Top of the Wine Pops 2013
2013 has been a cracking year – I have tasted so many great wines, attended some amazing events, visited some fabulous bars and eaten some incredible food. The time has come for me to pick my favourites…
My sister-in-law laughs at me for the rules that I create for myself – one of them being every time I go out for dinner, my fellow diners and I are made (by me) to put our courses in order of preference… I have become rather obsessive about this. I love this time of year, as it’s full of top 100’s, top 50’s and top 10’s. It’s a time of year where I like to compare my notes with others and to cross-reference experiences. When I was a teenager it was the top 100 singles and albums in the NME, these days it’s wine, restaurants and more wine.
So here are my wine and gastro highlights from 2013:
Let’s start with some fizz. I’m more of a glass of fizz then onto the whites and red kind of guy, but this year there I have been lucky enough to taste some magnificent sparklers. Two of them I first tasted when I visited Camel Valley back in February, the third is possibly my bargain of 2013:
Camel Valley Chardonnay Brut 2009, Cornwall, UK (£24.95)
100% Chardonnay. Vanilla and floral nose. Rich and creamy palate with a peachy fruitiness and a pleasant biscuit-lick on the finish. Gentle and elegant, like a kiss. So good but so modest. This is an ethereal wine that gets better with every sip. A tasting glass simply isn’t enough. 94 points
Camel Valley White Pinot Noir 2010, Cornwall, UK (£29.95)
100% Pinot Noir. This smells like it should be pink – so much so I had to re-check the colour! Wild strawberries just jump right out of the glass. It’s like a fine strawberry tart with a buttery pastry casing and a touch of vanilla lifting it further. Pure class. 93 points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Cremant de Loire Blanc NV, Loire, France (€8.00 from chateau, @£15 retail)
A Blanc de Noirs made from 100% Cabernet Franc and without a doubt the best value wine of my whole trip through Bordeaux and the Loire this summer… if not the best value wine of all time! There’s soft red fruit but a refreshing bite of Granny Smith apple. A delightful fizz if tiny bubbles and a honeyed, slightly toasty finish. If you’re planning a party then order a dozen, and another dozen for yourself! 92 points (Note: I opened a bottle as soon as I got home to check it was really that good… It was!)
Onto the whites… this year I am really please with list as my top 5 wines are made from 5 different grapes and come from 4 different countries…. I’m a truly global Wine Geek!
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2012, Clare Valley, South Australia (The Wine Society £25.00)
I think this could be the best new world Riesling available. It’s certainly the best I’ve tried. I was worried that it may be too early to drink but that was a load of tripe! There is so much fruit on the nose and palate it is almost endless. So much lemon and lime and then comes the passion fruit and slight hint of mango. Add in the delightfully flint-like minerality, beautiful acidity and an almost endless finish and you’ve got the perfect New World Riesling (that will improve as those wonderful petrol flavours develop). Wow, just wow. I need a case to try a bottle every year… But I think I might struggle to keep hold of them for very long! 95 points
Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2010, Central Otago, NZ (Roberson £49.95)
Everyone bangs on about the Sauvignon Blanc coming out of New Zealand but for me, Chardonnay is where it’s at. The aromas and flavours of warm toasty oak and leesy-ness hits you straight between the eyes before the waves the waves of sublime tropical fruit come at you; pineapple, honeydew melon and peach are all in evidence. It’s soft and warm and has such a wonderful balance of fruit, acid and oak, with impressive weight and texture. Fabulous. 95 points
Henri Bourgeois Cuvée D’Antan Sancerre, Loire, France 2007
Absolutely glorious balance of subtle citrus, mango and passion fruit, whispering acidity and slatey mineral. It’s delicate, charming and oh so complex. This is the kind of wine that puts Sauvignon Blanc in the same league as the best white Burgundies. 94 points
Domaine Vincent Careme Le Peu Morier Demi-Sec Vouvray, Loire, France (The Wine Society £18.00)
So much fruity character on the nose – mango, orange, almost marmalade. Beautiful balance of sweetness and acidity – it reminds me of a tin of pineapple chunks. I love this style of wine and I especially love the balance and complexity of this one. Pure summer in a glass. 93 points
Sera da Estrela Albarino 2011, Rias Baixas, Spain (Wine & the Vine £14.25)
There really is nothing to dislike about this wine. Lots of fruity intensity on the nose with apple, peach and even a touch of the tropics. All of the fruit is there in the mouth too and its quite full bodied; a lovely texture. The fruit stays with you for quite one time and the saltiness of quality Albariño is there at the end. Lovely stuff for any occasion. 92 points
The red wines are also an eclectic mix of varieties and locations… There is just so much great stuff available these days!
