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Wines of the Year 2004

Choosing just one wine in each of our seven categories does not get any easier. The task was even more difficult in a year when I attended a dinner with Aubert de Villaine of Romanée-Conti, had a gastronomic fortnight on holiday in France, visited half a dozen world wine regions, and made serious inroads on my own cellar. Still, with steely determination I have come up with my list. Seven categories represent the very best of the year, plus the award for "dud"; not the worst wine, but the most disappointing.

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Tom's favourite wines of 2004

Red - Opus One (California) Napa Valley Proprietory Red Wine 1993
White - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) Le Montrachet 1996
Budget red - Domaine Laguerre (France) Le Ciste 2002
Budget white - Riccardo Falchini (Italy) Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2002
Sweet - Maison Huet (Loire) Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Moelleux 1ère Trie 1947
Sparkling - Krug (France) Vintage Champagne 1985
Fortified - Barbeito (Madeira) Single Harvest 1996
Dud - Château Doisy Daëne (Bordeaux) Sec 1998

Opus One just gets the nod over stiff competition: It is just such a perfectly balanced wine that is neither Bordeaux, nor Napa Cabernet, but somewhere very magically in the middle. The DRC Le Montrachet was a stunning, stunning white wine experience. It's price is somewhat in excess of £1,000 per bottle, so it had a lot to live up to - and did. Le Ciste from Eric Laguerre had an awful lot of competition too for budget red, but this wine overdelivered to such a huge extent for its modest £8.99 price tag that I had to choose it. The budget white from Riccardo Falchini also beat off a host of very worthy opponents, but again offered a point of difference in a wine world crammed with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The sweet wine title almost went to the remarkable Ruster Ausbruch from Austria's highly talented Heidi Schröck, and then there was a fantastically impressive tasting of the Sauternes 2003s which will be exceptional, but Huet's 1947 Le Haut Lieu Moelleux 1ère Trie is the stuff of legends, and again did not fail to deliver in any way. Krug 1985 is a beautiful, seamless, sumptuous Champagne that stood out in a year when I enjoyed many excellent Champagnes I must say. The final trophy for excellence goes to Barbeito, who are to my mind shining stars of Madeira making understated but superb wines. My dud goes to a wine that I tasted late in 2002 and thought was phenomenal - so much so that a friend and I who where at the same tasting bought three cases between us. I've had about 15 of the bottles over the past two years, and the wine has just suddenly gone from luscious, beautifully composed white Bordeaux to being angular and acidic. The final three bottles may never get opened!


click if you wish to read full tasting notes for my wines of 2004


To see visitors' Wines of The Year, click here