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Visitors' wines of 2003 - Part 1


Here are Wine Pages Visitors' Wines of the Year for 2003 in the same eight categories that I used to draw up my own list.

Note: There is always such a huge response to this feature that I have split the entries into parts. This is part 1.

Go to Part 2

six selections below added Tuesday 6th January

This year's unusual pattern of Old World, particularly French, wines winning all the top awards and the "dud" awards continues with the latest selection. (Tom)

Andrew Stevenson, UK
Red - Vega Sicilia (Spain: Ribera del Duero) Unico 1953
White - Coroncino (Italy) Gaiospino Fumé Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Class. Sup. 1998
Budget red - Quinta do Vale Dona Maria (Portugal) Rio Torto Tinto Douro 2000
Budget white - Kurt Hain (M-S-R) Piesporter Goldtropfchen Ries Kabinett 2002
Sweet - Albert Mann (Alsace) Tokay Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 1996
Sparkling - Raymond Boulard Champagne "Petraea" Solera
Fortified - Quinta do Noval Port "Nacional" 1963
Dud - ? (France) Escaladou Late Harvest 2001

This is more difficult this year, as I've been privileged to attend a good few superb tastings and off-lines. I could think of numerous entries for each category and it's really a little meretricious to pick the ones I have. The fortified and red categories are particularly difficult, but at the same time very easy, since a couple of rare legendary wines have passed my lips: the 63 Nacional and the 53 Unico just pips the 1942 and 1964. Honourable mention must go to Abadia Retuerta. For dud of the year I was just going to say too many corked/faulty wines, but then I remembered the three half bottles of the Escaladou that it has been my misfortune to open. One was indeed corked, but that was actually preferable to the sheer unpleasant nastiness of the ones that were healthy..

Don Keller, USA
Red - Bogle (California) Petite Syrah
White - Columbia Valley (USA) Grand Estates Chardonnay
Budget red - No award
Budget white - No award
Sweet - No award
Sparkling - No award
Fortified - No award
Dud - No award

Simon Rummens, UK
Red - Dujac (Burgundy) Morey st Denis 1990
White - P. Javillier (Burgundy) Savigny les Beaune Les Montchenevoy 1996
Budget red - Charles Melton (Australia) Rose of Virginia 1999
Budget white - Vergelegen (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Sweet - Brolio (Italy) Vin Santo 1995
Sparkling - Champagne Pol Roger Brut 1990
Fortified - Taylors Port 1970
Dud - No award

The Dujac was a sample handed to me as I walked round Avery's cellar in Bristol - must go there more often.....! A close runner up was the Grand Puy Lacoste 1996 (I can hear the murmurs of "infanticide") which had staggering levels of glycerin and surprisingly little tannins (from a half.) The Savigny was a chance buy from a sale and I expected little from it but it ended pipping my final Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile VT 1989 bottle because it was so surprisingly excellent. All the others were wonderful too but especially the Vergelegen - perfection in sauvignon blanc for me.

Cameron Clark, Netherlands
Red - Bacio Divino (Napa, USA) 1995
White - Torbreck (Australia) Marsanne Viognier Roussanne 2001
Budget red - Montgras (Chile) Reserve Carmenere 2001
Budget white - Beringer (USA) Sauvingon Blanc 01/02
Sweet - No award
Sparkling - Champagne Charles Heidseck Mis en Cave 1997
Fortified - No award
Dud - Lafaurie Peyraguey (Sauternes) 1990

Red wine of the year was much closer than the white. The seamless texture of the Bacio just won over a wow level Justin Syrah 1999, the drink by the pint 83 Domain de Trevallon and the gripy, powerful and refined 1999 RunRig. From the same tasting came the white of the year - the golden, creamy 2001 Torbreck white Rhone blend. Not what you expect from a Parker cult favourite. Chile makes the best value reds by a long way and the Carmenere is perfect to drink now. Sitting drinking a Californian Sauvignon as I write this, and really I tend to find these better than the Chardonnays. Always order the Beringer when I eat out at the Californian restaurant PUCK in Den Haag. The champagne is the only wine of that type I've found good enough QPR-wise to buy. As for the Sauternes, well it was loved by a lot of people, but I took one sip and poured it down the sink. An acquired taste I'm not to keen to acquire.

