Even though The Buyer has only been live for eight months we have managed to cover almost all of the many industry tastings and dinners thanks to the hard work of our ‘Tasting Team’ namely Chris Wilson, Christina Rasmussen, Justin Keay and Geoffrey Dean. Our other tasters Anne Krebiehl MW and Roger Jones have already posted their best wines of 2016 and drinks editor Peter Dean will post his tomorrow.
Not an easy task. Choosing your top six wines of the year when you have tasted literally 1000s in the year but this is the near-impossible job that the ‘Team’ – Chris Wilson, Christina Rasmussen, Justin Keay and Geoffrey Dean – undertook. How many have you tasted? NB the wines are not in order of preference.
Chris Wilson’s top six wines of 2016
La Perle Rare White 2014, Domaine Jones (La Gare du Vin Wine Club)
New and very rare (only one barrel was produced), this is divine. Honeyed, floral, spicy and chewy, it’s so complex and textured. Another stunner from Katie Jones.
JiJiJi Chenin Blanc 2016, Michelini Brothers (Las Bodegas)
THE highlight of the Barullo tasting. This is a Chenin in name only; it’s racy, saline, citrusy and so very clean. Zippy and utterly modern.
Portugais Bleu 2015, Viña Carmen (Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines)
With brooding dark fruit, a whiff of the butcher’s shop and a serious savoury edge (soy sauce, tomato leaf) this is the first Portugais Bleu from Chile and it’s knockout stuff.
Pleiades NV, Thackrey & Co. (The Wine Treasury)
Embracing the DIY-aesthetic this is a Californian non-vintage blend of whatever winemaker Sean Thackrey ‘had lying about’. But it’s much better than that; silky, multi-dimensional and heavenly.
Vaio Armaron 2011, Masi (Berkmann)
The best Amarone tasted in 2016? Probably. Smooth, sweet and fresh with cherry bakewell, pink peppercorn and balsamic sweetness. Like a hug from a long lost lover.
Caperitif NV, AA Badenhorst (SWiG)
This was consumed with glee and abandon (in both short and long serves) at the Swig portfolio tasting and it was the stand-out drink. A sub-Saharan Campari for wine lovers.
Christina Rasmussen’s top six wines of 2016
An amazing year for wine in London with many exceptional tastings.
Abroad, highlights included a trip to Beaujolais, where I was fortunate enough to taste some fascinating old vintages from various producers (including a stunning ’76 from Château du Moulin-à-Vent).
This cemented Gamay’s real capacity for ageing in my mind. I feel it’s one of the few grapes (along with Pinot) that, if handled correctly, can express its terroir extremely clearly. Due to its delicate composition, it thereby acts as a vehicle to portray its origin, and soil type.
My other highlight was a trip to Plaimont Producteurs in Gascony, where we tasted for the first time microvinifications of several long lost grape varietals that are being reintroduced and re-vinified from pre-phylloxera vineyards, as well as varietals with the same concept from the Savoie and Charentes.
I am very pro work being done in the world of wine to re-introduce indigenous varietals. Manseng Noir from Gascony is one to really watch in 2017 and beyond.
Sorrenberg Chardonnay 2014 (Les Caves de Pyrene)
Rich yet subtle apricots and peaches, with a distinct mineral edge. This leads to a brioche finish, almond and yeasty notes. The wine has an unbelievable length.
“Grain + Granit” 2014, Charly Thévenet (Roberson)
The 2014 vintage is my favourite Beaujolais at the moment. This is beautiful. So pure, clean and delicate – black cherries, raspberries and some serious wet stone notes. Exceptional wine.
“Obecanje” 2011, Bongiraud (Sager + Wilde)
From an old clone of Gamay called Monchaud Petits Grains (smaller berries and yield). This Serbian wine is a little richer in style – along with raspberries there’s also plums and blackcurrants here. Very juicy, with a slightly earthy finish.
Clos des Papes, 2003 (auction)
Just a beautiful wine. Earthy, meaty, game notes with raspberries, blackcurrant jam, displaying crème des mûres characteristics with such a long finish. Will age forever.
LIMBIC 2015, BLANKBottle (SWiG)
Pieter Walser’s neurowine: created by tapping into his subconscious, using an algorithm to work out what he likes/dislikes. Yes, really. This is a bigger and richer wine than its other half (Orbitofrontal) with rich peaches, lychees and a saline, fresh edge.
