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Tasting notes for my top wines of 1998

by Tom Cannavan

Red - Penfolds (Australia) Grange 1993
Absolutely opaque, inky black colour. Stunning nose. Intense, pure core of sweet black fruit with thick, dusty blueberry and bramble depth. This is Grange! Absolutely pure, driven fruit on the palate with some delicious peppery notes and layers of chocolate, coffee and liquorice. Seems to be more complex than the '92 was at this stage. Stunning, structured, extracted and immense, yet harmonious, pure and delicious. Terrific. (11/98)

White - Domaine de L'Eglantière (Jean Durup), Chablis 1989
Absolutely stunning. A beautifully deep, buttercup yellow colour. Superb nose of butterscotch, ripe pineapples and other tropical fruits, but all quite subdued and with intriguing mineral nuances. On the palate the wine is just lovely, with limpid, melting flavours of pear and melon, but still luscious mango and pineapple. It has a buttery, creamy mouthfeel that balances on a knife-edge with refined, apple acidity. Tremendous length, with the purity of the fruit and that wonderful butterscotch flavour persisting. Amazing depth of flavour, yet restrained and elegant with perfect balance and pure finish. This basic Chablis is leading the pack for my "white wine of the year" so far, even against Grand Cru opposition. (08/98)

Budget red - Bodegas Montecillo (Spain) Viña Cumbrero, Rioja Crianza 1995 - £4.99
Exceptional crianza Rioja. Vibrant ruby colour of medium density. Wonderfully inviting nose of raspberry and cherry fruit. There is lovely vanilla too with a darker, earthier note emerging. Smooth and rounded on the palate. Medium bodied, with lots of up-front, youthful fruit that is juicy, chewy and savoury but there is also a much deeper, bittersweet coffee bean and tobacco character. The finish is fine and long with fine tannins and more concentrated, dark chocolate richness. Oak is beautifully integrated. The whole package has great depth of interest but it's still easy and lovely to drink. A tremendous value for money wine. (04/98)

Budget white - Rothbury Hunter Valley Verdelho 1997 - £6.99
I'm a big fan of Rothbury wines and this didn't let me down. The verdelho is one of the major grapes that make Madeira, but here it is made into a dry white wine with a light, delicate, boiled-sweet nose and a palate of lush, tropical fruit flavours. There is still a delicate, flowery edge amongst all the ripe fruit that keeps the whole thing very keen and interesting. A lovely lime acidity shows up in the lingering finish. Good stuff. (07/98)

Sweet - Domaine Guirouilh (France) Jurançon Moelleux Vendange Tardive 1995
This wine is superb. With a beautifully rich, honeyed, melon and honeysuckle nose, there is good weight on the palate and loads of sweet, white fruit. More opulent, melon, pear and peach flavours. Tremendously well balanced and clean through nicely integrated, yet persistant acidity. Wonderful match with a raspberry dessert, where the honeyed fruit of the wine intensified the honey in the dish, the ripeness, weight and sweetness of fruit worked well with vanilla cream and the fine acidity coped admirably with the sharpness of the raspberries. A magical wine. (08/98)

Sparkling - Veuve-Clicquot, Vintage Champagne 1989
Champagne doesn't come much better than this. Darkish gold/biscuit colour. Delightful, streaming, microscopic bubbles lead to lovely hazelnut and biscuit aromas. Quite full in the mouth with creamy mousse. Hints of minerals and apples on the palate, a creamy, fruity wine with fine biscuity richness in the mouth. There is just a hint of sweetness thanks to the ripeness of the fruit, but beautiful structure and balance too and superb length. (03/98)

Fortified - Van Loveren (South Africa) Sweet Red Muscadelle 1993
This is a magical wine. A lovely cherry-red colour, it has a beautifully fragrant nose of roses, violets and sweet red fruit. This is a fortified wine (17°) made from Muscat grapes, but there is no "grapy" character at all. It is sweet and very smooth on the palate, with light cherry and strawberry flavours and a creamy edge to the finish. No hint of harshness and a wonderful, pure, high, aromatic character. The finish is long and warming, though staying clean and well defined. Fantastic stuff, and inexpensive too. (11/98)

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