The reviews below (some previously published) address a mixed bag of wines I tasted over the past year and recommend drinking for any major festive occasion, as well as to ring in the New Year. All are made in France and Italy, with the exception of one from South Africa. All were selected for their overall quality and distinctiveness. On a subjective score level, they vary between 94 and 98 points – although most are above 96 points. They range in price from $25 to more than $300. Each contains plush fruit flavors that are well integrated with tannin and acidity. These are generally well-balanced and harmonious wines, made with careful attention to detail.
Chateau Angelus. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”. 2021.
From 50 to 90 year old vines, this first wine from Angélus is unusual in the 2021 vintage for its predominance of Cabernet Franc (60%) over Merlot (40%) in the blend. Ghostly deep plush aromas that include orange peel, tar and beef jerky. A complex and integrated rodeo of aromas on the nose. Beautifully balanced in the mouth, with a note of blueberry in a matrix containing darker flavors of licorice and sage. Creamy tannins fully integrated with fruit flavors.
Château Croix de Labrie. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2021.
From a vintage blasted by frost and mold, this old-vine, organic 90/5/5 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon retains the estate’s characteristic suppleness and grace. Rich aromas include raspberry, maple syrup and – after five minutes in the glass – tar and syrup. Some brownies on the attack, mint and mocha on the mid-palate and a beautifully persistent finish that includes some anise and tangerines. Fresh and bright acidity. Elegant and complex with a unique Cabernet Franc lilt that gives the mysterious angel in the bottle of Croix de Labrie. Toujours élégant.
Château Petit-Village. Pomerol. 2021.
A 65/26/9 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon. From the clay-rich Pomerol plateau, this wine is processed via gravity and sorted via density rather than optical means. Aromas are bright and focused and include maple syrup, cola, wild country strawberries, as well as some violets, ferns, oranges and mint. Flavors include village chalk, maple syrup. A full-bodied and well-balanced wine with bright acidity, chestnuts and red cherries in the middle of the palate and a long finish with light morels.
Chateau Beauregard. Pomerol. 2021. 95 points.
This 70/30 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc is organically produced, low yield. Well balanced, with big fresh aromas with plenty of black and red cherries and flowers that include violets. Mid palate of red cherries, light licorice, mocha and prunes. In the mouth, dark flavors of fruit and licorice with light acidity.
Château Monlot. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2021.
55/45 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend from vines up to 40 years old. Rich, round, slightly spicy and beautifully focused aromas that include those of red plums, dark prunes, even tangerines. Wild red fruit on the attack, rich and bright acidity and silky tannins in the mid-palate as well as flavors of red cherries, black berries. Beautiful length and a morel and suede finish. Consider pairing with sirloin steak cooked over charred vines.
Couvent des Jacobins. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020.
An 85/10/5 blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from the first organic vintage from this château. Contains subtle aromas of silky dark fruit and black cherry. Deep, dark and complex in the mouth with bracing acidity that highlights dark fruit. Structured and rich mid-palate and light raspberry on the finish.
Château La Lagune. Haut Médoc. 2021.
This left-handed blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot from Caroline Frey has rich, delicate, perfumed and round aromas that include black cherry, blueberry and raspberry. A well-balanced and light medley of red and black fruit, soft tannins and fluid acidity. Creamy and dreamy. Harmonious flavors of red cherries, mocha and macarons in the middle of the palate and a bit of After Eight mint on the finish. Difficult to stop drinking.
Château Grand Renouil. Canon Fronsac. 2015.
Aromas of smoke, syrup, nettles and ferns with a hint of orange peel and leather. The palate includes supple, sharp tannins and semi-mint flavors that are pronounced. A confident wine, somewhat young and tannic but with a whirlwind of mint, cherry, molasses and sweeping energy.
Château Fleur Cardinale. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2021.
A 70/20/10 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon aged up to 14 months in new French oak. Creamy aromas that include brownies, licorice, red cherries and black berries. A distinguished wine with firm and supple tannins, glowing acidity and an aftertaste of red fruit that includes cranberry. Combine with roasted duck breast or a Moroccan tagine.
Dr. Jules Lavalle Reserve Heritage. Clos des Ormes 1er Cru. Morey-Saint-Denis. 2017.
