Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Top Twenty Wines of 2023

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

As 2024 approaches, it's time once again to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor pleasant memories. Previously, I posted three of my food-related Favorites lists and it's now time to cover my Top Twenty Wines of 2023

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 list also includes only wines I reviewed on my blog, although I tasted some excellent wines that I didn't write about. Those wines might be mentioned elsewhere in my Favorites lists. 

Please note that this list doesn't include any of the Portuguese wines I tasted during my October vacation. First, I haven't completed all of the food & wine articles about this trip. Second, those wines deserve their own list. So, you can look forward in the future to a list of my favorite Portuguese wines from my trip. 

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.


A wine I tasted at the Boston Wine Expo from Brands of Portugal.  With a 13.5% ABV, it's a blend of Encruzado, Malvasia Fina and Bical. At under $25, I found this to be an exceptional wine, one of my personal favorites of the tasting. Complex and compelling, the wine well delivered from an appealing nose to its lengthy, satisfying finish. On the palate, there was a complex melange of fruit (citrus, pear, and a hint of tropical fruits) and savory herbs, with great acidity, brightness, and structure. Everything was very well balanced, and I'd drink this both with or without food. 

Another wine I tasted at the Boston Wine Expo from Brands of Portugal.  A fortified wine, with a 17.5% ABV, made from the Fernão Pires grape. With a fascinating, alluring aroma, with notes of caramel and toasted nuts, the palate was complex, compelling and elegant. Each sip brought something new, including touches of honey, roasted nuts, figs, caramel and citrus. With excellent acidity, the sweetness was well balanced and the finish was lengthy and pleasing. This is a wine to slowly sip, tasting how it evolves over time. 

3) 2020 Defio Baga Clarete (4-pack, $40-$50)
Another wine I tasted at the Boston Wine Expo from Brands of Portugal.  A Canned wine! With an 11% ABV,  produced from 100% Baga, this wine was produced by two woman winemakers. Its was also produced from organic grapes and made with minimal intervention. The wine is light and fruity, with a bit of a funky aroma and the flavors intrigue and delight the palate. This isn't the simple wine you find in many cans, but a wine of quality and depth, but still easy drinking.
Another wine I tasted at the Boston Wine Expo from Brands of Portugal.  With a 13.5% ABV, this wine is made from 100% Alvarinho from the renowned Monção and Melgaço sub-regions. For three generations, the winery has been woman owned, with women winemakers, although it wasn't until 2009 that they decided to form this small winery. This is a low intervention wine, priced under $25, and is intriguing and complex. With an alluring aroma, the wine is dry and crisp with a rich mouthfeel, and a melange of flavors, including citrus and passionfruit, with earthy undertones and a strong minerality. A lengthy, pleasing finish.

5) Caves Messias 1963 Colheita Port (Average price of $392) 
A 60 year old Port! I bought this wine a number of years ago, when the price was much lower, and opened it for a special occasion. With a 20% ABV, the wine was made from a field blend of Portuguese grapes, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, and Tinta Barroca. It was aged for 50 years in the barrel, having been bottled only in 2013. With a light, tawny color, I was first entranced with its alluring and complex nose, such a variety of intriguing aromas emanating from my glass. And on the palate, there was also a complex melange of flavors, enticing and tantalizing my palate. As I first tasted this Port, I was surprised by its fresh, bright flavors, youthful signs in such an old wine. As I sipped more, I was impressed by its depth of flavor and concentration, with touches of caramel, almonds, spice, dried fruit, and much more. Each sip brought something new, even if subtle, to my mouth. It was a delight to slowly sip this Port, savoring the evolving flavors. It also possessed a fine acidity, balancing its soft sweetness, and a silky smooth mouthfeel, ending with a long, lingering and satisfying finish. Just an exquisite Port, and words cannot do it justice. 

This wine is made from a blend of white grapes from the 2002 harvest, and it remained in oak for about 20 years, being bottled in 2022. I was thoroughly enamored with this aged White Port. With a rich amber/golden color, its aroma was more subdued, but still complex and appealing. On the palate, it was elegant and compelling, reminiscent in some ways to a fine aged Sherry. It possessed an intriguing melange of flavors, including dried fruit, honey, subtle spices, salted almonds, a light sweetness, and much more. Each silky sip brought something new to my palate. Its finish was extremely lengthy and satisfying, and overall, the wine was impressive. Everything was in perfect balance, and there seemed to be so much life remaining in the wine. This is a wine to slowly sip over the course of an evening, observing it develop over the course of the night. It's also a wine meant to be shared, to experience with good friends.

