Chris Wilson picks 10 wines that he would and has returned to away from the spittoons and note-takers – wines to buy and bring into the home… surely the greatest mark of respect that any wine expert can give to a winemaker, even if they do have a top-knot.
Mission impossible: choosing just 10 wines from all those tasted in 2017. But at least Chris has managed it – other The Buyer wine tasters take note!
And so to distil 12 months of tasting, of drinking, of sensory thrills into 10 wines. Well it’s impossible, but here’s a score of wines that stood out for various reasons – these are wines that I have and will return to away from the spittoons and note-takers, wines to bring into the home and share with friends and family. Which is fitting, really, given that this is a Christmas post.
Ambriel, Blanc de Blancs, 2010 (cellar door or www.ambrielsparkling.com)
When this wine was launched in September I had the pleasure to taste it with the husband and wife team behind Ambriel. They are deeply passionate about English fizz and the small pocket of Sussex where they make their small-batch wines. They also believe in ageing wines ‘properly’ before release, hence the six year wait for this 100% Chardonnay.
It’s a tight, rich and creamy offering with an abundance of mature and tertiary characters but a zip of green apple fruit and acidity too.
David Franz, Georgie’s Walk Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 (imported into the UK by The Knotted Vine)
Textbook Cab from Barossa and Eden Valley, this has it all: red and black fruit, spice, liquorice and a delicious mouth-coating chocolate and mint finish. Sweet oak glues it all together. A big, bold, brilliant wine.
Domaine of the Bee, The Bee-Side, 2015 (Arcadian Wines)
Smashing label, smashing wine. I first encountered this at Esoterica at the London Wine Fair and it’s been a firm drink-at-home fave ever since (we had six bottles the other night… note there were 10 of us). It’s juicy and elegant with spice and brambly fruit and just enough grip on the tannins not to let it turn into a jammy tangle.
Could drink this all night, in fact we did.
Domaine Jones ‘Les Perles de Jones’ Grenache Gris 2014 (DCW)
I’m always impressed by Katie Jones’ wines, but none more so that this tasted at her autumn showcase in London.
At first it’s chunky and chewy with upfront vanilla and smoked cream, then the wine sort of changes in the mouth and becomes lush and long and rich bringing out the greengage and conference pear fruit. Quite something.
Henschke, ‘The Rose Grower’, Eden Valley, Nebbiolo, 2013 (Enotria & Coe)
This was the stand-out wine at the Australian Women in Wine tasting, knocking all the ‘native’ Aussie varieties in the room into a cocked hat. With 60-70 days skin-contact the Nebbiolo grape is made to work and the results are stunning: a pure and perfumed wine that just soars.
It was at the launch of the Krug 2004 that I first tasted the 2002 and it was even better than the ‘newcomer’. It’s all toast, honey and nuts with a smattering of white peach. There’s a delicious Sherbet Dip Dab acidity that tingles on the tongue at the finish too. Fluted elegance.
Martin Obenaus, URTYP Steinfass, 2014 (seeking UK importer)
It was on a late-autumn trip to the Weinvertel DAC to the north east of Vienna that I encountered this Austrian stunner. URTYP is an orange-style Grüner Veltliner made by a dynamic young winemaker with a topknot.
With a year on the skins the result is a herby, peppery and fresh wine that was quite stunning in its purity and verve. Please someone import this in 2018.
Szepsy, Furmint Estate, 2015 (Top Selection)
The most ‘on-trade’ wine of the year? Possibly. But not intentionally, it’s just that somms love to get their knickers in a twist over wines made in this arguably ‘difficult’ style. Get past the cider apple tang and there’s a lime and spice explosion and leanness that’s racy, and very delicious, indeed.
Thorne & Daughters, Paper Kite, 2016 (Dreyfus Ashby)
Purity and restraint are the name of the game in this 100% Semillon from one of the Cape’s most impressive winemakers. John Seccombe at Thorne & Daughters gets the balance just right here between bruised apple and spiced pear fruit and more tertiary notes of lanolin and smoky bacon.
It’s just so bloody refined and more-ish. Like good heroin, I suppose.
The Drift Farm, ‘Gift Horse’ Barbera, 2015 (Alliance)
Like a velvet smoking jacket, this is warm, indulgent and pungent. Not often you see a Barbera from the Cape, but I’d like to see more if it’s like this – characterful and opulent with raspberry fruit, dried herbs and clean acidity. Just wow.