Tasting notes for Wines of the Year 2017

These are the tasting notes for Tom Cannavan’s Wines of the Year 2017. They accompany our main Wines of the Year 2017 feature where Tom explains his choices.

Red Wine of The Year

(2017) Made from pre-Phylloxera Shiraz vines, some over 100 years old, this was matured in oak hogsheads (300-litre barrels), 65% of which were new, and a blend of 95% French oak and just 5% American. Such lifted aromas with eucalyptus and tomato leaf, masses of energy, blackberry and bright but dark-hued fruits. Such cool, sophisticated flavours on the palate, there’s an almost pastille quality to the fruit, a certain femininity, certainly real raciness and energy, the fruit sweet and mouth-filling, the tannins polished to a perfect sheen. Utterly delicious right now, but undoubtedly will cellar for decades.

White Wine of The Year

(2017) Very smooth, but immediately involving nose, with a slightly purer, less Botrytis character than the 2008, but such wonderful purity of fruit here, as well as the complex phenolic characters from the long skin contact. Apricot and orange, marmalade-like quality of bittersweetness, delicious, the fruit almost nectarine-like, but of course wrapped in more complex earth and salt flavours, and spices too.

Budget Red Wine of The Year

(2017) A much-loved Bordeaux blend from the historic Rustenberg estate, this is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, aged for 20 months in French oak barriques, 35% of which were new. Fragrant with Sandalwood and cedar, it has a lovely nose, blackcurrant and fat black cherry aromas and a touch of menthol. In the mouth the sweetness of the ripe, fleshy and juicy fruit is nicely balanced by the smoke and gentle charriness of the oak, and despite the 14.5% alcohol, something about the spicy freshness of the tannins and good acidity gives it clean, finely balanced finish. The designated Cabernet Sauvignon chocolate from 'The Chief Chocolate Officer' collection has peppercorn, blueberry and vanilla, and what a superb match (and chocolate) it is: the spiciness of peppercorn dominates, but then the depth of the blueberry merges beautifully mid-palate, adding extra sweetness. A 10/10 match.

Budget White Wine of The Year

(2017) Produced at the Azienda Grappolo d’Oro on the Alpine terraces of Friuli, the Martincigh family farm this 20-hectare estate, which has been devoted to vineyards since Roman Times. This is a terrifically expressive Sauvignon, capturing some of the brilliance normally associated with Marlborough in New Zealand, but tempered with a classic northern European restraint. There's a hint of Alpine white flowers, a touch of English summer hedgerows, and an exotic fruitiness with notes of lychee and juicy, ripe mango along with some lemony zest. The smooth, ripe character of the palate has weight and real presence, and a similar balance of the tropical and of clear, shimmering focus to the fruit and acidity. Super-impressive. A 2.25-litre box costs £27.00 (£9.00 per bottle equivalent) and 5-litres costs £49.00, or £7.36 per bottle equivalent.

Rosé Wine of The Year

(2017) The Dom Ruinart Rosé is a blend of 80% Chardonnay with a very high proportion - 20% - of Pinot Noir vinified as a red wine in the blend. It is extremely toasty (surely there's some barrel fermentation here?) with a wonderfully expressive, autumnal Pinot quality of small red fruits and truffle. On the palate the serious, toasty and earthy structure continues to express itself, with great concentration, a persistent mousse and a thrust of lemon-fresh acidity as the Chardonnay dominates. I loved this, and most of the tasters were just as convinced.

Sweet Wine of The Year

(2017) An exceptionally fine Tokaji this, last tasted by me at the winery back in 2011, and now absolutely singing with clear notes of honey, glycerine, tea and bergamot, deep notes of coffee and high notes of white flowers. In the mouth luscious and sweet, the tang of Seville orange marmalade, but a shimmering, silky acidity and energy gives wonderful balance as it flows across the tongue. An absolute treat now, but will age for decades. Price is for 50cl. For more information and food matching ideas, please watch the video.

Sparkling Wine of The Year

(2017) The fabulous toast and opulent depth that DP pulls out of the bag vintage after vintage - and after nine years of ageing of course - shines through, seductive coffee and chocolate notes underpin flashing bright fruit, a tinge of green herbs, then brioche on the palate, the thrilling blend of richness and layered texture with rapier-like, electrically-charged acidity.

Fortified Wine of The Year

(2017) Noval is one of the greatest names in Port production, and I can also heartily recommend the 10-year-old version of this wine which is much cheaper at around £20 for a full bottle if you shop around, but this 20-year-old - the average age of the wines in the blend - is in such a sweet spot that it had to be my choice. It is mellow, nuttier and more figgy than the Kopke Colheita tasted alongside, deeper and more ruby-tinged, and the palate is just a raft of chocolate, sweet berries, tobacco and spice, the long elegant finish so beautifully balanced between the sweetness, a bittersweet marmalade acidity and seamless alcohol. Majestic stuff. Price for a full bottle and quite widely available - use the wine-searcher link.

Other style/Extra choice

(2017) Another fabulous and just nicely maturing wine in the wineline's rosta, this is 100% Semillon from the Douro, described as late harvest, but surely with some Botrytis given the lush barley sugar richness and intensity. Aged in barrel, it's very much a Sauternes-like recipe, and indeed the nose with notes of honey and leaf tea, a hint of tobacco and some fragrant floral nuances has that complexity. In the mouth it is silky-textured and mouth-filling, the fat apricot cut by Seville orange, with a long, creamy, but tantalisingly fresh finish.

Go to the Wines of the Year 2017 main feature.

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