Here’s to a Great Year
As a wine critic, i can’t think of many years more exciting than 2016, writes James Suckling
fter tasting more than 12,000 wines during the year, I’d rated no less than 20 perfect, hence the 10 Best Wines of 2016 published on the preceding pages are all rated 100 points. You can see my complete list of Top 100 Wines of 2016 at Jamessuckling.com. All were tasted from the bottle, which is why the list doesn’t include 2015 Bordeaux, a fantastic vintage not available in the bottle until 2018.
Most of the 100-point wines are from Italy and the Napa Valley. The 2013 vintage could be the greatest ever for the latter, which produced rich and structured cabernet sauvignon-based wines, while the 2010 vintage in Tuscany made phenomenal Brunello di Montalcinos. It’s wines like these that serve as reference points for wine lovers around the world.
My Wine of the Year, Opus One Napa Valley 2013, is certainly a point of reference for America’s greatest reds. It shows the Napa Valley is not about crude power or muscle any more. It’s about a new classicism of vibrant fruit and tension. While most American wines have very little or no international distribution, the Opus is available around the world, with as much as 40 per cent of its production sold outside the US.
The No. 2 wine has much the same energy as Opus One. The Viñedo Chadwick Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 shows the incredible beauty, harmony and character the best wines of Chile now have. Produced in one of the historically great parts of the Maipo Valley, the cab mesmerises you the moment your nose engages with the glass. It’s a truly subtle elixir with incredible complexity and elegance.
Renieri Brunello di Montalcion Riserva 2010 shows a similar harmonious and understated character. Its wonderful style is a combination of a superb vintage and the deft winemaking of the estate’s owner, Marco Bacci. Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1986, by comparison, is a historically unique wine from Spain’s greatest wine region. The ancient wine underlines the great tradition of long barrel-ageing of whites in the region and reminds me of the legendary 1963 R Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva Blanco (100 points).
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Malbec Mendoza Fortuna Terrae 2012, at No. 5, is making history illustrating the new wave of Argentine malbecs that emphasise finesse and terroir. Its balance, elegance and intense character are unequalled in Mendoza. My No. 6, Dominus Napa Valley 2013, is about finesse with power and is clearly the greatest Dominus made since its first year, 1983.
It’s hard to say if the 2002 Krug is the greatest champagne ever, but it is a phenomenal wine and perhaps the best of the legendary 2002 vintage. Its richness and power is second to none. Tyrrell’s Old Patch Shiraz 2014 may be one of Australia’s greatest reds. Produced from vines planted in 1867, it’s a dream, with incredible depth and richness but always agile and vivid—old vine magic.
Riesling Wachau Singerriedel Smaragd 2015 is equally persuasive even though it’s not made from ancient vines. It underlines the greatness of riesling in Austria as well as the incredible viticulture and winemaking in the Wachau. Finally, Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 2103 is an amazing red and highlights the Gaja family’s return to labelling their wines Barbaresco. I applaud this change. In fact, I applaud all the 100 producers in this year’s top 100 list. There were so many great wines in 2016. You’re going to love drinking them.