Right boys and girls, it’s time for my go at my “Wines of 2017”. I’ve picked out a memorable wine from each month, some of them not even the best I’ve drunk, one in particular is actually the worst I’ve ever drunk. But they all mean a lot to me for different reasons. Lots of great wines didn’t make the list, but I loved them all the same.
I think for a lot of us, wine is all about the experience, so a lot of this list has to do with amazing trips I’ve been lucky enough to go on, or great people I’ve met. But better say right now that I’m struggling to remember a bad experience all year. Huge thanks to all the winemakers, owners, sales, and PR teams that have kindly kept 2017’s wheels well greased with some brilliant wines. Looking forward to what 2018 has got to offer already!
But without further ado, here come yours truly’s Wines of 2017…
JANUARY: Perrier Jouët’s La Belle Epoque 2008
January’s always a bit of a slow start to the year for the booze trade, but one memorable tasting was up the Gherkin (steady on!) in London with Perrier Jouët’s Belle Epoque Cellar Master, Herve Deschamps.
I’m a grumpy northern bumpkin that hates spending money, but when you try this level of quality you can’t help but take the price tag with a pinch of salt. Every list worth its gravy needs a top Champagne on it, and the available vintages of Belle Epoque would fit the bill nicely.
FEBRUARY: Exton Park Brut NV, Hampshire
I’m so pleased to see how well these wineries and vineyards work together, it’s a real lesson for other counties in the UK, and a reason that wine from Hampshire is here to stay. Personal favourites include Exton Park, Cottonworth, and Danebury, but they’ve all got some game!
MARCH: Cakebread Merlot, Napa Valley, 2013
In March I went on a wino’s press trip of a lifetime (or for me at least) and headed off to California to visit Napa and Sonoma. Not only did I get to taste some wonderful wines, but I also met some friends for life.
The week gave me a much better feeling for the taste of the wine styles out there, and also helped me put the prices (which can put many off) into a better context. My top wine from there was Cakebread Cellar’s 2013 Merlot.
It’s by no means the best wine I tried out there, but that’s the wine we used when myself, Bruce Cakebread, Justine McGovern from the California Wine Institute, and Ashford Castle’s top drawer sommelier, Phillip Dunne, nailed the pizza-pairing competition. If we’d have let him, Phil would still be there drizzling olive oil on it with a teaspoon. Chef would be proud, my lad!
APRIL: Primeurs samples in Bordeaux
I work for a Bordeaux specialist wine company, so April is always about Primeurs to one extent or another. I’m still not sure I agree with the idea of it, but everyone else does it, so sod it, let’s try make the best of it, they do serve some stunners at the lunches.
The 2016 vintage we were trying was another top vintage for Bordeaux (good job given the volume problem for 2017), but one of the better experiences was Millesima’s Primeur Panorama event, retasting the 2015 a year after barreling.
Much closer to the final product than the press-focused barrel samples straight after harvest, could this be a way forward for Bordeaux?
MAY: Quinta Do Gomariz Loureiro, Vinho Verde, 2016
In May I had my eyes opened by Sarah Ahmed to the joys and delights of Vinho Verde. You know that light, slightly spritzy, white stuff from the top end of Portugal? Well not a bit of it. Scores of regions and terroirs, and a host of young and hungry winemakers looking to bend your head.
I loved this, so much so that I made Sarah Ahmed an MW in my write up! In my eyes, you deserved it Sarah 😉
JUNE: Platinum’s Sogno Montepulcinao D’Abruzzo
First up, I’d never been before, and so driving through the Appennines from Rome towards the beach at Pescara was quite stunning. There’s so much more to the wine of this rugged countryside than basic Montepulciano and Pecorino, but it’s important to remember that’s what brings the pennies in round here.
A push to premiumise bag-in-the-box packaging to make the house wines pop is very impressive.
JULY: Juve Y Camps “La Capella” Cava Gran Reserva
Look, Frexeinet do an incredible job and sell silly numbers of bottles world wide (170 million or something daft like that), but houses like Juve Y Camps sticking to their guns and making Gran Reservas to make us all purr over Catalan cheesy chips will always grab my attention.
I’m also in love with their new winemaker…don’t tell my wife!
AUGUST: Casal Mendes NV, Blue Wine
What a weekend in Porto!!! Fly in on a Friday, smack everyone on the head with a kid’s squeaky plastic mallet, chewing on fresh sardines, and necking my first bottle of blue wine. Worst wine I’ve ever drunk, but one of the best weekends I’ve had in ages!
Thanks to the team at Quinta Do Noval for realigning my palate after all that Smurf piss 🙂
SEPTEMBER: Château Pichon Baron, Pauillac, any vintage is fine by me!
In terms of wines? I will always associate the run with Pichon Baron, AXA’s 2nd growth Pauillac estate. The team there are so great, and pour some great wines for the runners. And a cheeky pre-run vertical of Pichon and their (best in Bordeaux) second wine, Tourelles, couldn’t hurt, right?
OCTOBER: Mar De Frades, Albariño Atlantico, 2016
2017 was clearly the year of the North West Iberian whites for me. October’s dinner with Mar De Frades of Rias Baixas recalibrated the needle on Albariño. The 10 year old, slightly sherried effort was…er…interesting, but their Albariño Atlantico 2016, fresh as a daisy, and full of sea breeze in a glass was very memorable.
NOVEMBER: KWV’s Grenache Blanc, The Mentors, 2011
Wim Truter of the KWV in South Africa was over fielding all our annoying questions. I’d met Wim before, but you never expect people to recognise you after only one meeting. But he’s a gent that man, and especially when he comes laiden with KWV’s latest and greatest experiments on Petit Verdot and Grenache Blanc. The later of which, in the Mentor’s Block range, wins my wine of November!
DECEMBER: Monfaucon’s Petillance, Bordeaux, 2017
And finally, we’ve made it to December. I know I’ve got a few bits and pieces of bubbles in the list, but this month I got to try my mate Dawn’s new fizz from her (soon to be) biodynamic vineyard in Bordeaux. It’s a mix of Sauvingon Blanc and Semillon, low alcohol, low pressure, and an easy spritz throughout. You’ve nailed it Dawn, what a lovely long and fresh finish! Looking forward to drinking more in 2018.
Wow, there we go, should I stop talking now?
Thanks ever so much to all the readers and contributors for making The Buyer so much fun to write for. See you all in 2018!