The below reviews (some published previously) target a mixed bag of wines I tasted during this past year and recommend for drinking during any grand festive occasion, as well as for ringing the new year into action. All are produced in France and Italy, with the exception of one from South Africa. All were selected because of their overall quality and distinctiveness. On a subjective scoring level, they range between 94 and 98 points—although most are above 96 points. They vary in price from $25 to more than $300. Each includes plush fruit flavors that are well integrated with tannin and acidity. These are generally well balanced and harmonious wines, made with scrupulous attention to detail.
Château Angélus. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”. 2021.
From 50- to 90-year-old vines, this first wine of Angélus is unusual in the 2021 vintage for its predominance of Cabernet Franc (60%) over Merlot (40%) in the blend. Spooky deep plush aromas that include orange peels, tar, and beef jerky. A complex and integrated rodeo of aromas on the nose. Beautifully balanced in the mouth, with a hint of blueberries in a matrix that includes darker flavors of licorice and sage. Creamy tannins completely integrated with fruit flavors.
Château Croix de Labrie. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2021.
From a vintage blasted by frost and mildew, 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 raspberries, maple syrup and—after five minutes in the glass—tar and treacle. Some brownies on the attack, mint and mocha mid-palate and a beautifully enduring finish that includes some anise and mandarins. Fresh and bright acidity. Elegant and complex with a unique Cabernet Franc lilt that provide 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 plateau of Pomerol with ample clay, 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 dorp licorice, maple syrup. A full bodied and well-balanced wine with bright acidity, chestnuts and red cherries midpalate and a long finish with slight morels.
Château 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 abundant black and red cherries and florals that include violets. Midpalate of red cherries, light licorice, mocha and prunes. In the mouth, dark flavors of fruit and licorice with bright 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 midpalate as well as flavors of red cherries, black berries. Beautiful length and a finish of morels and mocha. Consider pairing with sirloin steak cooked over burnt 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. Includes low-key aromas of silky dark fruit and black cherries. Deep, dark and complex in the mouth with bracing acidity that highlights dark fruit. Textured and rich mid palate and slight raspberries on the finish.
Château La Lagune. Haut-Médoc. 2021.
This left-bank blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot from Caroline Frey has rich, delicate, perfumed and round aromas that include black cherries, blueberries and raspberries. A well-balanced and light medley of red and black fruit, suave tannins and buoyant acidity. Creamy and dreamy. Harmonious flavors of red cherries, mocha and macarons midpalate and a sliver of After Eight mints on the finish. Difficult to stop drinking.
Château Grand Renouil. Canon Fronsac. 2015.
Aromas of smoke, treacle, nettle and ferns with a hint of orange rind and leather. Taste includes supple, astute tannins and semi minty flavors that are pronounced. A confident wine, slightly young and tanninc but with a whirlwind of mint, cherries, molasses and sweeping energy.
Château Fleur Cardinale. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2021.
A 70/20/10 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon that ages 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 a midpalate of red fruit that includes cranberries. Pair with roasted duck breast or a Moroccan tajin.
Dr. Jules Lavalle Réserve Héritage. Clos des Ormes 1er Cru. Morey-Saint-Denis. 2017.
Aromas of florals, chalk, raspberries and blackberries. Bright acidity melds with minerals and sleek red fruit, including red plumbs, mid palate. Light, powerful and pairs well with cream of pumpkin soup or a beef stew. Annual production is limited to 400 bottles.
Ipsus. Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. DOCG. 2015. 97+ points.
Delicate, silky wine with cherry and earth aromas. Like sipping clouds. Slight granularity as well as supple tannins. Quite a wonder.
Castello di Fonterutoli. Siepi 2020. Toscana IGT. 97+ points.
A happy medley of luscious aromas of red and black cherries, black berries and black pepper as well as some menthol. Superbly balanced tannins in the mouth with rich and luscious red and black fruit. Complex yet light. Somewhat ethereal and easy drinking.
Ricasoli. Roncicone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. DOCG. 2019.
From marine deposited soils comes this 100% Sangiovese wine with a generous set of billowing 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 begin an autumn 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. DOCG. 2017.
The color of brick and Amarone. One sniff of these aromas of orange, sandpaper, plums, figs, mocha and a slice of eucalyptus and you are smitten. Saturated with emotional pleasure, there’s no escaping seduction from this glass. Flavors include caramel and cherries and figs in juice with zinging acidity and textured but subtle tannins. Pair with a shish kebab skewer that includes pineapple slices to match the acidity.
Fattoria Le Pupille. Saffredi. Toscana IGT. 2019.
A 70/26/4 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot. Rich red cherry and raspberry aromas—a bucket of red fruit and even orange rind. Balanced in the mouth, with flavors that include some molasses and oranges/mandarins on the finish. Complexity emerges after five minutes in the glass with herbs—sage and tarragon—as well as black fruit giving way to red fruit. Elegant tannins in this layer cake similar to a complex and soft Saint-Èmilion.
Fattoria Le Pupille. Piemme. Toscana Bianco. IGT. 2019.
Limoncello and Vin Constance on the nose; clean fresh aromas from this 100% Petit Manseng. Only 1,800 bottles produced for 2022. ‘Smells like pine forests on the Tuscan coast, with resin,’ added the winemaker Ettore Rizzi.
Biondi-Santi Tenuta Greppo. Brunello di Montalcino. DOCG. 2016.
This wine was made by pushing maturation of grapes, and includes a tense equilibrium not typical from a warm vintage. Potent aromas of black cherries, cassis, minestrone and ample herbs. Multiple layers that include 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. Bramble, holly, cherry, wet moss and strawberry aromas; a misty forest with wild fruit along the pathway. This wine is an airy tangle of complex flavors—light as a Beaujolais, though more delicate and refined than many; fine and subtle as a Burgundy, though more ancient 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, although 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 crisp, rich, acidic and racy aromas of honey and salt. Rich and well balanced with flavors that include yellow pears, mild menthol and some honey on the finish.
SOUTH AFRICA –
Klein Constantia. Sauvignon Blanc. Constantia Valley. 2021. 95 points.
This screw cap bottle includes wine made from grapes grown above decomposed granite and Table Mountain Sandstone. Fresh aromas of lime, grapefruit and papayas. A beautifully creamy mouthful of green apple flavors, as well as some lime and gooseberries. Billowing but soft acidity with a slight kick on the finish. Pair with ceviche and lime or a dessert of slightly tart apple pie.