There were plenty of heights in 2017, such as broadening my network and meeting a log of inspiration wine lovers; and lows such as my disastrous fourth attempt at the master sommelier exam and the subsequent loss of hair on my head. I must admit, and hairdressers will hate this, but actually, it's very comfortable. I encourage everyone to give it a go and see for yourself!
I give thanks to those faithful and generous wine lovers without whom I wouldn't have had the chance to sample these beauties.
Krug, Champagne, France 1982
Sampled in Riga with a group of wine lovers, this is truly memorable Champagne.
This champagne excites for all the right reasons, showing notes of orange peel and ginger with sunflower oil and dry straw. The palate is exciting, giving orange sorbet, ginger and dried citrus peel with an intense spiciness. The athletic and effortless finish is incredibly satisfying.
Bodega Bilbainas, Rioja, Spain 1947
Perfect condition, served by Aturs Veics, the aptly named “old wine specialist”.
This made me think about Loire Valley Chenin Blanc from the 70s. Made from 100 % Viura, it has delicious flavours of cream, butter, toast, wood, caramel, toasted nuts, sweet yellow plums and peach jam – in fact, there might be some residual sugar. Long, lasting and layered aftertaste.
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France 1985
Sampled during a wine dinner with Olivier Bernard from Domaine de Chevalier.
Truly memorable fragrance: flint, notes of lime, green apple, wax and smoke. The palate is zingy and full of life, extremely focused with great depth and freshness. Ex-château stock at its finest.
Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône, France 1990
Sampled at 67 Pall Mall, courtesy of my fantastic wine friends.
This has a solid sense of identity – it’s energetic with lots of redcurrant and cranberry flavours as well as spicy minerals, cracked red pepper and intense notes of roasted herbs. Full and rich, with a delicious peppery aftertaste.
Ernst Jungkenn, Oppenheimer Daubhaus Riesling Spätlese, Rheinhessen, Germany 1927
Thank you, Gunther Hauck, from Bassermann-Jordan in Pfalz in Germany for the opportunity to taste this.
Just reaching its 90th birthday, yet still very alive and decadent. There is a nettle-like aroma, plus lapsang souchong tea and lovely fruit intensity of cooked pears and peach jam. There are floral accents to be found, lots of mineral freshness and a well-integrated sweetness. The freshness of flavour despite its age is very impressive, and it could easily age another 30-50 years.
Bruno Paillard, Champagne, France 1990
I’ve had a magnum of this (sadly just one) in my cellar for two years now. It was a birthday gift from my ex-girlfriend.
Beautifully developed aromas of toasted hazelnut with dry citrus peel and superbly integrated wet chalk minerals. Surprisingly much better after 10-20 minutes in the glass – this is a wine I would love to try again. A sublime experience.
Gaja, Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy 1985
During the summer I sampled this with Icelandic clients at Hedonism in London.
I have no hesitation in calling the 1985 vintage in Piedmont superb, and today the best really is phenomenal. This wine shows light ruby colour with mahogany highlights, offers a symphony of aromas on the nose with dark cherry, forest floor and black truffle mixed with roasted herbs and the delicate aroma of wood smoke. The softness of tannins is great, the intensity is excellent with acidity that drives into a superb finish.
Château Montrose, St-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France 2009
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall, a hot spot for any wine lover. To me, this is one of the best 2009s from Bordeaux.
This has a complete and delicious set of aromas, from red to dark cherry through earthiness, clove, nutmeg, allspice, soy sauce, wood smoke and plenty more. Still youthful, incredibly harmonious and seamless with a phenomenal spicy mid-palate wrapped perfectly around precise, pure fruit flavour.
Domaine Coche-Dury, Les Rougeots, Meursault, Burgundy, France 2004
Thank you, Arnar Sigurdsson, you are a very generous man.
I love white burgundy when it gets to this stage of maturity, blending pure and ripe citrus with notes of lanolin, flint and smoke. The palate has excellent mellow richness, refreshingly vivacious acidity and is supported by a great saline mineral aftertaste.
