Friday, December 16, 2016

2016: 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 Ten Wines Over $50. 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) 2011 Quinta Dona Matilde Vintage Porto ($54.99)
This Port is from a vintage which was universally declared and has received major raves. Made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Rufete, this wine spent the first 2 years in large oak barrels and the rest in the bottle. With a deep and alluring aroma, this is an intense Port, muscular and powerful yet still restrained and elegant. It is full bodied, with strong tannins, deep red and black fruit flavors, and moderate spice notes. It possesses a lingering and pleasing finish. Though I think it would benefit from additional aging, it still is fairly approachable for a young vintage Port. With time, it should become a superb Port.

2) Ramos Pinto Tawny 20 Year Old Quinta do Bom Retiro ($70)
This is a highly impressive Port, produced from a blend of wines made from grapes including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, and Tinto Cão. The blend of wines also ranges in age, averaging out to 20 years, but the oldest wine is 70 years old, from the 1946 vintage. Overall, the blend includes approximately 50 different vintages, making for a fascinating melange. It is difficult to describe this is a wine as it needs to be experienced and words seem inadequate to properly describe the wonders of this Port. I can say that it is incredibly complex, with a wide range of aromas and flavors found within its liquid treasures. Each sip seems to bring something new to your nose and palate. From caramel to dried fruit, baking spices to almonds, and so much more. It is dry and silky smooth, a sensual delight which caresses and seduces your palate. And the finish is never ending, lingering and evolving with time. You could sit and analyze this Port all night, or just sit an enjoy the myriad pleasures in your glass. This is a "Wow" wine, something which should impress almost any wine lover.

3) 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. It is very fragrant, a pleasing aroma, that complements its intense and complex taste. It is 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.

4) Cocchi Barolo Chinato ($57)
This is a unique Piedmontese digestif and producers all have their own secret recipes for creating Chinato. This Cocchi Barolo Chinato possesses plenty of complexity, being bitter and herbal, spicy and sweet, with black fruit flavors. The flavors blend harmoniously and you should slowly savor it, to revel in its unique taste profile. It is hard to describe the taste in words, as there is so much going on in this wine. It is also supposed to be an excellent pairing with chocolate.

5) NV Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Rosé ($70)
This fine Rosé Champagne is a blend of 30% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, & 40% Pinot Meunier. With a rich salmon color, this is a compelling Champagne, with bright red fruit flavors, a mild smokiness, peach & orange zest notes. It is crisp and clean, elegant and dry. This is a Champagne I could easily drink all night. It was paired with a couple cheeses and was a very pleasing companion. I think this would be a versatile Champagne for food pairings and I'd happily drink it with oysters, salmon, pizza or even a burger.

6) Vintage 2006 Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut ($80)
This excellent Champagne is a blend of 54% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, & 31% Pinot Meunier. It possesses a bright gold color and reminded me of their basic Brut except at a higher level, with more intensity and complexity. It is elegant, yet with more restrained power. Crisp and dry, creamy and delicious. A beautiful and harmonious melange of flavors, including apple, pear, almonds, spice and brioche. There is so much going on in the glass. I believe this Champagne would hold up well with grilled meats.

7) NV Gossett Cuvee 15 Brut ($150)
Just entering the U.S. market, this Champagne is a blend of  60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, using the best vintages from the late 1990s. It spent 15 years on the lees prior to disgorgment. It presents with a more unusual aroma, almost cheesy and earthy, though that doesn't come out on the palate, which was bone dry, with plenty of mineral notes and a touch of brioche, citrus and green apple. There were layers and layers of subtle flavors, an intriguing complexity which was hard to put into words. A fascinating and delicious Champagne which is highly recommended. Gosset has also been experimenting with longer aging on the lees, but it is too early to know whether anything will develop from those experiments. Grab a dozen oysters and enjoy the Cuvee 15 Brut!

8) 2010 Luis Rodriguez Vina de Martin Escolma Blanco ($65)
From the Ribeiro D.O. in the Galicia region, this Spanish wine is a blend of 20-40 year old vines of Treixadura, Albariño, Torrontés, and Lado. This is a quality cuvée that is only produced in excellent vintages. It is fermented in French oak, sits on the lees for 12 months, and then ages in the bottle for another 3 years. I very much enjoyed this wine, with its intriguing complexity, with some apple and tropical fruit flavors as well as plenty of minerality. It had a strong, floral aroma and a lengthy, pleasing finish.

9) 2013 Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay ($125)
This Argentinian wine is produced from grapes from the Adrianna Vineyard, one of the most studied vineyards in the world. It is made from 100% Chardonnay, with about two-thirds undergoing malolactic fermentation, and is aged in French oak for about 12-16 months. It is an impressive wine, likely to bring to mind a beautiful Chablis. It is bright and crisp, with a delicious and complex melange of citrus, pear, apple, mineral notes, and a hint of saltiness. It is medium-bodied with a long and pleasing finish. This is a wine that aches for seafood, from oysters to scallops, an elegant wine that you should slowly sip and enjoy.

10) NV Akenta Underwater Millesimato Spumante Extra Dry ($60-$70)
This Sardinian sparkling wine is made from 100% Vermentino, using the Charmat method, spends about six months aging 40 meters beneath the sea. The cold temperatures of the water, the darkness and the pressure all play a role in creating this wine. I found it is more full bodied, with a bright gold color and tiny bubbles.  There is an appealing aroma of stone fruit and almonds, with floral hints. On the palate, it is crisp with a slight touch of sweetness, and delicious flavors of peach, apple, and a mild bready note. Elegant and delicious.

France takes first place on this list, occupying three spots, while Portugal, Spain and Italy are tied for second place, all occupying two spots. And Argentina occupies the final spot. Of these wines, Sparkling Wines take first place, occupying four spots, with Champagne taking three of those spots. There are three Fortified Wines, two Ports and a Sherry, and one Italian digestif, a Chinato. Rounding out the list are two White Wines. The first wine on this list, the Quinta Dona Matilde Vintage Porto, was tasted at the Boston Wine Expo, an event where I often find a number of excellent value wines.

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.


Unknown said...

This is an impressive list and a job very well done. I call special attention to the White Bones Chard. I have had this wine twice once as my normal buy a wine you've never had or are not familiar with weekly and once because I was so impressed with my first tasting. It truly is a superior wine from an unlikely contending country. Mineral notes...I love those wet stone, chalky characteristics and that's the trigger to the reminder of a great Chablis.
Love this wine. They also have a very similar White Stones, same vineyard, that is excellent, but, I think, a little less acidic thus less of a long finish which is the beautiful palate pleasing quality of the White Bones.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks very much Andrew! I tried the White Stones side by side with the White Bones, and the Bones was my favorite of the two.

Unknown said...

Great list, Andrew! If you had to choose one wine on it which one would it be?