2022 was an eventful year for Lisse Garnett with her Top 10 wines of the year largely picked from her travels to Argentina, Hungary, South Africa, Greece, Portugal, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Colombia and Chile. Garnett writes here about events of the year which included the Real Wine Fair and Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, as well as the mourning of a lost friend in the influential English restaurateur Andrew Edmunds.
“Love, loss, friendship, stress and much emotive beauty in the glass…” writes Garnett, summing up what 2022 meant for her.
As I write reeking and surrounded by fetid teens on our sixth day without water, I can honestly say that 2022 was a year of pain, some gain and what the ancient Greeks called anagnorisis. My first-year solo in twenty, I travelled to Argentina, Hungary, South Africa, Greece, Portugal, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Colombia and Chile and tried some mighty vini. As requested, I’ve whittled those wines down to ten. Ten wines that made me stop and think, ten wines that made me stop and drink.
An unexpected detour to Bogata en route to Chile resulted in a missing suitcase. Ten days traversing Chile with only a stick of mascara and a tin of Vaseline were generously supplemented by De Martino winery couture, the socks of Lars Daniëls, the balm of Madeleine Stenwreth and jeans of Daniella Lund. We travelled to Santiago via Guarilihue to Pucon and back again and these were two wines that stood out.
Baettig Vino de Viñedos Los Compadres Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 – dry-farmed, low-cropped old vines bringing sublime tension, mouth cooling (near menthol) freshness, dried violet and rose petals, liquorice, graphite, blackcurrant fruit and a superbly silky texture.
Longaví Reforma Rosé 2017 Maule, Chile – orange and pink-tinged, part flor-aged, Cointreau-noted smörgåsbord of wondrous complexity. Dried rose petal, rosehip syrup, spiced orange blossom, sour, salty cherry, mandarin and a delectable salty finish.
Andrew Edmunds: farewell to a friend
In February I had, what I didn’t know at the time was to be, my last solo meal with the multi-faceted magical Mr Benn of Soho, Andrew Edmunds. Hunan, our former haunt, we ventured North to The Drapers and were far from disappointed by the food, the wine nor the wonderful care taken by Nick Gibson. Here we drank 2010 Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri; the wine was dense, structured, chewy, dark, earthy and spicy – lifted by fragrant sage, rosemary and sour cherry.
We are all prismatic in personality according to the company we keep and my friend Andrew was ageless and spritely in wit and deed. He’d spin acid-etched tales of swinging 60s London, of the outré associates that played there – and of the wild antics they engaged in. We’d bitch deliciously about bad behaviour. The fact that he was my friend when he might have had far grander company, showed just how open minded he was. He had a rare, timeless charm and such elegance. His death is in keeping with his arrival in my life, unexpected, sudden and repercussive.
I saw him a few more times in his reputable Soho print shop, housed in the early Georgian block that combines the restaurant and upstairs club. Reminiscent of a 17th Century coffee house the whole has a Dickensian air. Perhaps he’s there still, lurking in those wainscoted corridors or climbing the wonky ill-lit creaking stairs that lead directly into the past. Perhaps at table in his eponymous restaurant offering generously under-priced sleepers or upstairs in the Academy Club doling out low-priced, sweet house red to dubious clientele.
Real Wine Fair – another highlight
The Real Wine Fair was an over whelmingly positive experience, both the trade and the consumer days thronged with a multi-generational posse of wine lovers sipping and supping contentedly with the makers of their poison. I’m going to namecheck Charlie Herring for producing mighty cider and call Renaud Boyer, Puligny Montrachet, ‘Les Reuchaux’, 2020 as my choice, because everything about this wine says class; from its green credentials and characterful importer to its subtle elegant richness. Perfectly poised white peach fruit laced with citrus, acacia blossom white pepper and savoury saline complexity. Absolutely delicious.
Bordeaux and South Africa
Bordeaux in June, courtesy of Penfolds’ collaboration with Dourthe, in 38°C heat allowed me to eat a sublime dinner seated next to an exceptionally modest Andrew Caillard MW and his wife Bobby. The room was filled with iconic characters, most of whom I’d only seen in Jancis Robinson’s 90s Wine Course. Caillard probably understands Australian wine better than any other living being so this was a massive result for a rube like me.
We drank insanely well but a bottle of Penfolds Shiraz 1962 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Kalimna, ‘one of the greatest Australian wines ever made’, cannot go unmentioned. Penfolds’ most successful show wine ever and pivotal in Max Schubert’s successful blending of Cabernet and Shiraz. The wine was sublime – fresh and exotic with a prevailing note of incense (smoky handbags), Asian salted plum, blood, cumin, salami, cinnamon, wet woodsmoke, walnuts and tobacco. Gorgeously lifted by the scent of dried rose petals and as light on the tongue as diaphanous silk. We tried a second bottle and it didn’t sing forth like the first. Beyond compare and impossible to score.
Now to South Africa and a fantastic chance to compare the superb Savennières Les Vieux Clos 2019 – Nicolas Joly with several South African offerings which were shown at the Loire Valley Wines, Chenin Blanc tasting in London. This kind of open-minded, cross-cultural, single varietal tasting should be applauded and applaud I will – of the several South African examples shown, Radford Dale Vinum 2021, held its territory and at a miniscule fraction of the price of the sublimely sensual and impossible-to-source Joly.
Weighty, savoury and heady with herbs, this salted peach of a wine brings pear, citrus, even lychee fruit to a mineral-laden, precise, crystal-clear palate. The Joly was a sensually layered joyous assignation of a wine, teasing our taste buds with sweet cinnamon, crème anglaise, yellow apples, ginger and heady honeysuckle.
The Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction was an outstanding event. After two years in exile it took place at the Lord Charles in Somerset West. The lots went sky high – the best year yet with female winemakers and whites hitting the top slots and prices up 30% on the previous year with 30% of the lots sold to overseas bidders. Samantha O’Keefe’s Lismore Valkyrie Chardonnay 2021 hit the highest gavel price. Closely followed by Andrea Mullineux’s Trifecta Chenin Blanc 2020. Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2019 reached the highest average price per bottle, with Cederberg Teen die Hoog Shiraz 2020 a close second.
Argentina delivered insanely good wines for ridiculous prices, as expected, and too many to call a favourite but I am going to slyly single out Ver Sacrum Pedro Ximenez and El Porvenir de Cafayate Naranjo because they are both gorgeous. I’ll be writing more on these later.
Last but not least…
Some of the mightiest wines I tried this year came from home. José Quintana at Vagabond’s Solena, a solera-aged, copper coloured, sapid, tangerine, tarragon-noted, savoury beauty – delivers the ultimate expression of England’s textural potential.
Also, Hundred Hills Signature Rose, 2018, a saignée-made rosé from the Stoner Valley. It is a beautiful pale peony colour – is bright, crystalline, full and aromatic with a gorgeous note of English rose, wild strawberry and hibiscus – superbly fitting for a wine that is actually selling well in Champagne.
Last but not least to a now crowded field, English gin. Gin is something I have always loved. My interest piqued in the late 80s when I watched the brilliant film White Mischief staring Greta Scacchi and Charles Dance. The story is set in Kenya and based on the reported antics of the Happy Valley ex-pats whose gin-oiled sexual appetites might be downplayed as louche. Gin is as English as Hogarth, known as mother’s ruin –and yet it always makes me very happy indeed. How fittingly modern that my favourite gin is made by amiable, hard-grafting saffers here in East Sussex. Mouse Hall Gin is my final toast for 2022 and I’m advocating a large pour. May it steel us all for 2023. There is no doubt it’s going to be a bumpy ride but let’s make it an enjoyable one.