This is the one you have all been waiting for isn’t it – bet you all put a tick in the calendar for it didn’t you.
Back by (un)popular demand is my top 12 wines drunk in the prior year (which does include one whine, well it is me and it is in the title).
Been a bit of an odd year wine wise, with me attending fewer wine tastings in 2022 than the accursed 2021 despite no lockdowns. Just multiple calendar clashes regrettably and as a result I missed a couple of absolute doozys, including Quintarelli and Ridge tastings at the Mystere Wine Club (wine from which I would fully have expected to be on the list) 😭
Before I get into the meat and drink (well just drink actually) of this post, after resisting it for years I introduced scoring in my last wine post (see my La Rioja Alta post) and in hindsight I kind of regret that decision. This post probably sums up succinctly why I resisted for so long, as separating really good wines by marginal scores all gets a bit silly. If I start off with a really good score, say 16/20, as my 12th best wine of the year where do I go from there. I refuse to say a wine is perfect as there is no such thing (at least not in my dark world), so you just get pretty much identical scores across the board.
That then leaves the options of:
- Keeping it out of 20 and scoring them all roughly the same (what is the point);
- Keep it at out of 20 and have incremental increases (i.e. 16.25, 17.75, which all gets a bit silly);
- Increasing it to out of 100, but then there is the trap of “it’s crap” if it ain’t 90+ (again pointless);
- Forgot it and just say what I think about the wine without giving a score.
I think, on balance, the last option is probably the best one and I suspect you lot don’t give two hoots anyway whether I think a wine is a 13, a 16 or an 18 out of 20. Frankly, not sure I do either. As such, no more scoring from me in wine posts.
Notwithstanding my change of heart, we can all make mistakes (not that I like to admit it, us lawyers rarely do), I have drunk some very fine (as always somewhat Spanish focused) wines in 2022 and below are my top 12 (drank rather more than 12 have to say, but that is for 12 months of the year).
12. La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza 2001
Rioja was my first (and enduring) love, wine wise, and it was Vina Ardanza that ignited that love.
This 2001 (a cracking Rioja vintage) was really hitting its stride in 2022. Probably the best “value” (comparatively speaking) wine at a stellar tasting of La Rioja Alta wines at the Mystery Wine Club, it exuded class.
Intensely spicy nose of vanilla and cinnamon as well as a touch of the bonfire and rich red fruit.
On the palate, lots of fruit still in the mix, silky, well integrated, tannins, great acidity and a long finish.
Price: £50+ (if you can find it – message me if you do).
11. Vassaltis Gramina 2017
The Jeroboam Club in Bristol has a fine tradition of red and white blind tasting events, where members each bring a bottle of their own wine for others to guess what it is and above all enjoy. I couldn’t make the red wine one, due to finally catching Covid, but I was lucky enough to attend the summer white wine one.
Amongst a stellar line up, mine was the Dominio de Aquila,
this Greek 100% assyrtiko number (with a tiny bottle run of 1500) really piqued my interest
Lovely minerality to the nose, with Mediterranean herbs and a touch of petroleum woven into the mix. Quite subtle, yet very compelling.
On the palate there were lovely notes of green apples, stone fruit and a real hit of salinity. The finish was long, with a touch of nuttiness and an invigorating dollop of lemon peel and fresh acidity.
I am a crap blind winner taster and had no idea blind what this was, to be fair I was not alone in my puzzlement (sat next to an MW who didn’t have a clue either as to what it was, so I was in good company), but what I did know was it was a mighty fine wine.
It confirmed my suspicion that Greece is capable to producing really, really good wines.
Each year’s UK allocation gets snapped up really quickly so good luck finding it (buy it if you do and get me a bottle whilst you’re at it).
Have to say my enjoyment of this wine was rather enhanced by the wonderful setting of the tasting.
Price: £44.95 (for the 2019, good luck getting the 2017 or indeed any vintage)
10. La Rioja Alta 904 2004
Another great wine from the Mystere Wine Club’s La Rioja Alta tasting and I often prefer the elegance of the 904s to the more muscular (and expensive) 890s.
This wine was a beauty, with a gorgeous smokiness on the nose, together with leathery, meaty notes and rich vanilla.
It had elegant acidity and silky tannins on the palate, with a persistent finish long. Red fruit (strawberry) was still present in the mix along with coffee, chocolate and more spice. Fabulous wine, with years (I would argue decades) still left in the tank.
This easily bested the more illustrious and expensive 890 2004 at the tasting.
