Thursday, December 17, 2015

2015: Top 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 eight 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) Equipo Navazos Fino La Bota 54 ($50.99)
Equipo Navazos purchases, blends and stores Sherries, and they often are unique and compelling. The Palomino grapes for this Fino are from the famed Macharnudo vineyard, one of the top sites in the Sherry region that has sometimes been called the "Montrachet of Jerez." This Fino has a mean age of about ten years, and will last for many years if stored well. I found this Fino to be very fragrant, a pleasing aroma, that complemented its intense and complex taste. It was bone dry, bright and crisp, with mild briny and nutty notes. This Fino has more layers of flavors than you find in a number of other Finos and is well worth checking out.

2) Emilio Hidalgo Marques de Rodil Especial Palo Cortado ($59.99)
Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo, founded in 1874, produces a variety of delicious Sherries and this is one of their top Sherries. The solera was started in 1961 and the average age of this Palo Cortado is about 15-20 years. I love the Palo Cortado style, which is somewhat a blend of the best aspects of Amontillado and Oloroso. With an amber color, I found this Sherry to have a funky, but interesting, aroma. On the palate, it was complex and intriguing, with a delightful blend of flavors included salted nuts, caramel, and dried fruit. It was smooth and elegant, with a lengthy, satisfying finish. Another excellent option and highly recommended.

3) Osborne Capuchino Palo Cortado ($119.99)
This is such a unique and sublime Sherry, one sure to impress. The solera for this Palo Cortado was started in 1790, meaning that a tiny portion of this Sherry is over 200 years old! What a sense of history. With a dark amber color, you'll first sit and savor the alluring and complex aromas of this Palo Cortado. Your seduction begins with these aromas, and you'll be hooked from your first sniff. Once you taste it, the seduction will be complete and this Sherry will touch your heart and soul. Its complexity, its melange of intriguing flavors, and the depth of layers of those flavors cannot be resisted. It is elegant and sublime, with a finish that doesn't seem to end, and you certainly don't want it to end. This is a Sherry to experience, and words cannot adequately describe its merits. I highly recommend this Palo Cortado and it is a perfect example of the heights that aged Sherry can reach.

4) Los Abandonados 6/8 Oloroso ($69.99/500ml)
Alexander Jules, which had three Sherries on 2014's Top Ten Wines Over $15, has done it again, presenting another stunning Sherry. This Oloroso has a great backstory, coming from a solera that was "lost" for about forty years. It is unfiltered, unfined, doesn't contain any added sulfites, and probably should be decanted for at least a few hours before drinking. The wine evidenced a dark mahogany color and possessed an enticing aroma, a complex melange which indicated great promise. With plenty of acidity, this dry sherry presented strong briny notes, nutty aspects, and flavors of caramel, dried fruits, leather, and a subtle earthiness. The finish was lengthy, tantalizing and extremely satisfying. Simply put, this was an amazing Oloroso, one which would impress any wine lover. It is meant to be slowly savored, to appreciate all of its nuances, and it garners my highest recommendation.

5) 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Sagrantino Collepiano ($59.99)
From an Italian winery founded by one of the pioneers of Sagrantino, this is a wine of power but also of beautiful elegance. The complex melange of flavors are intense and subtle, multiple layers that intrigue and delight the palate. Ripe black fruit, earthy undertones, hints of vanilla and spice, and moderate tannins. It possesses a lingering finish that seems to go on and on, and you will yearn for glass after glass. It is well worth its price and garners my highest recommendation. And at this price, it is better than some Italian wines I have had at twice the price.

6) 2010 Parparoussis Nemea Reserve ($50.99)
This impressive Greek wine is made from 100% Agiorgitiko from 20 year old vines from a eight hectare property in Gymno, a tiny vineyard commune in Nemea. The wine is aged for about 24 months in French oak and is only made in exceptional years. Prior to 2010, the last vintage had been 2005, and there will be vintages for 2012 and 2013. This wine was like in some ways a fine Burgundy but with its own exotic component. It was complex and velvety, with a delicious melange of red and black fruits, with mineral notes, earthy aspects and herbal elements. Well balanced, silky tannins, and a long and satisfying finish. With lamb, this was superb.

7) 2006 Ferrari Riserva Lunelli ($55.99)
A compelling Italian Sparkling wine, this Blanc de Blancs is made of 100% Chardonnay from vineyards at Villa Margon. The wine was matured in large format, neutral American oak, spending at least seven years on the lees. The aroma was intriguing, with some brioche and nutty notes and hints of smokiness. On the palate, it was fresh, crisp and clean with green apple and pear flavors, mild spice elements and a touch of toastiness. It also possessed a mild creaminess, a lengthy finish, and plenty of intriguing complexity. An excellent Sparkling wine that is sure to please.

8) 1993 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore ($400)
From the same winery, this Sparkling wine nearly left me speechless and I have to say that it was one of the best sparkling wines I've ever had. This vintage was one of the best in the last twenty years. Initially, this wine will strike you as fresh and young and you won't believe it's 22 years old. You'll soon realize though the deeper complexity of this wine, something acquired primarily from aging. It is the epitome of elegance, with bright acidity, and an intriguing melange of flavors, including green apple, citrus, salty notes, a mild mushroom element and some herbal touches. Each taste seems to bring new flavors to your palate. This wine will age well for many years to come, only gaining in depth and complexity. It is outstanding and receives my highest recommendation. If you are able to splurge on this wine, don't hesitate!

Spanish Sherry dominates this list, occupying four spots, half of the total, while Italy takes three more spots and Greece has a single spot. Fortified wines dominate with four spots and Sparkling wines and Red wines each taking two more spots. Sherry is one of the best wines in the world that far too few people in the U.S. are enjoying. For 2016, please make a resolution to drink more Sherry! You won't be disappointed.

Not all expensive wines are worth their high price but these eight 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.

Even if you cannot buy a bottle of these wines, you might be able to buy a glass at some restaurants, a much less expensive wine to experience these wonders. For example, you can try most, if not all, of the four Sherries on my list at the excellent Taberna de Haro in Brookline. With over 60 Sherries on their list, they are certainly the Sherry capital of the Boston area and I have enjoyed the first three Sherries on my list at the restaurant.

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

No comments: