry. It is clean and balanced, with crisp tannins and acidity and is very good/very good indeed. £8.49

La Grange Neuve de Figeac (France) St Emilion 1997
This 1997 is holding up well (not all are) and has a cedary nose with good fruit and a creamy quality. On the palate the fruit is gorgeous: deep, blackcurranty and harmonious, with integrated tannins and good freshness. With decent length too, this is very good indeed. £10.99

Château Caronne St-Gemme (France) Haut-Médoc 2001
Quite charry, dense and black-fruited, with a dark, charcoal quality and a plum skin depth. On the palate it is dense and savoury, with a liquoricy quality and plenty of rustic, characterful black fruit. A solid, strapping wine yet not without elegance, and very good indeed. £10.99

Château Caronne St-Gemme (France) Haut-Médoc Magnum 1998
Interesting to taste the same wine with a few more years in bottle, albeit this is a magnum. It is big, round and has a fuller nose, with raspberry fruit, cream and a little animal, bloody edge. The palate is savoury, with lots of cherry fruit and a deal of cedary, plummy depth. It is very fine, with spices and smoky oak in the long finish. Very good indeed/excellent. £25.00

Moulin de La Lagune (France) Bordeaux 2000
This is the second wine of Château la Lagune, but note it is from the outstanding 2000 vintage. This has a sweet, fudge-like quality on the nose that suggests very good ripeness, with a hint of violet perfume and solid red fruit. The palate is very lively and svelte, with a purity of crunchy, precise berry fruit and lovely balance. It is quite fleshy and full textured on the mid-palate, with a lovely sense of harmony but a bit of guts too. A lovely wine for drinking now, or cellaring for a few years. £12.99

La Réserve de Léoville-Barton (France) St-Julien 1999
Nice fragrance here, with a touch of bloody, gamy quality and plenty of plush, ripe, sweet red fruit and a background of cedar. The palate has lovely balance and good fruit; it is very savoury and rich, with a seam of black fruits braced by firm tannins and a tight edge of acidity. Very good indeed/excellent. £15.99

Chapelle du Bois (France) Merlot VdP d'Oc 2003
This has a rounded, sweet and chocolaty nose with a ripeness of black fruit and a little floral edge. Drying tannins add structure to sweet, creamy, uncomplicated fruit in an easy-drinking wine that has a bit of real savoury style. £4.99

Mont Tauch (France) Terra Vitis Corbières 2003
This wine comes from vineyards which follow the practice of "Lutte Raisonée", a form or agriculture which respects the environment. It is a blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache. The nose is creamy, warm and gently spicy, with copious berries and a little hint of old roses. On the palate there's a raft of broad, soft, drying tannin that supports beautifully sweet, ripe cherry and berry fruit. Balanced and long, this is a lovely little red with savoury, food-friendly appeal. Very good indeed. £5.49

Mont Tauch (France) Fitou Les Douze 2003
The blend here is 40% Carignan with 35% Grenache and 25% Syrah all from low-yielding vines, most over 50-years old. There is a big layer of a creamy, slightly leathery aroma on the nose, but beneath is core of dense, solidly-packed red and dried fruit. On the palate it is at first bright and racy, but then a big rustic sweep of rasping, plummy fruit and grippy tannins fills the mouth, Dense and structured, with a liquorice edge and cherry acidity, this is a big mouthful of wine that is long and powerful. Very good indeed. £6.49

Château de Haute-Serre (France) Cahors 1989
This special parcel of 16-year-old Cahors is distinctive if nothing else! It has a huge, horsy, leathery, barnyard floor nose that must in part at least be due to Brettanomyces, a rogue yeast. There are all sorts of herbal and mature, cedary notes too in a complex nose. The palate has a sweetness of fruit, and background of tannins that add bite. It is certainly strapping and distinctive stuff if not to every taste. Very good. £6.99