Paul Anderson, UK
Red - Jean Raphet (Burgundy) Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 1988
White - Tollot-Beaut (Burgundy) Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 1998
Budget red - Cono Sur (Chile) Pinot Noir 2002
Budget white - René Michel (Burgundy) Viré-Clessé Vielles Vignes sur Chêne 2000
Sweet - Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace) Tokay Pinot Gris Rotenberg 1997
Sparkling - Champagne Drappier Grand Sendrée 1995
Fortified - No award
Dud - Tesco's Finest Red Burgundy

No surprises here then. I have been tasting a lot more wines from around the world and while there have been many pleasant surprises, none made it as my WotY. The Clos de la Roche was quite astounding, tasted at Raphet's cellars it indicated that this vintage is just beginning to come into it's drinking phase. The Corton-Charlemagne was big, rich and very long lasting in the mouth. A long life ahead of it but superb now. I've had a few vintages of the Cono Sur pinot and simply find it to be much more drinkable than many generic Burgs (see dud). No-one has ever ousted the Michels from my budget white. They continue to produce the goods vintage after vintage. The Rotenberg was strictly a VT but certainly smelled and tasted like one in true Z-H style. Top quality. Drappier is one of my favourite Champagne producers and the '95 is beginning to come out of it's shell and showing very nicely. The Tesco's Finest just sums up what dross is being peddled under the name of 'supermarket Burgundy'.

Odd Rydland, Norway
Red - Cheval Blanc (Bordeaux) 1989
White - Comte Lafon (Burgundy) Montrachet 1992
Budget red - Smith Woodhouse LBV Port 1994
Budget white - A Dezat (Loire) Sancerre 2002
Sweet - Baumard (Loire) Quarts de Chaume 1989
Sparkling - Champagne Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 1990
Fortified - Barbeito (Madeira) Terrantez 1834
Dud - Several Burgundies from the 1990 vintage

My first Cheval Blanc, and a stunning wine. A bottle of Bordeaux, bought when this kind of wine was available at reasonable prices (whatever that means), happily resurfaces from a friends cellar from time to time. I usually don't drink much sweet wine, but have been a fan of Baumard since before my visit in 2002. A tie with the Climens 88. In a year of bubbly riches, Bollinger GA 79 and 96, RD 75, DP 88 and 85, Clos des Goisses from several vintages, and lots of champagnes from small growers in the outstading 96 vintage, I still think the Clos des Goisses 90 is something special. Lastly the Barbeito, tasted with Ricardo Diego Freitas from Barbeito, was something special. One of three bottles left in the world from a total production of 20 litres (a demijohn), this wine had the longest finish I have ever experienced. Extremely well balanced and complex as well. I don't know if I'm stretching the budget definition a little but wine available for 160-190 Norwegian kroner, should, with our taxation be within the GBP 10 -12 range in the UK. The Smith Woodhouse is simply the best LBV I've ever tasted.

six selections below added Wednesday 31st December

The Old World stranglehold is still pretty much in force after the first 18 lists, though it is quite a pan-European selection, with wines from Portugal, Austria and England in the latest batch as well as plenty more French, German and Italian wines. France takes a real hammering in the "dud" category with this latest half dozen however (Tom)

Martin Davies, UK
Red - Domaine d'Arlot (Burgundy) Nuit St Georges 1er Cru 1999
White - Brundlmayer (Austria) Reisling Zobinger Heiligenstein Alte Reben 2001
Budget red - Nepenthe (Australia) Pinot Noir 2001
Budget white - Feudi di San Gregorio (Italy) Fiano 2001
Sweet - Gratien (France) Wine Societys Champagne Rich NV
Sparkling - Moet et Chandon Champagne Dom Perignon 1966
Fortified - No award
Dud - Jaboulet (France) Domaine de Thalabert 1999 + 1994

Having previously never liked either Pinot Noir or Reisling two upper end examples hooked me. Next year is already looking very very expensive. The Nepenthe Pinot at 2 for £14 must be the bargain of the year, and wines from San Gregorio never disappoint. The 66 Dom Perignon was both fantastic and fascinating and a first experience of old champagne. Both Thalaberts a tremendous disappointment in the same way with just way too much acidity.