Comte Armand 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux Pommard 2001, Burgundy (The Wine Society £48.00)
Sometimes you open a wine with such anticipation and are very disappointed. Sometimes it exceeds your expectation… This is incredible. The aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries, leather and truffle are truly intoxicating. And then the taste. Those wild strawberries, some black cherry, a lovely brooding intensity and an amazing damp forest and mushroom complexity. But it doesn’t stop there because there is spice. Five spice; a touch of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and some others I can’t quite fathom. All wrapped up in beautiful silky tannins. I’m in heaven. 96 points
Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano 2006, Piedmont, Italy (Wine & The Vine £36.75)
Barolo can be so very disappointing unless you spend a bit of money and is often sold far too young… But this was great. Aromas of sweet cherries with a hint of red fruit, maybe a whiff of raspberry, but it the leathery, spicy and slight barnyard smells that really give this the edge. On the palate the red fruits are to the fore and the tannins provide huge structure, which dissolve beautifully into spice and earth. Like a premier Cru Burgundy on steroids. 94 points
Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel 2004, Paso Robles, California (2006 available at Fine & Rare £26.40)
The nose is mainly red fruits with just a hint of blackcurrant along with the autumnal hedgerow herbs I expect from the southern Rhone and some wonderfully developed smoke. The texture is rich, velvety and smooth. On the palate the fruit is darker with a hint of juicy red currants. The dried herbs and gentle black pepper combine beautifully with fresh acidity and very soft tannins. I would be convinced this came from the Rhone and not California if had been served blind. Excellent drop. 94 points
Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Rioja, Spain (Sainsbury’s £17.99)
Strawberries, ripe red cherries, a hint of tea, worn leather and just a touch of vanilla. 12 years on from harvest this Gran Riserva is as fresh and bright as a button. Light bodied but plenty of super-fine tannin and a delicate and delightful finish. Very classy. 93 points
Perez Cruz Carmenere Limited Edition 2009, Maipo, Chile (Wine & the Vine £14.95)
This is really classy stuff – Carmenere is a Chile’s secret weapon. Heaps of dark plumy fruit with hints of chocolate, liquorice and a slight herbaciousness. There are waves and waves of aromas and flavours and it seems to last forever. Really top notch stuff and very decent value. 93 points
I spend loads of time reading wine blogs and trawling the ‘net, thirsty for information and inspiration. There are so many talented communicators out there at the moment but there is one site that makes me smile, keeps me entertained, and talks about wine in a totally approachable manner – take a look – wine should be fun and Wine Folly certainly delivers!
Best wine bar
Without doubt the easiest category of 2013… I thank the wine gods for the full time arrival of Sager & Wilde. 25 splendid wines by the glass, served by engaging, knowledgeable and happy staff… I just wish I lived closer!
Best wine shop
Wine & the Vine in Radlett was my choice last year and it remains my go-to place on a monthly or weekly basis – great banter and excellent range of wines. However, for the sheer experience and opulence, my wine shop of the year goes to Hedonism in Mayfair… So good I’ve written about it twice!
I have been to a number of fantastic tasting events this year and also visited some wonderful producers in Bordeaux and the Loire. There are four (I had to add in JJ Prum!) that really stood out:
Last week I wrote about a tasting of 11 vintages of CUNE Vina Real, covering 6 decades at the West London Wine School – what a way to round off my tasting schedule in 2013:
Also at the West London Wine School was a tasting that changed me forever as a wine drinker… A tasting of JJ Prum’s spectacular tastings (and thanks Jimmy for reminding me!):
Earlier in the year I attended a tasting of wines from the amazing village of Vosne Romanee in Burgundy at Roberson’s wonderful wine shop in Kensington… and got my first taste of Domaine Romanee Conti:
I never expected a tasting of (mainly) Sauvignon Blanc to be so enjoyable, but a visit to Henri Bourgeois in Chavignol proved to be terrific!
I was going to write that my favourite meals out this year have not been in fancy Michelin starred establishments… then I remembered the meal we had at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw back in February!
But other than that wonderful experience, this year has been all about the burger. The burger revolution has hit London right between the eyes and I love it – these are my favourite burger joints.
#1 Five Guys Leicester Square – the most obviously fast food joint but the burgers are absolutely incredible… 2 wonderfully cooked patties and you select what else you want on it. Make sure you play with the Coke vending machine too… you’ll see what I mean when you go!
#2 Honest Burger Soho – go to the restaurant, they book you in on iPad and call you when your table us ready. Burgers are sublime – cooked to perfection, great buns and chips. Beetroot coleslaw also superb
#3 Patty & Bun – be prepared to queue for 30 mins but you won’t be disappointed. As well as fine burgers, the confit chicken wings are awesome.
#4 Meat Liquor – be prepared to queue again. Burgers very good but the star of the show are the deep fried onion rings and deep fried pickles. This place is very dark and just a bit too cool for school!
So that’s 2013 almost done and dusted; Christmas and New Year to go… I wonder what 2014 will have in store?
Wishing you all a brilliant Christmas and a happy new year!