Here's what left a lasting impression in 2021, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Whether you're after a special occasion wine, a couple of fairly priced, food-friendly favourites to have on standby, a mid-week vino to top up the wine rack or something from off the beaten track, 2021 gave us some great options.

As the year draws to a close, here's what we've tasted and rated during 2021, and would love to drink again and again...


1. Cambalala Grenache Blanc 2020, Western Cape, South Africa, £6.49, Aldi

A lively fruit salad of tangy green fruits, ripe guava, juicy spiced pear fruit and lemon peel, this gold nugget from South Africa really hits the spot, with a brilliant balance of concentrated flavours and refreshing acidity closing the finish. Mouth-watering, food-friendly and a top drop with spicy seafood or grilled Cajun shrimp. Intense and downright delicious.

2. Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2020, South Australia, £9, Tesco

What winemakers love to call a contemporary chardonnay - the fruit and oak are in total harmony with attractive acidity - this is a fresh, fruity style from Australia's top wine estate, famous for its cult reds. With floral aromas mingling with yellow fruits and a crisp, juicy palate of ripe citrus and hint of pineapple, it's perfectly balanced and will turn the everyday into a delicious drop of sunshine.

3. Pyramid Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2019, North Canterbury, New Zealand, currently £14.99 (was £18.99), Waitrose

Marlborough may have put New Zealand sauvignon blanc on the map but this succulent, vibrant white from South Island's Waipara Valley tastes wonderfully pure and is worth seeking out. A fabulously fruity fragrant affair with bright, fleshy tropical fruits, think ripe melon and passion fruit with subtle herbal touches, grassy highlights, balanced acidity and long, rounded finish. Exceptionally good.

4. Marimar Estate Acero Chardonnay 2018, Russian River Valley, California, USA, £26.50, Fareham Wine Cellar

California's a goldmine for world-class chardonnay to rival the best of Burgundy, and this one's strikingly sleek and rich. Especially when you consider 'Acero' is Spanish for steel - and plays up the fact this wine has no oak influence, showcasing the grape in all its naked, unoaked glory.

Aromas of baked apple and orange blossom are joined by a touch of lemon zest, with an appealing creamy rich palate backed by refreshing acidity, giving the wine another dimension with hints of wet stone fruits. Utterly delicious from the word go, it's bright, beautiful and dangerously easy to drink.


5. Maison Mirabeau Belle Annee Rose 2020, Vin de France, France, £10, Tesco

Belle by name and by nature, Mirabeau's quest for excellence really shows in its entry-level rose, launched last year. The award-winning Provencal producer has several plush pinks on the shelves, but what we love about this perky pink is its sheer drinkability - and price tag. With pretty floral and apricot aromas, it's gently fruity with a core of pink grapefruit framed by orange blossom, strawberry and rose petals, with citrusy undertones and a lively, fresh finish.

6. Lady A Rose 2020, Provence, France, £14.95, Spirit.ed

Another label to love and pretty enough to turn heads, Lady A Rose is noteworthy for being a collaboration between Chateau La Coste - an iconic estate in Provence famous for its world-class art and open-air exhibitions - and exclusive members-only club Soho House.

The label's designed by Damien Hirst and social butterflies can now savour this stunning rose on their own sofa. An attractive pale peach and beautifully fresh with pretty florals, flavours of citrus and peach with a core of pink grapefruit, hint of raspberry, fine acidity and long, refreshing finish.


7. Aldi Gravevine Shiraz, Jumilla, Spain, £3.69, Aldi

A great wintry quaffer that impressed the judges at the The Drinks Business Global Syrah Masters 2020 so much, this bargainous Spanish gem bagged a silver medal. Fresh, fruity and lots of fun, it's full of bright red fruits alongside subtle strawberry notes, gentle peppery spice and a soft, smooth, simple finish. Perfect for bangers and mash with a red onion gravy, and fantastic for less than a fiver.

8. M&S Found Xinomavro Mandilaria 2019, Greece, £9.50, Marks & Spencer stores

A delicious discovery with drink-me-now character, xinomavro is one of Greece's most popular red grapes (from the mountainous north), and this unoaked style has been deftly blended with mandilaira, a bold red variety from the Aegean islands in the south. Beguiling from the off, there's a lovely floral lift as the wine draws you in with fragrant black fruits, bramble and fresh herbs, then rewards with a trail of raspberries, blackberries and expressive red fruits. Herbaceous, complex and utterly divine.

9. Zuccardi Los Olivos Malbec 2019, Mendoza, Argentina, £10.99, Taurus Wines

A leading light, Zuccardi produce some of the most thrilling malbecs in the country, and this is a glorious example of how silky and pure the wines can be. Soft as a velvet cushion, with enticing aromas of fresh berries and violets, a generous core of cassis, blackberry and plums topped with a twist of pepper, it's beautifully balanced with great depth and a lovely, long, finish.

10. Donna Elvira Settemazze Anglianico 2018, Campania, Italy, £18, Campania Wines

As the saying goes, Italians live to eat - and wine enthusiasts will adore this garnet gem made from the anglianico grape, cited as the nebbiolo of the south. A food-loving fiesta of flavours, there's a beautiful intensity, with gorgeous aromas of forest fruits which unfurl on the palate, spiced cherry, a liquorice note, soft tannins, and plenty of finesse on the lingering finish. One for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, or roast grouse with game chips.