Tim Deacon, UK
Red - Quinta Do Vale Dona Maria (Portugal) Douro varieties 2000
White - Hirsch Zobinger Helingenstein (Austria) Riesling 1998
Budget red - Ata Rangi (NZ) Celebre Bordeaux blend 1995
Budget white - Schloss Wallhausen (Germany) Riesling Kabinett 1999
Sweet - Pfeffingen (Germany) Sheurebe 2001
Sparkling - Nyetimber (England ) blanc de blanc Sparkling 1996
Fortified - Quinta Do Noval 20 yr old Tawny Port
Dud - JL Chave (France) Mon Couer 2000

The Ata Rangi was a real surprise - a bin end for about 6 quid and stunning, it would surpass many right bank wines. The Douro continues to surprise and the cherry flavours of the Quinta D v d Maria are superb, I don't believe this is only 14.5% alcohol though - much more. The Rieslings are both superb examples in their price range and have benefited from bottle age. The gentle nuttiness of the Noval tawny was excellent only just pipping the Niepoort! Honourable mentions to Borie de Maurel - La Feline 98, Vergelegen - merlot 98, Lost Valley -Shiraz 00, Porta Cabernet reserve - 98, JM Fonseca Primum 99. No apologies for picking the following vintage of the Scheurebe, it benefits from at least a year in bottle and is about equivalent of a slightly lighter Coteaux du Layon. I'm afraid the Chave just didn't cut it for the money - there are better Cote du Rhone about on a price/quality ratio.

Eric Teneberg, Sweden
Red - Dom de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) La Tâche 1978
White - Bründlmeyer Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben (Austria) 2001
Budget red - Pasqua Morago Cabernet Sauvignon (Italy) 1998
Budget white - Alain Brumont La Gascogne (France) Gros Manseng / Sauvignon 2002
Sweet - No award
Sparkling - Krug (Champagne) 1982 (from magnums)
Fortified - Warres (Port) 1970
Dud - O Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Le Clavoillon (Burgundy) 1996

From a memorable 16-year La Tâche vertical the 1978 came out on top just ahead of the ´85 and the ´61. The Italian red has been available at just above 5 pounds, which must be regarded as a bargain. The Krug left me breathless, and Warre´s ´70 is a beatiful wine with a never-ending plateau of maturity. Let´s hope that my Clavoillon was a defective bottle!

Roderick Hopkins, Sweden
Red - Pahlmeyer (USA) Proprietory Red 1994
White - Mer Soleil (USA) Chardonnay 1998
Budget red - Allesverloren (South Africa) Tinta Barocca 1999
Budget white - Pierre Sparr (Alsace, France) Pinot Gris Reserve 2002
Sweet - Ch d´Yquem (Bordeaux, France) 1983
Sparkling - Krug (Champagne, France) 1988
Fortified - Barbeito (Madeira) Tarrantez 1795
Dud - Dom de Baumard (Loire, France) Clos du Papillon 1998

My personal preferences when it comes to red wine is usually more leaning to France and Australia than the USA. For white wine I usually do not approve of overoaked chardonnays from the US. However, this year the Pahlmeyer 1994 was an absolute stunner and beat quite a few bottles of First Growth Bordeaux as well as top of the line Northern Rhones and some Australian fruit bombs. The Mer Soleil was very much of everything, but in a balanced and nice way. The Barbeito was actually beaten by the Compania Vinicola du Madeira, Malmsey 1880. But the difference in points was really small, so I have to give the award to my first (and last) experience with a wine more than 200 years old. If you come across a bottle, remember to decant at least a couple of days in advance. As for my dud, the Baumard was too much wet wool. Sometimes whites from the Loire are very good, but when the wool character gets too obvious, they are not my cup of tea.

