It’s the classic party question when you meet someone new and they discover that you are interested in wine: what is your favourite wine? I either duck the question or start on a laboured explanation about how wine is not really like that, the joy is in wine’s huge diversity. There is always something new to discover. This response is never what is required.
By contrast, one of the great things about finishing MW exams is the freedom that follows. One treat has been to thank those who really helped me by their support, companionship and, above all, putting together MW-style tastings. This involves a lot of work: researching past papers and sourcing the top quality wines which have that sense of place on which the whole exam rests. And it is an expensive business.
To thank those who have shared this path, I put together a tasting entitled ‘my favourite wines’. Needless to say you can’t do that in one evening, even if you have 12 wines. As a result, the list at the bottom of the page, the wines that should have been here, is just as important as those that did make the cut.
Here they are:
1. Lambrusco: Rinaldini Vecchio Moro Lambrusco dell’Emilia IGT NV. Good examples of Lambrusco have the fruit lift, the acidity and the tannins to match fatty food like prosciutto.
2. Pinot Gris: Az. Ag. Branko Collio Pinot Grigio 2016. Excellent example of PG from NE Italy with structure and body weight and a real freshness.
Champagne and Burgundy
3. Champagne: Bollinger La Grande Année 2004 – Pinot Noir dominant, fermented in old barrels, 8 years on lees. Remarkable savoury complexity and length; outstanding.
4. White Burgundy – Domaine Henri Boillot, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère, 2010: 80 year old vines, 60% made in 350 litre new oak barrels, the rest in 1 year old barrels. Fabulous white Burgundy; perfectly integrated white peach and vanilla spice oak, inner tension, great length.
5. Red Burgundy – Domaine Francois Lamarche, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, 2002: up to 20% not destemmed; 2-3 weeks on skins, aged 16-20 months in barrels, 60-100% new. Sublime Red Burgundy with fine mushroom and leather notes over red berried fruit, firm but fine tannins.
Red Bordeaux – what I learnt along the way (1):
6. Château Le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol, 2009; owned by top consultant Michael Rolland, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15-20 months in 100% new oak. The sort of bottle I would never have bought in the past but it does have exuberant red plum fruit and new oak, supported by chalky tannins.
Il cuore (‘the heart’)
7. Sangiovese – Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino, 2004; no winemaking details though some new oak barrels definitely involved: mature, sour cherry fruit with fine herbal and even meaty notes, long and savoury.
8. Corvina blend – Giuseppe Quintarelli, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, 2007: Said to be 55% Corvina and Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Croatina and Sangiovese. 50% of the fruit is dried but only for 2 months; aged in large barrels 6 years. Quintarelli’s vaguely affordable Valpolicella (Amarone is what the winery is known for), quite unlike anything we could normally associate with this denomination due to the high proportion of dried fruit. The wine has many years ahead of it despite its 12 years of maturity: layers of red cherry and red plum fruit, nutty tertiary notes, developed refined tannins, superb.
9. Nebbiolo: Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo, 2007. Textbook top quality Barolo with an imposing structure and layers of floral and red fruit, with just the beginnings of truffle tertiary notes. Good for another 20–30 years…
South Africa – what I learnt along the way (2):
10. Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bushvines, 2013; 88% Chenin (four separate areas including Skurberg), 12% very old Semillon, whole bunch, fermented in old barrels. A great example of a Chenin blend with fabulous concentration and that winning combination of fully ripe fruit and lively acidity.
11. Sadie Family, Cinsault, Pofadder 2015: whole clusters; kept on skins for a month; aged in old barrels for a year. Old vine Cinsault from S Africa is a real discovery for its fragrant floral notes along with fresh red fruit. This example also has the structure to age.
12. Fortified: Offley 20 year old Tawny, Douro, Porto: great combination of developed fruit, an elegance somehow combined with 20% abv, a testament to graceful mildly oxidative ageing
Things that should have been on the list
– Maremma Toscana – last night’s Massa Vecchia, La Querciola, Toscana IGT, 2009 (Sangiovese, Alicante blend)
– SYRAH: N Rhône, Eden Valley, Barossa Valley, S Africa
– Rioja – white and red
– white Bordeaux
– Sauternes and Tokaji
– Grüner Veltliner
– Many, many other Italian wines: Nero d’Avola, Etna rosso e bianco, Cerasuolo di Vittoria; Barbera; Soave; Aglianico; Trebbiano Abruzzese; Nero di Troia; Verdicchio; Fiano & Greco; TrentoDOC; Vin Santo
– Orange wines
– Madeira (if I had an old one it would have been in this tasting), Sherry & Marsala