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Visitors' favourite wines of 1999 - Part II

Here is the second selection of Wine Pages Visitors' Wines of the Year for 1999 in the same seven categories that I used to draw up my own list.

Herbert Platzgummer, Austria - Top Wines of 1999 (added 07/01)
Red - Vosne Romanée Les Suchot (Burgundy) Producer unknown - 1959
White - Willi Bründlmayer (Austria) Riesling Heiligenstein - 1997
Budget red - Cantina Bigi (Italy, Umbria) Sangiovese - 1998
Budget white - Peter Zemmer (Italy, Südtirol) Chardonnay - 1997
Sweet - Isole e Olena (Italy, Tuscany) Vin Santo - 1990
Sparkling - No award
Fortified - No award
Austria is still on my list of "wines to explore", though sweet wines from Opitz, Kracher and Feiler-Artinger tasted during the year were very convincing - Tom

Peter May, UK - Top Wines of 1999 (added 07/01)
Red - Ridge (California) Coastal Range Zinfandel - 1977
Red - Sutter Ridge (California) Amador County Pinotage - 1996
White - Three Choirs (England) Phoenix
Budget red - Henry of Pelham (Canada) Baco Noir - 1998
Budget white - The Wine Society New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Sweet - No award
Sparkling - Chiltern Valley (England) Brut Méthode Champenoise
Fortified - No award
For my best of the year list the wines have to be ones that have greatly exceeded or confounded expectations. I am not going to list the most expensive or rarest wines, but those I still think of with a 'wow'. I have had to declare a tie for best red. The Zin was a superb wine, like a fine old claret but displaying a little Zin spice. The Sutter Ridge Pinotage was a knockout wine. This was the first varietal bottling from the vineyard and the first Pinotage I have tasted from California. "Silky texture, mouthfilling, demands food". The Baco Noir made the biggest impression of *all wines* that I have tasted this year. A big big fruity chewy taste, and a discovery of a new flavour to enjoy. Phoenix is new grape variety pioneered in England that I found absolutely stunning - its like an intense Sauvignon Blanc. I have been drinking a lot English wine this year and I have been very impressed with the quality. The sparkling wines in particular have been most excellent. I rate the Chiltern Valley Brut as good as Champagne. This is the first year I have begun to appreciate sweet wines, but I have not drunk enough to make a choice. Suffice it to say I will be rectifying that during 2000. Am I allowed to state the most unpleasant wine? Discounting faulty wines, it has to be Asti Spumante. I have been lucky to have avoided this for decades - an aftertaste that coated my throat with a cloying, choking, sugary patina that took ages to get rid of. Urgggghhh.
Lovely choices once again. I've just had a bottle of the Nyetimber English vintage sparkling wine that I thought was absolutely superb (note to follow). That Baco Noir was good. - Tom

Andrew, Australia - Top Wines of 1999 (added 06/01)
Red - Paringa Estate (Australia) Pinot Noir - 1997
White - Pipers Brook (Australia) Riesling - 1998
Budget red - Villa Puccini (Italy) Tuscan Red - 1995
Budget white - Wynns Coonawarra (Australia) Riesling - 1997
Sweet - Lowe Family (Australia) Botrytis Semillon - 1999
Sparkling - Rockford (Australia) Sparkling Shiraz NV
Fortified - Stanton & Killeen (Australia) Vintage "Port" - 1993
I have stuck with current releases. I would have to say the best wine I have had this year would be a 1992 Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot from Louis Jadot which opened up in the glass to be the most complex dry white I have ever tasted.
Several of these I haven't seen in the UK. The Wynns Riesling is a former "Wine of the Week" and a beauty. I've enjoyed some Sparkling Shiraz too - and they work with dark chocolate! - Tom