Keith Prothero, UK/South Africa
Red - Rust en Vrede (SA) Estate 1996
White - Vergelegen (SA) White blend 2002
Budget red - Camberley (SA) Cabernet/Merlot 2001
Budget white - Asara (SA) Chardonnay 2001
Sweet - Klein Constantia (SA) Vin de Constance 1998
Sparkling - Twee JG (SA) Klein Borealis 1993
Fortified - Bredells (SA) Cape Vintage Reserve 1998
Dud - All the Chinon I tasted in the Loire

OK I am biased, but I think Cape wine is now among the best in the world and in spite of the increase in the Rand, still represents great value. I was fortunate to taste over 300 Cape wines in the year and visit 50-odd wineries. I also spent 2 weeks in the Loire and Bordeaux. The wines listed above are truly outstanding although I am unsure whether they are all available in the UK. Most have won show awards, with the Vergelegen and Bredalls topping the 2003 Fairbairn Trophy Wine Show. Look out for the following wineries products- Asara, Agusta, Camberley, De Trafford, Eikendaland, Post House cellar - but PLEASE avoid the rubbish sold in supermarkets under names that are unheard of in the Cape. Consult the John Platter gude for reliable info on Cape wine. Cheers and merry Xmas, Keith

Joakim Rahberg, Sweden
Red - Pierre Ponnelle (Burgundy) Musigny 1961
White - Leroy (Burgundy) Chevalier-Montrachet 1997
Budget red - Penfolds (Australia) Koonunga Hill 2000
Budget white - von Kesselstatt (Ger) Scharzhofberger Kabinett Feinherb 2001
Sweet - Huet (Loire) Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux 1er Trie 1990
Sparkling - Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1995
Fortified - Companhia Vinicola da Madeira Lda, Malmsey, 1880
Dud - 1997 Bordeaux

Another great year with lots of great bottles! And it was both easy and difficult to nominate the wines of the year. What is better than a perfectly mature Burgundy...nothing! The 61 Musigny from Ponnelle was a masterpiece! Runners up were 90 Montrose, 88 Ornellaia, 98 Masseto and 94 Dominus. With the Koonunga Hill I cheat a little - it´s from my stash from last year. But the 01 isn´t as good, and I´m waiting for the 02. Another Riesling as winner for budget white - what a surprise...:-) It has especially been a great year for fortified wines and this was the toughest selection. Runners up were 1868 London Brown Sherry, Wilson & Valdespino, 1795 Terrantez, Barbeito, 1977 Taylor´s Vintage Port and 1977 Graham´s Vintage Port. I´m looking forward to next years wines of the year!

six selections below added Tuesday 23rd December

I am quite surprised that the first dozen lists from visitors show a very, very marked Old World bias. I had made an all-Old World selection of wines for 2003 myself which was quite unusual, but the pattern seems to be repeating: no less than nine of the first dozen lists received are all-Old World - ten if you count South Africa as Old World. I'd have thought the New World would make more of a show - even if only in the "budget" category. But even here, France, Spain and Germany seem to have a grip. It might just be a co-incidence of course, and it will be interesting to see how the balance changes as more lists come in (Tom)

Max Kelly, Canada
Red - Chapoutier (Rhône) Hermitage 'La Sizeranne' 1991
White - Ramonet (Burgundy) Batard Montrachet 1988
Budget red - Castello (Spain) Reimi Gotim Bru 2000
Budget white - Egon Muller (Germany, M-S-R) Schwarzhofberg QbA 2001
Sweet - Château Rieussec (Sauternes) 1989
Sparkling - Champagne Heidsieck 'Blanc de Millenaires' 1990
Fortified - Taylor's Vintage Port 1970
Dud - Paul Jaboulet (Rhône) Hermitage 'La Chapelle' 1982

The Chapoutier was astonishingly well balanced with plenty of fresh fruit. The Ramonet was so good it well may be my wine of the year. Certainly as complex and intense as any red wine I've ever had. The Gotim Bru was a great value, although I would never have been able to pick it as Spanish if tasted blind. What other than a 2001 Riesling could be my budget white? Such sophistication for so little coin. I liked the Rieussec better than an '86 Yquem I had a week before. No surprise with the '70 Taylor's - well known as a fantastic wine. The Heidsieck was very rich, and a brilliant bubbly at a relatively cheap price. The La Chapelle was only a disappointment becuase of the hype surrounding it.

