These are the tasting notes for Tom Cannavan’s Wines of the Year 2016. They accompany our main Wines of the Year 2016 feature where Tom explains his choices, and where wine-pages’ visitors submit their own nominations for publication.
Red Wine of The Year
Soldera, IGT Toscana 2006Tuscany, Italy, Dry Red, Cork, 13.5% abv
(2016) As he approaches his 80th birthday Gianfranco Soldera is still fully engaged and very much in command of this small, iconic estate in the hills of Tuscany. In a vertical tasting, all of the wines were just superb: truly world class red wines of infinite complexity and beauty and huge ageing potential. This 2006 had such a wonderful perfume, a massive tobacco and ashy background to pure, ripe cherry fruit, it is just fabulously complex. There's so much of that racy, vital character against immense sweetness of sour cherry and tobacco again, the texture and tannins creamy, but the agility and elegant length just majestic.
White Wine of The Year
Gravner, Ribolla Riserva 1998Friuli, Italy, Dry White, Cork, 13.0% abv
(2016) From magnum, and the grapes from an 80-year-old vineyard for the Riserva. A dark colour, with some Botrytis notes and a beautiful vinous nose, a touch of coffee and meat stock. The sublime texture and limpid clarity of the wine is just stunning, Huge length. lots of developed coffee and toast, and endless depth and length in the poised, crystal-clear finish. Price is for a magnum.
Budget Red Wine of The Year
Suertes del Marqués, La Solana Tinto 2013Tenerife, Spain, Dry Red, Cork, 13.5% abv
(2016) Made in concrete tanks with a short maceration, followed by one year in barrel. It is 95% Listán negro with some Listán blanco "and others," according to the winemaker. A hint of gamy character to this, something a little wild and exotic, that dry cherry extract on the palate gives it lovely energy and lift, the minerality and cool Atlantic influence obvious and delicious.
Budget White Wine of The Year
(2016) What a terrific Chardonnay, the nose glittering with Chablis-like gunflint minerality, a lime precision and ripe apple beneath. The palate has surprising squirt of tropical, mango-like fruit ripeness, very juicy grapefruit too, then the mineral acidity starts to kick in, and a little creamy component, to give this texture and mouth-feel, the finish long and tapering in a most elegant way. Watch the video for more information and food-matching suggestions.
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 d'Yquem, Sauternes 1989Bordeaux, France, Sweet, Cork, 13.5% abv
(2016) After 27 years (20 of them in my own cellar) this has a rich, burnished gold colour and subtley complex nose. A bouquet of honey and smoky tea, sesame or pumpkin seeds, a hint of fat, guava-like fruit. There are also saffron and other complex herb notes in a nose that unravels slowly. In the mouth this has shed some of its puppy fat, but still maintains and unctuous richness, honey and glycerine again, the barley sugar of botrytis, but there is an elegance, the so well defined lime acidity, trace of vanilla and toast, and enormously long finish. It's so hard to say how a wine like this will cellar - drink now or in 30 years perhaps? Price for a half bottle.
Sparkling Wine of The Year
(2016) The business is now run by the eight generation of the Chiquet family, one of the very first growers to begin making and bottling their own Champagnes rather than selling their grapes to one of the major houses. This is pale and lemony in colour, with very fine bubbles. Aromas are classic, with some autolytic, bready development and masses of tight citrus and apple core fruitiness. It is complex already, with a little coffee and toast, a touch of meatiness. In the mouth the fine mousse adds to the sense of acid firmness: this is a tight and concentrated Champagne, the complexity is there though, little nuances of floral, nut husk and steely lemon fruit into a long, tantalising finish. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, disgorged March 2016.
Fortified Wine of The Year
Quinta do Noval, Naçional Vintage Port 2001Douro, Portugal, Fortified, Cork, 19.5% abv
(2016) What a treat to taste this wine on release, having been so impressed (97 points) by a pre-release tasting at the Quinta in 2011. The nose of the 2001 Naçional is still sensational in its soaring, floral and Maraschino cherry brightness, the spices and the depth of chocolaty, smooth richness, tar and tobacco nuances and the solidity of the fruit. On the palate, still so impressive in the purity and supple, balanced finesse, so dense and smooth in the delivery of its blue/black fruit and Christmas cake spice and Agen prune richness, but the tight tannins so elegantly constraining any sense of obvious ripeness, the acidity balancing the huge core of sweetness so effortlessly. Yes, a Nacional that's as great in the bottle as the barrel, and which is probably close to immortal.
Go to the Wines of the Year 2016 main feature.