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Tasting notes for my top wines of 2003

by Tom Cannavan

Red - Domaine Fernand-Pernot (Burgundy) Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jacques 1969
This is the domaine now known as Domaine Fourrier. At this time it was operated by the grandfather of the current proprietor, Jean-Marie Fourrier. Opened by Zubair Mohamed, proprietor of Raeburn Fine Wines when we had dinner together in the excellent Vintner's Rooms in Edinburgh, this 1er Cru joins the ranks of the truly, truly great Burgundies I have tasted. The colour is still exceptionally pure ruby, and the nose is just ethereal; that perfectly integrated, seamless melange of old, warm coffeeish oak, ripe, soft, but beautifully concentrated fruit and all sorts of nuances of game, woodland floor and sweet demerara sugar . The mouthfeel is pure silk, and those lush, all-enveloping flavours continue. The tannins are svelte and polished, but still adding structure, with a plummy acidity, but this is all about hedonsim and pure poetry. A wonderful, wonderful Burgundy and quite outstanding. You would only find this wine at auction or possibly from specialist brokers (09/03).

White - Niepoort (Portugal) Redoma Reserva Branco 2000
I was lucky enough to taste through Dirk Niepoort's range of excellent table wines and Ports twice in the space of a few days in May; one at a formal tasting, and one over dinner. Though the red Redoma has been recommended highly before on theses pages, and there is a terrific rosé version, it was this reserve level white that really stuck in my mind. A selection of the best barrels and vineyards, this wine is made from phenomenally low-yielding vines (around 5 hectolitres per hectare) grown on granitic and schist soils. It is barrel fermented and aged, using all French oak, 90% new. It does not undergo any malolactic fermentation, to preserve plenty of acidity and tautness. There is a big, toasty, nutty concentration on the nose that is extremely Burgundian (this would be a great ringer for a 1er Cru white Burgundy in a blind tasting), and little herbal nuances. It has a lovely smooth, full texture in the mouth with a raft of white fruit flavours and little mineral suggestion. There is good orangy acidity, and lots of finesse into a long, beautifully delineated finish. Excellent (05/03)
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Budget red - Celler de Capçanes (Spain) Mas Collet 2000
Co-operative cellars exist all over Europe, making wine on behalf of local farmers in a central winery. Whilst some are rather old-fashioned institutions making passable wines for the local market, others are at the cutting edge, and have re-invigorated their entire operations with a total focus on quality. Any list of the world's top five co-ops would include the Cellers de Capçanes in Monsant, just next door to the ultra-fashionable (and ultra-expensive) region of Priorat. This brilliant red has a fabulous perfume of sweet rose-hip, cassis and fudge, with violet and mint highlights, hints of game, and plenty of smooth fruit. On the palate it is dry and lip-smackingly savoury, with those elegant, scented sweet fruit notes surrounded by a deep-chested, honest muscularity of ripe fruit, supple tannins and well-balanced acidity. A cracking wine by any account, and tremendous value for money for this quality (07/03)
£5.69 Booths, £5.99 Waitrose, Majestic
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Budget white - Clos d'Yvigne (Bergerac) Cuvée Nicholas Sec 2000
I loved this wine, it is fair to say. Regular visitors will know I have a penchant for white Bordeaux, and this wine has all the taut, lithe, elegant qualities of a young white Graves. Often New World oaked Sauvignon Blanc is too flashily wooded, with a big, obvious layer of oak failing to marry with piercing fruit, and presenting a disjointed picture. Here, like in the best white Bordeaux, the oak is supportive and integrated, and the whole picture much more intriguing and satisfying. Perhaps the Sémillon content helps, adding a waxy richness and melding the components together. The nose has deep, luxurious notes of toast, vanilla and downy peach skins, with a little creaminess, and a zesty note of lemon. In the mouth this is powerful and structured, with fine citrussy acidity and greengage flavours giving cut to full, buttery fruit and creamy oak in the broad mid-palate. This need some time, and should be even better in five to ten years. Very good indeed/excellent (03/03). £9.95, Waitrose.

Sweet - Château d'Yquem (Bordeaux) Sauternes 1er Grand Cru 1997
The first time I have tasted this vintage of Yquem, so quite a treat. Extremely vanillary and rich on the nose at present, absolutely flooded with sweet, custardy oak, but obvious layers beneath of honey, toast, marmalady fruit and botrytis. On the palate it is thick-textured and unctuous, with barley-sugar and honey thickly layered over nectarine and dark, seville-orange fruit. This is super-concentrated, and seems very fine indeed, like tasting the 1989 young, with a palate loaded with fruit, nutty richness and plenty of acidity pushing and extending the finish. Extremely promising, and almost certainly of outstanding potential. It seems 1997 is a great Sauternes vintage. At around £200 per bottle this is ultra-expensive, but it is the best Yquem since 1989 in my opinion (02/03).
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Sparkling - Antech (France) Blanquette de Limoux Cuvée Exception 1996
What a fine, fine wine this is. Like all Blanquette de Limoux, the major part of the blend is Mauzac, a native grape of Limoux and neighbouring Gaillac. It is joined here by a small proportion of Chardonnay, which is fermented in oak barrels before spending several years in the cellar prior to release. The nose offers up a wonderful melange of nutty, leesy, toasted brioche aromas with dried green apple and pear fruit. There's a leafy, slightly nettly quality, but the broad, generous aromas are toffeed, fine and inviting. The rich, rolling mousse adds to the sense of fullness and toasty complexity, and this utterly delicious wine really does come across like a mini-Krug, with no sign of rusticity, and plenty of crisp, elegant length. Excellent and serious stuff (03/03). £11.50 Devigne Wines.
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Fortified- CAVIT Vin Santo (Italy, Trentino) 1957
A little treat served at dinner in the excellent Scrigno del Duomo restaurant, this 46-year-old Vin Santo is one of a handful of bottles that remain in the cellars. It has a nose of fig, raisins and caramel, with a certain leafiness of stewed tea. It is medium-sweet on the palate, with soft flavours of brown sugar and raisins, and a sweet burnt caramel and walnut character like an old Amontillado Sherry. Sweetness shows through in the finish, with hints of chocolate and honey. Lovely stuff (11/03).

Dud- Niellon (Burgundy) Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Chevenottes 1989
Quite odd at first, perhaps a little candied fruit, but a distracting hint of grilled mackerel (no, I wasn't eating fish at this point!). Some oatmeally quality on the palate, but I am finding this a bit disjointed and hard work. Moderate, possible a little past it? (10/03).

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