|This, in plastic, was fantastic (see October).|
But I did meet some amazing wines in 2012. My palate is sharper for them, but it’s up for debate whether my turn of phrase is. Here they are, for what they may be worth.
Château Trotanoy is not a Morgan as much as a Caterham Seven: it has an enthusiastic following and the chances to imbibe casually are rare. The 1995, tasted with Edouard Moueix, showed why people get so excited. Seductive, yes, but I also loved its fustiness. It’s a wine fit for any banqueting table but it doesn’t shy from the barnyard either.
Tasting Auguste Clape’s Cornas was as much a privilege as it was a treat, and the 2008 managed to silence a room full of some of the UK’s best palates and liveliest table-talkers. It offers a taste you can’t really find anywhere else: a rustic bruiser yet with a lightning-quick nervous system, sticking two fag-stained fingers up at the reputation of its middling vintage. Bravo.
A visit to Champagne, the vinous highlight being Roederer’s vin-de-garde Cristal 2002 in magnum. How many bottles of this will have been sprayed on plush-leather sofas and the nubile-riche before it hits its stride properly? It does not bear thinking about. One of the most exciting white Burgundies I have ever tasted came in the shape (and shape is the operative word) of Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Mouchere 2008.
An old-vine Loire Romorantin, Marionnet Provignage Vin de Pays du Loir et Cher 2010, gave me a shock. A trip to Chile and Argentina, and the cementing of a love affair with the latter’s Weinert. With its combination of guts, utility and personality, Cavas de Weinert 2004 is a Dogo Argentino of a red and represents stunning value.
The month of Muscat, as I started to get my head around this sense-scrambling Alsace speciality. Having first tried it with Marc-André Hugel, I took a bottle of Hugel’s £11 'Tradition' Muscat 2010 to a heatwave-celebrating veggie barbecue, where it wiped the floor with a £60 Champers.
With leather patches on its elbows and a song in its heart (probably Status Quo or something), a jolly old bottle of Château Beychevelle 1986 (my wife’s birth year) capped off a first reccy of our wedding venue in rainy Dumfries perfectly. Quintessential friendly-yet-clever claret. Even better is the fact she is teetotal, meaning there was more for me.
The wettest British summer for a century was lent some colour by a thundering bottle of Ridge Monte Bello 2001 – my highlight of an extraordinary tasting – and the rasping, genre-redefining Bellbird Spring Block Eight 2010: the Tom Waits of Kiwi Sauvignon.
Met ‘the in-mouth equivalent one of those dramatic advancing UFO shadow shots from an alien invasion film’: Chave Hermitage Blanc 1989, which topped a humbling bevy of Chaves.
I broached the last year of my 20s with some semblance of dignity and a haunting bottle of Grati Rosso di Toscana 1991. I did not get the chance to jot anything down about this (largely unfiltered) Chianti Rufina that fell foul of DOC regulations on behalf of it being made with 100% Sangiovese (outlawed until 1995, apparently). Then again, it is a difficult wine to do justice to.
The finest Aussie Chardonnay to pass my lips: Cullen Kevin John 2009 was born in what Vanya Cullen called her ‘Mozart vintage’ – everything was in harmony. It was mesmerising when tasted with her in posh glassware; the dregs even sang when consumed out of a plastic cup in the rather disharmonious environs of Clerkenwell Green (the least green Green in the world). A well-priced, gloopy yet glitzy glass of Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2005 was a beautiful way to celebrate choosing the wedding rings, and made me forget about the resulting penury for a few moments.
None of the wines served at my wedding were as good as a holy trinity of Château Suidiraut 2001 (an ethereal, sweet-and-savoury, multi-layered headscramble of a wine), Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 2006 (a classic, leatherbound Barossa that ranks among the best Australian Shiraz wines I’ve tried) and Dom Perignon 2002, which affirmed all the praise I’d heard heaped upon it with its incredible mixture of citric, tantric tension and baker-shop brawn.
Served blind after a thrilling line-up of Grenache single-varietals and blends, the mellifluous, bejeweled Château Rayas 1990 was a room-silencer. Turkish delight, an entire spice rack’s worth of complexity, beautiful soft texture and a finish that makes you realise why you commute for four hours every day to write about fermented grapes.
On that note, it’s Christmas. Have a good one.