My year spent wining – Soliciting Flavours’ favourite 12 wines of 2021.

I will get the whine out the way first, love a good moan me, before diving into the wine.

I am not a proponent of Dryanuary, as to me if you drink good wine/booze in moderation throughout the year why do you need to abstain for 1 month? Also, if you are going to do it, surely this (actually any) January is the worst possible time (for businesses, particularly independents) for people to stop buying booze in bar, restaurants and shops. This is especially the case here in Wales, with the extra restrictions in place!! Why not push it back to say May (for this year at least) when hospitality isn’t on its arse or better still just drink less, but higher quality, stuff all year round including at Christmas. Each to their own though, I suppose.

Personally my mission wine wise in 2022 is not more or less wine, but just to continue to drink good wine. One of life’s true pleasures, if you ask me.

I love good wine and I love exploring the huge range of what is on offer in the ever expanding world of wine. I like to think that I have done rather well in drinking good wine in 2021, in my humble opinion, but 2022 perhaps requires a bit more effort in expanding my horizons (as I am still rather Spanish centric in my drinking habits).

So following last week’s “Best of 2021” on the food front, below are what I regard as the best 12 wines I drunk in 2021. These are rated purely in term of my enjoyment, regardless of the price.

Twelve – Bodegas Zuleta, Quo Vadis, Amontillado

A real oddity from Sanlucar de Barrameda, this wine is the absolute epitome of a marmite wine. There is no “umm I’m not sure” about this wine, no middle ground, you either love it or hate it.

Deep rich mahogony colour,

with a hugely imposing nose.

First there is a big hit of saline (and I mean a tsunami). Then there is vanilla (from the unusual, for a sherry, use of new oak), hazelnuts, sweet citrus notes and ginger, followed by dessicated coconut (again presumably from the new oak), pipe tobacco and even a touch of curry spice and furniture polish.

In the mouth it is quite tannic in nature, with a sour tang  Then you get salt and  black pepper, as well as almost spearmint. It departs the palate after an age with a smack of citrus on the chops.

Part of a wider tasting of Bodegas Zuleta wines at Curado/Vermut, it certainly divided opinion, I absolutely loved it.

Eleven – Alexander Jules, 3/10 Amontillado

Another sherry (well it is me) and this is a corker of an amontillado from Alexander Jules picked up from Mercado 44.

Irn -Bru in colour, it has a cracking nose. Iodine and ozone, followed by zesty orange peel and spice wafting up from the glass.

Nutty caramel and a touch of bitterness to balance it on the palate.

Cracking wine that is great with food or on its own.  Could drink this all day long

Ten – Chateau Leoville Barton 2011

Into the top ten and we have a wine from the allegedly awful 2011 Bordeaux vintage.

This wine came up trumps and was the easy winner at an interesting Mystere Wine Club tasting of 2011 clarets.

Beautiful, classic claret, nose of blackcurrant, red fruit and cedar, followed by vanilla spice, coffee and leather.

On the palate, there were bountiful levels of rich dark fruit and silky smooth tannins.

They say Leoville Barton never lets you down, regardless of the vintage, and this trait was admirably on display with this wine.

It is pretty good value, at least for a second growth claret, too.

Nine – Colet Navaros Brut 2015

Another oddity in the form of a collaboration between cava experts Colet and sherry maestros Equipo Navazos, with (uniquely) amontillado and palo cortado in the mix via the liqueuer d’expedition/the dosage.

Lovely nose of brioche and hazelnuts, followed by distinct coastal notes (the sherry making its presence known).

On the palate it is searingly dry, with a light mousse.  Real yeastiness to it, as well as an abundance of nuttiness. A touch of sharp citrus (grapefruit) at the end made this a really refreshing and gluggable wine.

Drunk as an aperitif and with the canapes (corkage paid) at a fab dinner at Lee Skeets’ 40 Day and 40 Nights.

Classy and unusual fizz this.

Eight –  Chablis Premier Cru Montmain, Louis Michel, 2002

I have a bad habit of keeping wines too long, but there are few things better than pulling a forgotten bottle out of the wine room which belies expectations.

