5 wines to try before you die
Love a Chablis or three? Whether you're a wino or oenophile, we asked experts for their bucket list wines. Not to be drunk by the bucket load. Just saying!
Love wine but haven’t a scooby what’s good, bad or exceptional until you’ve popped the cork (or twisted the screw cap)? I hear you. We’re definitely more wino than oenophile here at Muddy. But like our lust for a classic Burberry trench or an iconic Chanel quilted handbag, we’re keen to know the top-notch, bes-of-the-best bottles that’ll knock our socks off, blow our minds and possibly bankrupt us in the process.
This weekend, UNCORKED (a brand new wine and food festival) is be held at The Vineyard Hotel in Stockcross – one of the best wine hotels outside of London with 30,000 bottles nestled in its cellar. The event will give you the chance to knock back fine wines, learn more about what you’re drinking while listening to live music and tucking into a classic Californian barbecue. And it’s going to be hot hot hot.
In the interest of research, we’ve picked the brains of some of the finest minds to bring you five bucket list wines to tantalise your tastebuds. Let’s go – chin, chin!
POLLY WOOD DipWSET – GRAPESMITH HUNGERFORD
A Muddy-award winning wine shop with a superb selection of wines and spirits from small producers, to suit all tastes and pockets. What Polly doesn’t know about wine, quite frankly, isn’t worth knowing.
Classic Napa Cabernet; Chateau Montelena
Prohibition nearly killed the budding wine business in the United States. After its repeal, wineries were slow to recover and most producers made low-quality bulk wines. Fortunately, in 1976 an impassioned English wine merchant was determined to prove Napa’s potential. The man, Steven Spurrier, organized a blind tasting in France and included Napa Cabernet with Bordeaux 1st and 2nd growths. The tasting, now referred to as the “Judgement of Paris” gave Napa County its well-deserved street cred, with Chateau Montelena stealing the show in first place. The French were not best-pleased! Thirty years later, the competition was re-run, to much international interest… Yet again, these Californian wines beat the Bordelaise hands down. Taste a piece of history and ‘judge’ for yourself.
1921 Château d’Yquem Sauternes
Still a legendary property, this year saw the end of an era coincide with an exceptional vintage. The 1921 harvest took 39 days to pick and was the last vintage that Yquem owner Le Comte de Lur-Saluces sold in cask. In 2010, auction house Christie’s sold one bottle sold for £1,375 – double the estimate. Described as ‘one of the miracles of the last century’, the 1921 hardly seems to have changed for the last 40 years. Those who have tasted it say it still has great sweetness and even keeps an impression of freshness. There is complexity found in every nuance that is the signature of this extraordinary wine; this really is the stuff of legends. Described by Michael Broadbent as ‘a colossus’ and ‘the most staggeringly rich Yquem of all time’.
We all have our opinions when it comes to wine. However, if there’s ever a phrase we still here a lot, it’s that old ‘ABC’ (Anything but Chardonnay) mantra that seems to be a hangover from days gone by, when certain new world countries took to making oaky, buttery, over-extracted fruit bombs. The Cote d’Or, in the heartland of Burgundy, is considered to be the very best place in the world for the finest expressions of this chameleon grape. It’s no coincidence that these wines are ranked amongst the best in the world, across all categories. They really can be exceptional, and exceptionally long-lived. If you want to know how good Chardonnay can really be, but without taking out a small bank loan, treat yourself to a really good Meursault. Take some advice from a local wine merchant and expect to pay upwards of £40 (but comfortably less than £60) and prepare to see Chardonnay is a new light.
WINE ADVISORS, BERRY BROS & RUDD, PALL MALL LONDON
Like The Kingsmen (fun fact: the shop played a starring role in The Golden Circle) , the identity of the experts has to remain top secret. But Berry Bros & Rudd is Britain’s oldest wine merchant, and one of the oldest family-run businesses, so it’s safe to say, they know their stuff.
2014 Valbuena 5°, Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Ribera del Duero, Spain
Vega Sicilia, Spain’s “first growth” and most prestigious wine estate, is located in Ribera del Duero. It was founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec) and planted them, together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) in the arid Ribera soils It feels like 2014, is the year this wine has come of age. It has a beautiful nose of raspberries, blackberries and Christmas spice. The approach on the palate is initially gentle, yet the power gradually builds. The purity, freshness and sheer class of this wine is incredible. The tannins are silky smooth and present with definite grip on the finish yet with a corduroy texture to begin. This is a wine that will stand the test of time, there’s no question about it. It is absolutely delicious. Drink 2024-2040 – £444 for a case of three bottles.
Hambledon, Première Cuvée, Sparkling, Hampshire
Hambledon Vineyard has a long and fascinating history. Not only does the village have the reputation as the cradle of cricket, long before Lord’s, but it is also the location of the first English commercial vineyard, courtesy of the Francophile Sir Guy Salisbury Jones, who developed the vineyards in the early 1950s. After an uneventful hiatus the vineyard was purchased by Ian Kellett in 1999 and his investments of both patience and capital are now yielding fruit, quite literally, in the form of some of the best located Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes in the country. A standard-bearer for the quality that England can achieve, this is a very assured wine, with a firm acidic spine, but also complexity and detail. Great focus and precision. One to try at £45.50 per bottle.