It has been quite a couple of weeks for finding new and exciting wines and I find that is what makes wine really interesting. It might seem strange to some people, but to me wine is only partly a drink, it is also a constant voyage of discovery into places, people, culture and traditions – as well as seeking out delicious flavours.
Most of the time that does not mean that the wines are weird, whacky or odd in any way, just that they are slightly off the beaten track, made in places and from grapes that are a little less well known than they ought to be. It is for those very reasons they often reward trying as they can frequently offer better value than more well known wines, as well as an enormous amount of pleasure.
I have written before about how the majority of consumers seem to only drink wines from a very narrow range of wine styles and grape varieties, which is a real shame when there is so much good wine out there that often passes people by.
I feel like a respite from all the self indulgence that the Christmas holidays force upon me and feel my thoughts turning back to wine. As the New Year is coming up fast I thought that I would attempt to tell you about my wine highlights for the year.
Most of my top wines have been written up here on my Wine Page, but some have slipped through the net and are new today. Please always remember that this is an entirely personal list, but I hope you enjoy it and that it gives some food for thought.
I was really spoiled for fizz this year, 2 Champagne tastings stand out in particular:
Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Non Vintage based on the 1953 vintage
This whole tasting was extraordinary and provided a wonderful insight into a type of Champagne that it is all too easy to take for granted – read about it here.
1995 Perrier Jouët Belle Époque
In February I was lucky enough to taste four different vintages of Belle Epoque out of jeroboams, the 1995 was the standout wine for me, but they were all superb – read about it here.
It is amazing how the term ‘New World wine’, and the concepts that it carries with it, stick. It makes all the wines made in non-European countries sound, well, new.
That of course is very far from the truth. Lord Byron’s grandfather waxed lyrical about the wines he found in Chile in the 1740’s on Commodore Anson’s circumnavigation of the world. Napoleon 1 found great solace in sipping Constantia whilst contemplating the wallpaper on St Helena and Robert Louis Stevenson loved California’s Schramsberg – to list just three relatively early brushes with ‘New World wines’ – which together span around 140 years. It almost sounds like an oxymoron, but most of the really old vine material in the world is grown in the, you’ve guessed it, ‘New World’.
Europeans went to the ‘New World’ for all sorts of reasons and over many centuries. Legions of British people left these shores for colonies that still thought of themselves as British, the same applied to Spaniards going to South America, but many also journeyed to places that had no direct link with their homeland. British people and Germans flooded into the fledgling United States, while enormous numbers of Italians headed for Argentina where they intermarried with Spanish immigrants to create this exciting, vibrant country.