Wednesday, December 22, 2021

2021: Top Ten Wines Over $20

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

As 2021 has arrived, it's time to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor pleasant memories. I've already posted a few of my annual Favorite Lists, including My Favorite Restaurants, My Favorite Food-Related Items, and Top Ten Wines Under $20. It's now time for my list of Top Ten Wines Over $20

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 that I've 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 strongly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers would 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 region, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws. 


1) 2019 Ritosa Malvazija Istarska ($22)
This Croatian white wine, from the Istrian region, thoroughly impressed me. Made from 100% Malvazija Istarska, the wine has a 13% ABV, and was very aromatic, with pleasant floral and spice notes. My first sip brought a smile to my face. It was complex and compelling, with a wonderful melange of harmonious flavors. It was fresh and crisp, refreshing and satisfying with a moderately lengthy finish. On the palate, it was fruity (especially peach and pear) and floral, spicy and with a nice minerality. There was so much going on in this wine, and all of it was delicious. I could easily sip this on its own, relaxing outside on a warm summer day, but it would also be a fine accompaniment with seafood, light chicken dishes, and cheese. 

2) 2017 Quinta da Baseira Tinto Bom ($22)
This Portuguese wine is produced from 100% Tinta Nacional, also known as Vinhão or Sousao. The grapes for this wine are trod by foot in steel vats, and aged in stainless steel for about three years. With a 13% ABV, the wine is also unfined, unfiltered, and has no added So2. It is more of a natural wine, intended to show the terroir of the vineyard. On the nose, there were interesting red fruit aromas with a hint of earthiness. It was medium-bodied, with a medium-red color, less dark than expected, and on the palate it was light, crisp and refreshing, with a mild effervescence, and flavors of red and black berries, and an earthy undertone. It possessed an intriguing taste, complex and delicious, with a lengthy and pleasing finish. Simply delicious. Serve slightly chilled, and enjoy on its own or with anything grilled.

3) 2019 Les Vins Pirouettes Eros by Vincent ($25)
An "orange" wine from Alsace! This wine is a blend, of 20 year old grapes from a Biodynamic vineyard, of 40% Pinot Gris, 40% Riesling, and 20% Sylvaner. The grapes are fermented on the skins for about 25 days, and the pink color of the wine comes from the Pinot Gris, which is a pink-colored variety. The wine is also aged on the lees in large foudre for about eight months. On the nose, there's an intriguing aroma of spice, citrus, and apples, although there are hints of even more. And on the palate, there's a compelling and complex melange of flavors, such a joy in the mouth. It is primarily savory, with baking spices, pepper, black tea, and more, combined with a variety of fruits, from citrus to pineapple. It is crisp, dry, well-balanced and with a pleasing, lengthy finish. Each sip brings something a little different to your mouth, and this is a wine you can slowly savor and enjoy. 

4) 2016 Vina Skaramuca Plavac Mali Dingac ($24)
Another Croatian wine, this red is made from 100% Plavac Mali, organically grown, and made with natural yeasts. It is aged for 12 months in large 3000L barrels, aged for another 6 months in the bottle, and has a 14% ABV. and is in a bigger, bolder style. This wine tends more to richer, black fruit flavors, like plum and black cherry, with an ample spicy element, strong tannins, and a touch of earthiness. A lengthy finish, nicely balanced, and quite tasty. This is a wine to pair with hearty dishes, from steak to stews. Or some wild boar. 
I explored a number of Nova Scotian wines this year, and was pleased to find so many tasty wines. This Rosé is a blend of Pinot Meunier, L'Acadie Blanc and Frontenac Noir. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and has only an 11% ABV. The Rosé had a nice pale pink color with a delightful nose of red fruits and a touch of herbal accents. On the palate, it was crisp, dry and clean, with juicy red fruit flavors of strawberry, watermelon and peach, with subtle touches of herbs. It was refreshing and delicious, with a moderately long finish. It was tasty on its own, but would also pair well with a variety of foods. 