Manuel Camblor, Puerto Rico/USA - Top Wines of 1999 (added 06/01)
Red - J-L Chave (Rhône) Hermitage - 1983
White - R. López de Heredia "Viña Tondonia" (Rioja) Blanco Reserva - 1985
Budget red - Viña San Pedro "Castillo de Molina" (Chile) Cab Sauv - 1996
Budget white - Giesen (Marlborough, New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc - 1998
Sweet - Karthäuserhof (MSR) Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberger Auslese - 1997
Sparkling - Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Rosé - 1985
Fortified - Emilio Lustau "Almacenista Pilar Aranda" Oloroso Sherry Solera 1918
Two of the wines on the list I owe to some of the generous oenophiles who attended the great MoCool '99 celebration at Ann Arbor, Michigan. The mightily perfumed, exquisitely mature Chave happened there; also that Kartãuserhof sweetie - still wound-up tight, but with major promise. One runner-up for "Best Red" also happened upon me at MoCool and I thought I should mention it: The L. & A. Brunel, "Cuvée Breale," Châteaneuf-du-Pape 1995 - a truly amazing red I can still recall vividly. The "Best White" is simply is a real wonder. A mature white Rioja that is quite alive and kicking at fourteen years of age... Grace and lots of vibrant flavor (another runner-up: The supertight-but-magnificently-powerful St. Joseph Blanc "Les Granits" '97 from Chapoutier. The budget end of the spectrum provided some extraordinary experiences. The "Castillo de Molina" from Viña San Pedro is a real beauty, better built than many Bordeaux retailing at five or six times its price (US$10, by the way). A stunner. That Heidsieck Rosé... Very pale - more like salmony old gold than pink. Aromas of caramel, brioche and almonds and a heavenly creaminess in the mouth. And thanks to Willi's Wine Bar in Paris I have an entry under "Fortified" this year -Tom, I believe you've had that Lustau, too. It was simply da booooomb.
Manuel never lets me down! Another exotic and globe-trotting selection. So none of those 1998 Clarets we tasted together at Vinexpo made it then Manuel? - Tom :-)

Dave Kay, Canada - Top Wines of 1999 (added 31/12)
Red - Château Léoville-Barton (Bordeaux) - 1989
White - Chartron et Trebuchet (Burgundy) Puligny-Montrachet - 1996
Budget red - Château de Parenchère (Bordeaux Supérieur) - 1995
Budget white - Jean Geiler (Alsace) Riesling - 1997
Sweet - Jackson-Triggs (Canada, Niagara) Riesling Ice Wine - 1997
Sparkling - Bollinger Grande Année Brut Champagne - 1990
Fortified - Croft Vintage Port - 1985
The top picks were relatively easy (I can still taste the Leoville...a five month finish!?!), but it is getting harder to pick among the many excellent budget wines that seem to be about. Is it just me, or is quality increasing that rapidly? Anyway, I am a sucker for the currant/cedar thing so I chose the budget Bordeaux. The Geiler Reisling was a steal at CA$12, with a high class balance of peach/nectarine fruit and bracing acidity. The Jackson-Triggs was the best of the admittedly few sweet wines I tried this year. I may change my mind on the year's selection after the upcoming line-up of holiday season refreshments, but these are my choices as of today.
There are very few poor wines around these days, and at the "medium" budget range (i.e. £5-$8/$8-$12US) there is some really superb stuff. '97 was a great year for Alsace, and many "minor" wines I've tasted have been wonderful - Tom

Bill Hogg, Canada - Top Wines of 1999 (added 31/12)
Red - Beaulieu Vineyards (California) Georges Latour PR - 1982
White - Egon Müller (Germany, MSR) Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett - 1992
Budget red - J. Lohr (California) Paso Robles Syrah - 1997
Budget white - No award
Sweet - Château Rieussec (Sauternes) - 1989
Sparkling - Bollinger Grande Année Champagne - 1990
Fortified - Dow Vintage Port - 1977
Another German Riesling and a second Canadian vote for the Bolly 1990. That Lohr Syrah is one I've been following for the last few vintages - terrific stuff - Tom