Mont Tauch (France) Fitou L'Exception 2001
For this wine (40% Syrah, 40% old-vine Grenache, 20% old-vine Carignan) the Syrah spends one year in new barrels, whilst the Carignan spends one year in second-fill barrels. This has an immediately bold and powerful nose, and though there's an edge of mineral and red cherry, the suggestion is of a supple, fleshy wine. There's a fine chocolaty aspect in the mouth, with really sweet blackcurrant and blueberry fruit. The polished tannins and fresh acidity add elegance to a long finish. Excellent. £7.99

Château du Trignon (France) Gigondas 2002
This Rhône wine has a very nice nose of earthy, schisty black fruits and a touch of pencil-shaving finesse. On the palate a real concentration of svelte, black fruit emerges, layering blackcurrant and liquorice, with a biting edge of tannins. There's a cherry skin acidity too, in a very nice wine with bags of character at a decent price. very good indeed. £6.99

Lucien Barrot (France) >Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2001
This is big, powerful, and forward with a nose of spices and tobacco, and a flood of thick, sweet fruit. The palate is lovely, with a big damsony fruit quality, drying, leathery tannins and a fine core of chocolate depth. This is a very delicious, big-framed wine with structure and depth. Very good indeed/excellent. £14.99

Viña Alta Mar (Spain) Monastrell/Cabernet 2002
Monastrell, better known as Mourvèdre in France, is one of the principal grapes of the Jumilla region in south-eastern Spain. Here it is teamed with Cabernet Sauvignon to produce a wine filed with bold, ripe, very sweet red fruit on the nose, with a slightly floral freshness, and plenty of character. On the palate it is very ripe and savoury, with a lovely rasping cherry acidity running through it, against juicy redcurrant and raspberry fruit. The finish is fresh, in a very distinctive and delicious wine made in a bright, forthright style. Very good indeed. £4.99

Marquis de Grignon (Spain) Durius Tempranillo 2002
This is a lovely wine that has been improving steadily vintage on vintage. It offers a mélange of sweet, soft, moreish strawberry and autumn berry aromas, with a depth of tobacco and smoky vanilla sitting beneath, but the emphasis on rich, full fruit. On the palate it has an excellent depth of fruit and mouthfilling texture. It is very easy to drink, but there is a solid structure of ripe fruit and seasoned oak tannins, and enough acidity to keep this fresh. A lovely modern take on the Rioja formula. £6.99

Altos de Luzon (Spain) Jumilla 2002
This very nice blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon is big, minty and super-ripe, with a sweet, creamy nose, flooded with black fruit. It is beautifully ripe on the palate, with cassis and black cherry, with a freshening raspberry note and fine, supple tannins. Very much an "international" style, but an exceptionally nice wine. Very good indeed/excellent. £9.99

Marqués de Riscal (Spain) Rioja Reserva 2000
This is really quite fresh and fruity, with only a background oak that is toasty and rich. It is quite sweet-fruited on the palate, but tempered by a lovely savoury, charry edge. It perhaps lacks a little lushness on the mid-palate, but is very good. £10.99

Contino (Spain) Rioja Gran Reserva 1996
Lots of fragrance here, with leafy notes of undergrowth, tobacco and a dark, chocolaty quality. There is fine fruit with ripe blackcurrant and cherry, and a cedary note. The palate too is impressive, with a density of black fruit with fine ripeness, a lush, layered quality and dense tannic structure. It has a plummy depth and a long, balanced finish. A real treat, and one that will age well for many years. Excellent. £25.00

Masseria Monaci (Italy) Copertino 2000
This wine is made from Negro Amaro, and has a juicy, bright vibrancy with masses of crunchy black fruit and a perfumed, gently floral note. It is crisp and fresh on the palate, but the fruit is ripe and sweet, and this has terrific verve. Moderate but well-balanced tannins and acidity complete the picture of a lovely wine. Very good indeed. £4.99

