It’s twenty years ago now and I still remember the 1990 Bordeaux tasting as if it was yesterday. It was the first time I had Cheval Blanc. I had just bought Mr.Parker’s guide to Bordeaux. Read it as if it was the bible. I knew exactly his comments on the wines we would have at the 1990 tasting.
Wine was new to me and the numerical ratings attracted. I had no objections at all; this was perfect. Strangely, I studied political science at the same time at the university and had political theory as one of the main subjects. Normative theory; testing the durability of events and arguments based on various standards. Values. Comparing that to empirical theory. We were trained to challenge ideas, yet I never gave it a thought why I didn’t. Apply the knowledge gained on my newly found passion that is.
95 points on the ’82 Ducru. I made notes. Had them with me when I went shopping for Bordeaux in Copenhagen. Weighed the scores against the prices. As a student I didn’t have the finances so the choice of wine had to be carefully thought through. In the mid to end of the 1990′s numerical ratings seemed to bring out the worst in people – or rather – take away reasoning. I was attending tastings where the scores of the almighty functioned as some kind of result. Academics, bright people; few questioned it. Me neither.
Then something happened.
I had come across some ’76 Bordeaux. Prices were good. They were all gorgeous wines when drunk around 1995-98. Elegant. My doyen didn’t agree. 76 points. 81 points. 83 points. I lost something there. Or better put; I gained something. The questioning.
1997, one year before ending my studies, I went on my first wine trip. Franconia in Germany. I fell in love. Not only with the Silvaner wines, no, I fell in love with
meeting producers, sipping seriously good wines I’d never heard of and experiencing the vineyards. Roughly at the same time, Madeira came in to my world. I was fascinated by the wines capability to age and I remember my first purchase, the 1940 Sercial from Vinhos Justino’s Henriques. An eye opener. But no ratings were to be found. Don’t know if that made me feel lost or just motivated; probably the latter. I was on a quest; I needed to learn more. What others told me to drink didn’t attract me; I had started to think and make my own mistakes.
I love La Mouline. Cheval Blanc’s one heck of a pour as well. But are they leading the way for my wine passion or just a part of the diversity? Thinking back, was it more rewarding on a personal level to visit Chateau Pavie or a guy in Vinho Verde producing wines on Loureiro, a grape few have ever heard of? At Ch. Pavie I learned that money matters and you can do anything if you have them. Recruit those considered the best. Put enormous efforts in to details. At Quinta do Ameal I realized that passion and an ambition to show the quality of a little known grape didn’t always make life easy – but educating the curious consumers about Loureiro were such a reward and hence worth not giving up. Still, do I want to be without any of these two visits?
Sometimes we need to ask ourselves why – why we’re in to wine. Is it the search for perfection? If so, how do you define something complete. And what does this feeling result in for you. A feeling of belonging to something? Or is it a search for something better all the time? Better wines? What is a superior wine by the way?
The last years I’ve been amazed by fantastic wines from regions I before knew little about – or wines from countries where my prejudice were in command. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to drink Cheval Blanc, Dominus, Vega Sicilia or a modern Tuscany anymore. Diversity doesn’t mean you have to narrow it down to wines nobody has ever heard of. Diversity is not giving up on quality. Diversity is simply what drives a true wine geek; the search for knowledge and hence not excluding anything. We all have to start somewhere, be it with Mr. Parker’s grade guide, but a wine passionate never stops at a certain place.
It’s soon 2014. Diversity runs my wine show. How about you?
The 2013 A-Z list
Admiration of the year. In times when people seem to become panic-struck as soon as there’s some sweetness in a wine, I continue saluting wines such as Horst Sauer’s monumental 2012 Trockenbeerenauslese from the great site of Escherndorfer Lump in Franconia.
Sniffing and drinking this youngster is like walking on air, a wine sending me in to cloud nine mode. Just around six percent, this beautiful and weightless Silvaner has a purity to die for. Despite the low alcohol content it has an everlasting taste. There’s a good amount of residual sugar in the Lump and yet the freshness is in focus. How is it possible, how can you create such a masterpiece? Oh, you have to be a genius? I pity all afraid of sugar…
Bullshit of the year. I live in a country where one monopoly after the other has fallen. One remains though, the retail monopoly of alcohol. For some reason it has survived despite lots of ambigousness in regards to EU-law, bribe scandals and dubious buying methods. I live in a country where the state monopoly supports the selling of wines in three liter boxes. Boxes that now stands for around 60 percent of the wine consumption in Sweden. It’s all a matter of price for the consumer and for the monopoly it eases the logistics.
