It’s that time of year where one reflects on the successes and discoveries of the previous 12 months – and perhaps casts a glance ahead at what 2015 might bring. In wine terms it’s been a fascinating year of market trends; the resurgence of interest in top Bordeaux – particularly the First Growths – has been extremely welcome (and long overdue) and Burgundy shows no sign whatsoever of falling out of favour. Italy continues its wonderful run in both classical and innovative wine styles and despite a relative lack of major Champagne releases, the 04s, 05s and 06s already on the market have benefited hugely from a little extra time in bottle and are really showing their class. I could go on, and on, and on...
We’ve also been fortunate enough to taste through some pretty sensational bottles, magnums (and bigger) over the course of this year. Picking favourites is tricky when there have been so many impressive examples but if forced, we would argue that the following three are certainly worthy of further discussion.
We thought it also worth casting our minds forward to what might be ringing our bells in 2015 – trends we’ve seen begin, some we’d like to happen; all in all, a few more stunning recommendations for enjoyment throughout the next year and beyond.
Wines of the Year 2014
Picture Perfect: Clos des Goisses, Philipponnat
If it’s true that dogs look like their owners, then perhaps wines reflect their makers. There’s no finer argument for this than Charles Philipponnat: ever-young, utterly charming, pin-point precise but never, ever boring, the man is reflected in every bottle you drink. This autumn we held a dinner with Charles at Texture in London, drinking back to the extraordinary 1976 (the first wine ever to be given a perfect score by Julia Harding MW of jancisrobinson.com). Every wine was a knockout and they are ageing glacially. If you haven’t got involved with Clos des Goisses then it’s about time you did; we have cases of the 2000, 2003 and 2005 in stock and all are well worthy of a place in the cellar.
Ever Faithful: Chateau de Beaucastel
Can there be a better value fine wine on the planet than Beaucastel’s incredible Chateauneuf du Pape? Whether young or old, red or white, the wines from this magical corner of the Rhone never fail to impress. This year we have dabbled across the range, from the incredible 2009 Roussanne Vielles Vignes to the wonderful 1998 Beaucastel, and not once have they let us down. An absolute favourite of this year was the awesome 2001, the daddy for current drinking. With a well-deserved 96 points from Bob Parker and the perfect level of sumptuous fruit to balance the baked brick and saddle-leather characters, it doesn’t get much better than this.
2010: Italy’s Magnum Opus
From Piedmont to Puglia and from everyday drinkers to the finest end of the spectrum, 2010 will go down as one of, if not the greatest vintage, across the board, in Italian winemaking history. Think of 1985 or 1990 in France and you’re close. Good fortune during the growing season combined with the current renaissance in winemaking skills and technology came together perfectly to yield some incredible wines. The superlatives from the likes of Antonio Galloni, Monica Larner and James Suckling have been unending. Relative to their quality and previous vintages of a similar level, most of the top wines by-and-large were priced fairly, offering a genuine incentive to buyers. Other regions of the world should take note.
Top of the pile is (arguably) Italy’s most famous fine wine, Sassicaia. The 2010 is an absolute stunner with remarkable approachability and yet the structure and intensity to go long, long term; in fact Galloni calls it ‘the harbinger of cellar longevity’. It looks exceptional value compared to back vintages – it may even go on in time to be a repeat of the legendary 1985.
Ones to Watch in 2015
Waxing Lyrical: Dry White Bordeaux
Dry white Bordeaux has been going through something of a renaissance during the past few years. Of course the likes of Haut Brion Blanc and the other dry whites from the Clarence Dillon stable continue to astound but Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Pape Clement to mention just a few, are consistently producing world class whites at very reasonable prices. You can drink them when they’re young but cellar them merrily for years; they really are the white for all seasons. Every time we open a bottle we’re reminded of, and astonished by, its ability to age and the level of development it goes through. With whites being the high point of at least 2 of the last relatively disappointing Bordeaux vintages (2011 and 2013) there’s no shortage of examples to have a go at; we’d like to see a resurgence of interest here in 2015.
The next big name in Burgundy: Lignier Michelot
We’ve been working with Virgile Lignier for a few years now and as one of Burgundy’s rising stars it’s been both a privilege and a thrill to witness his ascent. Since taking sole charge of the domaine in 2000, his wines have been getting better and better, certainly since 2007/8 his wines are now a match for any of the great names in the region. From merchants to collectors his has been the name on everyone’s lips when discussions of who will be the next big domaine occur. Vibrant, generous and lively, Virgile’s wines are as much a reflection of him as he is of them.
We still have some 2011s in stock and these are wines well worthy of your attention; a jero of his 2007 Clos de la Roche enjoyed at our ‘Ultimate Smash and Bash’ dinner in November this year was one of the highlights among some pretty stellar wines.
Port: No Country for Old Men...
One of the great revelations of 2014 was the wonder of Port. No longer the domain of crusty old men in dusty St James’s clubs, we’ve worked our way through aged Tawnies, Single Quintas, Vintages – from an array of producers and going back over 100 years. There is no doubt that knocking back a glass of the once-in-a-lifetime 1863 Taylors Single Harvest Tawny with Mr Boom in his office is an experience that will live long in the memory... Over the course of this year we have been visited by Johnny Symington and David Guimarens to name but two, and every wine they have shown us has impressed. Our customers have taken the mantle and picked up a huge range of styles and formats from us, including over 100 cases of Taylor’s 2000 and some wacky bottles such as the Warre’s Tappit Hen (210cl format) and Jeros of Graham’s ’69 Tawny. We’d love to see this trend continue and have every faith that more wine lovers will be turned onto this incredible, great value drink.
Whatever you drink over Christmas and the festive period, enjoy – and we look forward to sharing a glass in 2015. Cheers!