Tasting notes for Wines of the Year 1999

Red – Paul Jaboulet Aîné (Rhone) Hermitage La Chapelle 1978
Ruby, though very pale. Older wine. Huge, gorgeous nose. Tobacco, volcanic ash, grilled-meats, pepper and spice, but a streak of focussed raspberry fruit too. Notes of liquorice. Beautifully delineated fruit on the palate. Superb integration of components. Fine acidity, fine tannins. Really dense, creamy texture. Full of fruit, but serious, chewy, structured character. Complex and superbly long. Sensationally good. (04/99)

White – Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace) Tokay-Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 1992
The colour is a fairly deep gold. The bouquet leaps from the glass with fabulously rich and luscious notes of honey, peach, almonds and grapefruit. There’s a butterscotch-like luxuriousness, but also little peaks of spice and exotic, flowery notes. On the palate it delivers in spades, with a full, round, almost oily weight of fruit and the complex and hedonistic depth swamping the senses. There is a definite hint of late-harvest sweetness, and also a little liquorice edge, but the wine retains great purity and delineation thanks to a mineral firmness and fine citrus acidity leading to a very long, dry and lingering finish. (12/99)

Budget red – Pinotage Company (South Africa) Bush Vine Pinotage 1998 – £5.99
Pinotage Company (South Africa) Selected Bush Vine Pinotage 1998 Wine of the week 20/12/98. The elegant and distinctive black and white packaging of this wine promises much, and it delivers. Intensely sweet, bubble-gum nose of raspberry, coconut and bitter-sweet black chocolate. On the palate there is mouth-filling, lush black cherry fruit that is ripe and almost confected. A really jammy, fruit-bomb wine. Lovely stuff. Victoria Wine. (01/99)

Budget white – Pewsey Vale (Australia) Eden Valley Riesling 1997 – £5.99
Attractive nose of lime zest and sweet, tropical fruit with a hints of tangerine peel. Palate has wonderfully ripe, succulent, limpid, pear and mango fruit and again, a zesty citrus note. There is a sense of roundness to the wine that is missing from some Australian rieslings, with darker fig and butterscotch notes in the background. Acidity is nicely integrated and supports a really balanced structure into a long finish. A terrific riesling. (01/99)

Sweet – Baumard (Loire) Quarts de Chaume 1996
I have to say that this was a completely winning, ultra-seductive wine that easily over-powered the other dessert wines on show. And it’s not just power, for this has terrific class too. A wonderfully rich, honeyed, limpidly pure nose of sweet pineapple, marmalade and apricot, wrapped in a cloak of vanilla and white chocolate. On the palate it fills the mouth with unctuous fruit, yet retains a core of minerals and lime acidity that draws it through to a long, long finish. Absolutely sensational (10/99)

Sparkling – Cuvée Dom Pérignon Vintage Champagne 1983
Gorgeous, deep, burnished-gold colour. An endless mass of pin-prick bubbles streams through the wine. Nose is stunning with a bouquet of toasted bread that’s just starting to burn, nuts and caramel. On the palate the mousse is fine, silky and persistent. There are complex flavours of brazil nuts (oily, butter and nutty), brioche, peachy fruit and finer, mineral notes. The overall impression is of a wonderful, biscuity roundness, though with beautifully integrated orange and lemon acidity. The finish is tremendous: very, very long and packed full of those evocative, toasted flavours. The after-taste of the wine stays pure, flavour-packed and sumptuous for minutes. This is sensational Champagne and one of those rare wines with the ability to stop me in my tracks. A profound wine-drinking experience. (01/99)

Fortified – Graham Vintage Port 1970
Very serious black fruit and incense nose that is blackcurranty and spicy. This seems younger than the Warre. On the palate still a powerhouse structure of tannin and acidity. There’s a toffee/fudge richness to the sweet black fruits and a smooth texture, but then also a firm edge adding complexity. Huge concentration and very long. This needs time and is a profound wine. (07/99)

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