Here are ten fantastic whites which really impressed me in 2017 and I plan on drinking more of in 2018!
10. Les Deux Cols Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Zéphyr 2016 (14.0%, RRP €22.99)
“Les Deux Cols” translates literally as “The Two Hills” but also refers to the two founding colleagues Simon Tyrrell and Charles Derain. Now joined by Gerard Maguire perhaps they will look to plant on another hill? I’m an admirer of Les Deux Cols’ main red wine, the Cuvée d’Alizé, but for me their white blend on is another level entirely. Made from very 100% Roussanne it manages to have richness and freshness at the same time, lovely texture and zestiness.
9. Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling 2014 (12.5%, RRP €19.95)
Marlborough started out as a fairly corporate production area, but gradually smaller grapegrowers began making their own wines. This was the story for Ross and Barbara Lawson who began making their own wines in 1992 after twelve years of supplying others. And what a great decision that was! Among the many great wines they make is this delicious off-dry Riesling, full of racy lemon and lime plus elegant floral notes.
8. Turner Pageot Les Choix 2014 (13.5%, RRP €39)
This was one of the highlights of the Winemason portfolio tasting, a skin contact wine with finesse. Maceration is for five weeks which is much shorter than some orange wines – and personally I think it shows in that the underlying character of the Marsanne grapes still shines through. This isn’t a wine for everyone but it’s very interesting and very drinkable at the same time – what more could you ask for?
7. Jordan Stellenbosch Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015 (13.5%, RRP €20.50)
Just to clarify, this wine is made by Jordan Wine Estate (of Stellenbosch, South Africa) as opposed to Jordan Vineyard & Winery (of Sonoma County, California); as it happens, both produce great Cabernet and Chardonnay, and it’s the latter which has made this list. As the name indicates the wine was fermented (and then matured) in French oak barrels, giving a lovely biscuity creaminess. I like this style of wine in general but this is a great example, complex yet balanced, and seriously good value.
6. Mahi Boundary Farm Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (14.0%, RRP €26)
A barrel-fermented style of Sauvignon from a single vineyard in Marlborough. Like the Jordan above, this was a little tight on release in early 2017 but had really blossomed in the second half of the year. My money would be on increasing complexity over the next three to five years. Very good wine for the money.
5. Greywacke Wild Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (14.0%, RRP €34.99)
Kevin Judd’s barrel-fermented Sauvignon has made regular appearances in this blog’s Top 10 lists over the years, chiefly because it’s so damn interesting. I have nothing against regular Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs (in fact I often like them) but this style gives so much more, and bridges the gap to Chardonnay for those torn between the two grapes. Wild yeast and barrel fermentation give intriguing funky and toasty notes
4. La Chablisienne Grand Cuvée 1er Cru 2015 (13.0%, RRP €34.95)
I’m a big fan of La Chablisienne’s range, from the everyday Petit Chablis up to the superlative Grands Crus. The Grand Cuvée is a blend of grapes from seven different Premier cru sites with an average vine age of 25 years. It has a fair bit of oak – more than you might expect from a Chablis – but it is integrated seamlessly, lending a bit of body plus notes of toast and spice. This is an elegant wine which knocks spots of many more expensive wines from the Côte d’Or.
3. Blank Canvas Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €36.99)
It would be a little misleading to call Matt Thomson “the Michel Roland of the southern hemisphere” not least because his involvement as a consultant doesn’t overshadow the wines, but his advice is much in demand. After more than 20 vintages in each of the southern (for Saint Clair and others) and northern (for Alpha Zeta and others) hemispheres, Matt decided to get off the merry go round and focus on his personal project Blank Canvas. This 2016 is the first vintage of Chardonnay and it’s a big winner! It has the funky notes I’d expect from a wild-yeast barrel ferment but with a gliding, ethereal finish that leaves you wanting more.
2. BlankBottle Moment of Silence 2016 (13.5%, RRP €24)
And so to a bottle which has caused almost everyone who has tasted it to sit up and pay attention – not least for the concept of a wine whose blend can change from vintage to vintage – and not naming the constituent varieties on the front means the wine drinker isn’t thinking about them (apart from me because I’m a wine geek!) The 2016 is made from Chenin Blanc from four different sites, plus Grenache Blanc and Viognier (Chardonnay is no longer in the mix). After being fermented in barrel the wine rests on its lees for twelve months. It’s a big mouthful, this wine; peach and apricot with cream and nuts.
1. Domaine Zinck Pinot Gris Grand Cru Rangen 2011 (13.0%, RRP €48)
It was difficult to choose between Philippe Zinck’s Grand Cru offerings (first world problems) but the added complexity and richness of the Pinot Gris won me over. The Grand Cru of Rangen is the most southerly of Alsace so, when combined with the vertiginous steepness of its slopes, gives the wines considerable power. Of course, power on its own is nothing – when combined with acidity and complexity it can make a great wine such as this. Move over Riesling, Pinot Gris is King!
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