9. Ladeiras do Xil O Diviso 2015
Telmo Rodriquez is one of my favourite wine makers, making fascinating wines across Spain. When asked to put together and present a Telmo tasting for the Jeroboam Club I jumped at the chance and think I put together a pretty good selection
One of the highlights of this tasting (in my top 3 wines on the night) was the O Diviso 2016.
This wine is from a tiny 1.2 hectare plot in Valdeorras, with a mere 962 bottles produced and as a such it is as rare as hen’s teeth. Took me a while to track down a bottle, I can tell you.
Lovely nose of rich red fruit and violets, as well as a distinct earthiness.
Fresh acidity, black fruit tartness and fresh loaminess on the palate. Touch of black olive in there too. Despite its youth this was already really well intergrated, but will have lots more to give as it ages. Lovely and really interesting wine.
8. Tio Pepe Fino Cuatro Palmas
One of my wine joys of 2022 was the steady stream of (filled) wine pouch from Blind Faith Wine. I am too chicken shit to do their competitive blind tastings (fear of been exposed as the utter charlatan I am), but they also provide perfectly preserved tasting sets of top quality wines, which allows me to try wines I may not necessarily be inclined (initially at least) to lay out for a full bottle. Great for curious bods like me.
One such pack was of the Tio Pepe fino Palmas (1-4)
As readers will know I am a huge sherry fan and these were all great, but the only one I hadn’t tried before or got a bottle of already was the top end cuarto
Wow what wine this is!
The nose was intoxicating and so complex, with bag loads of nuts (hazelnuts, cashews almonds, walnuts, you name a nut and it’s in there – ok technically one of those is not a true nut, you pedants ), dried fruit, brown sugar, hints of furniture polish and incense (think an old church).
On the palate, it was searingly dry with a massive hit of saline. This was followed by peaty smokiness, tobacco, spice and toasted walnuts. So much going on, with it lingering and developing in the mouth for an eon. My only complaint was it was all a bit sensory overload!
This was a great wine to try out my new Gabriel glasses (also courtesy of Blind Faith Wines) on.
This wine should be on any wine lovers “Wine to try before you die” list.
Price: £77+ (50cl)
7. Penfold Margill Estate 2012
Part of a very interesting 2012 Aussie Shiraz tasting (some I liked very much other were like being smashed in the face by a blueberry infused sledgehammer), I was lucky enough to snag the bottle to take home at the end of the tasting and drank it over two nights.
Hugely imposingly nose, with a massive hit of black cherry/kirsch. Like inhaling a black forest gateau. On the palate it had rich black cherry, chocolate/cocoa nibs (liquid black forest gateau without the overt sweetness), tobacco leaf and pepper spice.
Great length to this wine, with it coating the tongue and lingering for an age.
The next day it was even better with the exposure to air amping up the fruit and giving it a distinct maltiness. Fabulously opulent stuff.
6. Bodegas Lanzaga El Velado 2016
Another fantastic wine from the Jeroboam Club’s Telmo Rodriquez tasting, with this from what is seemingly Telmo’s flagship winery in the form of Bodegas Lanzaga.
El Velado is a field blend (majority garnacha and tempranillo, but others in the mix) made from a tiny 0.93 hectare plot with a bottle run of a smidgen over 1500.
On the nose it is really fruit driven with both black and red fruits in abundance. This was followed by floral (violet and lavender) notes, rich loam and Asian spices.
On the palate it was no less impressive, with a silly mouth feel and firm, but approachable, tannins. There was chocolate, earthiness, slatey minerality and a tart, even saline, finish.
My only complaint regarding this wine was the gawd awful wax cap. Why wine makers use these infernal things is beyond me!! Please stop it immediately!
Still a baby, I would love to revisit this wine is say 10 (even 15) years time (probably take me that long to get the bloody wax cap off).
Price: £76 (I paid) – £85+.
5. Klein Constantia Vin de Contance 2013
I love a good sweetie and my usual go to sweet wine is Tokaji (and of course PX), but this legendary South African wine from Klein Constantia was something else.
Part of a fasinating South African tasting (Mystere Wine Club),
it was my wine of the night.
Gorgeous amber colour,
with a heavenly nose. Heady seductive notes of apricot, mandarin, orange marmalade and orange blossom whafted out of the glass.
On the palate, it had sweetness, but this was beautifully balance by a line of citrus acidity. In addition to the stone and citrus fruit, it had quince and a lovely zing of ginger.
Gorgeous silky texture in the mouth, with it lingering on the palate for an absolute age. My best sweetie of the year.
Price: £86+ (50cl)
4. Grant Burge Meshach 2012
This was my wine of the night at the Mystere Wine Club Aussie Shiraz 2012 tasting.
On the nose it was huge with a glorious intial hit of freshly laid asphalt (a smell I adore). This was followed by more tarry notes and big dollops of dark fruit.