I live in a country where the state monopoly uses tenders to buy wine. Tenders. How 2013 is that? A panel tastes blindly and chooses the one they find most fitting according to the tender. As having my degree in business law I’m amazed this is allowed to continue. After all, in the end it’s subjective – even if the panel is competent. I live in a country where somebody chooses for you. Thankfully this whole monopoly shit has slowly started dismantling itself in 2013, without realizing it.
Curse of the year. Something wasn’t right. I could feel it already on the flight to Frankfurt. When arriving to Firenze it was a fact. I was down with a fever. 4 nights in Tuscany where even my nose turned obstinate, refusing any scents to be inhaled.
And just to have it confirmed as the crappiest visit this year, the one and only bottle of wine my feverish body managed to drag home, was cork tainted. Of course. But the hotel was nice.
Discovery of the year. A young guy, 29 years old and really dedicated and passionate about one thing; Pinot Noir. Entertaining, funny and with a clear vision. That’s my initial picture of Benedikt Baltes when meeting him at his Stadt Klingenberg in Franconia.
When I taste the first glass he pours I quickly add talented as hell to my impressions. You see, this is a guy and winery with only a three years long track record, but the current outcome is already closing in at the same level as Paul Fürst’s wines, the king of Spätburgunder in Franconia. Forget about sweet seductive Spätburgunder. Let Benedikt show you what Germany really can come up with.
Eye opener of the year. I was feeling a bit proud when I said 1975 and Margaux on the 1966 Château Cantenac-Brown served blind. Less of course when I was pretty sure about the origin in the next glass as well – and once more claimed Bordeaux. It was a 20 years old Zinfandel.
Widening the horizon, the references, is a necessity in today’s global wine world where the classic countries no longer are in pole position. Deny the fact and the only goner is…yup, right. By the way, the wine. 1993 Ravenswood Wood Road Belloni from old vines in Russian River Valley. Wow!
Franz of the year. I should buy more Austrian wines. From Franz Hirtzberger in Wachau especially. Every time I’m having a Singerriedel Riesling or a Honivogl Gruner Veltliner in the glass it’s pure seduction.
The 2012’s tasted a month ago were exceptional but the 2005 tasted just a few days ago had a weightless charm which took me to Mosel. And I regard Mosel as the number one region for Riesling in the world. Time to make that Wachau instead?
Stéphanie for showing that Hárslevelű is a grape that needs to be taken seriously, especially when cultivated in loess soil, Judit for showing a purity in her wines which I believe is the road to choose in dry Tokaj. Follow them, buy their wines and start realizing where Tokaj is heading. I’m telling you, this is the last wine region in Europe where the huge potential still are to bloom.
Homage of the year. It’s not only the best Madeira released in 2013, it’s representing so much more; respect to the one who laid the foundation of the company. Passion for a wine whose subsistence goes on in the shadow of the more famous and well-known wine regions. A quest to constantly challenge your own limits. Mãe Manuela, mother Manuela, is Ricardo Diogo Freitas’s tribute to his mother and her passion for Malvasia. Labeled as more than 40 years old, the highest the regulations allow for a blend, is somewhat of an understatement of the year. There’s even a Malvasia from Manuela’s private collection and the year of 1880 in it! But hey, don’t focus on this. Taste the wine and you will instantly catch it; the thing about Madeira. It’s the world’s greatest, you hear?
Improvement of the year. We all have them from a Greek summer vacation. Nostalgic memories of a Greek salad and a bottle of Retsina under the olive tree. At least I do. And of course I’ve done the mistake to bring a bottle or two home, only to find out it’s barely drinkable. But even wine geeks need to relax and drink stuff beyond the accepted boundaries. Not everything calls for a thorough analyze. Besides, you don’t have to drink the crap when there’s the Tetramythos version of Retsina.
The winery produces a gorgeous and seductive Malagousia, a Greek variety reminding a bit of a restrained Muscat a Petit Grains, but what really excites is the resin wine. Made from the Roditis grape, cultivated 600 meters above the sea-level and from older vines. Sure, it’s still Retsina but if only drinking one, this is the stuff to pour. Grilled Halloumi with mint, Tetramythos Retsina, olive tree…..mmmmm.
