The Top 10 Wines that Changed My Perspective in 2010

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As a North American I have a weird compulsion towards top 10 lists. They’re just fun damnit! I also hate when such lists impart a sense of scarcity and eliteness as they often do in wine. There’s no point to that since everyone experiences wine differently. Thus, I like to write my top 10 list from a personal perspective – what wine experiences changed my perspective this year.

Each of these wines represents a huge shift in how I perceive wine. In fact, I think this year has been the most important year so far in my wine voyage and I feel a marked shift in how I think about and evaluate wine. A couple huge occasions this year were red Burgundy (I was already sold on the whites) which I first truly understood after Allen Meadow’s inspiring visit to Vancouver, and Champagne, both young and aged, for which I owe a debt to Matt Sherlock, former manager at Kits wine and Rasoul Salehi (of Enotecca group).

Again, I don’t believe in ultimate top 10 lists of “greatest wines evers” or any of that nonsense. But I do admit to finding lists fun. My focus is simply on the wines which were important experiences in the last year, wines that changed my perspective and pushed my boundaries. Like all great things in life, it is that which truly shifts your perspective that has the most value.

10. Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley: This year I’ve discovered the beauty, elegance and amazing value of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. It is rare to find wine with such expressive aromatics but also such mouthwatering fruit. Here I refer particularly to the wines of Andre Breton, Domaine Bernard Baudry and Domaine Guion.

9. Auguste Clape St. Peray 2007: This wine is emblematic of the amazing stuff going on with whites in Northern Rhone, which I featured in one of this year’s spotlights. These whites are tremendously compelling and utterly unique. Many drink best young, but some can age tremendously well. This wine beautifully winds together the typical Northern Rhone white flavours and aromas of flowers, honey and minerals. Clape’s St. Peray is also emblematic of the superb quality of this outstanding producer, one of the best in the Rhone.

8. Alban Estate 2007 Viognier: Another wine I tasted as part of my Rhone Valley White Wine profile, this was the most exciting new world wine I had this year. It marries huge opulence, depth and deliciousness with a perfect expression of the variety. Unlike many wines in California, this wine is utterly true to the grape from which it is made. It is also completely different from Condrieu but equally good as the wines of the best producers from that French wine region. John Alban really is one of the the U.S.’s great winemakers.

7. Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco 1981: Before tasting this wine, I had already experienced a couple of this winery’s amazing old white reservas. This Gran Reserva took things to an entirely different level and was almost like an old champagne crossed with something entirely sui generis. This is unlike any other white wine in the world and is a testament to the traditions of Rioja. Of course, it helped that Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia presented this wine personally to our small tasting group – outstanding!

6. Anne Parent Pommard “Les Epenots” 2006: It was hard to choose just one red Burgundy for this list. I chose Anne Parent’s Pommard as representative of my obsessive entrance into red burgs and the Allen Meadows visit because it is an amazing example of the kind of profundity, elegance, and purity that these wines offer. In fact, the wine really is representative of one of the best wine experiences I’ve yet had – a complete philosophical and sensual paradigm shift.

5. Rey Fernando de Castilla Antique Fino: It was hard to choose just one wine from this winery, which was not only the best I found during my visit to Jerez but also brought sherry to a new level for me. The Fino represents everything this place is all about: it revives an old oxidative style of Fino that has fallen to the wayside of the current trend in Jerez towards youth and freshness. Rey Fernando, however, maintains quality, tradition and the most thoughtful approach to sherry I discovered in all of Jerez regardless of trends and corporate amalgamations. A beacon in the world of wine.

4. Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus: This was my first experience tasting truly terroir driven Champagne and completely changed my perspective of this world famous bubbly. Not only can you get truly great champagne for ¼ of the price of the great houses, you can be part of the region’s rediscovery of its land and its history. Growers across Champagne are now discovering subtle differences in terroir that promise Champagne may, in a few hundred years, become as diverse as Burgundy. The wine itself is utterly mineral, focused and full of laser-like precision.