David Bewers, UK - Top Wines of 1999 (added 29/12)
Red - Château Latour (Bordeaux) - 1961
White - Château Couhins-Lurton (Bordeaux) - 1993
Budget red - Tinto da Anfora (Portugal) - 1994
Budget white - L'Enclos Domèque (France) Marsanne-Roussanne - 1998
Sweet - Château Bastor-Lamontagne (Sauternes) 1990
Sparkling - Alfred Gratien Brut Champagne - 1985
Fortified - Taylors Vintage Port 1970
The Latour 1961 was served in understandably small quantities at the Wine Society Dining Club. It was deep-coloured, still young and went through the marvellous evolution in the glass. The Marsanne-Roussanne was one of a couple of fresh new southern French wines I had this year using these classic Rhone grapes, a welcome escape from endless Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs (though I have no problem with Sauvignon Blanc at the level of the Couhins-Lurton. The Alfred Gratien Champagne was still impressively fruity and the 1970 Taylor's by some way the best vintage port I have ever tasted (including at least one 1963).
2nd year running that one of my visitors has tasted the legendary Latour and declared it their red wine of the year - Tom

Michael Lyons, France - Top Wines of 1999 (added 29/12)
Red - Alain Brumont (France) Madiran Montus Prestige - 1989
White - Andre Kientzler (Alsace) Riesling GC Geisberg - 1994
Budget red - Pierre & Catherine Breton (France) Bourgueil les Galichots - 1997
Budget white - Verget (France) Bourgogne Blanc - 1996
Sweet - Robert Plageoles (France) Gaillac Doux "Vin d'Antan"
Sparkling - Raymond Boulard Champagne "La Comète" - 1986
Fortified - No award
Next year I promise to get at least one non-French wine in the list. I paid around 40F for the Verget when I bought it directly "en primeur" so it counts as budget for me - it's very fashionable so it might cost a lot more to buy now, I'm not sure.
No apologies necessary for a fine selection of French wines - especially for Michael, living as he does in the heart of France - Tom

David More, Australia - Top Wines of 1999 (added 24/12)
Red - Fox Creek (South Australia) McLaren Vale Reserve Shiraz - 1997
White - Dr Loosen (Ger) Wehlener Sonnenuhr Reisling Kabinett - 1997
Budget red - Rosemount (Aus) Orange Vinyard Cabernet Sauvignon - 1996
Budget white - No award
Sweet - de Bortoli (Australia) 'Noble One' Botrytis Semillon - 1995
Sparkling - Domaine Chandon (South Eastern Australia) Vintage Brut - 1996
Fortified - Seppelt (Australia) Para Liqueur "Port" Bottling 118 - N.V.
My selections are all wines that can be had for under $A50 a bottle in Australia. They represent, at worst, exceptional quality combined with real affordability. Each can provide a compelling wine experience. They have been the highlights of my drinking year.
No arguments from me with an affordable selection that present a compelling wine experience! Isn't that every wine-lover's dream? - Tom

Mark G. Olsen, USA - Top Wines of 1999 (added 24/12)
Red - Silver Oak (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - 1994
White - No award
Budget red - Edgewood (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1994
Budget white - Ferrari-Carano (California) Fumé Blanc Sonoma County 1997
Sweet - No award
Sparkling - Veuve Clicquot (France) Gold Label Champagne NV
Fortified - No award
I can only wish that I might taste some of the wines from your list someday. I did taste a Château Lafite 1966 this year but it had oxidized. Tasted many other very good wines including several vintages/bottlings from Alejandro Fernández (my personal favorite), the Opus One 1994, Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 1993, Château de la Gardine, CDP Cuvee des Generations Gaston Phillip 1994.
Of course there are two sides to the coin - in Europe we rarely have a chance to taste the best bottlings eminanting from the States. That Opus One '94 could easily have made my own reserve list - Tom

