Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014: Top Ten Wines Over $50

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

Welcome to my third, and last, Top Wines 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.  Though I've tasted more than ten wines over $50 during the past year, I've only chosen to list those which were especially fascinating.

Like the prior lists, this list includes wines that not only did I enjoy, but 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 at this price point that I have 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) 2005 Domaine Potinet-Ampeau Volnay 1er Cru 'Clo des Chenes' ($85)
This wine was a marvel from my first sniff of its aromas, a killer melange of earth and fruit, promising the best of French Burgundy. It too was elegant and ethereal, with a blend of complex flavors that seduced my palate. Each sip seemed to bring something different and the flavors seemed to last forever. A most impressive wine which is going to please any Burgundy lover. Brought in by Elden Selection, they have a great Burgundy portfolio and it is well worth checking out their other wines too.

2) 2001 Chateau Musar Blanc ($70)
This Lebanese white wine, made from two indigenous grapes, Obaideh and Merwah, is fermented in French oak barriques for 9 months. It's then bottled but not released until 7 years after harvest. It is a slightly oxidized style, and I loved it. More full bodied, it possessed a complex melange of flavors which intrigued my palate. Notes of honey and apricot, smoke and caramel, citrus and pear. Each sip seemed to bring new flavors to mind, and it evolved over the course of the dinner, getting more intriguing as the night went on. Highly recommended.

3) 2012 Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Soldaat ($54.99)
A South African wine from the Swartland region, this wine is made from 100% Grenache Noir, reminding me of some Rhône wines. The bold fruit flavors, from cherry to strawberry, were enhanced by spicy & earthy notes. It seemed both fresh and mature, an interesting dichotomy which made this a fascinating and delicious wine. Restrained tannins, a lengthy finish, and nice acidity make this another wine I highly recommend.

4) 2011 Artesana Tannat-Zinfandel-Merlot ($50+)
Though not yet available in the U.S., I eagerly await its entry. This Uruguayan wine, a blend of 55% Tannat, 25% Zinfandel and 20% Merlot, spent 24 months in French oak and only 130 cases were produced. The harmonious complexity of this wine was superb, and the restrained tannins made this wine even more compelling. There was so much going on in this wine, and all of it was pleasing and delicious.

5) 2011 Marichal Grand Reserve Tannat "A" ($55-$60)
This wine is only made in good vintages, and it spends about 18 months in oak and sees no fining or filtering. This was an alluring and seductive wine, with intriguing complexity, intense flavors, silky tannins, and a lengthy and satisfying finish. This wine shows the high-end potential of Tannat, how strong tannins can be made manageable, and the depth of flavors that can be drawn forth from this grape. Uruguay is a country to keep on your radar.

6) Quinta do Portal 20 Year Old Tawny ($57)
From one of the few Port houses owned by a Portuguese family, this aged Port presents with a light amber color and it is pure bliss. An alluring and complex aroma marries to an intriguing melange of flavors. It is silky smooth with a lengthy and very satisfying finish. It's difficult to describe this Port in words as it is something that needs to be experienced. Highly recommended.

7) 2011 Quinta do Vallado Reserve:($64.99)
This wine is a unique mix of a 70% field blend of old vines (about 80+ years old), 27% Touriga Nacional and 3% Sousão. The field blend consists of over twenty different grapes, including & Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, and Touriga Franca. With a medium red color, this wine had an alluring nose, one which makes you sit and smell the wine for a time before tasting it. Once you sample it, you'll discover a complex and enticing melange of flavors, including ripe plum, black cherry, fig, dark spices, mineral notes and hints of earthiness. Silky tannins, a long and pleasing finish, and excellent structure & balance. It is a hedonistic, delicious wine which will make you crave another glass. It possesses a certain exotic element which I equate with Portuguese wines, a terroir element which appeals to me.

8) 1998 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva Rioja ($50+)
This wine shows the great potential of aged Rioja. It is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, and 5% Graciano and is aged for 24-30 months in American oak and then aged in the bottle for at least 36 months. With a medium-red color, it has an alluring nose of cherry, plum and spice notes, and you'll probably sit with your glass for a time just enjoying the aromas. On the palate, you'll find a complex melange of intriguing flavors, a harmonious blend of fruit, spice and herbs. Elegant and silky, the wine caresses your palate, thrilling your senses. The tannins are well integrated, the wine is well balanced, and the finish lingers on and on. Though it will pair well with many dishes, it will also please on its own.

9) 2010 Vina Koyle Auma ($99.99)
This is only the second vintage of this Chilean wine, a blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carmenere, 18% Malbec, 13% Syrah, and 7% Petite Verdot. The wine is an inky dark color with an enticing nose of black fruits with eucalyptus notes. On the palate, it is seductive and alluring, a silky liquid which tantalizes the mind with its complex and harmonious blend of flavors. It is a wine where description becomes inadequate, where the best understanding comes from experiencing it. It may remind you of a high-end Bordeaux, though even if not, you are going to be impressed with its quality and complexity.

10) 2012 Bodegas Salentein Numina Gran Corte ($41) is a blend of 62% Malbec, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. I found this to be a fascinating wine from Argentina, possessed of a complex nose and taste, with great depth of flavor and a very satisfying, lengthy finish. Ripe plum, black cherry, hints of blueberry, lots of spicy notes, and hints of leather, cocoa and herbs. This is a wine to slowly savor, appreciating every complex and intriguing sip.

No single country or wine region dominated this list, and eight countries made the cut. Portugal and Uruguay both have two spots on the list, while the other spots were claimed by France, Lebanon, South Africa, Spain, Chile and Argentina. Red wines dominated though, taking 8 spots, with 1 spot for a White wine and 1 for a Fortified wine.

Not all expensive wines are worth their high price but these ten are wines well worth the splurge. These are the type of wines that words often cannot do justice. These are wines to experience and savor, not to dissect and analyze. These wines should be shared with others, with family and friends, to share the experience. With the holidays near, why not splurge and buy one of these wines.

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

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