Like every other oenophile I can’t help but play out my own winey “Big Year” and check off how many of the Top 100 I got to try. Next I look to see how many are on the shelf in my store in case I get a few cherry pickers looking for someone else’s opinion on the best wines of the year. This is the bittersweet aspect of this annual event: so many of these best wines were sold out half way through the year, because they already garnered great scores and reviews (which predict who will be in the top tier). Yes, you can discover new wineries to then jump on next year, hoping that the next vintage is comparable, though every year is inherently different.
Since I’ve been in the business about a quarter of a century, I think of the list as a Who’s Who from my many years. I can remember when Mollydooker first hit the scene, so I am not surprised to see “The Carnival of Love” 2012 at # 2 (though most stores are already selling the next vintage). In my store we have another cult favorite, Orin Swift’s Machete 2012 (#33)—whoops, I just sold that yesterday. So you see the pattern, and though we carry many products, I have had only about 10% of the list in my store and some have already changed vintage. So what does this list do for me, or for you, our regular guest? It gives us insight into the current trends and maybe guides us to something to seek out next year. We have the Chryseia 2011 from Prats & Symington (#3) in my store right now. Portugal has truly arrived with the Top wine being Dow’s Vintage Porto 2011 (good luck finding it anywhere) and three of the top five wines are from Portugal this year.
“The List” can also be a great reminder of wines that we’ve enjoyed from past vintages or past excursions to wine countries. I visited Di Majo Norante, maker of Ramitello 2011 (#74), about a decade ago, during a major European power outage, but there were no issues since they used wood burning ovens and had plenty of candles. Alessio welcomed us into his home and treated us to an incredible meal paired with his fantastic wines. I remember how impressed I was with their operation taking a modern twist on Old World varietals and years later he still gets awards. Adapting to an ever-changing world palate, while still maintaining tradition and history, can be difficult. Creating new blends, like the Super-Tuscans (or Super-Venetos or Super-Molise) has kept Italy modern and relevant.
When I was in France earlier this year Gerard Betrand was in every wine shop, and now we see his wine on our most prestigious list. He has “arrived” and will be even more visible next year. That is a direct impact of this list. My own top discoveries for the year have to include our amazing line of Chilean wines from Casas del Bosque. No doubt the best Chilean Cabernet I’ve had in quite a while, and it’s under $20 per bottle. Their Carmenere is also outstanding, plus the Pinot Noir, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay. When I helped out at a recent ABC wine tasting I sampled out The Frenchie, a red blend, and have to acknowledge that this gimmicky label has a stunning fruit bomb of a wine behind it. Who doesn’t know a dog lover who would like to have a great quality wine with a dog on the label? The Frenchie Chardonnay is true cougar juice, buttery and rich, like the Top 100 Rombauer Chardonnay, but for under $20 per bottle.
Lastly I have to mention Jules Taylor whose wines have continued to impress, and she’s branching out from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc into Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and Austria’s Gruner Veltliner. She is an incredible winemaker, and all of her wines are worth a taste. As you end this year, think back on some of your own favorites and maybe create a themed party where everyone brings their own top wine, rather than what’s published (and hardly available). We can all vote on our own Top 100 (or just Top 10) and remember that wine is subjective and our palate has just as much validity as the experts. Though I have to note there are no Moscatos on this list. Just sayin’… Cheers!
Daniel Eddy, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine consultant – Gainesville
Wine Pairing Examiner for Examiner.com