These are the tasting notes for Tom Cannavan’s Wines of the Year 2019. They accompany our main Wines of the Year 2019 feature where Tom explains his choices.
Red Wine of The Year
(2019) Last tasted over a decade ago, this now has a fair amount of amber on the rim and is pale and transluscent. The immediate aroma is of damp woodland undergrowth and fresh-picked truffle, earthy and lightly spiced, the red berry fruitiness sits elegantly beneath. In the mouth the concentration of sweet, ripe flavour surprises. There's lightness and a floating, gossamer character to this, the fruit so silky and joyously sweet, yet racing and delicate, touches of rose-hip and pulpy strawberry to a much grippier, more savoury liquorice and edive bite, which adds a lovely sense of bittersweetness. It has simply huge length, the precision and clarity of the fruit driving, always driving, but the resolved tannins and wonderful acid balance extending the finish. An outstanding wine by absolutely any measure, and although now prohibitively expensive, it joins the list of my greatest Burgundy experiences.
White Wine of The Year
Vergelegen, G.V.B White 2016Somerset West, South Africa, Dry White, Cork, 13.5% abv
(2019) Officially G.V.B = Grown, Vinified and Bottled, though the gleam in Andre van Rensburg's eye suggests that unofficially he could have had something else in mind. 'Grand Vin de Bordeaux' perhaps? Matured in 500-litre barrels for the Sauvignon, and 225-litre barrels for the 40% Semillon in the blend. Gorgeous nose, the oatmeal and cream, the gentle exotic wood spices with a rounded creamy palate of stone fruits and lemon. The palate has a mineral, flint and taut fruit palate, the acid structure is superb, in a thrilling wine.
Budget Red Wine of The Year
Domaine du Bon Remède, La Grange Delay 2017Rhône, France, Dry Red, DIAM, 14.5% abv
(2019) From the fine Rhône appellation of Ventoux, this is a blend of 70% Grenache with Syrah in a forward, fulsome style that lovers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape will appreciate. But there's a beautiful violet and cracked black pepper elegance on the nose too, copious black fruits, a real lift suggesting kirsch, and blue/black intensity of fruit. On the palate the wine bursts with concentrated fruit: tangy and dark plum and plum skins, blueberry and damson, definite ripeness and power, but again there is elegance in the fine but grippy tannins that add a pleasing roughening edge to all that smooth fruit. Good acidity balances and freshens, extending the finish and promising a bit of longevity for this if you can cellar for five to eight years. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.
Budget White Wine of The Year
(2019) Fine mineral salts nose, taut and racy apple core fruit, tiny floral nuances, and a creamy and peachy fruit beneath. What beautiful fruit, peach flesh and juice, flowing and elegant acidity, apricot and lime, into a long shimmering finish of great style.
Rosé Wine of The Year
Champagne Krug, Brut RoséChampagne, France, Sparkling Rosé, Cork, 12.0% abv
(2019) Fabulous and a bit of a rarity, I confess this bottle came from my own collection where it had been cellared for five or six years, so although bottles on sale now will have a more youthful character, I couldn't help but include it in this round up. Krug Rosé is a blend of the three main Champagne varieties, from a wide range of years with a high proportion of reserve wines, and it is an 'assemblage', made by blending still Pinot Noir before at least five years ageing in bottle at Krug’s cellars. It has a moderately deep pink colour and a wonderfully expressive nose: strawberry shortcake aromas of berries and buttery pastry, floral highlights adding lightness. In the mouth more of those red berry and vanilla flavours, decidiely smooth and refined, the acidity making its presence felt ever so subtly, giving this an effortless freshness too. Majestic stuff. Most retailers are charging between £210 and £250 per bottle.
Sweet Wine of The Year
Château d’Yquem, Sauternes 2002Bordeaux, France, Sweet, Cork, 13.0% abv
(2019) There's no such thing as a poor vintage of Yquem, such is the care taken over the fruit selection and winemaking in even the worst vintage conditions, but although this 2002 is not rated as a 'top' Yquem, I thought it was absolutely outstanding. Loaded with smoky, dried apricot depths of Botrytis, there's also lovely exotic spice and marmalade/Seville orange brightness of fruit. More of that on the palate too, in an Yquem of great depth, burgeoning with bittersweet flavours that entirely fill the senses, and yet great freshness too, pinpoint and clear acidity leads into an extremely long finish. Marvellous and totally satisfying.
Sparkling Wine of The Year
Champagne Bollinger, Vintage 1918Champagne, France, Sparkling White, Cork, 12.0% abv
(2019) From magnum, and tasted and scored blind. Spring frosts resulted in large losses and extremely low yields. There was a lack of cultivation in 1917 and 1918, the vineyards sited in combat zones. Cepage unknown, disgorged 1969. Deep, burnished colour. Clearly very old. Like and older white Burgundy, with waxed parcel string, nutty apple and hints of truffle and toffee. Fabulous sweetness and a trace of bubbles on the palate. The palate filled with sweet fruit, clearly very old, but there's a freshness here from magnum, a hint of buttery Brazil nut fat, and that sweet finish of both fruit and, I suspect dosage, but wonderful and still showing great balance. Turns out to be the 1918 vintage. Pinot Noirs from Bouzy and Aÿ, almost no Verzenay because Phylloxera had decimated the vineyards, Mesnil sur Oger for the Chardonnay. Not available to purchase.
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.
Other style/Extra choice
Soldera, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2004Tuscany, Italy, Dry Red, Cork, 14.5% abv
(2019) This was poured from magnum. Just ramping up the almost narcotic, opium-den height and depth of incense and flowers, melding with those bloody, animal scents. This is now hitting its stride. Smooth as silk, the poise and the elegance of the tannins against the sweetness of the fruit is beguiling, in a fabulous, multi-layered wine.
Dud of the Year
(2019) What hellish thing is this I have before me? A pink Sauvignon Blanc from Malrborough, bottled in Alsace for an Australian drinks brand. I can only guess the colour comes from blending in a little Pinot Noir or other variety local to Marborough. Quite pale and delicate in hue, it's exactly what you might expect: pungently and vivdly Marlborough Sauvignon, but with a little added dimension of red berry fruit. In the mouth plenty of lemon and lime punch, a little grassiness, a little sweetness too, a pulpy strawberry touch just in the finish that is otherwise dry. If you accept that it is a totally manufactured artefact, cynically fusing together the two crazes for Sauvingnon and rosé, then I cannot deny it is punter-friendly, has unusual personality for a pink, and the total not as dreadful as the sum of its parts.
Go to the Wines of the Year 2019 main feature.