This happened with a long forgotten half case of 2002 (which conventional opinion would suggest is past its prime by some way) Louis Michel Chablis Premier Cru Montmain.

I expected very little having previously opened an absolute dud of a 2000 meursault (totally oxidised ☹️), but I coravin’d this one and it was just peachy at first blush.

Lovely golden colour, with a full body and a lemony aroma with honey coming through as it sat in the glass, as well as melon and tangy tropical fruit.

On the palate,  there was a distinct minerality but also more rounded fruit and a pleasing creaminess. 

I have this wine a few times in 2021, but it really shone when paired with the seafood elements of my beat meal of last year at Lee Skeets’ 40 Day and 40 Nights.

Seven – Greywacke Pinot Noir  2009

One of the beauties of the Mystere Wine Club here in Cardiff is the fact that it introduces me to wines I would not otherwise try.

This New Zealand pinot noir, with a bit of age, is a case in point.

Part of a really interesting Mystere Wine Club tasting, it won wine of the night against stiff opposition (particularly the Valli Gibbston 2017),

this was a lovely wine that showed just how good NZ PN can be.

Great nose, which initially was almost animalistic in nature followed by coffee and mocha.

On the palate, it still had a good thwack of fresh acidity and bag loads of fruit (including orange bitters in the mix).

Lovely balance to this wine.

Six – Yalumba FDR1A 2008

A rather poignant bottle, as this vintage was the year of birth of my beloved border terrier, Pip, who passed away last year (still can’t believe she is gone – I miss her so much) and Mrs. SF and I toasted her with it on what would have been her 13th birthday last year.

It was a gorgeous bottle (so very fitting for Pip), with a classic cab sauv dominated (there is also shiraz in the blend) nose of blackcurrants and cedar, as well as a big hit of mint.

On the palate it cuddles up to your taste buds and demands your attention (very Pip – esque) with smooth tannins and lush dark fruit, liquorice and mint that envelopes your tongue.

I don’t drink enough higher end Aussie wine and bottles like this make me realise that I really should up my game in this area.

Five – Chateau Sociando Mallet 1996

Another Bordeaux and I often think Sociando Mallet is quintessential claret. It certainly contains a lot of what I love about a good claret without the ruinously expensive price tag that the good ones all too often come with.

The 1996 was the star of another Mystere Wine Club tasting, with a vertical tasting from 1995 to 2016

lead by the charming Francois from the Chateau (a boon of online tasting – still prefer in person mind).

Teritary aromas in the form of tobacco leaf, cedar, pencil shaving, coffee, mocha and a distinct perfumed character made for a heady nose.

On the palate, the fruit was still there will cassis to the fore, followed by liquorice notes. Great length to this wine, which lingered on the palate for an age. Plenty left in the tank too, aging wise.

Absolutely glorious stuff and a bit of a bargain to boot for a top quality claret.

Fourth  – Valtravieso “Gran Valtravieso” 1995

Back to my beloved Spain with a grand dame of a ribera del duero wine from the “excelente” 1995 vintage.

Tim Atkins regards Bodegas Valtraviesco as a RdD “second growth“, with it being in esteemed company such as Aalto and Hacienda Monesterio at that level.

This over a quarter of a century old wine was holding up very nicely, with leather  tobacco and dark fruit (cherry) still prevalent on the nose, as well as chocolate and spice.

On the palate, there was still decent acidity, smooth tannins and middle eastern spice and a touch of stewed orange peel.

Cracking stuff and it paired beautifully with a Mercado 44  lechazo asado “heat at home” kit.

Still have a few bottles left of this wine 😃

Third  – El Pundito (Magnum) 2006

Into the top 3 and it is all rioja (surprise, surprise) here on in.

Marcus Eguren is one of my favoutite wine makers and I love La Nieta and El Pundito from Bodegas Vinedos de Paganos just outside of picture postcard town of Laguardia in the Rioja Alavesa

Mrs. SF and I had the priviledge of visiting the place back in 2013 and came away with two magnums of this wine (as a gift).

