Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011: 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 eight entries as there were not enough worthy wines to complete ten entries. I have certainly tasted more than 8 delicious wines over $50, but that is expected from some of the high-end wines I tasted.  For this list, I only added those which were especially fascinating.

Like the prior lists, 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.

This is a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" wines out there. It is primarily the wines which spoke to me the loudest, even when they were subtle wines. These are all wines that I highly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers will also enjoy.

The wines are not listed in any particular order and each choice is linked to my more detailed prior review. All of these value wines are worth your consideration but please also note that the prices are approximations and the actual price may vary in your area. In addition, some of the wines might not be available in your local area, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws.

1)  2007 Bodegas Avanthia Mencia ($60-$70)
My friend Adam, of Wine Zag, introduced me to this wine over a game of poker. I really enjoy the Mencia grape and this wine was thoroughly impressive. The taste was lush and silky smooth, an appealing blend of rich fruit flavors, hints of minerality, spice notes and a lengthy and satisying finish. It was quietly seductive, an alluring partner whose lips beckon to be tasted. Only 100 cases were made so it might be a difficult wine to find.

2)  2004 Palacio de Otazu Altar ($50)
This Spanish wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, a muscular and complex wine that pleases with its tastes of black fruit, ripe plum, spice, vanilla, mocha, and more. Bring on a hearty steak and I would be very happy. This is not a wine you likely should drink on its own, but pair it up with dinner and enjoy.

3)  2002 Collard-Picard Cuvee des Archives Brut (50 Euros)
I have a love for Grower's Champagne and this is a perfect example of the the high quality you can find. It is a blend of old vine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This is an amazing Champagne, with a complex character and soul. It is a rich and concentrated wine, with plenty of acidity, some creaminess, and appealing flavors including apples, toast, and spice.

4)  2004 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Special Club (36 Euros)
More Grower's champagne, this winery produces only Blanc de Blanc, Champagne made from Chardonnay. This wine is fresh, lively, complex and intriguing. Besides apple, melon and apricot notes, there is also a briny taste with hints of toast. It had a strong, unique character and each sip only mesmerized me even more.

5)  NV Bruno Paillard Rosé Première Cuvée ($60-$70)
Bruno Paillard is one of the main producers of Rosé Champagne and this one was a stand out to me. Produced from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, it was fresh and lively on my palate, with an intriguing mix of red fruits, a bit of citrus, and mild herbal notes. It also possessed a mild creaminess and an overall elegant structure. This would be an excellent food wine.

6)  2000 Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos ($75-$90/500ml)
This is the most expensive wine on my list but it is worthy of the accolades. It is a rich and elegant wine, well balanced and with plenty of acidity to offset its sweetness. A wine to be slowly savored, I could easily imagine this with a decadent plate of foie gras. It will age well and is sure to please for many years to come.

7)  NV Ramos Pinto Tawny Port 20 Year Old Quinta do Bom-Retiro ($60-$70)
This unique Port was produced from a blend of 40 different vintages, including as far back as 1818.  Its seductive nose led to an alluring taste, complex and sublime, with a long and lingering finish. This carefully crafted Port doesn't seem like it could have been any better. A wine to savor and share with good friends during a long evening.

8)  2006 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Vistaflores (about $80)
You might be used to low cost Malbec but some impressive high end, terroir driven wines are being made in Argentina. This might be the best high-end Malbec I have ever tasted, and comes from an excellent vintage. Such complexity, character and a never ending finish make this a true winner. Enjoy value Malbecs but don't ignore the high end Malbecs now being produced.

France, with three wines, had the most spots on this list with Spain taking two, and Hungary, Portugal and Argentina each with one spot. These are wines well worth a splurge, and many of them are not norm when the average person considers a high end wine. There is no Bordeaux or Burgundy on this list, and even the Champagne is mostly Grower's, only a tiny percent which reach the U.S.

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

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