Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2017: 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. This isn't a Top Ten list as there aren't always sufficient wines at this price point that I've tasted and deemed worthy for inclusion. 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) 2013 Katlav Cabernet Sauvignon ($70-$75)
From Israel, this wine, made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, possessed an alluring aroma of black fruit and spice. It was a more elegant, complex and subtle wine, which might have needed a little time to open up. However, its potential was clear, with such a fascinating depth of flavor, smooth tannins, a beautiful melange of flavors, and such a lengthy and satisfying finish. This is not an over-the-top wine, but still shines forth and I would have loved to spend an evening with this wine.

2) 2006 Quinta Vale d. Maria Douro Red (about $70)
This intriguing Portuguese red wine is a field blend of 40 indigenous grapes, the vines averaging about 60 years. This wine is usually aged for 20-22 months in 65%-75% new French oak. The wine has an excellent aging potential, at least twenty years, and it could age even longer. This 2006 wine was complex and delicious, with notes of black cherry, blackberry, ripe plum, a hint of eucalyptus, and a strong, spicy backbone. The tannins were restrained, being a very elegant wine, with a long and luxurious finish. Throughly impressive, this is the type of "wow" wine which will make you savor each compelling sip. This wine would probably be best paired with food, especially beef, wild boar, game meats or other hearty dishes.

3) Quinta Vale d. Maria 2007 Vintage Port
From the same Portuguese winery, this Port is made from a field blend of more than 25 indigenous grapes, from vines aged 25-60 years old. The wines are aged in ancient (more than 100 years old) oak and chestnut wood Port casks, as well as small stainless steel vats, for about 18 months. The color of this Port was rich and dark, with alluring aromas which will seduce you into sampling it. This Port was excellent, delicious and complex, with a nice freshness to it and plenty of primary fruit flavors, both red and black fruits, from cherry to plum. It was powerful though not overwhelming, well balanced and fascinating. I would love to taste this again with much more age on it.

4) 2010 Chapel Down Three Graces ($50)
Sparkling wine from England? Yes and there are plenty of reasons why excellent bubbly is now being produced in that country. The 2010 Chapel Down Three Graces is a blend of 60% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, and 7% Pinot Meunier. About 10% of this wine includes reserve wine from 2009, and there was a tiny bit of oak in that reserve wine. It was fermented in stainless steel, underwent 100% malolactic fermentation and spent about five years on the lees. It was disgorged a few months before release. With a 12% ABV, wine had a pleasing golden color, with lots of tiny bubbles as well as fruit notes on the nose with a touch of toast. It has a clean and crisp taste, with lots of freshness, and tasty apple flavors and hints of citrus, but with more brioche elements and a lengthy, pleasing finish. It is complex and elegant, delicious and intriguing.

5) 2007 Hugel Schoelhammer Riesling (about $140)
This famous Alsatian winery scored a major hit with this 100% Riesling, the first release which comes from the historic Schoelhammer vineyard. It took the winery 5-6 years to decide whether this wine should be bottled and sold or not. Then, it took another five years before they placed the wine on the market. It is a special, terroir-driven wine which should be able to age for one hundred years. This is an incredible wine, complex and beguiling, with sharp acidity, rich mineral notes, and some intriguing fruit flavors, including some green apple and lemon with a mild saline character. It is dry and full-bodied with a lingering finish that continues to please long after you swallow a sip. It is strong enough to stand up to pork but would be great with more subtle seafood as well.

6) 2009 Hugel Vendange Tardive Gewurtraminer (about $55)
Also from that same winery as the Riesling, this is a late harvest wine, produced from Gewurtraminer, from a great vintage. It's nose alone was complex and alluring, calling to you like a mythical Siren. It was certainly an impressive wine, lush and decadent, with a mild sweetness, balanced by its crisp acidity, and with a complex melange of concentrated flavors that will tantalize your palate. You'll find orange, apricot, cardamon spice, floral notes, herbal accents and much more. Try pairing this wine with Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, the famed Spanish ham from the black-footed pigs.

Alsace and Portugal are tied for first place, each occupying two spots, while Israel and Great Britain each occupy one spit. Of these six wines, there is 1 Sparkling Wine, 1 White wine, 2 Red wines, 1 Fortified wine, and 1 Dessert wine. Three of the wines were tasted at the Boston Wine Expo, an event where I often find a number of excellent wines.

Not all expensive wines are worth their high price but these 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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