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage, Rhône Valley, France 2001
Thanks to my boss Tom Gearing, we tasted this during 2016 en primeur week in Bordeaux.
I love Chave, and the 2001 is athletic and muscular, blending richness of perfectly ripe dark berry fruit with generous spicy black pepper and lots of garrigue. Most definitely a food wine, a truly memorable experience.
Petrus, Pomerol, France 2014
Thank you, Elisabeth and Christopher Jaubert, this was a real treat.
Petrus 2014 is a wine of limitless beauty, with super-fine, pure aromas of damp soil, red plums, redcurrant and raspberry supported by beautifully supple and detailed oak spice highlights, and an incredibly fresh and long finish.
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts, Burgundy, France 2011
I treated myself to a glass of this at 67 Pall Mall.
Glossy ruby colour with dynamic, forthright aromas of cranberries and red cherries supported by a mineral edge with a hint of peppery/salty spiciness. Superbly pure and deep – for me, Cathiard does the best interpretation of Malconsorts.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Echézeaux Grand Cru, Burgundy, France 1976
Tasted blind, the majority mistook this for being from the late 1990s.
This bottle must have been incredibly well stored because it paints an incredible picture. On the nose, a forward mix of wild red berries and cranberry confiture mixed with aromas of damp earth and white pepper. The palate is soft and seamless with the fantastic clarity of flavour, and superb depth and concentration.
Seña, Aconcagua Valley, Chile 2015
Sampled during the CVBG tasting in London - watch out Bordeaux!
Full-bodied and concentrated, with an intriguing, nuanced nose combining both red and dark berries and floral notes. Fine oak-derived spices, hints of smoke and chocolate following through on the palate. Very fine tannins and an excellent spicy conclusion. A fascinating, sexy beast.
Château Cos d’Estournel, St-Estéphe, Bordeaux, France 1985
Thank you, Dimitri Augenblick, last time we had this together in Iceland.
Parker points don’t matter here, just have a taste! It is like beautifully composed music with flavours of red cherry, raspberry, and plums blended with cedar, clove and nutmeg. There are delicate smoke aromas and freshly turned damp earth too. Simply delicious.
Hyde Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley, USA 2011
Sampled at a trade lunch with a group of wine professionals.
The lovely aromatic intensity of walnut, orchard fruit, tangerine and freshly pressed pink grapefruit. The oak complements this wine well, giving aromas of melted butter and dry vanilla. Soft, deep and fresh.
Château Latour, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France 1982
Being at the right time at the right place is key – thanks, Beatrice.
This takes you on a ride you won't forget! It is a monumental wine, blending cassis with earth, allspice and forest berries plus truffle, balsamic, damp earth and plenty more. Ultra-fresh and dense, saturated, moreish flavour that lasts incredibly long with exceptional freshness and resolved tannins. Some say this will improve for another 20-30 years. For me, this is the best 1982 from Bordeaux.
Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, La Romanée Grand Cru, Burgundy, France 2009
Generously served by Louis-Michel while visiting the domaine three weeks ago.
Well, for me this was the most challenging wine of 2017 for all the right reasons. From the very first whiff to the last sip this gave a mind-boggling array of aroma and flavour that changed from minute to minute. Exceptional length with the great depth of flavour leading to a refreshing, Earth-dominated finish. Raw power!
Vega Sicilia, Único, Ribera del Duero, Spain 1994
Sampled blind with a group of friends, this held up to its reputation.
The nose has developed aromas of ripe black cherry fruit with roast meat, turned earth, sage and roast herbs. The palate is richly textured, with exceptional density and softness. Great length and freshness. A great food wine.
Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Monfortino Riserva, Piedmont, Italy 2004
I tasted this in a random restaurant in France around six months ago, there were four of us swapping wines with a neighbouring table.
Bright ruby with no sign of age, super-sexy nose with a sweet and silky palate giving grainy tannins and exceptional depth of flavour, plus a scalpel-sharp ending. Congratulations to Roberto Conterno, this is a great effort.