Neil Clapperton, UK
Red - unknown (Burgundy) Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses 1957
White - K. Marenghi (Ger.) Escherndorfer Lump Silvaner Spät-Trocken 2001
Budget red - Mas de Bressades (France) Costieres de Nîmes Excellence 1998
Budget white - Christoffel-Berres (Ger.) Urziger Würtzgarten Spätlese 1993
Sweet - István Szepsy (Hungary) Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 1998
Sparkling - Domaine Flassians (France) Blanquette de Limoux Demi-Sec NV
Fortified - Domaine de Rancy (France) Muscat de Rivesaltes Ambré 1950
Dud - Mönchoff (Germany) Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 1989

The Amoureuses was amazing but had no label save a hand typed "Chambolle Amoureuses 57" but trust me, it was the real thing and my fantastic introduction to old Burgundy. The Lump was a revelation - truly great Silvaner. Mas de Bressades is so consistently good - the Excellence the best cuvee IMHO. The 93 Würtzgarten was drinking beautifully, but had some bottle variation. A holiday in Hungary is not complete without a trip to Tokaji and Szepsy is the best? The Blanquette was unfussy fun - better fizz than all but the very best Champagne. The '50 Rivesaltes is both the most expensive wine I have bought and the most amazing - and still on the market at 75Euros! Monchoff has disappointed too many times - this one was just tinned fruit one day old.

Jan-Tore Egge, Norway
Red - Fontanafredda (Italy) Barolo Vigna La Rosa 1978
White - Bonneau du Martray (France) Corton Charlemagne 1993
Budget red - Domaine d'Andézon (France) Côtes-du-Rhône VV 2000
Budget white - Sartarelli (Italy) Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2001
Sweet - István Szepsy (Hungary) Tokaji Cuvée 1999
Sparkling - Champagne Pol Roger Brut 1988
Fortified - Quinta do Noval Port Nacional 2000
Dud - Champagne Pol Roger Brut 1990

New World? What New World? :-)

Bill Nanson, Switzerland
Red - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) La Tâche 2000
White - Domaine Guy Roulot (Burgundy) Meursault Perrières 2000
Budget red - Mont du Toit (South Africa) 2000
Budget white - Domaine Guy Roulot (Burgundy) Bourgogne Blanc 1999
Sweet - Klein Constantia (South Africa) Vin de Constance 1998
Sparkling - Champagne Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV
Fortified - no award
Dud - Domaine des Lambrays (Burgundy) Clos des Lambrays 2000

A funny year, everything seems a tad young. La Tâche is there because of its amazing ability to keep changing in your glass. The Roulot Perrières simply because it's class in a glass. First of two South Africans - the very classy MdT is a bit of cheat as it retails normally at £15 or so, but I bought my last batch at £10 in a (swiss) sale. The second Roulot is as good as many village Meursaults and better than his 1998 and 2000 - but for only £7.50. Vin de Constance - so young but so . . . . ! For it's freshness and vivacity I put Pol Roger's NV ahead of both bottles of the (more complex) 1990 Winston from this year. Finally the Lambrays - there's less wood in the OWC! For the record the best wine of the year was the barrel sample of N Potel's 2002 Chambertin - but I guess that doesn't count :-) Here's to 2004!

Marcus titley, UK
Red - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) Grands Echézeaux 1980
White - Raveneau (Burgundy) Chablis Les Clos 1986
Budget red - Emmanuel Rouget (Burgundy) Bourgogne Rouge 1997
Budget white - The 1990 Christoffel wines from Majestic
Sweet - Château Climens (Sauternes) 1990
Sparkling - Champagne Dom Perignon 1961
Fortified - no award
Dud - no award

The Grands Echézeaux was sublime - perfect example of the underrated 1980 Côtes de Nuits vintage. Mature Raveneau is hard to find but this 1986 was perfect, mineral, fat and very long. I buy Rouget's Bourgogne Rouge en-primeur and the 1997 is delicious now - fat and rich. Majestic has, throughout the year, had parcels of 1989 & 1990 Spätlese wines at £5.99 - superb value and they can be drunk like water. I don't drink much sweet hooch but Climens 1990 never disappoints. DP 1961 was wonderful - meaty, yeasty, lots of bubble and body.

