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Wines of the Year 2011

by Tom Cannavan

Red: Frank Cornelissen, Magma Rosso 8 VA 2009, Italy
Magma comes from ungrafted vines, planted at 1000 metres on the slopes of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily. It is 100% Nerello Mascalese. This top wine is declassified if it does not reach the right quality level, as it was in 2005 for example. Hugely deep and muscular density, immediately liquoricy and tightly aromatic, with caraway seed but also violet notes. The palate has a wonderful, essential oil density with the cherry purity of the fruit still at the core, draped with those structural, dramatically dark elements. 95-96/100. Cornelissen's wines are in very short supply, but see all stockists on wine-searcher.com

White: Alves de Sousa Reserva Pessoal Branco 2005
This wine started as an experiment, taking white Port grapes but re-thinking the viticultural strategy with their old vines, to create a white that would respect tradition but do something new. Around 15 varieties in here, from a 70-year-old vineyard, picked late and overripe. Fermented with skin contact, lots of pumping over with oxygen then into new French barrels for one years. The nose has massive creaminess and has a marzipan element to it with leesy pear skins, a touch of herbs and lots of pure apple fruit still there despite the bruised fruit and skinny oxidation. Fantastic mouth feel with tannins giving grip and spice and the smoothness of the sweet fruit flowing through. Occupying the world of Gravner and La Soula, but just gloriously fruity and persistent. Decant and serve not too cold. 93/100. See all stockist on wine-searcher

Budget red: Achaval Ferrer, Malbec 2010, Argentina
The entry level Malbec from Messrs Achaval and Ferrer is outstanding stuff with a gorgeous floral lift and nose that is all about finesse and refinement. There's masses of fruit and liquoricy concentration and intensity but this is full of energy and had exquisite style and length. Fabulous, vital stuff. Top value for money contender this. Find on wine-searcher.com £14.59 at Corney & Barrow. See all stockist on wine-searcher

Budget white: Tesco, Picpoul de Pinet 2010, France
A big hand to Tesco for stocking this delicious wine from the Languedoc, which steps outside the big brand-dominated, and let's face it, somewhat boring norm of the wines on their shelves. The Picpoul grape delivers a fabulously intense, fabulously fresh noseful brimming with apple and lemon zest, and a palate giving a tang of herbs and salts, of gravelly wet stones and that riveting, streaking freshness that races across the tongue. With 12.5% alcohol and bottled under a screwcap, this is, dry, delicious and a banker for seafood and shellfish. £7.29 (was on two for £10 offer at time of review). Full video review for this wine.

Sweet: Disznókő, Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 1993
11.75 ABV, 155g/l residual sugar, 10.5g/l total acidity. Burnished gold to tawny, with loads of mushroom and truffle Botrytis, and the caramel richness backing it up, but has a dry essence and smoky minerality. Little vegetal notes of age just add an intriguing note. The palate has loads of earthiness and smokiness, some toffee and chocolate depths to this, a touch of wild mint and balsamic richness, with delightful acidity still: fabulous sweetness, and a terrific core of acid in a most complex picture. And despite the tertiary development, seems very young and hugely tight in the finish. 96-97/100. see all stockists of Disznoko 5 Puttonyos on wine-searcher.com

Sparkling: Champagne Krug, Clos du Mesnil 1995, France
In a vertical tasting of six vintages of this rare wine from Krug's small Le Mesnil vineyard, all the wines showed equisite fruit, freshness and elegance. This was a little darker in colour than the 1996, more toffeed notes, but subtle and leafy too, with some mushroom notes. There's classic Chardonnay raciness on the palate, with a hint of sweetness amongst those firm, wonderfully juicy lemon and apple flavours. Sappy too, with real champagne bite and savour into an extremely long finish. 98/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Fortified: Horácio dos Reis Simões, Moscatel de Setúbal Superior 10 Anos, Portugal
Subdued, older character with little of the Muscat's floral exuberance. Aromas are more of stewed tea and nuts, a little caramel. The palate has full sweetness, the marmalade orange tang and cappuccino richness of the wine giving huge depth and intriguing layers of contemplative complexity. A profound and deliciously alive wine. 96/100. UK importer: Castas. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Dud: Chocolate Shop, Spain
I'm not against a bit of fun in wine andwe realise that not all wines can be great, but this is just 'orribler. Tempranillo grapes from Spain's boilerhouse, La Mancha, have been blended with "a natural dark chocolate flavouring," with a hefty 70g/l of sugar left behind. A kind soul suggested it was like chocolate coated cherries, but to us it is a horror show of cheap cocoa powder and over-ripe fruit, cloying and coating the mouth. £8.99 at Sainsbury's

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