Wines of the Year
Our top 10 wines of 2013 (in no particular order)
To put it briefly, these are some of the wines that inspired us to start Cork Culture. Over the past year they’ve thrilled, intrigued, and compelled us enough to pay attention to biodynamic and organic winemaking (with the exception of d'Yquem—I just like it too much).
After drinking wines like these, we are utterly convinced that if you want good wine, pay attention more to how your wine is made, rather than where.
George Laval - Cumieres 1er Cru Brut Nature
This was the champagne that got me hooked forever on “grower champagne”. It really made me realize that champagne is a wine like anything else—not something we reserve solely for celebrations and special events.
Around February I opened a half-bottle for a casual dinner at home, and right away this thrilling, almost aggressive chalkiness emerged. This was a wine all about minerality, and less about fruit. At first it came across as rather austere and dry due to the lack of dosage. But I found that having 0/g of added sugar only made this wine more transparent and vibrant.
A friend and I drank 1 glass each, and tucked it away into the fridge to try the next day, and we couldn't believe what had happened to the wine. Naturally the bubbles had slightly dissipated, but almost 24 hours later this beautiful taut and precise green fruit came out, which was endless and truly special.
Château D’Yquem 1996 (here is a photo of '08 since I couldn't get a shot of the '96)
This is probably the most “boring” wine to put on the list, but I can’t really help it—d’Yquem tastes so unbelievably damn good. I was at a dinner this year where they were serving some crappy classified growth from Margaux. Then at the end of the event we each got a small glass of d’Yquem 1996. I drank my tiny glass slowly, savouring every luscious golden drop. I was in pure heaven. Then the waiter came along asking if I wanted more, since nobody else was drinking it! I couldn’t believe it—but well, it was their loss.
Nikolaihof - Riesling Reserve Steiner Hund 2006
The purest expression of Riesling that I had this year didn’t come from Germany or Alsace (although Schaefer Fröhlich Felseneck “GG” 2010 came this close)—but rather from Austria. Nikolaihof was the first biodynamic producer to be certified in the world, and at the risk of sounding disgustingly poetic, their Steiner Hund 2006 was a wine that took us places. It brought us along the verdant hills of the Wachau and along the stony edge of the Danube River. It was weightless, vibrant, but just so pure and rich. Even now, I can remember the immense minerality of this Riesling. Just so, so good.
Pheasant’s Tears – Rkatsiteli 2009
Strictly speaking in terms of overall quality, I have to admit that this wine shouldn’t really belong here. It isn’t going to age 20+ years, it’s not going to win big points from traditional critics (although Jancis Robinson gave it a rare 17), and it isn’t the most perfect, refined wine I’ve ever had (in fact it’s probably the most rustic). But still, the first time I had this wine in Kakheti it was awe-inspiring. This is a “natural” wine bottled without sulphur, aged underground in clay amphora with skin contact, and yet it was miles ahead of anything else I had tasted during a whole week of travelling in the country. I put it on this list since before visiting Georgia I had never experienced anything else like it before, and it serves as a reminder to never stop exploring.
Vincent Dauvissat - Chablis 1er Cru Cru La Forest 2004
Even with 9 years of age, I opened this too early. It needs 2-4 more years probably, but what the heck—this is ‘La Forest’ from Dauvissat, universally recognized as the second best producer in Chablis aside from Ravaneau, and drinking this purged all memory of every inferior bottle of Chablis that has ever disappointed me. La Forest 2004 was close to perfection. It’s classic Chablis with all the clichés: “laser focus”, “mineral”, “piercing”, and at this point I’m only upset that I had only bought one.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere - Etna Rosso 2011
Sicily is the most exciting region in Italy right now hands down. The stuff happening down there is ridiculous, and this wine sums up my enthusiasm. It’s made of Nero Mascalese, which is a tart and beautiful little grape that is kind of like Pinot Noir. Drinking this brought to mind Burgundy—except that Burgundy is stupidly overpriced and this gem isn’t. It’s grown somewhere near Etna, which means volcanic soil, and from what I remember, was light, elegant, earthy, and chock full of minerals.
Roberto Voerzio - Barolo Fossati Case Nere 10 Anni Riserva 2003
I met Roberto Voerzio in Hong Kong for an interview at the start of the year and though we talked through a translator, his vineyard philosophies are fascinating. When he poured me this one-of-a-kind Barolo, which he has kept stored in his winery for TEN years before releasing this year, I was actually speechless. The cost is astronomical (think 3000~ range), so I doubt I’ll ever manage to buy one for myself, but if you are ever in the mood to splurge, find this wine and drink it with the person you love the most.
And sorry the photograph is wrong! Lost my photo of the actual Barolo, so this will have to do.
Nin-Ortiz – Nit de Nin Priorat Porrera 2011
I went to the Spanish region of Priorat this year and left a changed man. Well that is a bit of an exaggeration, but if you’ve ever thought that Spain isn’t capable of fresh, elegant, terroir-influenced wines—think again. Nit de Nin was one of the top 3 wines out of the 300 that I tried out during 3 blurry days. It’s made by Carles Nin and his sister Esther, who are also responsible for Clos Erasmus, one of the iconic wines of the region.
Nit de Nin is a wholly captivating blend of Grenache and Carignan—a young, powerful, but electrifying wine that needs lots of aging to be ready. It is expensive, but honestly if this were made in France it would cost 5x the current price.
Mas Martinet – Els Escurçons 2009
Winemaker Sara Perez is awesome. She’s taken the reins at the legendary Mas Martinet, traditionally one of the best wineries in the Priorat, and made it even better. Since taking charge she has moved more and more organic, and her wines reflect this philosophy. I drank Els Escurçons on the vineyard itself, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. Fresh, floral, and blessed with an ethereal texture...the only problem with this wine is that it isn’t available in Hong Kong.
Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron - Vosne Romanée Les Beaux Monts 2005
I had to throw a Burgundy in here since I love the wines. But honestly, I hate the prices. I truly, truly do. Constantly over-hyped and over-priced, good Burgundy is sadly so addictive—I can’t let go of it, even though my wallet begs me to reconsider.
‘Les Beaux Monts’ is said by Allen Meadows to be the “most elegant and mineral driven 1er Cru in Vosne Romanée” and we can’t help but agree. This was a stunningly complex and fresh wine with ripe fruits and tannins. Dense, rich, and enveloping. A great wine from one of the best vintages ever. But yeah—it’s going to cost you an apartment in Shenzhen.