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Best of the Bunch...

My top bottles from 2021

I taste an awful lot of wine during the course of a year, so trying to reduce this list to 5 or so is a lofty task! It would have been easy to showcase and write tasting notes for some stellar bottles from iconic producers in great vintages, but there’s little point in doing that because often these bottles aren’t readily available, let alone affordable. Instead, I want to talk about the bottles which have been an unexpected delight, stopping me in my tracks, as well as wines I now consider to be new benchmarks for quality and progression.

1 Busi Jacobsohn Vintage Brut 2019 | Sussex, England

I very much appreciate the verve and captivating design by the Swedish couple behind Busi Jacobsohn, but nothing prepared me for just how spectacular this bottle was going to be. The ageing potential for their wines is unrivalled in the UK. Currently they are only making vintage wines, whilst building up base wines to create non-vintage wines of incredible depth and richness.

The commitment to preserving the natural ecosystem around the vineyard area pays dividends in the quality of the grapes grown, entirely hand harvested and handled with care throughout the entire making process. I’m extremely excited to taste their Blanc de Blancs, announced but not yet released!

2 Stolpman Trousseau Pet-Nat 2016 | Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA

Truth be told, I have a love hate relationship with Pet-Nats, they always seem to be mood and situation dependent. Wines made using the Pétillant Naturel are bottled before the first fermentation has finished. Importantly, they don’t contain the secondary yeasts or sugars to start the secondary fermentation, like you would expect in Champagne, or other ‘traditional method’ sparkling wines. I nervously brought this bottle to a gathering of English winemakers, sommeliers and authors, and it went down an absolute treat.

I love the Santa Ynez microclimate, similar to the Loire valley in topography and climate. It boasts incredible quality Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Trousseau across the board. This Pet-Nat is incredibly clean and rich, without being overtly ‘natural’. An incredible gateway wine similar to a blanc de noirs English sparkling rather than a full on, natty Pet-Nat!

3 Oriol Perez de Tudela El Padrós 2019 | Tarragona, Spain

My preference for white wines, personally that is, revolves around subtle complexity. Overt flavours and imprinting winemaking techniques into the glass is a relatively simple task. Expressing typecite, showcasing how wines in a specific region ought to taste, tapping into a region’s traditional history can be quite a task.

I was sent this bottle and had it on Cépage less than a week later. It’s salty, saline with an incredibly mineral ‘weight’ to it. A firm acidity ensures a bright and lively palate, balanced with the weighty texture; a real taste of the sea.

4 Henri Magnien Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2016 | Burgundy, France

Rarely do I gravitate towards Burgundy red wines, generally because of their somewhat excessive price that isn’t reflective of the quality, more the economic principle of miniscule supply. However, I definitely make exceptions! I tip Henri Magnien to be a new benchmark producer in the coming years, given his small holdings in and only in Gevrey-Chambertin.

This lieu-dit is somewhat confused by consumers, mistaken for powerful and full bodied Pinot Noir. It’s actually the largest area under vine in the whole of Burgundy, making the quality, well, inconsistent. Generally, they do have a higher level of intensity, coupled with incredible fragrance and structure, but they are by no means ‘full bodied’. Henri Magnien’s wines characterise what is adored by many about this legendary village. Intensity from vines that average 50 years old are endearing, seductive, well balanced and supremely elegant. A half hours decant on this helps it come alive.

5 Trevibban Mill Black Ram Red 2018 | Cornwall, England

I am fully aware that all wine tastes much better when sat in the holiday sun, on a gorgeous, modern terrace with a cooling sea breeze. This was the position I found myself in when my mind was opened to superbly well crafted English red. No hints of reduction and a modest extraction, sufficient depth of flavour and a touch of oak to provide another layer of complexity.

Trevibban Mill is a winery proudly sustainable and minimal intervention, ensuring nothing untoward is added throughout the vinification and grape growing process. Dornfelder and Rondo balance well together in a relatively cool microclimate, but power and brooding fruit flavours still manage to dominate.

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