On the palate it was a Conan the Barbarian kinda wine. Huge and muscle bound. Subtle it ain’t, yet it had a silky smooth mouth feel. Skip loads of black cherry and black pepper in the mix here.
Really nice balance to this wine, despite its muscleman persona.
3. Bodegas Labzaga Tabueniga 2018
Into the top three and back to my beloved Rioja and what a Rioja this (field blend wine, with – main grapes tempranillo, graciano, but lots of others in pool) is from Telmo Rodriquez’s Bodegas Lanzaga estate.
Being younger and supposedly more austere than the El Velado, I didn’t expecting it to best that but best it did (at least to my eye).
On the nose, there was mocha, smoke (touch of tar) and bag loads of sweet black fruit (blackberry and blueberries), then baked orange and a touch of peppery spice.
On the palate, the tannins were there but silky rather than harsh and there was a refreshing orange acidity. Great length and a lovely liquorice finish.
Such a great balance and elegance to this wine. A joy to drink.
As with the El Velado, I would love to revisit this beauty in 10-15 years time. Telmo is clearly doing great things, at Bodegas Lanzaga, with wines like this (bloody stupid wax cap again though).
Price: £76 – £92+ (I paid £76).
2. Cupano 2009
One of the things I love about being a member of a wine club is being introduced to new wines. Prior to me joining the Mystere Wine Club I only had a passing acquitance with Brunello di Montalcino wines and had not had the pleasure of trying any Cupano wines. Since then I have developed a deep loved for Cupano wines, which to my mind continually smash it out of the park year in year out.
This wine was the stand out for me (and the majority of the other attendees) at a tasting called “First amongst equals” which pitted various wines of the night from previous tastings against each other.
The fact that it shone oh so bright in such esteemed company
is testimony to how good this wine is.
On the nose this had oodles of rich dark fruit, with black cherry and plum, as well as sweet spice, herbal notes and even a touch of the cola cube and dried orange peel.
Incredibly smooth on the palate, with a velvety mouth feel and copious amounts of sweet dark fruit, chocolate and integrated oaky spice.
Just a wonderful wine this.
1. La Rioja Alta 890 2001
So to my top wine of the year and it of course had to be a Spanish wine (I am a bit obsessed) and a Rioja to boot.
First impression of this wine was bloody hell this is amazing, followed by “wow” “wow” and “wow”. The aromas wafted up were intoxicating, with vanilla, cedar, smoke, gaminess, subtle coconut, mint, loam and rich ripe cherries. Loads of complexity, but all in perfect harmony.
On the palate, there was still plenty of ripe and candied fruits, but also tertiary flavours of coffee, mocha, caramel and liquorice. Great balance, silky tannins, refreshing acidity and a huge length.
Just fabulous and a worthy winner of my wine of the year
Price: £150+ (of course that price is likely to now double or even treble with the prestige that comes with this award based on my Parker-esque influence – Parker from Thunderbird that is rather than the Wine Advocate 🤣).
Some may think “bloody hell, those are all pretty pricey“, but to me life is to short to drink rubbish wine and in any event being a member of two wine clubs means I get to taste them for a fraction of the full bottle outlay.
In terms of everyday wines both the Wine Society (anyone who has more than a passing interest in wine should join – super selection, just great value and free delivery, even if just one bottle) and Spanish Wines Online/ Ultracomida (with their wine club – love delivery day, as always lots of really interesting stuff in the mystery box – and shop in Cardiff) kept me well supplied.
Value wise the Wine Society Fino
is an absolute steal at a mere £6.25 and (from Spanish Wine Online/Ultracomida) this tempranillo blanc white Rioja from Sierra de Tolano
is superb for its around £12 price tag.
I think on balance my best quality to value wine of 2022 was this white Rioja
at £22 (from the Wine Society)
Stunningly good for that price, with plenty of beautifully integrated oak, creamy vanilla, ripe apple, apricot and a touch of almond (very nearly made my top 12 and it is considerable cheaper than any of the ones that did).
It was fabulous with an arroz mar y montana from the Bar 44 cook book.
In terms of what I will be drinking more of in 2023, I think it will be Island wines. Think Azores, Balearics, Canaries, Sardinia, Sicily, the Greek Islands, Tasmania and New Zealand (reds and non SB whites). Also will be buying a lot more South African wines (red and white).
2023 promises excellent drinking, with great tasting rosters from both the Mystere Wine Club and the Jeroboam Club.
First up is 2009 Burgundy😃,
with a rather fine selection.
So salud to all you wine lovers and here’s to lots more good drinking in 2023.