Tasting notes for Wines of the Year 2010

Red: Château Cheval Blanc, St Emilion 1985, France
First of all, this is a wine that was about context as much as it was about pure quality, but having said that, on quality alone it was easily a top candidate for the Wine of the Year title. My partner and I drank this bottle as we celebrated our 25th anniversary, but what a bottle is was: the aroma rising from the first glass was tantalising: cherries, wreathed in woodsmoke, with a touch of mocha and a swirl of leafy, wild strawberry. The flavour was equally compelling, shifting and changing constantly, unfolding over two hours with more and more complexity whilst never losing a beautiful, seamless sense of balance and harmony. 98/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

White: Quinta do Feital, Dorado Superior 2008, Portugal
An unusual Vinho Verde that spends one year in tank with the lees, and almost two years in total before bottling. It is made by Spanish winemaker Marcial Dorado from Galicia, home of Albariño, who crossed the border to make this wine from a 70-year-old vineyard. It is organically farmed, with very low levels of sulphur and only natural yeasts employed in fermentation. Quite deep yellow colour, with powerful, leesy, oxidative nose with lots of stony minerality. This is wine that reminds me somewhat of the whites of Josko Gravner in Friulli, with its skinny and grippy style, with intense, concentrated apple fruit, lots of structure, bruised apple qualities and a dry, endless finish with with high acidity giving grip. Singular and rather marvellous stuff. 93/100.

Budget red: Prats & Symington, Post Scriptum Douro Red 2009, Portugal
Bruno Prats of Bordeaux and the Symington family of the Douro created a stir – and a terrific wine – when the launched their joint project in the Douro with a wine called ‘Chrysea’. This is the second wine of Chrysea, which perhaps stretches the ‘budget’ definition a little as it comes in at £15 – £17, but this 2009 (a finished sample when I tasted it, and now bottled and being shipped) was just hugely impressive. A blend of 75% Touriga Nacional and 25% Touriga Franca. Silky, refined, softly mineral and cedary nose with very elegant, gently spiced cherry and blackberry fruit. The palate has lovely acidity, the mouth-feel softened by a French chalk silkiness to the tannins and the ripe, juicy red fruit filling the mouth. Delicious balance here, a little roughening Touriga Nacional character adding a touch of meatier depth, but the long, spicy finish is delicious. 93/100. See all stockist of Post Scriptum on wine-searcher

Budget white: Hilltop Estates Cserszegi Fuszeres 2009, Hungary
For me one of the most characterful whites it is possible to buy for under four quid. Yummilicious stuff, made from the near-unpronouncable Cseszegi Fuszeres grape, a cross between Gewürztramier and Irsai Oliver, which explains its heady, floral and exotic aromatics. On the palate there’s some texture and a flood of passionfruit and ripe, juicy pear flavour. With fine acidity and just a hint of spice, this is great drinking at a very modest price. 86/100. £3.99, Morrisons.

Sweet: Disznoko, Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2002, Hungary
Big and rich, this wonderful Tokaji has lovely depth with lemon rind and honey aromas, but very creamy and toasty too, an orange brightness showing through and those delicate tea and lightly leafy notes. The palate is akin to the excellent 2001, but has extra (and fabulous) tang and decisiveness, with lots of weight and purity, and a really lovely, round but fresh mouthfeel of sweet, quite luscious fruit, it has all the sumptuous richness and sweet vanilla of the 2001, but that extra degree of focus. 95/100. The 2001 is in Waitrose at £24.69 per 50cl, but see all stockists of Disznoko 5 Puttonyos on wine-searcher.com

Sparkling: Champagne Bollinger, Grande Année 2000, France
Despite loving Egly-Ouriet’s Grand Cru Ambonnay, marvelling at my initial taste of the Dom Perignon 2002 and loving Waitrose’s own Special Reserve 2002 at a bargain £22.99, the fact that Majestic currently has this fabulous wine at £45.00 (RRP £60) sealed the deal: riven with minerality and depths of charry toast, fresh apples and toffee in the background, the magnificent nose leads on to a palate that is equally gorgeous too: a flood of elegant, finely-wrought flavours and silky mousse, with fabulously racy fruit and great, tight minerality into a long finish. 95/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Fortified: Quinta do Noval, Nacional Vintage Port 2000, Portugal
I visited Noval in November 2010 and tasted many vintages of the rare Nacional back to 1964, and really any of them could have featured here – the 2003, 2001, and 1994 for example all being magnificent. But I have chosen the wine which on the day was perhaps my favourite, offering just a great, limpid pool of black fruit and rich berry aromas, with an ebony-like sheen of firmness and just a lift of violet and sweet plum skins. The palate has fabulous fruit and concentration. The spirit is lending invisible support, but is swamped by the creamy tannins and the weight of supple, pure, intensely concentrated black fruit. There is a beautiful edge to this – terrifically well-defined and keen – the multiple layers of tannin and fruit and more exotic spice and incense notes supply intertwined. In the end though, drinking deliciously well and sweetly, though with considerable time ahead of it: measure in decades, not years. 98/100. See all stockists of Nacional on wine-searcher.com.

Dud: Tesco, Moscatel de Valencia NV, Spain
The Moscatel (muscat) aromatics are there of ripe grapey fruit and a touch of floral character, but there’s a raw, spirity note that detracts. It is raw on the palate too, the slightly alcoholic, unbalanced spirity bite persisting. Let’s not beat about the bush – this is dirt cheap wine costing little more than the duty, VAT and cost of the bottle, so what would you expect? Spain, Tesco and the world should be discouraged from making, selling or buying horrors like this, hence a worthy dud of the year. £2.84, Tesco. It’s ironic that Tesco had a genuine contender for Fortified WoTY in their magnicifcent Tesco Finest 10YO Grand Tawny which is brilliant stuff at £8.99 per half.

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