Joy of the year. 17 years after Among My Swan they returned with Seasons of Your Day. Mazzy Star is back and the voice that makes me melt, Hope Sandoval’s, is as great in 2013. Listen to the new album but also check out the now 20 years old So Tonight That I Might See album, uncork your favorite wine, raise the volume. I’m having Madeira with Hope. What about you?
Kiwi of the year. Should I go for the last bottle I popped earlier this winter of the now closed Daniel Schuster in Waipara? Should I chose the great wild fermented Sauvignon blanc from Greywacke? Or perhaps any of the Block 2 Chardonnay vintages I’ve had from Felton Road?
All great but all surpassed by one of the best red wines I’ve ever tasted from the country, the 2006 Providence from Matakana in Auckland. 50 per cent Cabernet Franc, 40 Merlot and the rest being Malbec. Two years in oak. When James Vuletic planted the vineyard almost 25 years ago, everyone was laughing at him, telling the man it wasn’t possible to produce a premium red Bordeaux-look-a-like wine in Auckland. Think Saint Emilion meets Chinon meets Auckland. Wonder who is saying taught y’all now.
Last minute call of the year. December 28. In front of me there’s this wine acting like it ruled my palate. Well, it did. I didn’t want it to end but couldn’t resist yet a mouthful. It was perfect with the food, it was a perfect wine.
When the bottle was revealed, yes, tasted blind, I was excited to have it in my glass, sad knowing it wasn’t a wine to buy by the case. 1991 Vega Sicilia Unico is a wine to remember and a privilege to drink. Several years in oak and the last thing you think about is…oak.
Melancholy of the year. I will remember all the visits over the years at Rua dos Ferreiros 109. I will remember walking the canteiro and experiencing the beautiful light that found its way in, on the attic. I will remember talking about Porto Santo with Artur or taking the mandatory tour around the courtyard to taste the Madeira grape varieties which he had planted there.
I will remember when Edmundo showed me how to stencil a bottle. I will remember the discussions we had and when Edmundo always went to consult his huge century old Vizetelly encyclopedia. I will remember the feeling of visiting a winery where time seemed to have stopped. I will remember something truly unique, an institution and a reminder of the fact that we must never forget the past and how wines used to be made. But most of all, I will remember the generosity and hospitality of Artur Olim and Edmundo Olim. Thank you Artur. Thank you Edmundo. Thank you Artur Barros e Sousa. You will be missed.
2013. 16 years later, I’m checking in again, in the beautiful university city of Würzburg. Farther down the street the fortress of Marienberg rises majestically, overlooking the Main river. On the steep slopes around the stronghold, which by the way only has been conquered by brutal Swedes, one of the greatest vineyard locations are to be found. Innere Leiste truly expresses its sense of place and shows the potential of an understated grape variety. Good to be back. See you in 2029 Franconia!
Oloroso of the year. There’s oxidization and then there’s oxidization. Just as the case with Madeira we all need to discover Jerez and its wines. Their versatility is unbeatable and I can only think of one reason why we allow prejudice to rule; we think all the wines are sweet.
No, Sherry doesn’t have to taste like the open, half-empty and seven years old Bristol Cream which you found in your collection. It can taste like the Oloroso del Puerto from Almacenista José Luis González Obregón. That is; complex, nutty, salty, dry, ethereal and simply fascinating. A stunning wine, a wine that will beat the shit out of most red or white wines with your hard cheeses. When are we going to learn?
Pilgrimage of the year. How funny life can be sometimes. From a sudden and not planned at all I was standing at the Hermitage hill one freezing day in March 2013. The hill I’ve been longing to visit for years. Having spent the other day in Avignon where temperatures indicated spring, I totally blew it in Tain l’Hermitage, dressing the way only a naive Scandinavian is able to. 5 C and a spring jacket didn’t stop me though from walking up the Hermitage.
I was like a kid on Christmas eve, finally experiencing Bessards, Méal, Greffieux, Murets and Dionniers; the different parts of Hermitage. If it weren’t for the fact I couldn’t hold my camera any longer and had yet a freezing pilgrimage to do at the Côte-Rôtie, pneumonia would have been a fact.
Queen of the year. I’ve always had a weak spot for Viognier but never have I tasted so many great ones as I did earlier this year when visiting the Rhône valley. 2011 is simply perfect for Viognier and the producers have managed to enhance the acidity structure in the wines, cut down on oak and that my friends has resulted in wines with a much cooler appearance.