6) NV Blomidon Cremant ($28) 
Another Nova Scotian wine, this is from a winery from which I've enjoyed a number of their wines. This Crémant, produced in the Méthode Traditionnelle, is a blend of Seyval Blanc, L'Acadie Blanc, and Chardonnay. This sparkling wine was disgorged in the winter of 2020 and only has an 11% ABV. With such a low ABV, you can easily have a couple glasses without any worry. On the nose, the sparkling wine was aromatic with fresh apple and stone fruit notes. When I peruse the glass, it had plenty of tiny bubbles and a bright golden color. On the palate, it was delicious and delightful, being crisp, dry and creamy. It was refreshing, with flavors of apple and pear, and a touch of minerality. It has a very dry, pleasant and lengthy finish.

7) 2019 Blomidon Estate Baco Noir ($22)
This Nova Scotian red wine is made from 100% Baco Noir, but the winery's website lacks any details of its production process, although it seems like it has seen some aging in American oak and it only has a 12% ABV. The wine has a medium-red color with pleasing aromas of red and black fruit with a touch of spice. On the palate, it was smooth and juicy, with rich black and red fruits, including some cherry and blackberry, complemented by some vanilla and other spices. Mild tannins, good acidity, and a nice finish. A very tasty wine, it had nice character and complexity, and would be excellent on its own or paired with food. 

8) 2019 Bent Ridge Winery Contorto ($23)
And one more Nova Scotian wine! This red wine is produced from 100% Marquette, and unfortunately, details of the production process are not available on the winery's website. I suspect it has received some oak aging and it has a 13.5% ABV. On the nose, there are notes of black fruits and spice, and the wine has a rich, dark red color. On the palate, it has a relatively complex and tasty blend of flavors, including black cherry and black raspberry, with spice notes and a touch of vanilla. It's a bolder wine, yet the tannins are still restrained, and the wine is balanced, with good acidity and a pleasing finish. This is a wine probably best paired with food, and the back label suggests pasta as one possible pairing..

9) 2017 Sarris Vineyards "V is for Vostilidi" ($30) 
What a fascinating and unique Greek wine! I first tasted this wine at Krasi, and loved it so much I had to order a case for home. The is 100% Vostilidi (an indigenous Greek grape), spontaneously fermented and aged for about 11 months in a neutral 2-ton Austrian oak barrel. The vines are organic, although not certified, and the wine has a 13.2% ABV. The color of the wine reminded me more of an orange wine than the usual white wine. On the nose, I found an appealing blend of fruit notes, from apricot to peach, with a tinge of honey. And on my palate, it provided a complex and intriguing melange of flavors, including peach, apricot, vanilla, sweet orange and sesame! I don't recall the last wine that ever brought to mind sesame seeds but I loved that aspect of the wine. Good acidity, some minerality, firm tannins, plenty of umami, and a touch of floral notes. So much going on in each sip and the finish was lengthy and very satisfying. Highly recommended!

10) Multivintage Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee Champagne ($60)
The final wine on my list is a splurge-worthy wine, especially for the holidays. This Champagne is the flagship wine for the style of this winery. In general, this Cuvée is a blend of about 25 vintages. The wine is also a blend of about 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 22% Pinot Meunier, from a selection of 35 of the 320 crus of Champagne. The wine is aged for three years sur lie, longer than the legal requirement, and then aged for at least another five months after disgorgement. The Première Cuvée has a nice golden color and very tiny bubbles are visible in your glass. The aromas are intriguing, with a fine melange of red berries, orange and grapefruit, and a hint of almond. As I tasted this wine, its elegance, complexity and freshness stood out, pure deliciousness and each sip made me crave more. Dry and crisp, the flavors were complex and tasty, including apple, citrus, almond, a touch of brioche, a streak of minerality, and red fruits, but each sip seemed to bring forth even more flavors. It's the type of Champagne to slowly sip, to revel in the different, intriguing flavors that flit over your palate. The finish is lengthy and satisfying, clean and pure. I loved this Champagne! Its elegance, subtlety and complexity are captivating. 


This year, 6 countries/regions made the list with Nova Scotia taking the lead with four spots, followed by Croatia in second place with two spots. The other countries/regions include Portugal, Alsace, Greece, and France, all with one spot each. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into one  Rosé, two Whites, four Reds, two Sparkling, and one skin-contact White. I have other wine recommendations on my blog and you just have to search for them. 

If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines you've enjoyed, please add them to the comments.

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