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The other vintages

Temperature control: the Schramsberg sparkling wine cellar is cut deep into a Napa Valley mountainside (Photograph supplied)

Last week, when I wrote about exceptional wines that were included in this year’s Wine Spectator’s top 100, I did also say that other wineries that we stock also made the list but not with the particular vintages that we have.

The suggestion has been made that I elaborate on this. Most importantly, and especially in Europe, the year can make a significant difference as we are, as I like to say, “putting climate in a bottle”.

In the New World countries, like the Americas, the weather tends to be more reliable and usually smaller differences occur from year to year. Let me make a few comparisons.

In 19th place we have 2018 Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc with a score of 93/100 and our current stock is 2017. I like to tell of a time when Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of enjoying Schramsberg Napa Valley wines during his honeymoon, and of the fact that President Richard Nixon took their Blanc de Blanc to China in 1972 for official friendship toasts in Beijing.

This 100 per cent chardonnay was first marketed in 1965 and it is produced using the same methods that the French use for their champagne. The 2017 Blanc de Blancs has bright aromas of Meyer lemon, golden apple, Bosc pear, marzipan and vanilla cookie, which intermingle with hints of warm pastry and cinnamon. Granny Smith apple, candied lemon, and baked pineapple bring fruitful notes to the mid-palate, ending with a long, clean and vibrant finish.

The Wine Spectator gave this vintage the very same 93/100 as they have done for the 2018 as they commented: “Lithe and delicately balanced, with vibrant lemon custard, blanched almond and steely citrus tones that take on richness and speed on the long finish.” This just shows that reliable and quality-driven producers can be very consistent. $45 (Stock #7023).

Our 2019 Pratts and Symington Chryseia shows what can happen in Portugal when a top Port producer teams up with a famous Bordeaux personality. It placed number 52 with a score of 96/100.

Burrows Lightbourn have stocks of the 2017 vintage that rated 95 points from Decanter, Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, this last one writing: “The 2017 Chryseia is a 75/25 blend of touriga nacional and touriga franca aged for 16 months in mostly (80 per cent) new French oak. It comes in at 14.1 per cent alcohol. From a big vintage, this shows intense fruit, but the calling card here will be its finesse and focus. It is a beautifully crafted wine. Very precise, this has a long and tight finish.

“The aromatic fruit is in need of some development, and this really needs cellaring for a couple of years. With aeration, it does become more expressive, but this is not ready, even though the tannins are not really hard. The fruit needs to develop more than the tannins need to moderate. This looks like a potentially great Chryseia, but it is not showing all it has today. It is certainly the most refined of the Symington/P & S wines this issue, with a very Old World feel to it, if you'll pardon the stereotype. It showed beautifully the next day as well. At that point, the fruit demonstrated how concentrated it really is. The only remaining question is how well it does in the cellar. I'm betting that it does well.” Note that this review was in 2019 so it has had its “couple of years”. $98 (Stock #7786).

Ninth place on this year’s list is 2018 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. The score that the 2018 was awarded was 95/100. With three vintages in stock, we can offer you the rare opportunity of conducting a vertical tasting with a few of your best friends.

Critic Jeb Dunnuck flirted with perfection when he awarded the 2015 99/100 and said: “The flagship is the 2015 cabernet sauvignon, 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon mostly from Champoux with the balance from Palengat and Wallula vineyards. Crème de cassis, graphite, black liquorice, unsmoked tobacco, and hints of chocolate emerge from this beauty, and it continues to gain depth and nuance with time in the glass. Full-bodied, deep, and layered with an incredible purity and elegance on the palate, it's already accessible but has more than enough tannin, depth, and balance to evolve for two decades or more.” $259 (Stock #9001).

Looking at the 2016 vintage I see that Dunnuck and Parker agreed on a 98/100. The Wine Advocate printed: “The 2016 cabernet sauvignon is precise and generous with a robust, boisterous and fruity nose. Juicy plum, black raspberry, cocoa nibs and cinnamon cherries sway on the nose with elegant baking spice tones and enticing floral essence. Full-bodied, the wine remains juicy with lively tannins and expressive flavours of dark cherries and blackberry extract before it begins to stretch its legs with the additional years in the bottle. The 2016 is starting to hit its stride and remains as stunning and impressive as ever.” $259 (Stock #9003).

How could anything be better? Well, how about this … the UK edition of Decanter magazine awards the 2018 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon a rare and stunning 100 points as they print the following: “This is as good as it gets for Washington cabernet sauvignon. Right away the gorgeous crème de violette and crème de cassis tones join blackberry cordial, exotic spices and dark chocolate shavings. The combination of finesse and texture is downright scintillating. Sweet pipe tobacco is woven together with Black Forest cake, and fresh blueberries and graphite with shades of tar that take shape on the palate. Truly sensational even at the three-year mark, this will provide drinking enjoyment over the next 20-plus years.” $280 (Stock #9005).

So now I rest my case and hope that I have proved beyond a reasonable doubt, that if you are chosen to grace this yearly and very prestigious top 100 list, chances are that you are a reliable and consistently noteworthy producer of fine wine.

• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published November 25, 2022 at 7:47 am (Updated November 25, 2022 at 7:47 am)

The other vintages

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