Campolongo di Torbe Amarone 1990, Masi (Berkmann)
A trip to Masi gave me a glimpse into the world of Amarone, and its capacity for ageing. Lovely cherry jam, plums, wild strawberries and undergrowth. Black cherries, with an earthy, cinnamon finish.
Geoffrey Dean’s top six wines of 2016
Pont des Arts Rose, Chene Bleu 2015 (Justerini & Brooks)
Made from 65-year old, ultra low-yielding (max 18hl/ha) Grenache vines in the southern Rhone, with a dollop of Syrah. Lovely texture, notable freshness, very long finish.
The Merle, Clare Valley Riesling, Pikes 2012 (Halifax Wines)
Flagship Riesling, only made in exceptional years, named after the Pike brothers’ mother. Slate-y and minerally with glorious lime notes. Wonderful length.
Vintage Champagne, Bruno Paillard 2006 (Handfords)
Superb offering from the blanc de blancs specialists. 8 years on lees, disgorged March 2015. Lemon posset/citrus; lots of tension, autolytic and mineral notes; very long.
Selection 2/3 Pinot Noir, Stefano Lubiana 2008
Outstanding Tasmanian producer, Steve Lubiana, fashions some of the island’s best Pinot, just outside Hobart. Lovely red cherry and plum fruit, soft tannins and exceptional length.
Pinot Noir, Sumaridge 2012
Another world-class New World Pinot, from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in South Africa. Powerful and spicy, yet elegant with beautifully integrated tannins. 30% new oak gives structure. Lingering finish.
Clos Centeilles 2010, Minervois La Liviniere.
Mourvedre/Grenache/Syrah blend from one of the Languedoc’s top producers. Appealing red fruit, a wine with power yet also delicacy. Superbly-integrated tannins, a lot of complexity and memorable length.
Justin Keay’s top six wines of 2016
Trying to chose your six best wines of the year is a bit like attempting to remember the best films you saw: lots of contenders, quite a few really bad ones, and lots of indifferent stuff that passed muster at the time but that if pushed now, you couldn’t actually remember.
Then there is the question of what one means by best: most expressive, best made, most enjoyable, best value, most memorable? The answer is probably a bit of all of these, with special emphasis on the last. God knows just how many wines I’ve tasted over 2016, but the fact these have stayed with me truly says something about the wine and the people who made it.
So here they are, in no particular order.
Quinta do Vallado Prima 2015 (Berry Bros)
Douro whites are all the rage, with critics praising their minerality and use of indigenous grapes. This dry wine made from the local Moscatel Galego Branco grape is astonishingly moreish and at less than Euro 10 a bottle, mega-value.
FitaPreta Terrantez do Pico 2014 (Red Squirrel)
Winemaker Antonio Macanita first made his mark in the Alentejo but now makes his most interesting and terroir-driven wine in the far-flung Azores, specifically the volcanic island of Pico. This revival of a near extinct grape is a wonder though just 646 bottles were made. The good news is his Azores Wine Company is planting new vines across the island, so expect to see more of this and Macanita’s other Azores wines coming to market.
Man O’War Bellerophon 2014
Winemaker Duncan McTavish just doesn’t do what has made New Zealand famous in the wine world: if you want lemony, nettle-licked Sauvignon Blanc or smoky Pinot, turn away. If you like full-on, highly expressive Syrah though, you’ve come to the right place and this new Syrah-Viognier blend is a cracker, full of spice and white pepper but a wonderful sense of place too.
Vega Sicilia Unico 1999 (Auction)
At a blind tasting a few days into December, I hadn’t expected to find this iconic wine, but what a joy it was: silky, smooth and full on, despite its relative youth, this is everything Ribera del Duero promises but frankly, rarely achieves. When Unico is at its best it is unbeatable and far ahead of the producer’s second wine, Valbuena – even when you drink it some 15-20 years ahead of when it will be at its best.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Rangen Clos St Urban Pinot Pinot Gris 2007 (Berry Bros)
A one-on-one tasting with winemaker Jolene Hunter in the DZH cellars earlier this year was one of the highlights of my tasting year. To be honest, all the wines were so good, its hard to chose one but this Pinot Gris from the famous volcanic Rangen vineyard was just sublime in its smoothness and vitality.
Montefalco Sagrentino 2010, Scacciadiavoli (Wine Society)
Umbrian wine has been rather in the shadow of its better known Tuscan counterparts for the past few years but this full-on Sagrentino – checking in at 15% alcohol though the wine is so well made you don’t really feel it – is perfect for a winter’s evening, full of dark, brambly fruit, with plenty of welcome liquorice and coffee notes.