It’s been another incredible year for us, thank you for your support and loyalty.
Here are my favourite wines of the year – these aren’t necessarily the best wines but the ones that meant the most.
Happy new year,
Best barrel tasting – This is undoubtably the Arlaud Clos St Denis 2017. This wine blew me away and there was no chance I was spitting a drop of it. It combined being dense and weightless with unbelievable terroir definition. This wine had a special soul. I always find Clos St Denis to be one of the most unique terroirs and when it’s in the right hands can be one of the top wines in Burgundy. In 2017 Cyprien Arlaud absolutely nailed it and his style really suits the vintage. He probably makes the Clos St Denis just a bit better than the others because it’s his wife’s favourite wine! I was taken back by Arlaud’s 2017’s – I think his 2017’s surpass his 2015’s and will equal his 2010’s. This Clos St Denis left an identical barrel impression to the 2010 Roumier Amoureuses in barrel – obviously entirely different – but that lasting impression is the same.
10. J. Macle Chateau Chalon 1987
– In a back alley off Gion in Kyoto. I had schlepped these three bottles over from London and hoped it would be worth it. We went on my birthday night to a very special and tiny place called Yukifuran Sato that cooks up some breathtakingly good charcoal-grilled dishes bang in the middle of the 10-seater bar. It takes a very good bottle to outperform a Roulot Perrieres and a Raveneau Blanchot. Macle from the 80’s is just divine – and always distinct. All the umami flavours worked so well with the dishes and the bottle just kept getting better with air. One of the things I love most about Jura wines is that intense salinity many of the wines develop with age and this had it in abundance. A beautiful bottle shared with all my family.
9. F. Raveneau Chablis Blanchot 2015
– 2018 was a fruitful year for my annual hunt of drinking Raveneau bottles – this bottle definitely wasn’t the best one of the year, but it was the circumstance that it was drank in that made it my favourite. After a few days tasting in Burgundy, I headed back to Paris before a midday Eurostar to London. It was Sunday 2nd December. That afternoon Arsenal were due to play Tottenham at home. Two days prior to this game I had had this nagging feeling to stay and watch the game in Paris and that Arsenal would win if I did just that. How being a fan can make you go mad. I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if Arsenal lost and I didn’t catch the game in Paris. So I extended my ticket until the evening and hopped in a cab to the bar of the George V to have a quick lunch before catching the game. A Raveneau Blanchot 2015 was the wine to go with their pretty damn good burger. The wine – well those who drink with me on a regular basis know that Blanchot is actually my personal favourite wine of F. Raveneau. I think it ages the best, even more so than the Valmur and Clos. All the Blanchot’s from the 1980’s I’ve had have always been incredibly youthful, even from so called off vintages. It’s a wine that really needs 25 years or more. This 2015 was stunning – without the heaviness you can often find in 2015 whites. It was very pure, feminine and energetic with zesty Chablis overtones. This too will age so well. Back to the game – and after washing down the burger with the bottle that vanished too quickly, and a brief chat with a friendly American who told me stories about everyone else he had met at the George V bar – dashed over to the 9th to the only place I knew that would show the game. Arsenal ended up winning 4-2. There’s no sweeter victory than the local derby. The Blanchot 2015 tasted just that bit better that day.
8. Coche Dury Rougeots 2011
– August in the south of France. I love the sight of the the green Pine trees along the rugged blue coast; the mediterranean sun and that summer sound of crickets. Daniel and I drank this at the terrace bar of the Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc just before sunset. It started off a little tight at first – as expected for a pretty young wine. It slowly uncoiled and then boom – that typical Coche nose of reduction and gunflint. This was irresistible – a hugely energetic bottle that just glistened in the glass. It was incredibly stoney and mineral. We loved every drop of this wine. If you are looking for a typical Coche experience I’d definitely recommend this – I’ve been impressed with all the 2011 Coche’s I’ve had. It’s a vintage that seems to offer early pleasure and has the ability to age, which is why it occasionally reminds me of a younger version of the 2004 whites.
7. Pignan Chateauneuf du Pape 1983
– Lunch at 15 East in New York. We started with a few excellent whites – including a stunning 2002 Dauvissat Preuses (wax cap) and the best bottle I’ve had yet of the 1996 Roulot Luchets. For the reds, we decided to pair the Pignan 1983 next to the Marcel Juge Cornas SC 1983. The Pignan’s colour was a very appealing ruby red so I thought it might show well. In fact both ’83’s showed beautifully and I loved them both. The Pignan had a density that can only be mature Grenache, and had everything I want in a mature Rhone. I have a feeling that Pignan ages much better than Rayas does, but Rayas is considered the better wine because it drinks much better in it’s youth – young Pignan is quite tough when young. This ’83 was on a perfect drinking plateau and was a real treat to have next to the Juge.
