Tasting Notes for Wines of the Year 2023

These tasting notes for Tom Cannavan’s Wines of the Year 2023 accompany our main Wines of the Year feature where Tom explains his choices.

Red Wine of The Year

(2023) An assemblage of all the parcels within Château de Pommard's walled and organically-farmed  'Marey-Monge' vineyard, fermentation took place in steel with 60% whole-clusters,  before 15 months ageing in 20% new French oak barrels. As always with this property there's a sweet fruited solidity to the wine, aromas are spicy with pot-pourri notes of dried flowers and herbs, over dusty raspberry moving into black fruits. In the mouth the firm tannins of this young wine grip, the acidity adds another thread of sinew, but deep fruit is locked within. This will repay cellaring for sure, and may well notch up an extra point or two with time, but in its rich but firm style it is already delicious.

White Wine of The Year

(2023) Once again a library vintage to taste, though this one is available at time of review for £55.00 per bottle. Golden yellow, with nutty, apricot, and all sorts of exotic seed and waxy herb nuances. Stunning fruit quality, so much golden nuttiness yet brilliance. Arguably wine of the tasting.

Budget Red Wine of The Year

(2023) Rui Cunha is the highly-experienced winemaker for this low intervention wine. A large proportion of the vineyards are almost 100 years old, the wine fermented is in stainless steel and unoaked. Brambles and savoury, spiced and lightly smoky aromas here precede a palate where copious sweet berry flavours mingle with herbs. There's a stripe of tannin that adds a fine, mouthwatering firmness and well balanced acidity too, in another stylish and food-friendly wine. A big blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela.

Budget White Wine of The Year

(2023) A single vineyard wine from a vineyard that, prior to the 1931 Napier earthquake, was a tidal estuary. Now drained, seashell deposits remain interspersed through maritime clay. Planted in 1998, the vineyard is dry farmed. After fermentation with indigenous yeasts and partial malolactic fermentation, it saw extended ageing in French oak barriques, 35% new. Pale straw/lemon, the nose has flint and iodine aromatics, a Brazil nut, buttery character beneath. In the mouth it is bracing and salt-licked, the fruit lemony and fresh, but there is creaminess to the texture and the plushness of the background oak lends fine support as does crisp, tangy and lightly pithy acidity. Powerful stuff, intense and long.

Rosé Wine of The Year

(2023) Like it's 'big brother', the Garrus cuvée, this is where rosé gets serious, for me having more in common with quality white Burgundy than generic pinks. From a very careful selection of grapes, only the free run juice is vinified in 600-litre oak barrels for a full 11 months, with lees stirring twice weekly. Indeed, that's a winemaking recipe that would be familiar for white Burgundy too. Certainly, that sheen of almond and oatmeal is luxurious and subtle in this very pale wine, the fruit only hinting a small, intense red berries while lemon joins the picture. On the palate it is generous and creamy, but the sweet intensity of the fruit powers through. There is a little nip of tannin, but the concentration of fruit and acidity is what drives the long, dry, gastronomic finish. This and Garrus really are a different take on rosé.

Sweet Wine of The Year

(2023) A blend of Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard, this is a Vin de Paille or 'straw wine', the ripe grapes dried on straw mats to desiccate and slightly and concentrate the flavours. Pouring a deep amber, the nose is laden with fig and honey, some interesting herbal notes too, a touch of aromatic tobacco. In the mouth it is thick and unctuous, a wave of rich apricot fruit flowing across the tongue, but mineral, stony core and thrust of orange acidity that gives it great tension and precision. A delight. Price for a half bottle, and how wonderful this would be with tarte tatin.

Sparkling Wine of The Year

(2023) The grape for which Bollinger is most famous, Pinot Noir, this comes mostly from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ and has a moderate dosage of 6g/l. It is based on the 2018 vintage, but has 50% reserve wines, including 25% of the 2009 vintage from Aÿ, aged in magnums. In the house style, 50% of the wine was fermented in oak barrels. Plenty of creamy, nutty autolysis, a meaty umami nuance, but there's a highly perfumed floral and herbal lift too. A really intriguing, multi-layered aromatic. The palate has brisk acidity, plenty of dry, pithy lemon, and core of firm Asian pear fruit. Textured and juicy, but taut in the finish, this is delightful.  

Fortified Wine of The Year

(2023) A rare beast, a tawny Port blended from wines matured for five decades in oak casks, a collector’s edition released in very limited quantities. A dark tany/caramel in colour, the nose is resinous and deep, polished wood, meatiness of umami, plus clove and cinammon spices. In the mouth, extraordinary raisiny intensity, marmalade and mollases coating prune, and yet intense angelica brilliance too. Plenty of acidity against the chocolate richness of the finish.

Extra choice

(2023) At 11 years old this is just outstanding. It has aged like a fine white Bordeaux in many ways, with gentle almond and honey, also chamomile and lime peel, a suggestion of mineral salts. On the palate sweet, ripe and with a light waxy texture, glittering acidity and the richness balanced by a little river stone firmness, great length and a touch of salinity. Outstanding as I say.

Dud of the Year

(2023) I tasted this shortly after tasting a £25 Oregon Chardonnay which is very unfair, but then it does say 'Chardonnay' on the front label, and that it is made by 'carefully selecting parcels of the best grapes,' on the back label, so... It has a very generic alcohol-free character on the nose - hard to describe, but a vague and herbal, appley character that to me is common in these wines, whichever grape they are made from. The process here has stripped the character one might expect from an inexpensive Hardy's Chardonnay, to leave a thin, basically dry, and unremarkable alcohol-free alternative. Also in Morrisons and Ocado.

Go to the Wines of the Year 2023 main feature.

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