Now that wine scribe Chris Wilson is a winemaker – with a growing output and reputation – wine tastings he attends is a time to learn a trick or two from others winemakers. Visits to Switzerland, South Africa and France, plus a range of tastings in the UK, form the basis of Wilson’s top wines of the year which include a Rotgipfler, a left field Shiraz from Western Australia and a red field blend from Craig Wessels.
“Craig Wessels has a side-project called Wanderlust where he experiments with other grape varieties, making a new Wanderlust wine each year,” writes Wilson.
Happy New Year! 2022 was a very busy year in the urban winery I run in Cambridge. Gutter & Stars released five new wines and we took in seven tonnes of grapes in the autumn, doubling the amount we worked with in 2021.
As a result of this I attended fewer tastings for The Buyer, but still managed to visit the spitoon on numerous occasions. Highlights included the Swig South Africa tasting in the autumn, the Mentzendorff Annual Portfolio tasting and the always-excellent Dirty Dozen.
During the year I spent time tasting wine in Switzerland, South Africa and France, meeting some brilliant winemakers along the way and taking away tips and tricks which I will put to use in the G&S cellar over the coming months and years.
So without further ado, here are my top five wines of 2022
Winzer Familie Gregor Schupp, Rotgipfler, 2012
This wine knocked my socks off back in the spring and if I close my eyes I can still taste it now (I wish!). It’s an incredible wine, and very different to what I was expecting from the Rotgipfler grape. It has a distinct aroma of fairground honeycomb, complete with that savoury, almost bitter note that good honeycomb can carry. There’s dried tropical fruit, baked breadcrumbs and honey on the palate. Utterly delicious.
Savage, Savage White, Western Cape, 2021
I first tasted this wine in Duncan Savage’s urban winery in the Cape Town suburb of Salt River in August. Duncan was a brilliant host and we tasted through his complete collection of wines, including a few newer vintages still in barrel. The Savage White really shone, and when tasted again in London in November, it was clear just how good this wine is. It buzzes with pear and tinned pineapple fruit, but there are many layers beneath this sweet fruit; herbs, fynbos and honey. Texture too and a swagger and weight that’s impossible not to like. Complete, faultless.
Plan B! Frespañol Shiraz, 2020
This smoky, savoury Shiraz from Frankland River was the red wine highlight of the Dirty Dozen tasting in October. With Australian Shiraz you expect something brighter, more fruit-forward, but this went heavy on the savoury instead. The 5% Tempranillo probably helped. It’s got fruit (blackberries and mulberries) but the interest really begins and ends with its meaty weight and Marmite savouriness. Brooding and just leftfield enough to stand out from the crowd.
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino Pianrosso, 2012
Tasted during the Ciacci masterclass at Mentzendorff’s portfolio tasting in March this library wine was a real joy. Older Brunellos can quickly lose freshness and verve but this had it in spades. The raspberry and ripe plum fruit was velvet smooth, but backed up by red berry acidity and a long, seemingly endless finish. A wine to fall in love with.
Restless River, Wanderlust Red Field Blend, 2020
In August I spent a few weeks in South Africa and one of the highlights was the morning spent in Hemel-en-Aarde Valley with Craig and Anne Wessels from Restless River. This beautiful estate is known for its Cabernet, Pinot and Chardonnay – in fact these are the only wines produced under the RR label – but Craig has a side-project called Wanderlust where he experiments with other grape varieties, making a new Wanderlust wine each year.
The 2020 Red Field Blend comprises Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, Cinsault, Malbec, Barbera, Tinta Barroca and Roussanne, all from a nursery vineyard in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. It’s bright and structured with dark chocolate, baking spice, mulberry fruit and red liquorice – all tied together with bold tannins and a brooding attitude. Delightful and something to delve back into in a few years time.