Paul Howard, UK
Red - Doudet-Naudin (Burgundy) le Corton Grand Cru 1971
White - Cloudy Bay (NZ) Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2000
Budget red - Concha y Toro (Chile) Winemakers Lot 32 Malbec 2001
Budget white - Goisot (Burgundy) Sauvignon de St Bris 2001
Sweet - Candido (Puglia) Aleatico di Puglia Salice Salentino 1998
Sparkling - Champagne Selosse Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV
Fortified - Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry
Dud - Chapoutier (Rhone) Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette 1990

In a year of some fabulous wines (many many red and white Burgundies for example) these stood out for me...a great five star vintage Burgundy only 32 years old, a NZ Sauvignon with a full malo and battonage, a Chilean Malbec with Bordeaux-like structure for £5.70, a St.Bris as good as many Sancerres bought direct for £3.50 (and subsequently found for £16 in Harvey Nicks), a fab Aleatico found at Valvona and Crolla, a champagne that proves that Biodynamism works, the greatest Manzanilla for £5.49... & the dud...6 carefully cellared bottles of white Hermitage bought back from the Rhone and every one of them with TCA.

six selections below added Friday 19th December

David Jenkins, UK
Red - Penfold's (Australia) Grange 1992
White - Olivier Leflaive for Aymeric-Alexis (France) Auxey-Duresses 2001
Budget red - Domaine M.Gaget (France) Morgon Côte de Py 2000
Budget white - Domaine Denuziller (France) Mâcon-Solutre 2001
Sweet - no award
Sparkling - Champagne Henriot (France) Brut Millesime 1995
Fortified - Quinta das Heredias (Portugal) Ruby Port
Dud - Château Haut-Brion (France) 1992

Quinta das Heredias are being introduced by Gauntley Wines. Their ruby port is the best port of its type I have ever tasted - to me it exceeds most LBVs and could easily pass off as vintage port. I know the Haut Brion is from a dud year, but I still expected a bit of magic from it - for me there was none. Happy Christmas.

Neal Martin, UK
Red - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) La Tache 1961
White - Leroy (Burgundy) Meursault 1er Cru Perrières 1969
Budget red - Domaine Robert Groffier (Burgundy) Bourgogne Rouge 2000
Budget white - Château de la Ragotiere (Loire) Muscadet-sur-Lie 2002
Sweet - Château de Fargue (Sauternes) 1945
Sparkling - Champagne Dom Perignon 1969 (from a magnum)
Fortified - Taylor's Port 1955
Dud - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) Richebourg 1993

I've been concentrating on the Old World, Bordeaux in particular this year, but yet again its Burgundy that won the heart. The La Tache was so youthful and vibrant, it's almost impossible to put into words. Similarly the Bourgogne Rouge from Groffier outshone many grander wines at an Off-line earlier this year - a bargain at about £100/case. The DP 69 is only champagne that I have given a perfect mark to and the Taylors port was simply streets ahead of any other mature fortifieds I have ever tasted. Also, a big shout to Muscadet - one of the most under-rated regions in the world. Delicious with so many foods and Ch. Ragotiere is making some marvellous examples. Dud of the year was easy. I correctly guessed the wine when it was served blind through somebody's critical comments on the Forum - it was that bad. Other memorable wines for 2003: Ch. Ausone 1964, Ch. Petrus 2000, Ch. Nenin 1961, Ch. Margaux 1996, Grange 1998 and Ch. Doisy-Vedrines 1997.

Paul Redfern, UK
Red - Ridge (California) Montebello 1991
White - Bonneau du Martray (Burgundy) Corton Charlemagne 1990
Budget red - Gotim Bru (Spain) 2000
Budget white - Ernst Loosen (Germany, M-S-R) Rielsing Kabinett 2001
Sweet - Château Lafaurie Peyraguey (Sauternes) 1983
Sparkling - Champagne Salon Le Mesnil 1988
Fortified - Dow Port 1977
Dud - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) Romanee St Vivant 1972

The Montebello just shades it on sentiment as it was drunk with my wife in a small cottage in SW Ireland (booked as a surprise) overlooking the sea, on my 50th birthday. Other contenders were Vieux Château Certan 1964 (sublime) and Cheval Blanc 1985 just oozing class.The Corton (clearly the best in a very fine vertical tasting) just beat a wonderful Beaucastel Vielles Vignes 1990 showing just how complex good Rhônes can be, once through the awkward phase. We managed to get through 5 cases of Gotim Bru so something must be good about it! Lots of riesling was drunk through the wonderful summer but Loosen's probably qualifies for a budget wine. Not a great year for sweeties but this was extraordinarily good and I thought it was Yquem blind. The Salon was everything that champagne should be and a clear winner as was the Dow. I took the RSV (in magnum) to a dinner. It was sadly completely oxidized and I had been treasuring it for this special dinner. Very traumatic! Overall another excellent years drinking.

