My Top 10 Wine Experiences of 2015
Due to travel and family commitments my annual round-up of the year’s top wine experiences has been delayed into the New Year. Thanks for the patience. On reflection, this seemed to be the year of Chardonnay for me – a grape I have always loved reached its apex as I drank some of its very greatest expressions from new and old world. A healthy sampling of Northern Rhone figures again (my bias comes through each year), and a trip to London and Burgundy tops the list. A belated Happy New Year to you.
10. Andre Perret Condrieu “Chery” 2012
What I admire most is taking something maligned and difficult and creating something masterful. Such is the case with top level Condrieu and the difficult Viognier grape. In my view only Vernay makes better Condrieu than Perret and only his very top Coteaux du Vernon can consistently beat out Perret’s single vineyard bottlings. This is not just great Viognier it is one of the best white wines in the world.
9. Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010
My spotlight on Chianti Classico led me to conclude that while the region is earnestly exploring its terroir, it still has a long way to go. That said, Fontodi’s top Chianti, the Vigna del Sorbo, is an emblem of to what Chianti Classico should aspire and the 2010 is one of the top Sangiovese-based wines in Italy from that year – even compared to the storied 2010 Brunello di Montalcinos.
8. Domaine Vincent Paris ‘Granit 60’ Cornas 2012
The Northern Rhone is heading down the path of Burgundy, with massive price increases to the top wines since 2010 making them more out of reach each year. Paris represents one of the few remaining ‘values’ for top quality Northern Rhone Syrah, and his 2012 Granit 60 demonstrates that he has finally entered into the upper echelon of producers. In time, it is possible he will rival the likes of Clape. Buy his wines now before he hits the big time.
7. Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay 2011
Catena is perhaps the only very large, very commercially successful winery that consistently appears on my top 10 list. Their new Chardonnay project has been wildly successful and the 2011 White Bones a stunning example of what they have achieved with high altitude Chardonnay planting in Mendoza. This is what hard work, long-term vision, and scientific rigour can create in the new world.
6. Le Piane Maggiorino 2013
There is always an inexpensive wine each year that pushes the envelope not for value but for intrigue and quality. Le Piane’s entry-level Maggiorino from sub-alpine Nebbiolo (blended with 11 other indigenous grapes) was the most exciting sub-$40 wine I had this year and opened my mind to what is possible with more northerly Nebbiolo from Italy.
5. Domaine Raveneau 2004 and 2006 Montee de Tonnerre Chablis
Some consider Raveneau the world’s greatest Chardonnay producer. This mini-flight of one of his premier crus shone at a dinner exclusively dedicated to the champion duo Dauvissat and Raveneau – in short, they are irreplicable masterpieces that need to be experienced rather than written about. Worth the price of admission.
4. Rhys Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 2009
A California Chardonnay above Raveneau? Yes not because you can compare the two or because the Rhys is better, but because the Rhys Chard was the first Californian Chardonnay I’ve had that sits very comfortably in the very top tier of Chardonnay. This is a near crazy thing to say given how many other great Chards are being made in California these days. What Rhys has achieved in the Santa Cruz Mountains matches the hype these wines have received from the likes of Allen Meadows and other Burgundy lovers.
3. Drinking wine in London
I spent a fair amount of time traversing London’s wine shops, restaurants and wine bars and though the city is painfully expensive, I loved the diversity of wines and wine-bar experiences available. In a single day I managed to taste a wide range of very old, top-tier wines, new exciting producers I had never encountered before, and all alongside some excellent service and food. London really is one of the world’s great wine cities.
2. Domaine Leflaive Batard-Montrachet 2007
I bought this bottle in Lyon while on Vacation very shortly after Anne-Claude Leflaive passed away. She was a giant in Burgundy and her championing biodynamic principles for growing white Burgundy has had inestimable positive impact on the region’s wines. And yes, this was single-handedly the greatest Chardonnay I have ever tasted.
1. Visiting Burgundy, tasting wines and discussing them with the wine-makers at Bonneau du Martray, F. Mugnier, and G. Barthod
Does this really need an explanation? The holy grail experience for wine lovers and geeks around the world.