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My 2013 Top Twelve White Wines of the Year

eminenciaReplacing the usual Wines of the Month spot with a (three blog) focus on my Wines of the Year involved a serious (and rather pleasurable) long afternoon’s reflection.

It has been a devil of a job to whittle down the resulting 62 pages of cut and pasted tasting notes to my Top Twelve (originally Ten!) Whites, Reds & Fortifieds.

Here are those white wines from said compendium which remained most vividly etched on mind and palate.

As you can see, Aussie Chardonnay tickled my taste buds big time, while Portugal’s Vinho Verde impressed with two all new single vineyard wines. And if Aussie Chardy has become the obvious go-to-place instead of Burgundy, Portugal’s Bairrada offers yet another exciting alternative, especially for those adventurous souls focused on terroir, not variety.

Paço de Palmeira Royal Palmeira Eminencia Loureiro 2010 (Vinho Verde)

A bling-a-ling-a-ling Loureiro, which undergoes extended barrel ferment and batonnage.  Not your usual Vinho Verde then but this, the flagship wine, is wholly in keeping with Ideal Drinks’ ambitious portfolio to which I was introduced last year.  From the estate’s 40 year old vineyards in Loureiro-focused Lima, the concentration and stucture of this Vinho Verde belies its pale hue. It’s most definitely pale and interesting! A leesily creamy, deliciously textured palate reveals long and ever so lingering layers of minerals, lime cordial and lime blossom, powder puff and delicately judged supporting sweet, smoky oak.  It won’t appeal to purists but, without question, it’s the most powerful, intense and complex Loureiro I’ve encountered.  And thoroughly beguiling with it.

Quinta de Covela Edição Nacional Branco 2012 (Vinho Verde)

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A slightly waxy nose reveals a hint of fennel. In the mouth subtle citrus and stone fruits are deliciously offset and teased out by a lively, dancing vein of crystalline, mineral acidity. A waxy, textural quality to the mid-palate betrays the estate’s sunny, southernmost and far east (in Vinho Verde terms) location on the cusp of the Douro region, additionally the use of wild yeasts, which bring a tangy, nutty note to the long finish. A textured but elegant, very interesting wine. Very good indeed.

Quinta das Bageiras Espumante Bruto Natural 1989 (Bairrada)

Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno held back just 300 bottles of this sparkling blend of 70% Maria Gomes, 30% Bical, which spent 22 years on lees!  Served in a Burgundy glass, it was perfectly vinous, very pure, fresh and clean on the attack, with yellow plums, hints of flor, biscuit, oyster shell and iodine on a long, persistent, finely wrought finish – a perfect match with a shellfish reduction at Claro!  Exquisite.

Quinta das Bageiras Colheita Branco 1994 (Bairrada)

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When Mário Sérgio (pictured) tried to sell this wine door-to-door, restaurants only wanted the latest 1995 release.  Their loss, because this is a phenomenal wine, with terrific line, length and purity beneath its oilskin nose.  It shows zesty grated lime and bitingly fresh, verging on tart, mouthwatering nectarine and peachskin notes.  A lipsmacking tour de force.

Filipa Pato Nossa Branco 2011 (Bairrada)

Filipa Pato with Leandro Carreira, whose fine food matches you can read about here.

Filipa Pato with Leandro Carreira, whose fine food matches you can read about here.

Pato reckons this is the best Nossa Branco she has made. I’m inclined to agee. It’s smoky and flinty on nose and palate with peach/peach skin and a very lively streak of zesty, limey acidity.  Great structure, focus and depth, with terrific persistence of flavour. A Burgundy lover’s delight.

 Wine & Soul  Guru 2012 (Douro)

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This impressive blend of Viosinho, Rabigato, Códega and Gouveio seems to get better year on year. In 2012, it’s possessed of remarkable energy. On day one, the energy is all about structure. A tension, between the tight knit fruit, classy veneer of oak and salty minerality, which brings great line and length, but an austerity too. On day two, its intense, stony fruit becomes more assertive. Yet the palate remains perfectly precise. With that piquant saltiness, a herbal edge and echo too. All told an impressive blend of power and refinement, with signature Douro minerality and that hard to define edge of greeness which, for me, keeps the fruit in check. Unique and exceptional.

Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2011 (Yarra Valley, Victoria)

CSH_Reserve_Chard_YValley_2011The Reserve Chardonnay is sourced from two vineyards. In this atyically cool year, it’s less muscular than usual – more intense, with great nervosity. Even on the nose, jostlingly fresh, very pure fruit beats palpably beneath this wine’s sweet vanillin oak, keen to escape the traps.  And when it does, it’s pin-point sharp, focused and forceful, lead by a terrific charge of grapefruity, lemony acidity, which animates the juicy golden delicious, white pear and peach fruit seemingly to infinity and beyond. The markedly dry, beautifully delineated finish subtly reverberates with spicy oak on the back-palate. But the lasting impression is the racy acidity and breathtaking nervosity of this wine. Outstanding.

Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria)

A tight nose of flint/cordite and cracked, roast hazelnuts forecasts the savoury, taut palate which follows. A firm, citric backbone of bright, zingy lemon and green pineapple provides great line and reverberating length. This is an exciting, energetic wine.

Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2011 (Margaret River, Western Australia)

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I always look forward to tasting the latest release of Kevin John – one of Australia’s best, most original Chardonnays, it really dances to its own tune.  Made 100% from the low yielding gin gin clone, in recent years 100% whole bunch pressed (which reduces juice yield but increases juice quality and purity) and, for many years, naturally fermented, it’s a powerhouse in the best sense (click here for my notes on a vertical 1997-2010 which affirms Cullen Chardonnays’ immense ageing capacity).  Intense, not dense, with great depth and layer of fruit, oak and minerals to nose and palate.  So potent, in fact, that I happily nosed the empty glass for minutes afterwards, so in thrall was I to its contents! The oak is beautifully integrated, bringing a gently nutty/toasty burnish to its concentrated layers of dried pear, melon and citrus.  An arresting streak of very pure, limey acidity carries a super-long, penetrating finish with a quinine edge of minerality.  Outstanding.

Jim Barry Watervale Rhine Riesling 1977 (Clare Valley, South Australia)

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I tussled between this wine and Yalumba Riesling 1938 (reviewed here). Sheer joyous drinkability won the day. This was exceptionally fine, pure and delicate for its age – even more so than the preceding 89 and 86 vintages which I tasted the same fine March day and which, texturally and flavourwise, showed the (attractive) marmalade and toast notes you’d expect after 25 years or so. Peter Barry was delighted that in this, his first wine, you could still detect lime, such was its freshness. With ripe rolling pink grapefruity/stony acidity, it finished long and very pure. Outstanding. 6g/l residual sugar.

Domaine Huet Vouvray Haut Lieu Demi-sec 1945 (Loire)

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It was a tough call between this museum release and the Haut Lieu 1ere Trie Moelleux from 1989 reviewed here (how sneaky was that!) This time, it was a case of age before beauty?!? Anyway, huge respect goes to Huet for producing this deep gold, divinely juicy Chenin, with a very much alive and kicking core of sweet mandarin fruit at 68 years old! Superb balance. A mellifluous, honeyed finished is long and pure. Really fluid – not a hint of drying out here. Wow, wow; an elixir of youth! 11.5%

Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly Silex 2010 (Loire)

Nobody does Sauvignon like the Loire and the clue here is in the name – silex, meaning flinty.  Compared with Dagueneau’s Pur Sang from deep clay soils, one might have expected it to be super-austere.  In fact it shows a terrific concentration of fresh, bright appley fruit of crystalline purity.  Really powerful, long and shimmering, it’s the most complete of the 2010 wines (reviewed here) – quite beautiful – with the balance to age ever so gracefully.

My posts on favourite reds and fortifieds follow this week and next.

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