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Top 10 wines in the US press

Santadi “Terre Brune” Carignano del Sulcis DOC Superiore 2008

“The wines of Sardinia’s Sulcis district are Italy’s unsung treasures,” according to Sandra Silfven of Detroit News. The region’s wines are made from the native Carignano grape, known as Carignan in France, and are “nearing cult status among serious wine enthusiasts”, claims Silfven.

Recommending this Santadi red from what was an “exceptional 2008 vintage”, Silfven said: “Of this bottle she said: ““Terre Brune” means brown earth — describing the dark porous soils of Sulcis. The grape is Carignane — if you spell it like Americans do. This one, from the exceptional 2008 vintage, is an inky, concentrated compote of plums and blueberries flavored with brown cooking spices, bay leaf and juniper, with hints of tobacco and chocolate. Tannins are smooth and well-developed; acidity is firm. It’s aged 18 months in barrel and a year in bottle.”

Price: $66 

2012 Leese-Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon, California

Michael Dresser, writing for The Baltimore Sun, recommended this $15 Cabernet Sauvignon which he said was “on par” with many of its $30 to $40 counterparts from Napa Valley.

He said: “It’s smooth, complex and layered, with intense black cherry flavors and mild hints of pipe tobacco and leather. All is in balance and harmony in this sophisticated red wine. I especially like the unusual closure, an upgraded version of a screw cap in place of a cork.”

Price: $15

Collazzi Libertá 2012, Toscana

This “delightful Tuscan blend” was a favourite of Dennis Sodomka’s, writing in The Augusta Chronicle.

He said: “Some would call this wine a Super Tuscan because it focuses on the French grapes of Merlot and Syrah instead of the traditional Sangiovese. I prefer to just call it a super wine. The blend is 15% Sangiovese to go with 55% Merlot and 30% Syrah, creating a powerful, food-friendly wine. In the glass it is a deep red, almost purple.

“There is a slight floral aroma, leading to lip-smacking dark fresh fruit tastes, especially plum. The wine is full-bodied, with sweet tannins that allow the fruit to show through. The aftertaste is complex and long, with some toasted oak notes. The winery says its goal is to achieve balance among Merlot’s soft tannins, Syrah’s spicy richness and the elegant fragrance of Sangiovese. They certainly achieved that.”

Price: $23 to 25

Long Meadow Ranch 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Catherine Bugue, writing for the Napa Valley Register, picked out this “lively, with deliciously juicy fruit” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Long Meadow Ranch as her wine of the week.

She said: “You know those times when you pull a cork, and in minutes, it seems, you turn around to an empty bottle? Yeah, that is what happened with this Long Meadow Ranch, so good was the wine. When Cabs are this lively, with deliciously juicy fruit and matching acidity, the wine becomes such a perfect part of dinner that you happily play the game of sip-bite, sip-bite until something makes you quit (like an empty bottle). Wine is supposed to be a part of the meal, not a heavy dish-unto-itself. For your dinner, however, you might want to buy two bottles of this wine, seeing as it likes to play the disappearing act.”

Price: About $35

Alamos Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina

This Malbec makes its entrance with a “massive concentration of black peppered fruit, cherry crush, sloe fruit and loads of locorice-laden berries”, according to Gil Lempert-Schwarz of the Las Vegas Review Journal.

He said: “The acidity is striking, as it creates a great melange with the fruit and the tannins through the midpalate, thereby giving the wine a powerful backbone and a good sense of balance. It carries through to the finish that lingers for a good 20-plus seconds with hints of toast, coffee and anise.”

He added: “This is an interesting wine that, based on its concentration and flavor profile, is an excellent alternative to more traditional cabernets and merlots normally found in the area. It might need about an hour out of the bottle before consumption, but should then provide immense drinking pleasure and will be good for the next five years or so. This wine should work great with traditional rustic meat dishes, such as carne asada and pollo con mole.”

Price: $7.99

Three Sticks, 2012 Gaps Crown Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Peg Melnik, writing in the Press Democrat, picked Three Sticks from the Gaps Crown Vineyard in Sonoma as her top wine of the week describing it as “knockout”.

She said: “This lush Pinot makes a great impression. It’s a tasty melding of generous bright red fruit, cola, herbs and spice. Lingering finish.”

Price: $65

Relentless, 2011 Napa Valley Red Blend

Melnik also recommended this $80 Napa red blend, which she felt deserved a mention among one of several “other impressive wines” blind tasted this week.

She said: “This Syrah-based blend is meaty and smoky, sassy and seamless — not an easy feat to craft. Notes of plum, fig, forest floor and cracked black pepper. It’s 91% Syrah and 9% Petite Sirah, and it wears the blend well.”

Price: $80

The Arsonist, Matchbook winery, Napa, California

The Arsonist, a recent Chardonnay release from the Matchbook winery in Napa, was recommended by Stacey Vreeken writing in the Santa Cruz Sentinel – a wine she described as “thick, tropical and a bit buttery.”

She said: “The 100% Chardonnay is barrel fermented in new oak with the lees, or sediment, stirred frequently. The Arsonist release is culled from the best of the best barrel lots of estate grapes and has an extended six months of barrel aging. Perhaps The Arsonist is a bit unfortunately named given the last fire season in California, but it refers to Prometheus, who mythically changed the world by bringing fire to it, or setting it alight. It also refers to winemaker John Giguiere’s fascination with fire as a boy.

“This Chardonnay is versatile, working in many food situations. Opening with floral notes, the wine quickly moves into pineapple, lemon and butterscotch flavors with a note of minerality. It offers signature toast and butter flavors, but is not overwhelming. Of note is the thick, almost unctuous texture of the wine.”

Price: $22

Pascal Doquet Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Brut, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France,

Finally Dave McIntyre, writing for the Washington Post, recommended three sparkling wines worthy of your Christmas celebrations. Among his recommendations was this “rich and powerful Champagne, brimming with ripe fruit and toasty oak flavors of a top cuvée.”

He added: “The current release has a disgorgement date of July 2013 on the label, with the blend from the 2003, 2002 and 2001 vintages. It shows the depth and complexity of a wine left on its lees for a decade. I also recently tasted an older bottle (disgorged in 2008), and it showed more golden color and yeasty notes.”

Price: $70

Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay Brut, Monticello, Virginia, US

“Soft and elegant, like a satin pillow for your palate,” was how McIntyre described this sparkling wine from Virginia.

He said: “While the wine is still a brut, signalling dryness, Claude Thibaut leaves a hint of sugar to emphasize the fruitiness. The result is a wine ideal for sipping alone, with a light first course or even as a palate cleanser with dessert.”

Price: $29

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