Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018: Top Wines Over $50 (Plus My Wine of The Year)

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

Welcome to my third, and last, Top Wines List. I've already posted my Top Ten Wines Under $15 and Top Ten Wines Over $15 (But Under $50). 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 I enjoyed, 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.

I'm also going to note that this is the first year that I am announcing an overall Wine Of The Year! One wine simply stood out so much this year that I saw the need for such a declaration. And I will begin my list with that very wine...

1) Bodegas Yuste Conde de Aldama Amontillado Sherry ($210)
It was a very easy decision to select this phenomenal and unique Sherry as my Wine Of The Year. First, it may be the oldest wine I've ever tasted. This Sherry is an average of 130-150 years old, and its solera was begin sometime from 1740-1750, before the U.S. was even a country. Second, you need to read my detailed review for more details about its history and production, as well as my full tasting notes. For me, this wine may be as close to perfect as any wine will ever be. Third, it certainly helped that I shared this bottle with some very close friends at a fantastic birthday celebration. Fourth, even at this price point, I think the wine is a bargain and if I ever see it again on a wine store shelf, I'll buy it without question. How often can you say that about a $200 wine? I cannot recommend this wine highly enough.

2) 2014 San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($50.99)
This Italian wine is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, with the rest a blend of indigenous grapes including Abrusco, Pugnitello, Malvasia Nera, Ciliegiolo and Mazzese. This is a WOW wine, impressive and compelling. The aromas seduce your nose, giving evidence of the quality that you'll find within the wine. On the palate, it is silky smooth, with plenty of complexity, including ripe plum, black cherry, mild spice notes, hints of earthiness, and wisps of additional flavors that seem to flit in and out. Well-balanced, fine acidity, and a lingering, satisfying finish. It is the epitome of elegance, a wine to slowly savor over the course of an evening, relishing each sip, finding new flavors within each taste.

3) Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($60-$65).
Port doesn't get enough attention, and when it does, Vintage Port seems to get the spotlight. However, there are plenty of other excellent Port types available, such as this one. This Port wine is actually about 24 years old, made from high quality wines, and is complex and intriguing, more dry than sweet, well-balanced and delicious. Caramel and salted nuts, dried fruit, a wisp of citrus and black cherry, hints of spice and good acidity. A Port to slowly savor over the course of an evening, chatting with good friends, paired with blue cheese or creme brulee. Each sip will bring something new to your palate, and you could get lost within your glass.

4) 2015 Bodegas Garzón Balasto ($120)
From Uruguay, the 2015 vintage was the first release of this wine, a blend of the best grapes of the vineyard, including 45% Tannat, 25% Cabernet France, 20% Petit Verdot, and 10% Marselan. The grapes were fermented in concrete tanks and then the wine spent about 20 months in untoasted, large French oak casks. This is a powerful, muscular wine with concentrated red and black fruit flavors, yet it still possesses a beautiful elegance. The tannins are restrained, helping to rein in its power. There are also subtle spice notes, nice acidity, a hint of earthiness and it possesses a lingering and pleasant finish. This is a wine built for aging, though it is still impressive now.

5) 2014 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz ($119.99)
An Australian wine made from 100% Shiraz from a vineyard that was planted in 1892. 122 year old vines! This wine, with a 14.5% ABV, aged for at least 22 months in 1/3 new, 1/3 second, and 1/3 third use French and American oak puncheons. It possesses a rich, crimson color and an alluring nose of spice and black fruit. On the palate, the wine is elegant and silky smooth, with a complex melange of concentrated flavors of plum, black cherry and raspberry, with a strong spicy backbone, well integrated tannins, and pleasing acidity. It is well balanced with a long, lingering finish that completely satisfies. This is nowhere close to a jammy, fruit bomb but rather the type of high quality wine that seduces your senses.

6) 2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Griffin's Lair Syrah, Sonoma Coast ($50-$60)
A blend of 88% Syrah and 12% Viognier, this California wine possesses a dark, almost purplish colored wine, emitted an alluring nose of black fruits and spice, with subtle, almost fleeting aromas of other elements, such as herbal and floral notes. You can detect the complexity of this wine from the start, and that complexity is further elaborated on the palate. Full bodied and intense, it is lush and seductive, possessed of an intricate melange of flavors, including plum, black cherry, vanilla, dark spice, and an underlying earthiness. Such a long and lingering finish, each sip providing pleasure for minutes at the least. The tannins are well integrated, the silky feel of the wine caressing your palate. A hedonistic and complex wine that will please almost any wine lover.

This year, six countries and regions have a single spot on the list, including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Uruguay, Australia, and California. Of these six wines, they also consist of 2 Fortified Wines and 4 Red Wines. The Uruguayan wine may be the most surprising wine on the list as most people wouldn't expect such an amazing, high-end wine from this up and coming wine country. For myself, the biggest surprise may be the Australian wine, as I've tasted little from this country in several years after having had too many disappointing wines. It's time for me to sample more Australian 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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