Meet The Contenders For Wines of 2024

It may be flaming June, but it is not bloody flaming. By the time this blog emerges (unlike the sun), it will probably be soggy July. That’s me tempting the weather gods to rain sun and heat down on our heads for the rest of summer.

What would John Clare say?

The ploughman sweats along the fallow vales
And down the suncrackt furrow slowly trails
Oft seeking when athirst the brooks supply
Where brushing eager the brinks bushes bye
For coolest water he oft brakes the rest
Of ring dove brooding oer its idle nest
And there as loath to leave the swaily place
He’ll stand to breath and whipe his burning face…

June ~ The Shepherd’s Calendar.

Under an overcast sky, time to look back in languor at my hitherto fave drops of 2024.  There have been some right doozies – to use a technical wine term.

The Lava-Lampiest Award – 2016 Favola, Dario Princic, Friuli

Some wines you have to see to believe – and when you see them you will scarcely believe them. This blend from Princic was like a meal in itself; every mouthful was rolled, chewed gently and enjoyed to the maximum extent. The colour as well – will be imprinted on my memory.

Here’s a note from Chrissie Rasmussen who drank this bottle with me and perfectly expresses the tangible intangibles:

There is such complexity here. It is wild in the best way; wild at heart without being feral. So many scents of nature: chamomile, dried slightly sweet hay, apricots straight from the tree, even raspberries – something I usually find only in red wine. The tannins were the topic of our conversation: they are present, yet so soft and soothing somehow – silky wouldn’t be quite right, rather almost like cotton or fleece on your tongue. Cloud tannins. There is a ton of that lovely word the French called matière here, a word we don’t really have in English, but perhaps the best try is substance/density of flavour. A wine that is somehow in that realm between eating and drinking.

The De Moor Award For Attention-To-Tension Chablis – 2022 De Moor Chablis Bel Air & Clardy

Where your tongue meets the electric socket. So much nervous energy and nourishing purity here, ameliorated by beautifully judged oak and ripeness of fruit. Effortless pleasure, a wine that leaves you both satisfied and wanting more.

The What-To-Drink-On-The-Balcony-When-The-Sun-Is-Beating-Down – NV Si Rose, Domaine Christian Binner

I could get drunk on the joyous colour of this alone. The Si Rose is a solera combo of Pinot Gris/Gewurz Rose, usually blending three vintages to a style. Feels like a red/rose/orange churn, a peach fuzz smoothie in excelsis. The Rose bit refers to the classic rose flower aromas of this kind of Gewurz.

The Pet Nat That Coulda Been A Champagne – 2023 Maupertuis Pink Bulles, Auvergne

Most pet nats are glou juice. Lob Gamay into the equation and they are as Gamayflies demanding to be smashed rather than considered. Maupertuis’ version tastes of proper “elevage” for want of a better word. It is seriously snappy and lingers in a most satisfying manner. Vive le crunch!

The So Much Flavour For Packed Into Slimline Price Award – 2021 Sassolini, Podere Sassi, Lazio

Sassolini may sound like an avant-garde Italian movie director but is in fact the name of a cheeky Ciliegiolo from Podere Sassi that moved me to think and write the word “rustic” in my tasting note. For it embodies all things country. So purple, so throbbing with brambly bits, a red to send you screaming into the kitchen to whip up a meaty lasagne. Reader, I did this (recipe with the blog).

The Pony Is An Orange Stallion wine – 2021 Wild Pony, Bianka & Daniel Schmitt

As per the Favola from Princic above, there are orange wines and then there are orange wines. The latter seem to glow from within. The Pony in question is a blend (it changes from year to year). Sometimes, there is a bit of flor influence as an extra seasoning to the ensemble, but it is always a wine of emotion (of love), and as with the best skin-contact wines, envelops your tongue in its liquid embrace.

The Winner Of The Eternal Game Of Cheninigans – 2018 Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines, Domaine aux Moines

Semi-cliché tasting note alert. This Chenin exhibits Cistercian purity. Maybe the Moines were not of that Benedictine order, but the wine is. This was Savennières in all its glory with lashings of petrichor, straddling spring and autumn on the fruit spectrum, and sporting whispers of dry honey. I loved the wine because it put me in the moment and made me forget about grape and origin. To use cod-philosophical jargon, it was a wine ineffably in-and-of-itself. Any wine that diverts you from an analytic mindset and moves you to feel it instead, is deeply cherishable. And with six years bottle age on the clock, it is just beginning to crack a dry smile.

The Single Vineyard Chardonnay That Merits The Epithet Puligny-esque –2022 Kelley Fox Durant Vineyard Chardonnay

Something onomatopoeic about the word Puligny, unfurling flavours that seem to glide effortlessly across the palate and yet are so evidently present. The white wine equivalent of the iron fist in the velvet glove, or maybe limestone fist would be a better description. Kelley’s note: The nose begins with powdery minerals, delicate tropical fruits, and creamy citrus. These aromas are repeated in the mouth that has beautiful texture and a lasting finish. A wine with a shy wow factor.

The Oups I Drank A Merlot Award – 2022 Oups! Lucie Mançais

I am not a total sucker to believe everything I saw in Sideways. However, Merlot has not been on my radar for many years and nary a drop of Bordeaux has crossed my lips. Consider me a repentant sinner since I encountered the organically-farmed, naturally-made wines of Lucie Mançais. Bold and packed with dark spiced plum fruit flavours. There are some iron notes in the wine – the power of old vines.

The Pluperfect Jura – 2008 Les Vignes de Mon Pere, JF Ganevat

Parker gave me 100 pts here. Savagnin? Check! 12 years topped up in barrel? Check! Natural? Check! Tasting notes become irrelevant. This was the sort of wine that you want to climb inside of and surrender to. We speak glibly about layers of flavour; this was a magnificent millefeuille. The aromas subtle and complex – flowers, churned butter, exotic spice, warmth of golden fleshed fruit ripening on a tree, while extraordinary textures caress every part of your tongue.

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