6. A. Rousseau Chambertin 1999
– Having sold numerous cases of this wine over the years Daniel and I decided it was now a good time to compare it side by side with Beze 1999. The toughest part of the job is checking in on the wines you sell to see how they are – always difficult. The nose on the Beze was incredibly seductive. It just whisks you away. But the Chambertin was in a league of it’s own. It had another layer of depth, power and complexity that was just mesmerizing. That extra layer was all velvet – it was there texturally and also energetically. In time this will be a monster of a Chambertin – it felt like it’s only now entered it’s drinking window. The Beze was etheral – and improved with a couple hours of air – but stylistically I preferred the incredible Chambertin.
5. DRC Grands Echezeaux 1935
– Opened at the end of an already impressive array of DRC’s at Hyde in London. It would take a serious wine to outdo everything we just drank. A couple of the DRC’s we just had were the 1979 and 1980 DRC Grands Echezeaux. The 1979 – a beautiful, very feminine Burgundy drinking perfectly now, and the 1980 – an immense bottle and one of my favourite DRC’s I’ve had it in a while. It was a very typical DRC experience – serious density and layers of caressing red fruit. While very different in style, both the 1979 and 1980 had that signature soil of Grands Echezeaux running right through them. I thought we were done for the evening when out came an old looking bottle without much of a label and a faint remainder of “..ZEA” on the label. It turned out to be the Georges Thienpont bottling of DRC Grands Echezeaux (which was only done in 1934 and 1935 – there was also a Vosne Romanee Tete du Cuvee LT made in 1935). It was so special to try this incredible bottle of 1935 – especially as it connected us with those ‘younger’ vintages we had just drank. The nose was kaleidoscopic and wowed us all. It still had plenty of mid-pallet fruit that invited you back for more – definitely a vin gourmand. This was exceptional – incredible complexity and vigour – with that seductive charm only the best old Burgundies provide. Jordi – thank you.
4. Marcel Juge Cornas Cuvee C 1988
– A good friend flew in past 10pm to London and we arranged a late-night bite. One of my regular haunts agreed to stay open a bit later. A tight Raveneau Clos 2007 and a youthful but impressive Clos Rougeard Poyeux 2005 came first. The last time we met my friend opened up for me a 1985 Juge Cornas and tonight I surprised him with the 1988 Cuvee C. It was an extraordinary bottle – so dense but weightless – gamey and layered – and the colour was something only mother nature (and perhaps Marcel Juge!) can make – a beautiful, mesmerizing ruby red. The aromatics were insane – and cast a spell on everyone at the table – we were all bewitched by this dream of a bottle. Always an honour to cross paths with this legend of Cornas.
3. Mystery bottle (DRC La Tache 1937 ?)
– At a fantastic little bistro in the Cote d’Azur, Daniel and I met with a friend for a last minute dinner. We started with a gorgeous bottle of Coche Dury Puligny Enseigneres 2015. Then came a mystery bottle that our friend brought, with no label and an unbranded cork. The wine was just spectacular and it seemed like it could only be one Domaine – it had such depth and complexity of never ending flavours that it could only be La Tache or Romanee Conti. It was undeniably and unmistakably DRC and only their very best wine too. It turned out that these bottles had came from a famous cellar who bought two barrels of 1937 La Tache from the Domaine and bottled them themselves – which was confirmed as such by the Domaine. The cellar had sold all their other bottles but because these had been left without labels and branded corks – and essentially there’s no 100% proof that they are these bottles are the 1937 La Tache – were deemed unsellable. This was such a special experience. It had that aspect that only the best of the best have – a harmony and zen that just encompasses you and takes over. It was wonderfully pure and the spectacular array of flavours was astonishing. I have no doubt what this wine was, and this treasure was definitely a once in lifetime experience. Such a memorable evening – thank you Mr K!
2. A. Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze 1971 magnum
– The room fell silent when this was poured – out of magnum no less. When the silence ended a few moments later a number of expletives bursted out across the room. And rightly so. The nose was ridiculous – it was so hauntingly good and complex beyond belief. What a beautiful monster this was. The pallet matched the incredible aromatics – this was heavenly. What I loved about this was it was so Clos de Beze – so true to it’s terroir. I see similarities between this and the 1999, the Beze DNA shines so brightly in the wines. An epic wine.
1. A. Rousseau Chambertin 1971 magnum
– There is no doubt in my mind that this is wine of the year. And along with one other Rousseau wine (my wine of year in 2014) the greatest wine I’ve had. Some years ago Ian had mentioned that the day he decides to open his two ’71 magnums I will be there – and true to his word I was. When I first tasted this I genuinely felt that time stopped for a moment. That moment..I wish I could revisit it. Poured blind after the Beze 1971 magnum – I wondered what on earth could better that? It was just such an extraordinary wine. The power and depth and complexity were unreal. It’s borderline pointless expressing this wine and the feeling in words. I felt truly humbled and honoured to drink this. Ian – thank you.