These are the tasting notes for Tom Cannavan’s Wines of the Year 2018. They accompany our main Wines of the Year 2018 feature where Tom explains his choices.
Red Wine of The Year
Château Margaux, Margaux 1er Cru 1985Bordeaux, France, Dry Red, Cork, 13.0% abv
(2018) In Bordeaux, 1985 is my favourite vintage bar none. Yes, '61 may be more legendary, '49 more revered, but I have bought and drunk a lot of '85s over the past 30 years with unfailing success in the wines being both sumptuous and structured, in an immensely pleasurable vintage. This Margaux may be the pinnacle, a heavenly depth of graphite and cedar-touched ripe, but not overripe, black fruits, the lightest nuances of game and vanilla, and just a gorgeous, ethereal Margaux perfume. In the mouth the tannins are now resolved of course, but the fine-grained, supple nature is lovely and the fresh acidity gives this an alert, still energetic character at 33 years of age. Wonderful fruit, again just touched with cedar and game on the palate, but a depth of blackcurrant and edged by black plum and chocolate bittersweet notes. Long, not fading in the glass after an hour, and possibly with substantial time ahead for well-cellared bottles.
White Wine of The Year
Blank Canvas, Chardonnay 2016Marlborough, New Zealand, Dry White, Screwcap, 13.5% abv
(2018) Matt Thomson is one of New Zealand’s most respected consultant winemakers, behind numerous top labels, and now he and his wife Sophie Parker-Thomson have established Blank Canvas, a premium label sourcing fruit from top vineyards, like this single-vineyard Chardonnay, fermented with wild yeast and aged in large French oak barrels, around 40% of which were new. It’s so appealing, with a flinty mineral edge to cool orchard and lime fruit, given creamy intensity from the barrels. In the mouth there’s an unabashed ripeness of fruit, edging from succulent ripe pear and apple into more tropical nectarine notes, buttery Brazil nut creaminess beneath, and zipping-fresh lemon and salts acidity. A serious, top-end example of Kiwi Chardonnay. On offer at time of review for £22.90.
Budget Red Wine of The Year
Domaine Lagneau, Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2015Beaujolais, France, Dry Red, Cork, 14.1% abv
(2018) The 2015 vintage is being hailed as one of the best ever in the resurgent Beaujolais region, where recognition for the quality of wines from the 'Crus' of Beaujolais has soared. This comes from one of the very best, most Burgundian Crus, Morgon, where ninth generation winemaker Gérard Lagneau works with 60-year-old vines. Deep-coloured but bright, the nose has lovely crushed violets and summer berry fruits, a little stripe of game and meatiness adding interest. In the mouth this is truly gorgeous: there's a precise minerality to this that belies its 14% alcohol, the flood of sweet, so obviously ripe and plump, cherry and red berry fruit etched by fine acidity and smooth, fine-grained tannins. An exquisite Morgon really, well-priced at £14.50, but reduced to £13.00 at time of review. A fabulous bellwether for the 2015 vintage. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
Budget White Wine of The Year
Puklavec, Seven Numbers Pinot Grigio 2016Podravje, Slovenia, Dry White, DIAM, 14.0% abv
(2018) This wine was the ultimate winner of the Global Pinot Grigio Masters Awards 2018. No, I never knew such awards existed either. It comes from family-owned Slovenian winery, Puklavec, and was vinified in Slavonian oak barrels. It is, I have to say, an excellent Pinot Grigio, brimming with lightly nutty and smoky, but burstingly ripe fruit, before a palate where beautiful nectarine sweet juiciness meets a cool, icy river water clarity. There is texture and slippery weight in the mouth, but dazzling freshness too in this flavour- and personality-packed example. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.
Rosé Wine of The Year
Bellavista, Franciacorta Brut Rosé 2013Lombardy, Italy, Sparkling Rosé, Cork, 12.5% abv
(2018) Just a beautiful rosé from Bellavista. one of Franciacorta's bigger houses where all base wines are barrel-fermented. From south-facing vineyards this is more or less equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. An attractive pale colour and the prettiest aromas, small wild strawberries, peach down and watermelon, all lightly touched by creamy vanilla. On the palate the mousse is very fine, very elegant, and though there is that soft and seductive strawberry, the acid balance is perfect and the shimmering length of the wine is terrific.
Sweet Wine of The Year
Château Guiraud,, Sauternes 1er Cru 1986Bordeaux, France, Sweet, Cork, 14.0% abv
(2018) At 31 years old this is in marvellous condition and magical form. Cellared by me for the past 20 years or so, the colour is a bright, rich gold, and the nose is laden with botrytis notes of honey and glycerine, barley sugar and tea. There's a minty echo of oak and ripeness, but it is gloriously pure. In the mouth it is weighty without being sticky, with those lovely glycerine tones to the peachy, apricot and then lemony fruit, the sweetness perfectly balanced against the fresh, long, dry acidity that elongates the finish. What a lovely wine. Available as listed below at time of writing.
Sparkling Wine of The Year
(2018) Fabulous nose, a little complex sulphide character, so mineral and flinty, adding to the russet apple and those complex white flower and delicate nutty characters. The palate is tight as a drum, with lime and grapefruit driving the acidity, but a sense of burgeoning richness hangs from that spine of acidity, meaty and concentrated, with such a dense and supple fruit concentration, sweet and powerful and profound. Disgorged 2012. There are no UK stockists for this vintage listed at time of writing.
Fortified Wine of The Year
Blandy's, Frasqueira Sercial 1968Madeira, Portugal, Fortified, Cork, 20.0% abv
(2018) A stunning, stunning dry Madeira, at 60 years old and what a treat to taste one of the world’s great wines with surely another 50 years ahead of it. Shellac and walnut notes lead on to a bone-dry palate of Seville orange that has searing intensity. Oh, for a bowl of salted almonds with this contemplative wine.
Blandys, Frasqueira Bual 1957Madeira, Portugal, Fortified, Cork, 20.0% abv
(2018) Tasted alongside the Blandy's 1968 vintage Sercial, a bone-dry but absolutely magnificent sister Madeira, this was just stunning at 71 years of age. Nut brown in colour, the nose a soulful, burnished depth of walnut and Seville orange marmalade, toffee and dark Agen prune notes along with spices and tobacco. With just over 100g/l of residual sugar it is sweet without being cloying, with classic Madeira firmness and vitality, magically tangy and bright with electric acidity perfectly balanced against the sumptuous spices and dark, tea-steeped dark fruit flavours. Wines like this almost defy scores and descriptions. What a treat if you can afford it (price for a half bottle).
Other style/Extra choice
(2018) A low alcohol blend of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir, St Laurent and Blaufränkisch, I guess this would count as a 'Pet Nat', a trendy new term for gently sparkling 'natural' wines and this has the credentials: biodynamic, closed with a beer bottle crown-cap and with only 10.5% alcohol. It is only gently effervescent, the colour lovely ruby/pomegranate red, with delicate strawberries and cream aromas. In the mouth the frizzante style gives a lively edge to crisp and flavourful red berry fruit, a hint of sweetness swept up in lovely, clear apple core dry acidity. Delightful.
Go to the Wines of the Year 2018 main feature.