As 2020 comes to a close we wanted to look back at a few wines that we have tried over the last year and focus on those that stood out for us. 2020 has seen few large tasting events and many smaller zoom tastings so everyone has had fewer wines to taste this year than is normal. However, since the tastings have been mostly home-based, we have been able to keep the open bottles to try with food and to try after a little more contact with the air, which has sometimes led us to reverse our judgements from the initial tasting. As a result, our tasting plan for the forthcoming year will take this into account and, where possible, we will ensure that we won’t list wines in our Weekly Digest until we have a better understanding of their interaction with our supper.
Not all wines we try become a success story and we think it important to look at those that disappointed us as well as excited us.
2016 Davide Fregonese Etna Rosso £39 per bottle
Fregonese has gained a cult following for his small production wines in Barolo but we were keen to try his Etna Rosso. Produced from a small vineyard on one of the highest points on the side of Mount Etna this is a wine that instantly enthralled. Light in colour and weight but full of fresh fruit and all underlined with all the minerality that you would hope for from volcanic soils.
2015 Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Riserva £59 per bottle
We have always been impressed with the level of quality from the Produttori del Barbaresco range, from the basic to the top end the wine-making rarely falters. Some vintages are better than others of course and not all of their wines are a success story but the quality is noticeable.
At a recent tasting of their Riserva range from the 2015 vintage we were particularly taken with the Rio Sordo Riserva and keep coming back to it. It was a good example of how the vineyards can differ so wildly in finish. Fresh and spicy on the nose this developed into intense complexity with a finish full of chili that, although different, was surprisingly satisfying. Most of the 2015 Produttoris are unapproachable at the moment but this one is coming along wonderfully already.
2015 Chateau Gazin Pomerol £77 per bottle
We tend to be of the opinion that most 2015 Bordeaux is far too young but this was showing well ahead of schedule, with even more to come. Affordable, classic Pomerol which isn’t something you often hear. It is full of fresh, juicy fruit but has all the classic Pomerol layers of leather and tobacco coming through. This is definitely a wine to buy now and drink over the next decade.
2018 Schloss Lieser-Thomas Haag Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Grosses Gewachs £34 per bottle
Old fashioned, classic Piesporter that reminded us why this wine is so wildly underrated. The usual Boxing Day feast of ham and all the leftovers prompted us to open this bottle from Schloss Lieser and gave way to a lunch that became far more enjoyable than the previous day’s. Clean, fresh and well-balanced with a lightly honeyed finish that is quintessentially German. Great value for the quality. None of us can remember a more beautifully balanced Piesporter.
1983 Gould Campbell Vintage Port
This wasn’t so much a disappointing wine as rather a moment to be disappointed in ourselves. We have paid so little attention to vintage Port in 2020 that we found ourselves unable to truly analyse it. A good lesson that we should never assume our knowledge will see us through without the experience of regular tastings. (This is still fresh but a little light – we think).
2017 Bolgheri Vintage
2017 was not a kind year to the Bolgheri region – hot, dry and unforgiving it produced dry, unbalanced wines with little to excite. Our usual excitement about a new vintage of SuperTuscans slowly dissolved into grave disappointment: there are a few producers that have managed to create wines that are not all bad but in general it is a vintage to ignore. If you have to buy 2017s, perhaps go for those with more Sangiovese and ignore the Bordeaux grapes – or stock up on the 2015 and 2016s and wait for the 2018 vintage to turn the fortunes around.
Re-visiting old Bordeaux
Tasting old Bordeaux is usually a great experience, even if you occasionally have to overlook a few faults to see the underlying beauties and to understand how certain vintages and wines age; how production and quality has progressed; and why trends and hype shouldn’t cloud one’s own judgement.
This was a stark reminder that wine making in Bordeaux has come a long way and tastes have changed along with it. This Latour was heavily chaptalized and as a result had become port-like. The fruit may well have survived but the balance was completely wrong and the refined complexities so revered in aged Claret were completely lost. With the obvious exception of 1961, we tend to skip the sixties.
1971 Leoville Las Cases
The Judgement of Paris vintage for Las Cases. 1971 Bordeaux has not stood the test of time, although it was once a respected year. This was akin to chocolate liquor and, although we had one sip, a quick sniff was all we needed to know. This is a vintage that died a long time ago. We can probably safely skip the seventies too (don’t skip the 80s though…).