With fingers in so many pies – wine consultant, importer, online retailer, writer and restaurateur – Mike Turner can always be relied on to come up with some fascinating choices of wine to put on your radar. Looking back at the wines that moved him over the past 12 months, he is recommending you catch up with them over the next 12 months – not so much a Best Of 2021 as a What’s Hot In 2022. Take it away Mike.
“It’s another funky, hipster, low intervention, skin contact, amphorae-aged orange wine. But not all of those are nice. Far from it. This, however, was nice. It was very nice indeed,” writes Turner about Brash Higgins Zibibbo 2018.
When Peter Dean sends out the “what are everyone’s Wines of the Year?” email at the end of December, I’ve usually mentally clocked off for the year. It’s with my apologies that I’m about to look back at 2021 at the start of January 2022 when we should be looking forward to what’s to come in the new year. Hopefully this list can give a few of you a few ideas for wines to keep an eye out for at 2022 portfolio tastings, wherever and however they may be held.
So without further ado, in no particular order, here are a little selection of some lovely wines that caught my eye in 2021…
Paret Seca Xarel-lo 2020, Catalunya, Spain
I was lucky to be in touch with three really great natural wine producers in Catalunya around spring time. Cristina from Can-Vi had approached me to see if I wanted to try the natural wine in cans they were producing. I did and really liked how interesting they were in terms of taste and also story and thought I could bring over a handful of cases for my modest wine events company. Conversations over a potential mixed pallet led to me to be introduced to Eva Vega from Vega Aixala and Ivà Gallego Santacana from Paret Seca, also both low intervention winemakers looking for distribution in the UK.
As I was deliberating over what to order, the group had great news that Good Brothers Wine in Scotland were going to pick them up, and in larger volumes than I would have. Good news because that means you guys can all have a crack at these lovely wines. If you like your natural wines, you HAVE to try these sets of ranges from a mix of Catalunyan and international grape varieties.
It was a tough choice to decide on my favourite, but by a nose the Paret Seca Xarel-lo 2020 has it. Paret Seca was a lockdown project form Penedes local, Ivà, who sourced parcels of biodynamically farmed Macabeo and Xarel-lo and went about creating stunning low intervention wines. The Xarel-lo has amazing flavour intensity with an overriding savouriness from six months on skins in clay amphorae. Plenty to keep the hipsters going here!
Rock of Wisdom Superfly 2020, Barossa Valley, Australia
In August I headed down to London to watch England playing India in the 2nd test at Lords. One of the joys of Lords is that you can bring a bottle of wine into the ground per person, so armed with a couple of samples that I hadn’t tried yet, a picnic hamper festooned with Scotch eggs and salt and vinegar crisps, and my best mate (and fellow cricket nut) Miles, we took our seats on a cold, damp August morning. The weather didn’t improve much, and the cricket was a tad frustrating (for those who care, it was the day that India’s ninth wicket stand in the second innings took the absolute p*ss), but the wines we brought in were pretty special.
Chief of the two was a perfect afternoon guzzler in Rock of Wisdom’s Superfly 2020 from Barossa Valley. A blend of near-as-damn-it 50:50 Grenache and Mataro, again very minimal intervention winemaking (touch of old oak to settle), the red fruit explosion, medium body, and soft supple tannins made this a firm favourite on the day. Pick this one up from Jon at Nekter Wines.
1006 Vins De Loire Marine 2020, Loire Valley, France
In July I headed down to Little Venice to the London Shell Company’s narrowboat function room as Graft Wine invited a few of us down to try a couple of their new lines. I love Graft’s portfolio and use quite a few of their wines for my events, so couple that to the chance to actually physically get out of the bloody house… I was there!
Two new producers on show, across a very tasty lunch as we chunted up and down the Regents Park Canal to Camden and back, were Vigneti Cenci from Franciacorta, and 1006 Vins de Loire. The Cenci bubbles were a very good standard of Franciacorta, lovely start to the day by all means, but the 1006 Vins de Loire were the stand out. A range of… yep you guessed it… minimal intervention wines from up and down the 1006 kms of the Loire River valley, including wines made from Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc, Grolleau, and Gamay. I had a lovely table with Zoe and Ant from The Cheltenham Grape, and Paola Tich from Vindinista in Acton. I think we were all fans and had our different favourites (mine being the Melon), and I’d encourage anyone with a Loire-shaped gap in your wine lists to get in touch with Nik at Graft when you get a chance.
Seppeltsfield Grenache 2018, Barossa Valley, Australia
In early September I took my wife up to Edinburgh for her 40th. It’s where we met when I was up there doing my Masters, so it’s always a pleasure to head back and see the huge changes (for the better) that have taken place in the city over the past years. We were also able to tag on Bancroft’s Autumn/Winter tasting to the end of the trip, another importer whose wines I’ve really come to trust over the months of my wine events taking off.
I actually wrote this tasting up for The Buyer, which you can read HERE Again, by a hair’s breadth, my favourite on the day was the Seppeltsfield Grenache 2018 from Barossa. The wine was packed with expressive red fruit and floral spice, it was an utter joy to smell and taste. It’s from a warm region with a high alcohol grape variety, so the alcohol could get away from them. As much as there was definitely a warmth to it, however, it was perfectly in balance. The finish was super long with those gorgeous strawberries and red plums and rose petal notes. Well worth getting in touch with your local Bancroft sales rep to chat about.
