Tasting Notes for Wines of the Year 2021

These are the tasting notes for Tom Cannavan’s Wines of the Year 2021. They accompany our main Wines of the Year 2021 feature where Tom explains his choices.

Red Wine of The Year

(2021) Very dark and vivid crimson, but also semi-transparent, and such a refined perfume.There is a suggestion of smoky mineral and light ashiness, lots of refined spice and there is an ethereal, delicate perfume that is hard to pin down. The palate has a fabulous thrust of juiciness and mouth-watering acidity, scything through the flesh of the fruit. There’s a little coffee too, but the outstanding energy of this wine drives to a fabulous finish. At the moment the retail stockists I can find only have double magnums (four-bottle equivalent) available at around £2,500 - £3,000.

White Wine of The Year

(2021) Recent attention on high-end 'natural' renditions of Chenin Blanc has all been about the trending young bucks of Swartland, but here, one the Cape's most established Chenin experts proves that they can play along with the best. This is a fabulous wine, fermented with wild yeasts, unfiltered and unfined, it has a golden colour and beautifully honeyed yet stony nose, some gentle toast and apricot. On the palate there's a fat, confit lemon waxiness, loads of sweet, ripe apple and a lovely mouth-filling texture. Acidity is perfectly balanced in a rich, concentrated yet supremely elegant wine.

Budget Red Wine of The Year

(2021) Not shy, not retiring with its 15% abv, this comes from Cairanne, one of the top appellations of the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages. The blend is typical of the south, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan pouring an intense crimson. Arresting floral aromas of violet and wild herbs leaping from the glass. There's something more mineral, graphite-like and serious lurking beneath the charming façade here too. What a wonderful all-encompassing wine on the palate: rich, thick and brimming with sweet and ripe black fruit, but steely armour at its core gives it terrific concentration and considerable length. The tannins are profound, the acidity matching, but as the spice and black fruit intensity drives along, that's what's tasted on the finish. Will cellar 10 years.

Budget White Wine of The Year

(2021) Made by the Adega Monção in the heart of Vinho Verde's best Alvarinho terroir in the far north of Portugal, this is from a very ripe vintage, but buyer Jo Locke was very happy with the freshness too. I have to say I found this a scintillating summer sipper, a tiny hint of spritz adding to that fresh appeal, but aromatic combination of some Reisling-like waxiness and lime peel zest is lovely, then the palate streaks with that limey purity, hints of nectarine sweetness, and excellent acid vibrancy into the finish. A sheer delight.

Rosé Wine of The Year

(2021) From Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyards in Äy, plus 28% Chardonnay from Mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger, this rosé spent eight years on the lees and is Extra Brut with 4.5g/l dosage. 5212 bottles were disgorged in March 2019. It's a remarkable and serious pink, the nose smoky and mineral, crammed with small, tight red berries and streaking citrus, just a little biscuit character too. There's an immediate sense of concentration, borne out on the palate, which is intense and beautifully fruited, with raspberry and redcurrant, again that smoky, stony, mineral base, some natural fruit sweetness gathered up into a sweep of acidity through to the finish.

Sweet Wine of The Year

(2021) This outstanding wine is expensive, but I have to say, is worth the price if you can afford it. Made from the oldest plots of Gewurz on high slopes, picked late, it is aged for six years in an abandoned silver mine, 6,500 feet up, and four kilometres deep into the mountainside. It pours a pale gold colour, and the bouquet is immediately arresting, with classic rose petal and lychee perfume, a touch of honey, and a touch of something lightly leafy and herbal. In the mouth there is glycerine richness and weight, but the punch of the vibrant and still very pretty fruit comes through, tropical and candied, but with a core of shimmering acidity that never loses focus. 1,200 bottles produced. Note that price and stockist is for the previous vintage at time of review.

Sparkling Wine of The Year

(2021) What a fabulous wine this DP 2006 is, from a generally dry and warm vintage. There's a fabulously flinty, seal-salt and minerals quality on the nose, the wine immediately suggesting power and great concentration. It is gently toasty, all those complex reductive notes making for endlessly fascinating aromatics. In the mouth it is taut, intense and equally concentrated, but this is not a brawny wine; instead the sinew connects clean, powerful lemon rind and creamy fruit notes that have a certain fat, but no excess. It's a wine that edges on phenolic, with some tannin giving real authority, but somehow it is charming too with its balance and fruit purity. A terrific DP.

Fortified Wine of The Year

(2021) Ruby at the core with a broad tawny rim, Noval's 2007 Colheita is a single vintage Port of very high quality that was aged for 13 years in wooden barrels at the Noval cellar. That means it is a wine with wonderful maturity and instant drinkability, unlike Vintage Ports which often require decades after release to show their best. There are deep, soulful aromas of walnut and old polished wood, a twist of Seville orange and delightful hint of shellac in the mix. In the mouth terrific balance of sweetness and cherry-ripe fruit, with those aged notes, a liquorice intensity and concentration and such a creamy texture, flowing seamlessly into a sweet, beguiling finish with outstanding length. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.

Extra choice

(2021) The 4th growth Beychevelle from 1985 has been one of my favourite ever wines for three decades now, a bottle from a case bought around 1989 having been drunk every few years. This the last of the dozen. Now the colour is still a lovely ruby, a hint of brick on the rim, though the nose and palate both show some age. There's a little autumn leaf, vegetal note that was not there on the previous bottle seven or eight years ago, but it does not detract: there is still so much to like. The palate still has that quite sumptuous, plummy fruit depth and swirling smokiness and hints of fudge and chocolate generosity, and the framework of tannins and now slightly more angular acidity give it tension and drive, making for a really enjoyable wine. Would I buy more of the 1985 at this stage? I'd say it is definitely just past its peak, but possibly would at the right price. Current price is shown below.

Dud of the Year

(2021) Another 'light' wine from Marlborough with only 9.5% abv, the aromas are very much in the green spectrum, grassy and asparagus notes dominating, a little touch of elderflower and talcum. In the mouth pretty dry to begin with, but there's a sweetness that creeps in towards the finish and butts heads with the acidity rather clumsily, and is not to my taste.

Go to the Wines of the Year 2021 main feature.

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