Here’s to a Great Year

As a wine critic, I can’t think of many years more ex­cit­ing than 2016, writes

Philippine Tatler - - LIFE WINE -

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.

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