The winery's vineyards are organic and Biodynamic, and they also believe in minimal intervention in the cellar. This Rosé, made from 100% Xynomavro (from young vines), has a 13.5% ABV and was fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel tanks for 5-6 months. It's then aged in second-use oak barrels for about four months. On the nose, you'll find bright red fruits accented with some herbal notes. On the palate, there's a complex mix of flavors, including fresh strawberry, cherry, and herbal accents, with lots of crisp acidity. Beneath those dominant flavors, there's fleeting hints of more depth, so it's something to savor over time. In addition, it's refreshing and delicious, with a lengthy, satisfying finish. It's not merely an easy-drinking Rosé. 

8) 2019 Hatzidakis Skitali (about $65)
The wine is made from certified organic Assyrtiko grapes, from Santorini, which are fermented on indigenous yeasts and then aged on the lees for about 12 months in steel tanks. It's then aged in the bottle for another year before it's released. With a golden yellow color, the nose of this wine presents an alluring blend of citrus and floral notes. On the palate, there's a complex melange of intriguing flavors, including orange, lemon, white flowers, and an underlying minerality. It's elegant and crisp, rich and bright, with a lengthy and satisfying finish. Every sip brings new flavors to your mouth and it's a marvel just to slowly sip it over time. However, it's also a great pairing for seafood and cheese. This is a "Wow" wine, sure to impress any wine lover. And it's probably one of the top Assyrtiko wines I've ever tasted. 

The winery owns certified organic vineyards and their wine production is very low intervention, using only free run juice, natural yeasts and without any added sulfur. This wine, with a 13.5% ABV, is made from 100% Roditis, and is made in a Ramato style, an old Italian tradition. Ramato wines are made with lengthy skin contact, essentially similar to amber/orange wines. For this wine, about 70% of the wine spent 3 months with skin contact, and another 30% spent 6 months. It also spent about 7-8 months on the lees in stainless steel tanks. The wine possessed an alluring and complex nose, a blend of fruit and savory notes, and on the palate, that complexity also came through. Citrus, dried fruit and savory notes, with a hint of earthiness. Excellent acidity, smooth and clean, with a lingering and pleasing finish. Each sip brought something new to the palate. A very good value.

Another wine I tasted at the Boston Wine Expo. With a 13.26% ABV, this wine was made from 100% Agiorgitiko, and was fermented in stainless steel and then matured for 8-10 months in large oak barrels, about 40% new oak. This wine tends more towards an easy drinking style, with big, bold black fruit flavors, especially ripe plum and black cherry, silky tannins, and hints of spice. You could drink this wine on its own or with everything from pizza to burgers. 
From Domaine Costa Lazaridi, this wine is intended to be reflective of its terroir. Assyrtiko is best known as a white grape on Santorini, and in Drama, the grape takes on a slightly different flavor profile, generally being more fruity and aromatic. About 80% of this wine was aged for six months in stainless steel while 20% was aged in barrique. On the palate, the wine had a richer mouthfeel and crisp acidity, with a pleasing blend of flavors, including citrus and lemon, a touch of minerality and a hint of smoke. A satisfying and moderately lengthy finish. This would be an excellent wine paired with seafood, although it would also be a fine summer wine on its own.

This wine is made from 100% Albarossa, a cross between Chatus and Barbera, and this grape became part of the Piemonte DOC Albarossa in 2009. About 70% of the grapes in this wine are first dried, similar in some respects to Amarone (hence the name "Albarone."). The wine then ages for about 24 months in French and then for another 12 months in the bottle. With an alluring aroma of black fruit and spice, the palate presented elegance and restrained power, with a complex and delicious melange of blueberry, plum, black berry, spices and a touch of balsamic. The tannins were restrained, and it had a smooth and rich mouthfeel. The finish was long and pleasing, the acidity was excellent, and overall, it was an exceptional wine. A wine I enjoyed at A Tavola

Another wine I enjoyed at A Tavola. Made from 100% Vermentino, this wine possessed an alluring nose. It ws also crisp and dry, complex and delicious, with flavors of peach and stone fruit, savory notes, a hint of floral and a briny backbone. The finish was long and satisfying, and each sip was pure joy. This wine would be an excellent accompaniment to oysters. It might be more expensive than many other Vermentino wines, but its complexity and fine taste justifies the cost.