Miss Vicky Wines, Ô Joie 2019, Fleurie, France (250ml Cans)
Some people will know Anne-Victoire Monrozier from her time as a wine blogger in France under the moniker Miss Vicky Wine, but she’s also a wine producer based in Fleurie, Beaujolais, at her family’s Château des Moriers. Now producing two ranges of wines, the Château Des Moriers label is traditional Fleurie with some beautiful aged examples available, and then the Miss Vicky Wines label which are more modern styles, including the thoroughly smashable Ô Joie.
In keeping with the modern outlook of the Miss Vicky range, Anne-Victoire has made the Ô Joie, Fleurie AOC available in 250ml cans which, along with her friend Dominique Martin’s “Ocean” Muscadet AOC are (I believe) the first AOC wines in a can available in the UK. Canned wine will only work if better producers are brave enough to put their wines in cans, and purely for that reason this wine made it into my list for 2021. The cans are wholesale directly from Anne-Victoire, or retail they’re available from Borough Wines and the Brixton Wine Club.
Brash Higgins Zibibbo 2018, Riverland, Australia
My good friend, the very generous Peter Ranscombe, sent me this bottle down to try as he knew it would be right up my street. It’s another funky, hipster, low intervention, skin contact, amphorae-aged orange wine. But not all of those are nice. Far from it. This, however, was nice. It was very nice indeed.
Zibibbo, or Muscat of Alexandriato to its friends, is a bit of a curiosity at the best of times, but when you get grapes from bush-trained, 75 year old vines in the highly regarded Ricca Terra Farms in Riverland? Sounds fun, right? 180 days on skins in clay amphorae, and bottled both unfined and unfiltered. Really intense stone fruit, floral, and honeyed flavours, and a dry, tannic, and almost savoury finish. Great complexity, lots of fun, and part of what is allegedly a brilliant range (I’ve not tried the full range) that you can pick up from Berkmann.
Pazo Señorans Selección De Añada 2010, Rias Baixas, Spain
I had to give up alcohol for four weeks across November and December for a pretty shitty family matter, but had this bottle earmarked as one I was really looking forward to trying when I was allowed to pop corks once more.
Another kind donation from a friend following his trip to Galicia a couple of years before, I’m always very keen to try something out of the ordinary, and an Albariño from Rias Baixas with 10 years of vat/bottle age is not your everyday wine! Using the finest grapes of the harvest and intended for ageing, this wine had been aged on lees for nearly three years before being bottled and released. Without trying to sound to twee, you could still smell and taste the sea, but with a much fuller body, and a honeyed almond overlay to the tropical and citrus fruits and saline minerality. The 2011 recently got a Decanter Platinum Medal, so we can’t both be wrong! Pazo Señorans wines are brought in by Alliance Wine.
Château Lynch Bages 1988, Pauillac, France
Maybe a slightly strange addition to the list. It’s not exactly anything new. Wine-lover-picks-aged-Bordeaux shock! But how often do you get to try 1988 Lynch Bages? A wine that still had a great mix of primary, secondary and tertiary notes, plenty of refreshing acidity, and a supremely long and luxury finish.
And the beauty of it is that you can try it too, all thanks to Bibendum’s Bordeaux Cellar Project that I wrote about a little bit earlier this year, which showcases a range of aged Bordeaux wines from partner châteaux, available direct from the châteaux cellars and by the bottle, to open this segment of Bordeaux back to a UK hospitality that had begun to turn their back on high-end Bordeaux in recent years.
Two Paddocks, Last Chance, 2004, Central Otago, New Zealand
Slightly cheeky one to end with as it’s not exactly a widely available wine, but one that held a huge place in my heart this year.
When we went to Edinburgh for my wife’s birthday, we stayed up with that wine writer friend I mentioned earlier, Peter Ranscombe. He was telling us of a local Co-Op (although not called that in Edinburgh) that was selling some belting wines at half price, clearly where the new store managers didn’t really know what they had in their back room. We headed on down and there they were, a large range of sub £8 wines and two random SKUs on the top shelf. They were the Two Paddocks, Last Chance 2004 from Central Otago for about £20, and Grgich Hills Merlot 2002 from Napa for about £25. These are about half price for the recent vintages, let alone the rarer aged examples. So Pete and I bought the rest of their stock, only about eight bottles in total, but not going to pass that opportunity up!
Two Paddocks holds a place in the heart of me and my wife as it was one of the first Planet of the Grapes wine dinner, with Matt and Stef and the team, we ever attended together. The Two Nigels, as they called themselves, were introducing their wines over a sumptuous set of courses. The Two Nigels are Nigel Greening of Felton Road and Sam Neill of Two Paddocks (born Nigel Neill). Nigel Greening is one of the most captivating people I’ve ever listened to – very funny and an astute guy. Sam Neill brought the Hollywood aura of course, but is 100% serious about Two Paddocks being the best winery it can be. Between them (and their teams) they make some of the finest wines in Central Otago, if not New Zealand. So to have a bottle of the 2004 Last Chance on Linn’s birthday this year was lovely for her. And to get it on the cheap was lovely for me!
So that’s it for my highlights of 2021. Thanks for reading, do check out the wines above in 2022, and have a very happy and prosperous New Year!
Mike Turner runs Feel Good Grapes, an e-commerce and online tastings company showcasing the increasingly sustainable practices in the wine industry. To contact him use this address: firstname.lastname@example.org