Chris Smith, UK - Top Wines of 1999 (added 23/12)
Red - Jim Barry (Australia) The Armagh 1993
White - von Kesselstatt (Germany) Piesporter Domherr Riesling Auslese 1993
Budget red - Talus (California) Zinfandel 1995
Budget white - Dom de Lacquy (France) Vin de Pays des Terroirs Landais 1998
Sweet - Château Tirecul La Gravière (France) Monbazillac 1996
Sparkling - Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne NV
Fortified - Grahams Quinta do Malvedos Centenary Port 1990
Tom - you're right - this is hard! I've excluded a few wines from a 'freak' tasting of top Bordeaux (Cheval Blanc '82, Yquem '88 and lots more) because they seem a bit like cheating! Having said that, the Armagh would have given most of them a run for their money. Von Kesselstatt is a great producer and this is not a particularly pricy wine. Will the long-heralded Riesling revival ever take off? Surprising to see the USA and France taking the 'bargain' awards. The Malvedos Centenary is pretty elusive but well worth seeking out. Sandeman's 20 year old tawny ran it a close second. The Tirecul was really very good - I would love to try their top wine, the Cuvée Madame.
The Talus was one of my Wines of the Week, and still the appreciation of fine German Rieslings continues - is this going to be the theme of this year's selections? - Tom

Jörgen Lindström, Sweden - Top Wines of 1999 (added 23/12)
Red - Château Haut-Brion (France, Bordeaux) 1998 (Cask Sample)
White - Beringer (California) Chardonnay Private Reserve 1996
Budget red - Rosemount (Australia) Shiraz Diamond Label 1996
Budget white - Cloudy Bay (NZ) Sauvignon Blanc 1996
Sweet - Château Rieussec (France, Sauternes) 1983
Sparkling - Salon Champagne le Mesnil 1983
Fortified - González Byass Sherry Oloroso Vintage 1969
This year included a lot of great wines. The Haut-Brion was however the one that really impressed me (closest competitor Opus One 1995). The Beringer is among the best whites I've ever tried. Rosemount & Cloudy Bay both represent great value for money. Not beeing very fond of Sauternes, the Rieussec was great fun and a big suprise. The Sparkling Category was the hardest, other choices were Cristal 1990 and Alfred Gratien 1979. Vintage Oloroso Sherry is what you really wish that every person interested in wine someday would have the opportunity to taste! Happy New Year!
A lovely globe-trotting selection. Like Jörgen I had the opportunity to try one of González Byass astonishing and rare vintage Olorosos (the 1970) which was my runner-up for fortified wine of the year - Tom

Neil Jenkins, UK - Top Wines of 1999 (added 22/12)
Red - Condado de Haza (Spain) Ribera del Duero 1996
White - Belondrade y Lurton (Spain) Rueda 1997
Budget red - Cantina di Foglianise (Italy) Rosso del Colle Beneventano 1997
Budget white - Banrock Station (Australia) Chardonnay-Colombard 1998
Sweet - Robert Weil (Germany, Rheingau) Gräfenburg Riesling Auslese 1997
Sparkling - no award
Fortified - González Byass (Spain) Noé Pedro Ximénez Sherry N.V.
1999 was the year I moved from Spain after living there for four years, so there may have been a touch of longing involved in my red and white of the year! The Italian IGT Rosso del Colle is a rich red fruits and dark chocolate number bought by the car-full for under £2! ($3.50). However, the one distraction is wide bottle variation adding a lottery aspect to each bottle. The Robert Weil was heavenly, and in terms of lusciousness is eclipsed only by my continued favourite among the fortified wines, the Gonzalez-Byass Noé, with its rich, complex chocolate and treacle palate (and an ideal companion to Tiramisú!!). The big regret for 1999: Not tasting enough decent bubbly.
Great to see so many German Rieslings getting their due respect - and the Banrock Station label must surely be cheap wine range of the year? Great selections at reasonable prices - Tom

Cor Balfoort, Holland - Top Wines of 1999 (added 22/12)
Red - De Vogüé (Burgundy) Le Musigny Grand Cru 1966
White - Lafon (Burgundy) Le Montrachet Grand Cru (cask sample) 1998
Budget red - Dom. Pujol (France) Cuvée Edouard Pujol Shiraz Minervois 1997
Budget white - Kientzler (Alsace) Pinot d'Alsace 1997
Sweet - Dr Loosen (M-S-R) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Goldkapsel 1990
Sparkling - Taitinger Comtes de Champagne 1990
Fortified - Grahams Vintage Port 1985
1999 was also the year when I discovered Australian wine can be great: 1994 Jim Barry's The Armagh should therefore be mentioned. In the white's department 1999 was the year of my discovery of dry Loire wines. A visit to the very stylish Madame de Jessey and her archetypical Savennières wines therefore deserves mentioning in the column of memorable wines.
I enjoyed a memorable dinner with Ernie Loosen in the summer, where he brought along a couple of his wonderful gold kapsel bottlings which are indeed stunning. Cor's is a nice run through some of my own favourite wine regions - Tom

