I was thinking just this week that I didn’t declare what my wine of the year was. There was no ceremony. No trophy, nor a jumbo cheque with my face on it. Just silence, as Andrew turned off the computer for a few days and went to the beach.
So then, very quickly, let me present the four greatest wines I drank last year.
There’s an important distinction in that sentence – it’s the ‘drank’ part. That’s because, while I tasted many highlights across a bunch of wine shows, press tastings and a thousand samples, these are the four greatest wines I actually consumed in 2021.
And I can’t afford to regularly drink any of them. Especially not the $550 Blain-Gagnard…
Blain-Gagnard Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2018
Opened and tasted blind, and then emptied non-blind at Meerea Park’s big birthday lunch, this white epitomises what Grand Cru Burgundy is all about.
It instantly smells like Burgundy too. Very fine white fruit and lemon custard. Obvious fine, sulphur reductive notes. Screams Burgundy with its distinctive mix of overt nutty richness backed by driving acidity. Has this white stony sulphur character the palate a pure flow of understated fruit. Adolescent. Super pure. Superb. 19/20, 96/100.
Delas Freres ‘Les Bessards’ Hermitage 2018
Also opened at the Meerea Park’s luncheon (a few of the whites are in the picture above) and a resounding star. A reminder that Hermitage, when it’s good, is very fucking good.
So glossy, so bright, so delicious. I hate to say, but this is next-level. Excellent tannins has this vein of cranberry, hung meat and compact tannins. Fascinating to see how rich and mouth-filling and even quite new world-y in its slickness, yet still obviously mid-weight and precisely drawn. Dammit this is good. 19/20, 96/100.
Stonyridge Larose 2005
Opened for my 40th birthday last year and what a wine. Every time I open these older Larose bottles I kick myself for not buying more before the price went to dumb territory. A Waiheke Island blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the rest of Bordeaux quintet. This could out-Bordeaux many a wine too, yet with a mid-palate ripeness that is Waiheke all the way. Lovely wine. Still bright red coloured, bright and energetic. Obviously, Bordeaux is the inspo, but this is different. Some brick dust development on the nose, but quintessential Cab Merlot. Mid-weight, the tannins a fine dust storm that fills all the extra crevices. This enlivens you. The fruit is a downplay, but it’s perfectly ripe enough. Dark berries, bark, the only thing that you could accuse this of could be firm tannins. Otherwise a near-perfect Waiheke red. Wow. 19/20, 96/100.
Yalumba Caley Cabernet Shiraz 2016
Opened as part of the Yalumba Caley lunch and gee it looked good. Something grandiose, that tastes like the very best in Australian red wine. A storied blend of Coonawarra Cabernet with a little Barossa Shiraz in it. The 2014 vintage release is pictured above, which was also very good.
The Cabernet really plays a part here – you could call this a Coona Cab and pretend it didn’t have any Shiraz in it. Super polished. Classy polished. Long, fine, Bordeaux-like tannins and minimal mint. Lovely tannins. What a wine. A long, proudly Australian, formidably powerful red. Will need another five years to unfurl. Grand, with icon levels of concentration, it’s probably the best balanced of all the Caley releases. 19/20, 96/100.
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