Best Schmest

So it seemed like an idea to do a best of 2008 list. But I inspected my notebooks, and discovered that there are actually two lists - the best wines, and those which gave me the most pleasure. Which leaves me wondering what best really means.

Leaving that tricky problem aside, I here present, in no particular order, my top six, extracted from the 1008 listed in my notebooks.

Murdoch James 'Saleyards' Syrah '06. I haven't tasted any other syrah which combines the lightness and intense sweet spiciness of this wine. And at twenty quid, it's not utterly out the window.

i Clivi 'Brazan' Tokai Friuliano / Malvasia '03. Brazan makes the cut for reasons of eccentricity, I suppose. And me being partial to a fair degree of oxygen. Tallasavan would not approve, but Puddleglum probably has a six pack of this under his bed.

Château Cantenac-Brown Margaux '01. This particular bottle was truly singing - second-growth quality, really - with a remarkable freshness and a lovely light floral character.

David Duband Gevry-Chambertin 'En Reniard' '05. A truly Burgundian wine, ethereal and difficult to pin down - the more so in that my notes, although they rave, don't bring it even faintly back to mind.

Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes '05. The second wine of Château Rieussec rather falls into both my 'best of' lists, because we had it with some Roquefort. Sweet-salty perfection, but somehow the honey, wet leaf, and marmalade notes are in harmony too.

Hegarty Chamans No 2 '04. This one gets on my list because it has Carignan in the blend, and because the winemaker, Sam Berger, seems happy to let the Carignan run naked and unfettered through the herb meadows of funky wildness.

All but one of the wines on this list are five-pointers. I leave it as an annoying exercise for the reader to figure out which one ain't - but there is a vinous prize for the first correct guess posted as a comment.


Random Grapeage, but it works...

... Carignan / Syrah / Grenache / Cabernet / Merlot.

Oh yes, and semi-carbonic maceration.

But it definitely works: the wine is a very dark purple, very fresh looking. On the nose is a hint of coffee or chocolate, but sadly none of the herbaceousness I enjoy in Carignan.

The palate, on the other hand, is herby. It's a relaxed, rounded, mellow, gentle, balanced wine with a warm finish.

On the second day the nose is now smoky cheese and a hint of flintiness, whereas the palate has become soft rich spicy, smoky and full bodied, with dark cherry flavours. Upscore to -4.

Ch√Ęteau Les Ollieux Vin du Pays de l'Aude 'Capucine' 07, very good indeed, 3++ (or -4 if you let it breathe). Oddbins, £6.99, 13%abv (but you'll need to be quick, or ask nicely - this is a brilliant and hugely popular wine which never lingers on the shelves).


Well I Never

Mendel Malbec ('06, under a rather decent cork), was a revelation. My mental shorthand for Malbec says “beefy bruiser”, but these guys have taken it to places entirely new to me. Light in body (all things are relative, of course: for an Argentinian Malbec it seems light to me, but on an absolute scale of Moscato d'Asti to freshly fermented Madiran, it is up there with the garagiste Bordelais), it still has the tannins one would want to accompany roast beast, and is a-swirl with all sorts of interesting flavours – green peppercorn, dried fruit, chocolate, savoury stews – that kept me sniffing for ages. Decidedly excellent, 4.