Scents of flowers, chalk, raspberries and blackberries. Bright acidity melds with minerals and elegant red fruit, including red plums, mid-palate. Light, powerful and goes well with cream of pumpkin soup or a beef stew. Annual production is limited to 400 bottles.
Ipsus. Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. HOWEVER. 2015. 97+ points.
Delicate, silky wine with aromas of cherry and earth. Like sipping on clouds. Light granularity and supple tannins. Absolutely wonderful.
Castello di Fonterutoli. Siepi 2020. Tuscany IGT. 97+ points.
A happy mix of delicious aromas of red and black cherries, black berries and black pepper and a little menthol. Excellent balanced tannins in the mouth with rich and delicious red and black fruit. Complex yet easy. Something ethereal and easy to drink.
Ricasoli. Roncicone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. HOWEVER. 2019.
From marine deposited soils comes this 100% Sangiovese wine with a generous array of undulating aromas, including earth, nuts, red plums, black berries and some tarragon. Balanced and generous in the mouth, this is a creamy and firm wine to start an autumnal main course with.
Tenuta di Ghizzano. Veneroso. Terre di Pisa Rosso. DOC. 2018.
An explosion of red fruit aromas with herbs – tarragon and rosemary. Also aromas of candy cane, peppermint and eucalyptus. Flavors include mushrooms, black pepper, spices and thyme. Long finish; beautiful acidity.
Podere Giodo. Brunello di Montalcino. HOWEVER. 2017.
The color of brick and Amarone. One whiff of these aromas of orange, sandpaper, plum, fig, mocha and a slice of eucalyptus and you’re smitten. Saturated with sensual pleasure, there is no avoiding seduction from this glass. Flavors include toffee and cherry and fig in juice with bubbly acidity and textured but subtle tannins. Pair with a shish kebab skewer containing pineapple slices to match the acidity.
Fattoria Le Pupille. Saffredi. Tuscany IGT. 2019.
A 70/26/4 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot. Rich aromas of red cherry and raspberry — a bucketful of red fruit and even orange peel. Balanced in the mouth, with flavors that include some molasses and oranges/tangerines on the finish. Complexity emerges after five minutes in the glass with herbs—sage and tarragon—as black fruit gives way to red fruit. Elegant tannins in this layer cake that resembles a complex and smooth Saint-Èmilion.
Fattoria Le Pupille. Pimme. Tuscany Bianco. IGT. 2019.
Limoncello and Vin Constance on the nose; pure fresh aromas from this 100% Petit Manseng. Only 1,800 bottles produced for 2022. “Smells pine forest on the Tuscan coast, with resin,” added winemaker Ettore Rizzi.
Biondi-Santi Tenuta Greppo. Brunello di Montalcino. HOWEVER. 2016.
This wine was made by pushing the ripening of grapes, and includes a tense balance not typical of a warm vintage. Powerful aromas of black cherry, cassis, minestrone and plenty of herbs. Several layers containing flavors of licorice, morels and – after five minutes in the glass – figs and mocha. This balanced wine with clean acidity is a meal in itself.
Beba99. Tuscany. Vino Rosso Dalle Terre di Anghiari. 2019.
Think tapestry here – threads of luminescence. Aromas of tobacco, holly, cherry, wet moss and strawberries; a misty forest with wild fruit along the way. This wine is an airy tangle of complex flavors – light as a Beaujolais, though more delicate and refined than many others; fine and subtle like a Burgundy, although older than some. Cherry and caramel flavors emerge like fireflies from a shaken glass – brilliant, energetic yet light and ephemeral. This is an unvarnished and unpolished beauty, firm with polished tannins.
Cantina Terlan. Terlaner Primo Grand Cuvée. Alto Adige DOC. 2016.
A 75/22/3 blend of Pinot Bianco/Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc that has sharp, rich, tart and fresh aromas of honey and salt. Rich and well-balanced with flavors that include yellow pear, mild menthol and some honey on the finish.
SOUTH AFRICA –
Klein Constantia. Sauvignon Blanc. Constantia Valley. 2021. 95 points.
This screw cap bottle contains wine made from grapes grown above decomposed granite and Table Mountain Sandstone. Fresh aromas of lime, grapefruit and papaya. A beautifully creamy mouthful of flavors of green apples, as well as some lime and gooseberry. Swelling but smooth acidity with a light kick on the finish. Combine with ceviche and lime or a dessert of lightly tart apple pie.