Just try the truly amazing 2011 Chéry from one of the masters, André Perret and you will understand why Viognier is the queen of the Rhône.
Revisit of the year. Me and my good friend Zoli are back at another Zoli’s house. Demeter Zoltán in Tokaj town. We’re spending a long evening chatting, tasting a lot of wine, exchanging opinions and simply having a great time.
Mr. Demeter is a man I admire a lot for his commitment to Tokaj and his wines can be really something special. And he is genuinely curious and never resting. The latest projects are an orange wine, a sparkling wine and a red sweet wine which he produces in Eger. I only regret one thing. When he asks me what bottle I’d like to take with me back to the hotel and we’re ending up with the sweet red which was pretty seductive, I’d like to rewind the tape. Man, that headache the next morning….
Selfie of the year. I’m Swedish. Dane some would claim. EU citizen of course. But the thing is; English isn’t my mother tongue. Yet my English written Mad about Madeira site made it as a finalist in the Wine Blog Awards earlier this year.
My first and instant reaction was of course to feel genuinely happy for Madeira and its wine, a well deserved global recognition. But saying there’s no ego boost in it is lying. I feel honored being chosen among more than 1,000 wine blogs and of course it adds a bunch load of inspiration. I’m Mad about Madeira. And oh yes, I rule.
Trip of the year. I’m falling in love with Tokaj; the small and picturesque Tokaj town, the view from rural Tarcal, the Király hill, the village of Mád, the mouldy and century old cellars. But most of all I’ve fallen for what counts the most, friendly people willing to share their time and showing their wines.
Tokaj is a great wine region, the greatest when it comes to dessert wines, but being able to follow the development on the dry wine scene is something I don’t want to be without. See you again in 2014 Tokaj.
That’s just a few of them. US wineries leading the way and charming my pants off in 2013. California is the new black and the most dynamic wine region in the world right now. I need to visit….
Vertical of the year. Sometimes, when all the focus is on the super expensive premium wines in California – and when Bordeaux to some extent, today tastes less of Bordeaux – it’s easy to forget those who where a part of the Californian wine boom already in the 1980′s.
Like Christian Moueix’s Dominus Estate. Yes, Dominus is not cheap, but in comparison to many others I’d actually say it is. And when every top wine seem to regard concentration and power as word of honors, it’s quite satisfactory to know there’s someone holding elegance higher. Thank you Mr. Moueix.
Walla Walla of the year. When it comes to Syrah I know what I want. That is; how I wish for it to smell and taste. As the grumpy old (?) man I’m starting to sound like, you’ve probably guessed it already.
Yes, the wines of nothern Rhône are my preferred choices. I don’t want my Syrah too generous, too fruit ripe. I want a mineral driven style with an iron acidity which almost makes you wonder if there’s no fruit in the wine. Almost forgot; I kind of like the flowers as well, the floral notes which pairs well with the meaty components and the spice-rack. That’s why it makes total sense I’m crazy about Reynvaan in Walla Walla. Yes, you’re right; that’s not northern Rhône.
X-factor of the year. I admire his wines and I do regard Anselmo Mendes as the number one winemaker in Portugal, at least when it comes to white wines. What he has accomplished in Vinho Verde is amazing and his top stuff, Parcela Unica and Curtimenta are showing what you can do with Alvarinho.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know this humble and really great man and his family, so it was only natural I invited him for a dinner when they were visiting my home town. We had old Madeira, mature Burgundy and classy German Riesling and a few more, talked wine, football, more wine, more football and life in general. Thanks for a great evening dear Anselmo. Now when I know you love Madeira we’re homies for life.
Young Vintage Port of the year. Somebody smart once wrote: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.”
So, there you have it. Drink young vintage port. Drink 2011. A great year and never before have I experienced such seductive and elegant mineral driven fruit in a port. Why not start with the 2011 Pintas Vintage Port. Think all Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grenache friends out there would love it!
Zzzzz of the year. The debate on the use of sulphur. I’m attending a dinner at Matbaren, Grand hotel in Stockholm together with some really competent wine people. Thoughtful topics and many wise words.
But most of all I will remember the discussion on sulphur and what Prof. Dr. Ulrich Fischer told us. “It’s so sad that the discussion of the amounts of sulphur used has reached such proportions. The amount used is not dangerous to our health in any way. It’s the alcohol that’s killing. That is what we should be discussing.” Word.