After the stellar 2004 and 2005 vintages (both 93 pts), the 2006 vintages (82 pts) was deemed to be somewhat of a let down.

I find in these lesser years, the best policy is to fall back on the best producers and 2006 is no exception. The challenging years tend to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This El Pundito is a fabulous wine, particularly given the year, with a nose of the forest floor, coffee, tobacco and leather.

On the palate, there is rich plum, prune, vanilla spice and black pepper.

Good acidity and silky smooth tannins made it a joy to drink.

I always think that the pleasure of good wine is amplified by drinking it in good company and we drank this whilst celebrating my father’s eightieth birthday.

Two – Vina Tondonia blanco  Reserva 2005

To me R . Lopez de Heredia’s Vina Tondonia blanco is one of the jewels in Spain’s wine crown, with the gran reserva nigh on immortal and one of the world’s great white wines.

This 2005 reserva is just about entering its long drinking window (still a baby really) and is a corker of a wine.

Rich and golden in colour, the nose is a sensory explosion.  Citrus peel, dried banana chips, honey, smoke, vanilla, coconut, apple, bee wax and oxidised coastal notes. It just assails the senses

On the palate, it has an almost oily texture that coats the tongue and it lingers for an age.  You get lemon peel, almond, salinity, minerality and a great acidic blackbone.

In the words of the Stranglers “Golden Brown, texture like Sun…..”.

Just glorious and it will only get better. Happy to say have a fair few bottles of this in the wine room and a few gran reservas to boot – lucky me.

One – CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 2001

So to my numero uno wine of 2021, which is as classic a rioja as they come from CVNE.

At 20 years old the 2001 “excelente” rioja vintage is really starting to stretch its gloriously long legs.

This wine was in a fabulous place at 20, with aromas of strawberry, cherry, leather, smoke, cedar and a bucket load of spice. Think vanilla, clove, cinnimon and even star anise.

More of the same on the palate, with a fresh orange led acidity and smooth chocolatey tannins.

Amazing now, but with years and years still left in the tank.

The verdict

A cracking year of wine I think and in terms of my everyday wines, as well as more special ones, I have been very well served this year by Curado Bar/Spanish Wines Direct, Mercado 44, Wine Fiends, Vin Van Caerdydd and the Bottle Shops in Cardiff.

In terms of my best value wine of 2022, I think that would be the Bodegas Nivarius tempranillo blanco.

Lovely floral nose,with white fruit and spice on the palate. Very quaffable and very nicely priced (at less than a tenner, if you hunt around a bit) it was great paired with a roast chicken.

Moving into the new year, to me January is the month to try new stuff and wine wise where better to get new stuff to try than from your local wine merchant.

Greek wine is my tip for 2022 – forget the retsinas of the 80s, there are some fantastic white, red and sweet Greek wines out there. I will be looking out for it in wine shops and on restaurant wine lists and hope to drink a lot more of it in 2022.

This Santorini assyrtiko wine, for instance,

is just lovely with bag loads of zesty citrus and coastal notes and this red, from the xinamavro grape

is rather fine too.

I will also be trying to track down wines (both red and white) from the little known Cangas DOP in the Asturia (sidra country) region of Spain. Very interesting stuff coming from that DOP by all accounts.

Oh and don’t forget beer, which I tend to get from the Bottle Shops and Pop’n’ Hops – both great for the sours I have come to love during the “Plague years“.

My “Beer of the year” was this beauty from Yonder brewing (a belter of a brewery).

So that is my 2021 in wine (and a bit more) and 2022 had already got off to an absolutely tremendous start with these 8 beauties

for our first Mystere Wine Club tasting of 2022 (a blind tasting of various winners of wine of the night from tastings over the last couple of years).

All fabulous wines, with the Cupano 2009 (wow, what a wine)

romping home, in a high class field, as the champion of champions.

So salut to you all (especially the one(s) that actually read my wine posts – chin-chin Justin) and here’s to a year of good drinking in 2022.

With a full programme of Mystere Wine Club and Jeroboam Club tastings, “C” word permitting, things are certainly looking up on the booze front at least.


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