It’s awards season, with the Golden Globes and Oscars over it’s now time for the Frankly Wines Top Tens. So here we go, kicking off with 10 fantastic white wines that I have really enjoyed in the past 12 months, and you should try to get hold of if you haven’t already:
10. Luigi Baudana “Dragon” Langhe Bianco 2017
14.0%, RRP €23.99. Distributed by Liberty Ireland. Also see related article here.
This wine could well have topped the list on the Frankly Wines Top Ten Value Whites, such is the bang you get for your buck, bitcoin, or other currency of choice, but for me it’s just a great wine full stop. To stand out amongst the Langhe’s great reds is a great achievement.
9. Chalk Hill McLaren Vale Fiano 2017
12.0%, RRP €21.95. Distributed by Tindal Wine Merchants. Also see related article here.
McLaren Vale is one of the key Australian regions where Italian varieties are being treated seriously, not just as a novelty but as a serious alternative to international (i.e. French) varieties. Mandrarossa’s Sicilian Fiano was a revelation when I first tried it a few years ago, but Chalk Hill have pushed the bar even higher. Try this tropical citrus beauty and you will become a convert too.
8. Ovum Wines Oregon Big Salt 2017
12.9%, RRP €33.95. Distributed by Le Caveau. Also see related article here.
In my notes below I state that there are no Alsace wines in my Top 10 whites this year, and while that is true it does not preclude Alsace-style whites from elsewhere. The long, cool growing season of Oregon’s coast is perfect for aromatic varieties: Muscat, Riesling and Gewurztraminer combine elegantly to make Oregon’s very own Gentil.
7. Domaine Marc Sorrel Hermitage Blanc “Les Rocoules” 1999
14.5%, RRP €98.45. Distributed by Karwig Wines.
Producers who make wine in Hermitage number less than a score so it is something of a rarity (especially compared to Crozes-Hermitage); the whites are rarer still. They can be made from any combination of Marsanne and Roussanne, with the former usually dominant or alone. Marc Sorrel is a modest man who makes wines that aren’t flashy, but very long-lived and interesting. This is from a single plot called Les Rocoules; it is intensely aromatic with herbs, elderflower and honeysuckle on the nose. The palate is a little drier than expected but reflects the herbs and honey notes of the nose. It’s round and savoury – obviously well developed at twenty years old – with an interesting tang and even some crisp green vegetal notes. White Hermitage is rare enough, but to try a two decade old single vineyard wine is a real treat.
6. Au Bon Climat “Wild Boy” Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2017
13.5%, RRP €39.95. Distributed by Berry Bros & Rudd. Also see related article here.
Jim Clendenen is rightly a legend of Californian wine, particularly those made from Burgundian varieties, so it’s fitting that a god-like portrait appears on the front label of this wine. This wine has a slightly different sensibility to ABC’s regular bottlings, best summed up by the legend (in the other sense) at the bottom of the label:
Instructions to winemaker: I said “Hey dude, Make a wine on the Wild Side”
5. Domaine Stéphane Ogier Viognier de Rosine 2016
12.5%, RRP €31.95. Distributed by Tindal Wine Merchants.
Viognier almost disappeared in the 20th Century, with just a small amount left in Condrieu. It is now planted in many parts of the Rhône and further afield in California, Australia and elsewhere. This wine is from the northern Rhône but outside the boundaries of the Appellation Controllée areas, making it an IGP. Such is the quality of the terroir at Rosine and the wines made there, that I reckon it might well gain an AOC of its own in the future. This is textbook Viognier, full of rich apricot, peach and pineapple fruits, and better than many more expensive Condrieus.
4. L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016
13.5%, RRP €59.99. Distributed by Liberty Ireland. Also see related article here.
When we think of “natural” or “low intervention” wines we often think of the new wave of winemakers in Europe who have rejected the use of excessive chemicals in the vineyard and reverted back to their grandfathers’ methods. In my eyes, Australia didn’t have the same issues, partly due to a drier climate and partly due to a more technical approach in bigger vineyards. However, the focus on making wines that are consistent (vintage indifferent) and technically correct (starbright, clean, no trace of brett or VA) has sometimes encouraged wines which are lacking in character.
This Margaret River Chardonnay has character for days!
3. Rafael Palacios Valdeorras “As Sortes” 2016
14.0%, RRP €46.00. Distributed by Vinostito.
From the famous Palacios Spanish winemaking family, Rafael Palacios is the “God of Godello”, based in Valdeorras, Galicia. He takes the grape to heights that have to be tasted to be believed, with low yields from seven plots totalling only 4.6 hectares and judicious use of oak. There is tropical , soft stone and citrus fruit, all elegantly framed by a mineral, saline streak. This is the type of wine which appeals to lovers of Chardonnay and Albariño alike.
2. Domaine JB Ponsot Rully “En Bas de Vauvry” 2016
13.0%, RRP €29.90. Distributed by Nomad Wines. Also see related article here.
Rully is on the rise – as land in the Côte Chalonnaise is significantly cheaper than the Cote d’Or (for now, at least) more vineyards there are getting serious attention and investment. If you want excellent white Burgundy without a second mortgage, this is for you.
1. Julien Brocard La Boissonneuse Chablis 2017
13.0%, RRP €28.45. Distributed by O’Briens. Also see related article here.
When whittling down my longlists to get to the shortlists of ten wines, quality considerations are paramount – balance, concentration and complexity, for example. This wine has all those, plus something else – it redefines how good a certain type of wine can be – in this case AOC Chablis. There’s a long established hierarchy in Chablis with Petit Chablis at the bottom, then Chablis, a multitude of Chablis Premiers Crus with the seven (or eight, depending on who you ask) Grands Crus at the top – but this wine’s vast array of aromas and flavours show that, with care and dedication, anything is possible.
The bar for AOC Chablis has been significantly raised. The rest of Chablis – it’s over to you!
As this is the first of my Top 10s to be published, I first ought to mention a few obvious things:
- The timing of the articles is better in the first quarter of the new year rather than racing to get them all done at the end of a year, hence no 2018 edition.
- There will be no Alsace wines in the “Top 10 Whites” or “Top 10 Value Whites” categories – but do not adjust your sets, Alsace wines will have their own dedicated pieces.
- These lists are entirely subjective and are based on my personal opinions of the wines I’ve tasted, not an inclusive list of the best wines in the world (funnily enough I didn’t get sent any DRC or Bordeaux First Growth samples this year), so if you think there are obvious errors or omissions then please feel free to write about your own favourites on your own blog.
The Frankly Wines 2019 Top 10s:
- Top 10 Whites
- Top 10 Reds
- Top 10 Fizz
- Top 10 Sweet
- Top 10 Value Whites
- Top 10 Value Reds
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Ireland
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Alsace