Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010: Top Wines Over $50

What were some of my favorite wines of the past year?

Welcome to my third, and last, Top Wine List. I have already posted my Top Ten Wines Under $15 and Top Ten Wines Over $15. It is now time for my Top Wines Over $50.  This list only has six entries as there were not enough worthy wines to complete ten entries. Though, you will find that two of the entries are actually wine categories, encompassing numerous wines, so the total amount of wines covered by this list is far more than ten. 

This list includes wines that during the past year I have enjoyed very much and which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious, something more unique or just excellent values for the price. They all stand out for some particular reason above the other wines I tasted this past year.  I highly recommend all of these wines, and believe many wine lovers will also enjoy these wines.

The wines are not listed in any particular order and all are definitely worth your consideration. These are not every day wines, but those worth a splurge, those for special celebrations. These are exceptional wines for those wine lovers who want to amaze their palates. Each of the choices is linked to my more detailed prior review. Please also note that the actual price of the wine may vary in your area.

1. 2008 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Kollmutz Reserve, Austria ($75-$80)
If you are familiar with Grüner, you are probably most familiar with its inexpensive versions, often costing less than $25. You might even think there are not any high-end bottlings of this grape. But that is definitely not the case, and you can find Grüner at all price points. This wine was a stunner, a superb melange of alluring aromas and tastes. It is a "wow" wine and will change your understanding of Grüner, leading you to seek out their superior bottlings.

2. 2007 McGregor Vineyard Black Russian Red, Finger Lakes, NY ($54.99)
I love trying wines produced from obscure grapes as you never know what wonders you might find.  This winery grows a few unusual grapes, including Sereksiya Charni, Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, and Sereksiya Rose. This wine uses two of those grapes, the result reminding me of an exotic Cabernet Sauvignon.  It will age very well, and I was glad to see it only had an alcohol content of 12.5%.  Once again, the Finger Lakes proves it is not just about white wines.

3. Aged Sherry, Spain ($50+)
Sherry is very underappreciated.  But if a wine lover were to taste a VOS (20 year old), VORS (30 year old) or Vintage sherry, they would change their tune.  These are fascinating wines, of great complexity, intense flavors, enticing aromas and much more. While in the Jerez region, I tasted numerous aged sherries, nearly all which thoroughly impressed me, and I bought a number of them to savor at home. These are world-class wines, as good as anything else find in the world. Out of all the recommendations on this list, this gets my highest regard and I cannot recommend them enough.

4. 1999 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune, France ($95)
Vin jaune is produced by flor which is similar, though not the same, as that used in making sherry.  Thus, vin jaune can sometimes remind you of sherry. This wine did remind me of manzanilla, its briny apple nature, but it was more complex than the usual manzanilla. There was a blend of interesting but subtle flavors, including herbal notes, and the finish lingered and lingered in my mouth.  The wines of Jura are also underappreciated but well worthy of your consideration.

5. 2004 La Cruz de Comal "Cohete Rojo", Texas ($50)
This is the first wine I have ever tasted that was produced in Texas, and it showed me the potential of this mighty state to produce excellent wine.  It is a natural wine, made with the input of the famed Tony Coturri, and is more European in style than Californian.  A red blend, it brings together fruit, herbs, minerality, earthiness, and more into a compelling wine. This wine is not just a good Texas wine, but is a good wine for any region.

6. Madeira, Portugal ($50+)
This is another underappreciated category of wine, one which should appeal to many wine lovers if they gave it a chance.  Madeira can be either dry or sweet, and ages extremely well. I generally prefer the dry versions, though I understand the allure of the sweet ones too. Some reminded me of sherries, while others had their own unique tastes. Madeira can be quite pricey, but often the most expensive are also the oldest and most rare.  Where else can you find a 100 year old wine that still rocks?

No one region dominated this list, with wines from New York, Texas, France, Spain, Portugal and Austria.  Though California dominated the Top Ten Over $15 list, they are absent from this list. This list has more unusual wines, not the norm praised by many others.  There are no high-end Cabernets here, or top end Pinots. Instead, the list is a path to exploration, to tasting some of the underappreciated, but very compelling, wines that are available.

If you have some of your own recommendations for wines over $50, please add them to the comments.

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