Bellingham (South Africa) Shiraz 2002
This has a very schisty, charcoally style of Syrah perfume on the nose, with notes of burning embers over solid, ripe black fruit. The palate is quite lush and beautifully sweet-fruited, with a creamy quality to both fruit and texture, and a nicely savoury blackcurrant and spice character. Nicely peppery on the finish, this is easy to drink and very stylish. £6.99

Fairview (South Africa) "Peg Leg" Carignan 2003
This has a very bold nose, with an overlay of charry, dense oak on top of masses of ripe fruit; there's a real strawberry quality and beneath the oak, an aromatic brightness. It is very sweet and soft on the palate, but then a rasping edge of cherry skin acidity adds some drama. Very good/very good indeed. £7.99

Piramimma (Australia) premium Grenache 2002
Big, creamy, super-sweet and voluptuous, this has a tantalising nose of aromatic cassis and raspberry. The palate is juicy and ripe, with a mouth-coating density of fruit and chocolaty depth. The tannins are dense and soft, and there is just enough black cherry acidity to lift the finish. Lovely sumptuous stuff, and very good indeed. £9.99

Wolf Blass (Australia) President's Selection Cabernet 2002
Masses of fruit sweetness here, smothered in sweet vanillin too, over a solid core of creamy blackcurrant fruit. There is plenty of fruit, spice and coffee on the palate, with depth and a bite of tannins and acidity. Classic Aussie Cabernet and very good indeed. £11.99

Cape Mentelle (Australia) Cabernet Merlot 2001
This adds an element of savoury, cedary, slightly leafy complexity compared to the Wolf Blass, with packed black fruit and a sweep of custardy oak. The palate has a very sweet profile, with masses of ripe, juicy and joyous blackcurrant and plum. The tannins are creamy and ripe, extending the low-acid finish. Blockbuster stuff again, and very good indeed/excellent. £11.99

Concha y Toro (Chile) Casillero del Diablo Carmènere 2003
Quite leafy, with a herbal, earthy note over a powerful core of black fruits. It is quite crisp on the palate, with a tangy quality of fruit, and focused tannins and acids leaving it quite racy and supple. Very good.

Montes (Chile) 'Limited Selection' Cabernet-Carmenère 2003
There is gorgeous fruit sweetness here, immediately apparent on the nose with a silky black fruit weight, a lick of vanilla and a cocoa-bean warmth and depth. The palate is svelte and deliciously layered with black fruit, cherry and a charred, toasty edge. It has fine ripeness and richness, controlled by savoury acidity and a fine tannic background. Very good indeed, and beautifully made. £6.99

Concha y Toro (Chile) Winemaker's Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
There is fine ripeness here, with dense, very creamy blueberry and blackberry fruit, with chocolate and a serious suggestion of concentration. The palate is dense and creamy-textured, and is packed with jammy, kirsch-like cassis and a raft of dry, chocolate and plum skin tannins. Lovely stuff and very good indeed/excellent. £9.99

La Madras (Argentina) El Malbec de Ricardo Santos 2002
This is a tightly-knit, muscular wine, with concentrated, dense black fruit on the nose. It is extremely dense and sweet as it strikes the palate, with a gorgeous weight of blue/black fruit and a great bittersweet plum and cherry-skin depth. Liquorice and caramel notes add even more depth to a long, creamy finish. Excellent. £7.99

Clos de los Siete (Argentina) 2003
This is a new wine for me, which bowled me over when I tasted it. A classic Bordeaux blend, there is a hint of raspberry elegance on the nose at first, before cedar, violet and floral notes intermingle with concentrated black fruit. It is very juicy and svelte in the palate, with a fine bittersweet quality of black cherry and damsons, and touches of mocha coffee. This has richness, spice and tannin in layers, and is Excellent. £9.99

Rex Goliath (California) Cabernet Sauvignon
Lovely fresh nose, with deep-set fruit that is fresh yet creamy, with a minty vanilla sweetness, but some restraint. There is plenty of black fruit on the palate, with cassis and cocoa forming a really solid core, and a fresh, tangy blackcurrant finish. Good depth and length, and a nice balance overall. Very good indeed. £9.99