Wines of 2023

This was perhaps not a vintage year for stellar wines, although that might be as much that I was suffering from jaded palate syndrome. The list below features a couple of perennial favourites and the return of certain producers whose wines have always appealed to the heart and the head.

Discovery of the year: The wines of Cara Sur from Argentina. They illustrate that less is more, delicate can be strong, and infusions are as enchanting as extractions. For the next year, we will be practising pronouncing the word criollas until we are blue in the face.

Beadiest bubbles: There is a Godme!

Hugues Godme to be precise. I don’t normally drink champagne as if it is going out of fashion, but I have found some new favourite bubbles. Le Blanc de Noirs is a non-dosĂ© wallow in Pinot Noir, part matured in old barrels, from three reserve vintages (15,16 & 17). It is an indulgence and who doesn’t want to be indulged? All the champagnes are both nourishing and luxurious.

Sneaky semi-trend of the year: Flor wines, wines under the veil, call them what you will. Leesy does it, in solera form, including a range of wines from Montilla from Alvear called Tres Miradas, the usual Cota 45 crew, an Andalucian homage from Vino di Anna (see below), the return of the awesome Vin de Voile from Plageoles (it will age fifty years according to Papa Plageoles) and Jurassic iterations of the arc of jaune (sic). Stack the bottles from flor to the ceiling!

The only Mondeuse in the category “Mondeuse of the Year”: Mondeuse by Bruno Lupin.

Startling omission of the year: No amber/skin contact wines!

And so, to bestow my arbitrary seal of approval. Let it be said that every year that passes, my taste bandwidth narrows even further, and my palate becomes more “Cistercian.”

2021 Kelley Fox Carter Pinot Noir, Eola Amity, Oregon

Sliding gracefully under the bar at the last minute, a new cuvée for us from her Kelley-ness. From the Carter Vineyard in the Eola-Amity, this is spacey, relaxed Pinot Noir, less obviously intense than her Dundee Hills iterations of this grape, but so thoroughly delicious in its essence-of-blueberries way. Drunk at home. With a big smile.

2022 Gramenon L’Emouvante

Seriously moving Syrah from Vinsobres in the southern Rhone. Look up purple in the OED and it will direct you to the captivating colour of Gramenon’s L’Emouvante. Think gobs and blobs of hedgerow fruits whizzed up with garrigue and minerals into a tongue-staining peppery grape puree. Drunk at home.

2022 Syrah, Herve Souhaut

Classic, almost unassuming Syrah with curranty fruit spread over a basic granitic saltiness. One of those wines that grows slowly on you. It spawned a lengthy blog… Drunk at home over two happy hours.

2021 Savennieres Roche aux Moines, Domaine aux Moines

Assayed on more than one occasion, this Chenin has always been a jewel in our Loire crown. Shimmering with tension and notes of petrichor. Drunk in the garden of The Draper’s Arms, amongst other venues, a great wine epiphany summoner.

2021 Feu Follet, Jean-Claude Lapalu

The wines of Domaine Belluard have featured previously in my list of wines of the year. Feu Follet is JC Lapalu’s interpretation of Gringet, a wine that respects this wonderful indigenous Haute-Savoie grape and Dominique’s biodynamically-farmed vineyard in the Ayze commune, one parcel of which is known as “Le Feu.” Drunk variously at Brawn and Bouchon Racines, a wine that begins in linear, tensile mode and then unveils its hidden charms to finally throb joyously in the glass.

Vino di Anna Andalou XXII

Old vine Grecanico, from one parcel grown high on the north western slope of Mt Etna and from another deriving from a vineyard in Contrada Nave, at 1100m of altitude. The ullage of the barrel enables a flor to naturally develop on the surface of the wine. This film of yeast protects the underlying wine from the air present in the top of the barrel while a biological aging process starts to take place. Straw in colour, this wine is tangy, fresh and savoury. The nose is delicate, hedonistic, smelling of salted almonds and yellow apples. The palate is dry, complex with hazelnuts and dried fruit flavours, an intense acidity, and a long, mineral finish. Drunk in a restaurant in Tbilisi, it more than held its own against a Savagnin from Domaine des Miroirs.

2006 Maison Overnoy Arbois Pupillin Blanc (Savagnin Ouille)

Once again, time proves the friend of older Overnoy vintages when the reduction has a chance to melt into the wine. The finish on this topped up Savagnin lasted forever. Such density, such energy! Drunk in a restaurant in Tbilisi on the last night of our Georgian trip. We shall not see its like again.

2021 Arbois Ploussard-Trousseau, Bruyere-Houillon

Shared liberally and drunk from magnum at Sune Restaurant in Hackney on the night of their soft opening. A clever blend showcasing the respective complementary qualities of each grape variety. Floral, smoky, spicy. Delicious!

2009 Il San Lorenzo, Marche Bianco

Stunning  spicy Verdicchio aged on lees in a mix of cement and stainless for 12 years and still in its first flush. Drunk from a decanter at Brawn with friends.

2020 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola Siccagno Rosso

A bottle taken back from a tasting and drunk at home. Deliciously sanguine with aromas of small wild red fruits and a lick of liquorice.

2016 Domaine des Miroirs Entre Deux Bleus, Jura

Drunk at The Sportsman. A wonderful lunch with wine aficionados. Kenjiro Kagami’s Jurassic gem exhibited crystalline citrus fruit and magnificent length with attendant stoniness.

2014 Plantation 1902 Aligoté, Alice & Olivier de Moor

Enjoyed at the same lunch at The Sportsman, this wine preceded the Miroirs. The superlative Aligoté 1902 has been on my list of annual favourites every year since I first tried it. Wine pared down to the essentials, like licking an oyster shell. A wine that is a tonic in every sense.


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