It starts with a Pet Nat and it ends with an ultra-premium Champagne, drunk from a plastic cup with scampi and chips on Brighton beach. Welcome to the Top 10 wines of 2019 as discovered by Harry Crowther, wine consultant, wine expert, journalist, publisher and contributor to The Buyer. Every day over the holidays we will be posting Top 10 wines from our panel of wine tasters – to pick up on some gems you may have missed in the hurly burly of the tasting calendar.
Okay here goes, I thought I would give this a whirl and sum up my 2019 year in no less than ten wines! Drum roll please…. (in no particular order)
Who are you and what have you done with Harry? Kicking off with a Pet Nat?! It’s just so much fun. Discovered half cut with my partner a few months ago, at Clapton Craft, who focus on – yes – craft beer and wine. A blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Mourvèdre. Haribo strawberry, white florals with a citrus tension through the mid-palate. Went in for a glass, bought a case. (RRP: £25 Clapton Craft / Wholesale Indigo Wines)
Bursting on to the UK’s wine scene this year are the wines from Pedro Coelho and Pormenor. Classy, unpushed Douro wines that only employ the use of sulphur just before bottling. 70-year-old Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Amarela and Rufete vines from Soutelo do Douro provide the make-up for this exciting wine. Natural fermentation, hands off, only 12.5% ABV. Douro, yes, but with a breath of fresh air and personality! (£11.81 ex VAT, Buckingham Schenk)
Domaine Marc Delienne, Abbaye Road, 2015, Fleurie, Beaujolais, France
My first trip to Beaujolais this year thanks to the team at Bibendum. Delienne practices biodynamic winemaking and makes some cracking wines from 40-70 year old Gamay vines on pink granite soils. Semi carbonic, herbal up top with bright red fruit that shifts to spicy dark berries on the palate, wonderfully knitted together and makes me smile as I write this tasting note! If you don’t believe me, ask Mike Turner! (£25.42 ex VAT, Bibendum)
Comai, Chardonnay, 2018, Trentino, Italy
I first met Marco Comai in 2014 when we worked a harvest together in Marlborough. I could tell back then he was going to be a talent. At the age of 25 this is his first solo vintage using Chardonnay fruit that has been in a family for several generations. 60% barrel fermentation with a bit of skin contact. A whiff of reduction for all those matchstick heads out there, great balance between the fruit and obvious use of oak. This wine is great, but makes my list for one reason above all, Marco’s potential! If this is his first Chardy, then I am seriously excited to see what the future holds for him. Anyone looking for a killer wiz-kid to take on from Italy? Currently not in the UK – watch out!
Charles Smith, ‘Kung Fu girl’, 2018, Riesling, Washington, USA
Many of you may be familiar with this wine. A super approachable Riesling from Charles Smith. But it makes this list for one reason in particular. I brought this wine on to a list for a client earlier this year, and it has been a revelation. A fabulous wine to bring anyone who has a Riesling stigma into the wonderful world of Riesling! A true wine list warrior. (£12.46 ex VAT, Bibendum)
Zuccardi, ‘Piedra Infinita’, 2015, Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina
“This wine should be en primeur” Wines of Argentina’s Phil Crozier claims, I agree. It’s outstanding. 100% whole bunch concrete fermentation, with around 30% barrel aged. Tension, energy, and purity stripped back, warts and all. The best wine I’ve tried from Argentina this year. (£100.00 ex VAT, Hatch Mansfield)
Michele Chiarlo, ‘La Court’, 2015, Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza, Piedmont, Italy
Tasted at Vinitaly earlier this year. I have done some work with Chiarlo’s wines already but only with his Gavis, so this was a chance to taste through the rest of his range. From Nizza – one of Italy’s newest DOCGs. A nose of sawdust, bacon fat and a flash of tobacco. Lovely Barbera fruit with the volume turned up, bags of concentration. 18 months in oak, one year in bottle before release. (£37.99 ex VAT, Hallgarten Wines)
Well this was fun. Tasted during my trip to Austria in May 2019, skin contact in clay amphorae for 120 days. Sauvignon Blanc, Gelber Traminer and Gelber Muskateller form the blend for this natural, orange wine. Haribo cola bottles stick with me, turkish delight and saffron too. Plenty of structure with a chalky set of tannins softened by well managed acidity. Super interesting. (Can’t find it in UK I don’t think).
Fernando de Castilla, Antique Oloroso, NV, Jerez, Spain
I had to. Written about it already early 2019 at Boutinot’s Roundhouse tasting in Camden. I think I can still taste it. Salty, smoky, saline, nutty goodness from this 24-year-old solera Oloroso. Oloroso on steroids. (£22.15 ex VAT, Boutinot)
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, 2006, Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France
Singing liquid nectar. Maple syrup, orange squash curl up next to fresh, all butter croissants fresh from the oven. Pinpoint acidity cuts through a milky texture on the palate that is beautifully rounded off by an almond finish. Drank from a plastic cup on Brighton beach with scampi and chips. Sorry… not sorry. (POA, Hatch Mansfield)