Story and photo by Manos Angelakis
The 10 Best wines I enjoyed in 2016.
All these represent the kind of wine I love. I loved them and I hope you’ll love them as well. If you don’t, it’s OK; they will at least give you a starting point to explore different possibilities.
From Priorat, in Catalonia, Spain. Clos Galena 2009 from Domini de la Cartoixa; a blend of Garnacha Negra 40%, Samsó 20%, Syrah 20%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 20%. This world-class wine is exceptional. Though it was 17-year young as tasted, this opaque, dark beauty enchanted with aromas of dark fruit, eucalyptus, saddle leather, cedar and hints of exotic spices. The palate is full bodied, bold and elegant with exceptional complexity. The long finish shows balsamic and spice notes and good mineral acidity. I would suggest decanting and allowing the wine to settle for about an hour prior to drinking it. This will allow the oak that is evident when first opened to dissipate in the background and the fruit to step forward. The wine was great with an oven roasted leg of lamb with lemon and oregano potatoes.
Also from Spain, but from the Emporda DO, 2007 Finca Garbet, a single vineyard monovarietal wine from Castillo Parellada. Another dark ruby Catalan beauty; it is an organic Crianza that was aged in American oak barrels for 14 months. It is a hand-harvested, multiple-passes-through-the-vineyard, 100% Syrah wine that is produced only in years deemed exceptional. The vines are young, planted in 1997. Dark red colored, almost opaque, with a rather powerful nose with balsamic nuances. Intense and concentrated and initially a bit austere on the palate. Big but elegant floral aromas with hints of cigar box, black cherries, leather and a trace of spice. Full bodied with fine tannins that has the possibility of very long life. It is another wine that needs decanting prior to consumption.
From Chile’s Puente Alto Maipo vineyard, 2011 Don Melchor from Concha y Toro. It is a single vineyard blend of 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc. The majority of the vines were brought from Bordeaux pre-phylloxera, in the late 19th century. This almost monovarietal ultra-premium classic wine represents the apex of a top winemaker’s capabilities. Enrique Tirado excites me with gorgeous aromas of forest berries, eucalyptus, black currants and sandalwood complemented by tobacco and hints of chocolate. The body is full with well balanced and integrated tannins, silky slate notes and spice with vibrant acidity. We had this wine with magret de canard, with a green peppercorn cream sauce. Properly cellared, this wine will have a very long life of 40 years or more.
From Mendoza in Argentina, the 2014 Septima Obra Malbec. At first I thought it was a Shiraz/Malbec blend but it is actually a monovarietal that has a definite spiciness and tannins on a long finish, which is unusual for a Malbec. Bodega Septima is a well respected winery founded by the Codorníu Raventós family of Catalonia in the Luján de Cuyo area of Mendoza, and the wines they produce are very enjoyable and smooth with what I would consider a Catalan winemaker’s warmth. The nose is pretty straight forward for an Argentinean Malbec with aromas of blackberries, black cherries, and mixed berry jam with a touch of floral vanilla and a tantalizing hint of violets and dark cocoa. It has soft supple tannins with great concentration and minerality. This is not an expensive wine, yet it can stand toe-to-toe with wines of much more impressive provenance.
From Western Tuscany’s Maremma Toscana, a red that will delight any wine aficionado: the 2009 Pianirossi Solus. This is what the best wines from the area should taste; medium to full body, fine structure, fresh with remarkable acidity and a crisp strong finish. It is a blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Alicante, with plums, dates, figs and brandied cherries on the nose and hints of oaky vanilla, cocoa and tobacco leaf. It is another wine that should be decanted prior to drinking.
In Germany, the Mosel region’s Riesling wines are considered some of the best examples of the winemaker’s art. During my recent cruise through the area I had the great fortune to have one of the best Rieslings I have ever tasted with a meal. The 2014 Riesling Auslese Bernkasteler Doctor from the Dr. H. Thanisch, Erben Müller-Burggraef winery is a low alcohol (8% ABV) fantastic white wine that, because of the high aromas and acidity, pairs very well with practically any kind of dish -- with the exception of very heavy goulashes and game meats. Beautifully aromatic, the wine showed honeysuckle, pure fruit and acidity that delighted. The palate exhibited complex notes of ripe peaches, honey, apricots and mandarin oranges, enhanced by hints of pineapple, ginger and lychee. Another wine that becomes better with age when properly cellared.
During the same trip, I also tried wines from another top German producer with numerous plots in the Bernkastel region. Winegut Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler creates remarkable Riesling wines, especially ones from the Badstube am Doctorberg as well as the Wehlener Sonnenhur, the Bernkasteler Schlossberg and the Bernkasteler Lay vineyards. An impressive example was the 1979 Bernkasteler Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese, an extremely aromatic wine, redolent of stone fruit, especially ripe peaches and apricots, with hints of honeysuckle and toffee. This wine proves that a well-made Riesling can be as seductive and long lived as any famous wine from other parts of Europe.
The 1976 Château Climens, is a legendary wine from the Sauternes-Barsac region, created at Château Climens by Bérénice Lurton, a member of the Lurton family; a most influential French wine dynasty with wineries in Bordeaux and many other winemaking regions of the world. As the oldest of the wines at our lunch it had acquired the beauty of age: 18 karat old-gold color, heady aromas of toffee, butterscotch, candied citrus and a very faint hint of dark honey and caramel. Absolutely gorgeous!
From Eastern Canada, a definitely dessert wine, the 2011 Vin de Glace (ice wine) from Le Cep d’Argent. Ice wine is a very delectable sweet product that is produced mostly in Germany, Austria, Canada, Hungary and a few other northern countries. By law, the grapes have to freeze on the vine at -7° C or lower prior to harvesting and vinification. That means that pickers have to be up in the middle of the night to hand select, berry by berry, the grapes to be processed in the winery. It also means that, with global warming fewer and fewer wineries can produce ice wine. In Germany, there are only a couple wineries that were able to produce ice wine in the last four or five years, and not every one every year. In Eastern Canada, because of the latitude, they have produced ice wine almost consistently in the last decade. I drink ice wine instead of dessert and treasure the few bottles that I have.
Finally, the 1985 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port. I opened my last bottle of this wonderful port that I have been saving to celebrate my 75th birthday. Port vintages are declared when a port-producing estate feels that their wine is of the highest quality. The 1985 is one of only three "declared" vintages in the 1980's. It was round and velvety on the palate with intense ripe blackberry, plum, licorice, and butterscotch nose. Figs and ripe dates on the palate with rum-raisin and chocolate hints, and a jammy finish.
Ten excellent wines; from big and bold to smooth and silky, these wines graced my table and gave me pleasure in 2016. A few were expensive; others were underpriced for the quality they represented. I enjoyed all of them and I hope you will as well!
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