It’s getting to the time of year where the best of lists are starting to appear. There is one more tasting before New Year’s Eve, so I’m taking a chance here, it may need correction later on, but then again, I doubt a wine matching any of these will turn up. I’m starting out with a few wines that are either best from their country or that experience wise could easily have been on here, but that on pure quality could not be. The oldest not fortified wine this year was a beautiful 1918 Château Haut-Brion from a vertical tasting in Oslo. Even the representative from the estate wrote a tasting note on this one, seemingly no one at Haut-Brion had tasted it. A beautiful terracotta minerality, figs, leather, prunes, earthy, mulberries and raspberries. Few tannins left, playful acidity. What an experience. (94) Another oldie was 1922 Vega-Sicilia Unico, two very different bottles tasted, one oxidized and gone, the other displayed plums, spices, a few violets and some dark berries clinging to their life, still lightly exotic. Detailed if leaner. (93) These two wines are also representatives of the two greatest vertical tastings I’ve attended this year, and several wines from each producer could have easily gone on the top ten list, and some will.
There have been many great ones from Bordeaux as always, but two quite interesting ones were the 1948 Cos d’Estournel that came blind. Earthy, old, mature, figs, some minerals, very interesting to taste, especially since it came along about a week after a 1947 Cos d’Estournel with minerals, tobacco, raspberries, dark fruits and cedar. I always get in trouble for not having any Italian wines on my top ten lists, and this will be another of those years. My best from Italy this year was 1998 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé Riserva, a beauty of a wine, dense, cherries, anise, violets, roses, leather, layered, deep and evolving beautifully in the glass. A stunner. Only 480 bottles made. (96) Spain will be represented on the list below, even so Vega-Sicilia Unico 1970 tasted twice (not quite consistent notes) should also be mentioned (96) as well as the beautiful 1994 (96). Portugal’s finest for me this year was 2011 Taylor’s Vintage Port (just as last year), rich, layered, intense, deep, I scored it 98 last year, 97 this year. I should also mention a discovery this year in the affordable section, Aphros in Vinho Verde, a truly exciting producer of light and delicate wines, subtle and transparent, lovely.
I have tasted fewer US wines than usual this year, and none that are really up there. Anthill’s Pinot Noir’s have been a pleasant discovery and a few weeks back I had a lovely 2002 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. A few beautiful Dunn Howell Mountains have come my way as well. From Australia, 2010 Penfolds Grange just fell short of the list below, intense, layered, deep, nuanced, rich and very long. (97). Another great experience from Penfolds was 2012 Bin 12A Chardonnay, apples, minerals, some floral notes and popcorn and a refreshing 12,5% alcohol only. (91) Mac Forbes, Luke Lambert and a few others have also put Australia much more back on the map for me. There are things to follow down there. Back to Europe, 2002 Oremus Tokaji Eszencia was my top one from Hungary, it also fell just short of this list at 97, rich, intense, layered, exceptionally sweet, but never sticky.
Another thing that should be mentioned is the very interesting stuff that seems to be going on around the Mediterranean Sea. But forget Chardonnay, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Go for the grape varieties that you’ve never heard of. Those are the local ones, which can handle the climate. Now the producers have experimented with the famous ones and seems to be getting the confidence to seek for quality in the lesser known. Especially the white wines from the Greek islands and the mainland as well as some from Sardinia and Sicily are really interesting and should not be forgotten. You lose out; it’s as simple as that. Some of the reds are wines to try as well, but many still have high alcohol issues. But they should be in the back of your mind even so.
The next five wines could easily have ended up on the list below. 2012 Armand Rousseau Chambertin, detailed, charming, nuanced, layered, brilliant pure fruits. (98) 2005 Château Petrus, rich, intense, detailed, layered, scented, dark fruits. (98) 2010 Château Haut-Brion, intense, rich, layered, detailed, it may have an alcohol issue in the future but right now with its youthful fruit it’s stunning. (98) 1989 Château Margaux, tasted twice, the best bottle was stunning, nuanced, flirting, seductive, layered, in that exciting breaking point between youthful and showing evolved aromas. Stunning. (98) 1959 Château Haut-Brion, figs, mulberries, prunes, scented, cigars, cedar, minerals, jasmin, fruity lively, detailed, stunning! (98)
As I write this, 7552 wines have been tasted so far this year, and counting. The wines below are not necessarily following their score, the pleasure of them is also taken into account. There are quite a few 2010’s on the list, but they deserve to be there.
#10 1945 Château Haut-Brion, chocolate, red berries, minerals, pepper, floral, prunes, terracotta, cherries and leather, layered, detailed, gorgeous, sweet and sour, tea, figs, the list goes on and on. Superb. 98
#9 2010 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche, tasted twice, not consistent notes, the best bottle was open and forward, detailed, fruity, layered and with a gorgeous balance, long. 98
#8 2010 Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne, tasted twice, rich, layered, spicy, detailed, dark fruits, intense, nuanced, magnificent Syrah. 98
#7 1987 Vega-Sicilia Unico, served blind, rich, exotic, detailed, nuanced, elegant, layers upon layers, dark fruits, youthful but showing development, stunning. I was on 1986 Mouton Rothschild on this one. (This bottle was not in the Vega-Sicilia vertical tasting) 98
#6 1947 Château Haut-Brion, layered, rich, exotic, detailed, leather, minerals, plums, scented, floral, dried fruits, stunning wine. Richness of the vintage, still refreshing and vibrant. 99
#5 2010 Château Mouton-Rothschild tasted three times, flirting, exotic, detailed, layered, rich but finely balanced, young but absolutely gorgeous now even so. 100
#4 2008 Blain-Gagnard Le Montrachet, tasted blind. It needed hours to open up, it started out quite yellow fruity with playful minerality below. After three hours it became far more nuanced, layers of citrus, minerals, apples, floral notes and the balance of this wine was out of this world. Minutes of aftertaste. I thought it was Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet. 98
#3 2012 Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée, tasted twice, this beauty shows so many details, it’s layered, seductive, transparent yet intense, extremely pure, delicate, nuanced, and it’s like a library of flavours. Magic. 99
#2 1989 Château Haut-Brion, tasted twice, very consistent notes, layered, intense, seductive, open, showing some maturity but also very youthful, stunning as always. 100
#1 2010 Château Lafite Rothschild, a bit boring to have such a young wine as number one, but tasted three times with very consistent notes this year. This wine shows such a balance, pedigree, nuances, layers and the aftertaste is mindboggling. Fantastic length. 100