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Various fine wines drunk over the festive period

By Tom Cannavan, 1999

A collection of fine wines drunk over Christmas and the New Year and not already included elsewhere. Most of these came from a fine dinner on New Year's day with some wine-loving friends.

  Most of the wines were drunk with dinner (wild mushroom soup and venison stew) and were not served blind, except where marked.

Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) Chardonnay 1996
Pale to medium gold colour, tinged with green. The nose is beautifully ripe and creamy with buttery apple fruit, pear and melon. There is an overlay of toasty oak. The palate is finely balanced with a mineral purity and more orchard fruit flavours. There is a creamy mellowness from well-judged oak and a long finish, sharpened by good lime-flavoured acidity and purity of fruit. Really lovely Chardonnay.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace) Tokay-Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 1992
My last bottle of the wine that was my White Wine of the Year. Truly a fabulous wine: powerful, exotic and massive, yet at the same time displaying a thrilling balance of sweet, oily fruit, dazzling acidity and a central core of smoky, mineral flavours. Superb.

Domaine Rousseau (Burgundy) Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1985
The nose displays lovely old-Burgundy brown sugar and earth, aromas of dark chocolate too, peppercorns and currants. Silky on the palate, there is surprisingly fresh fruit: raspberries and soft strawberries, but there is structure too with fine, sinewy tannins and good length.

Domaine Rousseau (Burgundy) Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 1988
Pale to medium garnet colour with a broad lightening to the rim. Fragrant, exotic nose with caramelised sugar, damp leaves, truffles and earth. There is a central core of autumnal berry fruits. Lovely silkiness in the mouth with fine, palate-coating tannins and a broad, soft array of sweet but tart raspberry fruit and exotic spices. This has lovely balance with terrific length and a supple but giving medium-bodied finesse. Just lovely.

Château Rayas (Rhône) Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réservé 1988
This has a wonderfully aromatic, high, port-like nose. Fragrant with flowery violet sweetness and then a richer, deeper heart of cedary blackcurrant and bitter cherry. Savoury and chewy on the palate, it is medium-bodied and very structured, with a backbone of grippy tannins dominating sweet fruit. A Rhône I think. Could be Beaucastel, or maybe even a Syrah from the North? Needs just a little more time, but an extremely attractive wine with a stunning bouquet. (Tasted blind).

Château Palmer (Bordeaux) Margaux Third Growth 1982
Quite a dense, medium ruby colour, tawny at rim. Sumptuous, perfumed nose (so many aromatic wines tonight). There is an incense-like quality with violets and spices, leafy tobacco aromas and a weight of sweet cassis fruit. Intense and concentrated on the palate this displays both a deep, currant and plum smoky character and highlights of sweet raspberry and cherry. There are also nuances of fudge and chocolate. Quite fat and chewy, the tannins are nicely integrated and there is lively acidity to balance and freshen the finish. Excellent. Drinking well.

Merryvale (California) "Profile" Red Wine 1996
Only brief notes on this one: solid, dark ruby/purple colour. Nicely subdued, classy aromas of leafy blackcurrants and tobacco, a little gaminess too. Palate is quite rich, but again restrained with moderate tannins and good acidity. Elegant and might need some time.

Fritz (California) Late Harvest Zinfandel 1997 (half bottle)
Dark but zingy ruby colour. Lovely lifted aromas; very Port-like. There is cherry, brambles, briary wood, then jammy, super-ripe fruit. Very attractive. On the palate it is sweet and powerful with blackcurrant and damson-jam flavours and a rich spicy core of nutmeg and cloves. Warm and delicious, there are moderate tannins and good balance with a natural acidity helping temper a weighty, unctuous, lip-smacking finish. Gorgeous stuff. Not fortified, so must be late-harvest or maybe Recioto style. Guess: a Primitivo di Manduria? (Tasted blind).
A good lucky guess for which I claim half a point: the Primitivo is reckoned to be a descendant of the Zinfandel grape!