David Pearce, UK
Red - Château Nenin (Bordeaux) 1961
White - Leeuwin Estate (Australia) Art Series Chardonnay 1999
Budget red - d'Arenberg (Australia) Laughing Magpie Shiraz/Viognier 2001
Budget white - Shaw and Smith (Australia) Sauvignon Blanc 2003
Sweet - Chambers (Australia) Rare Muscat
Sparkling - Champagne Krug NV
Fortified - Taylors Port 1970
Dud - Raveneau (Burgundy) Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 1991

I was priviliged to have the Nenin with Neal Martin and Tomoko one evening - I just loved the subtlety and complexity of the wine. Great stuff. I think the Leeuwin 1999 is one of their all time greats. That whole Aussie Shiraz/Viogner (or grenache) thing does it for me. Chambers Rare is simply perfection - literally liquid gold with black treacle! Taylors 1970 has been a long time favourite. I was unsure of the dud of the year (as with the favourites!) but I picked the Raveneau not because it was a bad wine, but because I did not get it. There was just nothing there for me. We had it at the super-offline and everyone else loved it so it just goes to show how little I know!

Geoffrey Smith, USA
Red - Neyers (California) Hudson Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah 2001
White - Ramey (California) Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2001
Budget red - Paringa (Australia) Riverlands Shiraz 2002
Budget white - Reverdy (Loire) Sancerre Hippolyte 2002
Sweet - Royal Tokaji (Hungary) Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 1996
Sparkling - Champagne Bollinger Grande Année 1996
Fortified - Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 2000
Dud - no award

The Neyers is a superb Syrah, one of many now from the North Coast of California. Dark, rich in tannins, and classically varietal. The Ramey Chardonnay walks the highwire with perfect balance. The Paringa Shiraz and Reverdy Sancerre satisfy for reasonable prices. I am a fan of the simple Royal Tokaji Tokaji Aszu with it's exotic furmint flavors. The Bollinger is simply great - like fresh coastal mist. And lastly, I'm fond of the Ramos Pinto Vintage because it doesn't overwhelm.

Matthew Mellor, UK
Red - Château Brane-Cantenac (Bordeaux) Margaux 1961
White - Zind Humbrecht (Alsace) Gewürztraminer Herrenweg VT 1989
Budget red - Domaine de la Mordorée (Rhône) Lirac Cuvée de la Reine des Bois 2001
Budget white - Château Roquefort (Bordeaux) 2001
Sweet - Domaine de Fenouillet (Rhône) Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2001
Sparkling - Champagne Krug 1988
Fortified - Fonseca Port 1977
Dud - Château la Raze-Beauvallet (Bordeaux) Médoc 2002

2003 has seen me drinking wines I would not have dreamed of in 2002! Top red could have been anything: Margaux 83, Mouton 82, Grange 81 and 98, CdP Cuvée de la Reine des Bois Mordorée 01, Pégau 89 & 90 etc. But the B-C 61 was a beautiful drink in perfect mature order from a great vintage. Top white is more difficult - I've hardly touched the stuff! But the one named above was nigh on perfect and opened my eyes to what Alsace can and does achieve. Mordorée is an excellent producer (the "lesser" cuvée la Dame Rousse is also fine) and at €10 this was a steal. The Mas Collet has been a regular favourite in this category, but TC's pinched it! Again, a budget white was hard to select, but the quoted one was a lovely affordable wine. Regular favourites like Lehmann's Barossa Sémillon were glugged with pleasure. The Muscat dBdV was very cheap (€6 or €7) but displayed perfect poise, the Krug 88 was very special - beautifully integrated oak and fruit. Fonseca 77 again! La Raze-Beauvallet 02 was shamed by a number of other Tesco.com wines bought at the same time. It lacked fruit, grip, interest.

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