Another wine I enjoyed at A Tavola. Made from 100% Petit Verdot (19 year old vines), the wine spent about 18 months in used French oak. I've long been a fan of this grape, and this wine impressed me. This was another bold but elegant wine, yet not overly tannic, with a complex melange of flavors, including black cherry, blackberry, blueberry and hints of ripe plum. There were intriguing notes of spice, a touch of minerality, and even a hint of cocoa on the lengthy finish. Intense and compelling, this is a wine you can slowly savor, revealing in the varied flavors that come to your palate with each sip.

With a 12.5% ABV, this wine is produced from 100% Chardonnay, the best from their vineyards, and was disgorged in 2021. It was also aged for about 54 months on the lees. The wine has a light golden color and you can see many tiny bubbles in your glass. On the nose, it's alluring, with fruity notes accompanied by hints of toast and floral elements. As you sip it, you'll be impressed with the complexity of its flavor, including notes of green apples, peach, brioche, a briny touch, and almonds. Each sip brings something new to your palate. It's dry, crisp and elegant, with a mild creaminess, and a lingering, satisfying finish. An impressive sparkling wine.

Made from 100%, and produced in a minimalist approach, this wine was made from native yeasts and aged in clay amphora, purchased from Italy. Only 100 cases of this wine were made. This was a delicious, well-balanced and complex Chardonnay, refreshing and crisp, with a nice blend of fruit flavors, including green apple, citrus and pear. There was an intriguing savory aspect as well to the wine, along a lengthy, pleasing finish. This is the type of Chardonnay I most enjoy and I'd highly recommend it.

The vineyard is located near the vineyard for Sea Smoke. This was an elegant, complex and compelling Pinot Noir. Well balanced, silky smooth, with pleasing tastes of cherry and raspberry, with mild hints of spices and a touch of minerality, and a lingering, satisfying finish. Only about 900 cases of this wine were produced. This wine also receives my hearty recommendation.

Another wine I tasted at the Boston Wine Expo. This is their latest release and it's amazing they allowed this wine to age about ten years before release. I've previously enjoyed a number of other vintages of this wine, but this might have been my favorite. It possessed a compelling aroma of apples and toast, with slight spicy accents. On the palate, it was dry and crisp, with fine, tiny bubbles and a complex melange of flavors. Green apple, citrus, lemon, and toasted bread notes. Hints of savory spices and a slight briny aspect. Such an excellent depth of character, with a lengthy, pleasing finish. Perfect as an apertif or celebratory bubbly, it would also pair well with oysters and other seafood, or even fried chicken. 

From Uruguay, this wine has a 14% ABV, and is made from 100% Tannat, from a single vineyard site. It's a relatively new winery, having planted grapes in 2003-2004, and currently owning only 7 hectares.  This wine spent about 18 months in new French oak and then 15 months in the bottle. This is a complex and muscular wine, with stronger tannins, rich dark black fruits, a spicy backbone and a lengthy, appealing finish. An elegant powerhouse of a wine, perfect for steaks. It's not cheap, but it's worth a splurge.

From South Africa, this wine has a 13.5% ABV, and is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 10% Durif (Petite Syrah). There is almost no information about the production of this wine online, although I suspect it didn't undergo any oak aging. The wine is fruit forward, but not jammy at all, with delicious flavors of black cherry, plum, and raspberry. It also has a backbone of flinty minerality and a moderately long and pleasing finish. Smooth, easy drinking and with good acidity. This is a tasty wine on its own, although it would pair well with many dishes, from pizza to hamburgers. An excellent value wine.


Six countries made the list this year, with Portugal in first place, occupying six spots on the list. Greece is in second place with five spots and Italy takes third place, occupying four spots on the list. In fourth place was the U.S., with 2 wines from California and 1 from Massachusetts. And with a single spot each on the list, there's Uruguay, and South Africa. Six of the wines on this list were tasted at the Boston Wine Expo and three of the wines were tasted at the A Tavola restaurant in Winchester. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 2 Sparkling, 1 Rosé,  6 Whites, 7 Reds, 1 Amber, and 3 Fortified Wines. 

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 in 2023, please add them to the comments.

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