3. Krug Vintage 1996: Despite the last wine, the 1996 Krug cemented my Champagne obsession completely by showing how great these wines can become with age. Tasted at a vintage Champagne tasting hosted by the extremely generous Rasoul Salehi – who I still owe some seriously cool wine in return – this Krug is hedonistic, opulent, and, simply, ridiculously delicious. I don’t know what else to say other than that this was an amazing experience.

2. Cornelissen Munjebel 6: A wine fermented in amphora buried in the ground. Yet, this wine is as clean and as pretty as the best Burgundies. It is also chameleon to everything you eat with it and unlike anything else you’ve tasted. Almost transparent in colour, it yet possesses deep tannin and tremendous length, effectively combining immediate sensual pleasure with intellectual stimulation. One of the most inspiring wines I’ve ever tasted.

1. Damijan Kaplja 2003: This was my first – and my favourite – macerated white wine. Maintaining much greater finesse and depth of complexity than the Paolo Bea Rusticum, the skin contact worked amazingly here and ended up being one of the coolest food pairings wines I’ve ever had. I drank this at San Francisco’s amazing Nopa Restaurant. It’s hard to explain why this wine changed my perspective in a way more than any other wine I had. I think it comes down to the simple fact that it was the first truly mind-altering wine I had had since I started my wine obsession 5 years ago and the first of the extreme no-sulpher and obsessively traditional ‘natural wines’ I tasted. Sometimes the greatest experiences we have are unexpected and embedded in the immediacy of the moment. This wine experience will stick with me for some time.

Posted in: Top Wines of 2010

Comments

  1. Dave Kasper
    December 14, 2010

    Greetings…your top ten list popped up on my screen today! I do love everything Loire Valley so thought I’d send a quick note! I would suggest you keep an eye out for some of the smaller organic, certified or who may just be working with organic methods, but are so hard to find in Vancouver. Baudry, Breton etc make delicious wine no doubt, but getting off the beaten path is where the real secrets are! If you liked Baudry, you will enjoy Fabrice Gasnier from the little town of Chezelet in the Chinon appellation, 10km’s or so from Baudry . Fabrice is an excellent wine-maker and has recently been selling some wine to Marquis in Vancouver. In Bourgueil, would look for Hubert Audebert and Jean Delanoue in St. Nicolas de Bourgueil. In Vouvray, Sebastien Brunet is excellent, along with Vincent Careme who just might be the best of the bunch! I mention the above producers certainly because i know them personally, but their hands on care of the vines and vineyard are amazing, and it certainly shows in the quality of their wine! Enjoy…Cheers…Dave

  2. Shea
    December 14, 2010

    Thanks Dave, if I can find those producers I will be sure to try them in the coming year! It’s not always easy to get the tiny guys here but I’d love to try as many as I can. I do believe Baudry, Breton and Guion are also all biodynamic and minimalist wine makers.

  3. Dave Kasper
    December 14, 2010

    Happy to do it! Gasnier you can find for sure here. Catherine Champalou is also another wine-maker i know and used to sell through??? the wine store on 4th or 10th near Capers! She makes excellent chenin blanc. I recently visited with Emanuelle Mellot in Sancerre (Alphonse Mellot is her dad) who told me she is selling some wine through Marquis as well. We spent a few hours tasting with Emmanuelle…a lovely person. Her 2009 “Generation” was outstanding!

  4. Jake
    December 14, 2010

    Great list Shea, thanks for sharing. I’m beginning to think about my wine experiences of the year… I might do something similar

  5. matthew
    December 16, 2010

    Thanks for sharing. I have been on a bit of a lull with wine in 2010, but your post was a great read, and inspires me to reconnect with my passion for the grapes in the coming year.

  6. Brian
    December 19, 2010

    Great list! Many artisanal wines from Loire Valley, including Catherine & Pierre Breton, will be imported to Vancouver very soon. I am a partner of Racine Wine Imports in Vancouver. A profile of Catherine & Pierre Breton, along with others, is available at our website http://www.racinewineimports.ca

    Cheers,
    Brian

  7. Shea
    December 19, 2010

    Brian, I look forward to tasting some of those when they eventually hit the market.

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