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Cellar selections and the best of the best

Stellar dessert wine: the Szent Tamás vineyard in Hungary produces some wonderful wines

I believe that the Wine Spectator’s list of top 100 wines for 2018, that I wrote about last week, is possibly the most read.

However, Wine Enthusiast Magazine claims to have tasted 23,000 wines this year, publishing the following lists: 100 Best Buys, 100 Cellar Selections and, finally, 100 Best of the Best.

I will select from all three.

Let us start with Best Buys and here you will find, in 66th place, our Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2015.

Wine Enthusiast awards it 89 points and gives the following comments: “Made with 90 per cent sangiovese, five per cent merlot and five per cent colorino, this juicy wine opens with aromas of blue flower, black-skinned berry and a whiff of tobacco.

“The savoury palate doles out Marasca cherry, liquorice and black pepper alongside velvety tannins. Enjoy over the next few years.”

Critic James Suckling seems to think even more of it as it scores 92/100: “A pretty red with dark berry, chocolate and terracotta character.

“Medium to full body, round and juicy tannins and a flavourful finish. Drink or hold.” It can be yours for $19.65.

Securing 31st spot, with a score of 91/100, is The Crusher 2016 Pinot Noir.

This is named after the first, most precious moments in the winemaking process when grapes meet “the crusher” and begin their transformation into a food-friendly, approachable wine.

We are finding that pinot noir from California is one of our most popular wine categories now.

With a brilliant, ruby red colour and fresh aromas of strawberry, raspberry, rhubarb and subtle pepper spice, this expressive wine is smooth and graceful on the palate with juicy cranberry fruit, black tea and violet candy flavours.

It is well-balanced with robust fruit, fine-grained tannins and good acidity which leads to a flavourful and lengthy finish.

The Crusher Pinot Noir was aged with 100 per cent French oak for ten months, giving excellent integration.

Wine Enthusiast comments: “Fully ripe and rich, this mouth-filling wine oozes black plum and clove aromas, vibrant black cherry and coriander flavours and is bolstered by firm tannins and a full body.

“It’s big, bold and complex at the same time.” $20.95.

It is not very helpful to mention a wine if we do not have the actual vintage in stock.

The one that takes first place on their Best Buys list this year is the Bogle Old Vines Lodi 2015 Zinfandel that they rate 90/100.

At present we have the 2014 that garnered 89/100 from this publication last year.

“Our price is $20.85.

Moving on to their Cellar Selections, they tell us that approximately four per cent of the 23,000 tasted are considered the most age-worthy, and from these their top 100 are listed.

Let me share a quick aside: last week was the occasion of a rather special birthday for me and I finally broke down and opened a bottle of 1974 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that had been given to my wife and I by the winemaker about 30 years ago.

He died in 2000, but the wine, that was magnificent, bought back so many good memories and I am sure that he would be pleased to know that we finally enjoyed it.

It was released at 100/100 and 40-plus years on it still acquires a 96/100 score, and the aroma and bouquet defy description.

Patience is a virtue! Its release price of $25.00 was scandalous at the time, but on the internet folks are now asking $2,823.

While in the mindframe for Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, let us go to the number 12 wine on their Cellar Selection list.

I think that the Shafer family produces as good a wine as anyone on planet Earth.

With a score of 97/100 this is what the magazine feels about Shafer 2015 One Point Five Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon: “Taut and leathery, this is a thickly tannic, incredibly structured and powerful wine, softened by seven per cent merlot and three per cent malbec.

“Extracted black fruit is poised among earthy truffle, crushed rock and black pepper, the aromas and flavours integrated and built to age. Enjoy best 2025 to 2030.” $119.70.

Imagine where that might go by 2030!

Our stocks of their number 19 wine are down to a few half-litre bottles in our Paget and East Broadway shops.

It is The Royal Tokaji Szent Tamas 6 Puttonyos 2013.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this stellar dessert wine from Hungary, of all the single vineyard sites Szent Tamás’s is also one of the more voluptuous expressions.

Deep gold in colour, the nose is concentrated and complex with notes of orange peel, honeycomb, ripe apricot and spice. The palate is intense, rich and unctuous with a good depth of flavour.

Sweet, caramelised apricot and nectarines dominate, with a hint of citrus peel and white flowers providing vitality and freshness.

Great balance and structure, very long, elegant and moreish. Wine Enthusiast rates it 97/100 and it is yours for $59.90.

Finally, a quick mention of the wine that placed 55th on their Best of the Best Top 100 and this is our Laurent-Perrier NV Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée Brut Champagne with a score of 97/100 and these observations:

“Laurent-Perrier has always preferred to keep its prestige cuvée as a nonvintage blend.

“With eight years’ ageing after bottling and plenty of reserve wines in the blend, it is a mature wine that is yeasty and toasty in character.

“To go with that, there is great fruit from the blend that only comes from grand cru vineyards. It’s ready to drink.” $195.85.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit wineonline.bm