Daron Finchman, UK - Top Wines of 1999 (added 21/12)
Red - Meerlust (South Africa) "Rubicon" 1989
White - Willamette Valley Vineyards (USA) "Oregon Chardonnay" 1994
Budget red - Romanian Cellars (Romania) "Classic Reserve Pinot Noir" 1995
Budget white - Jacobus (Germany) Wiltinger Holle Riesling Kabinett 1990
Sweet - Château Loupiac Gaudiet (France) Loupiac 1995
Sparkling - Seppelt (Australia) "Pinot Chardonnay" 1990
Fortified - Argüeso (Spain) Pedro Ximénez "Cream of Cream Sherries"
The "Rubicon" cabernet / merlot was highly rated in Plater's South African wine guide and rightly so. A superb five-star wine. The Willamette Valley must rate as one of the best balanced wines I've tasted - though the 1995 and 1996 follow ups just didn't get near. The 1990 of the Romanian Pinot was extraordinarily good. The 1995 isn't up to that, but does have true pinot noir character. The Jacobus is superb mature riesling for £4.99 from Majestic. The Loupiac is a well balanced, beautifully botrytised little gem. My vote for the worst label on a wine bottle goes to the sherry, but it is a wonderful wine: all figgy and raisiny and unctous... wow!
Daron describes himself as a "thrifty drinker" and this entire list left him with change out of £60/$100 - and one of those was a magnum! Daron acheived such exceptional drinking on a budget by keeping his eyes peeled for remaindered stock and bargains from unusual regions. Well done! - Tom

Sam Goth, California, USA - Top Wines of 1999 (added 20/12)
Red - Château Latour (France) Pauillac 1964
White - JJ Prüm (Germany) Wehlener Sonnenhur TbA 1949
Budget red - Château Pallières (France) Gigondas 1997
Budget white - W.Schaefer (Germany) Graacher Domprobst Kabinett 1998
Sweet - Zind-Humbrecht (France) Tokay Pinot Gris Heimbourg VT 1990
Sparkling - Charles Heidsieck (France) Brut 1990
Fortified - Fonseca (Portugal) Vintage Port 1963
I've been lucky to have owned and tried many great wines this year; 4 out of the 7 above were from birthday parties - who says getting older is bad?
Sam's Europhile tendencies are exposed in this wonderful selection - but what about all those terrific West Coast Pinots we drank together in the summer?? Tom :-)

Craig Thomson, New Zealand - Top Wines of 1999 (added 20/12)
Red - Henschke (Australia) Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 1993
White - Dry River (NZ) Gerwurtztraminer 1996
Budget red - Leasingham (Australia) Bin 61 Shiraz 1995
Budget white - Cloudy Bay (NZ) Sauvignon Blanc 1999
Sweet - no award
Sparkling - no award
Fortified - no award
The Cloudy Bay may be a bit pricy for "budget" at NZ$20, but my top white was only NZ$26 so, hey. The top red ($90) was a close race but I picked it because of its incredible rich blackcurrant nose, its complexity and awesome blackcurrant ribena palate. I scored it higher than an '86 Lafite at a blind tasting. The Dry River is outstanding and miles ahead of any other NZ or Aussie Gewurtz. The Leasingham ($16) is a lot of bang for your buck for fans of big shiraz (eg. me). The CB is a top vintage. The best in the world this year? I think so.
I've been on the hunt of the Dry River Gewurtztraminer since Craig recommended it in "Visitors' Tips" back in early summer - anyone know of a UK source? - Tom

Go to Part I