Recounting my favorite wines savored in 2018 and adding a few more to try in the year to come.
What is on my bucket list for wine? That’s actually a difficult question to answer. My wine philosophy is that the greatest wines of the world are those with a “sense of time and place.” We live in an era where there are so many wines with flavor. There has never been such an international mix of wonderfully tasty and high-quality level wines at almost every price point. But what elevates wine above any other beverage in the world is its aforementioned “sense of time and place.” This ability for wine to be able to tell us where it comes from, the variety of grape that goes into it, the growing conditions of that year and the type of soil it is grown in is an amazing and beautiful quality that no other beverage can claim. It is this ‘message in a bottle’ that truly makes a wine ‘great’ and not simply great-tasting. This is reflected in my bucket list and not my budget.
There are some legendary wines I have already tasted and would recommend as bucket list-worthy. Let’s begin with Champagne of course. 1979 Krug Clos du Mesnil is the first vintage ever of this 1.8-hectare vineyard made entirely of Grand Cru Chardonnay. The vine- yard was only on its third leaf, yet even with young vines, this wine is one of the greatest Champagnes ever. 1959 Salon, of which there were only 14 bottles remaining in the cellars of Champagne Salon back in 1998, was a heavenly blend of elegance, complexity and freshness. Bordeaux has no shortage of bucket list wines. 1947 Château Cheval Blanc is perhaps first among them. This wine is amazingly rich and concentrated; it is still the benchmark versus which all other Bordeaux are compared. 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild is not only a monumental wine but also a most important year—The Year of Victory as World War II came to a close. This wine reminds us of the celebration of life and freedom and the blessings that came with that year. No list would be complete without Pétrus. The 1989 is my bucket list wine and is flawless as any vintage including the 1990 and 1982. 1967 Château d‘Yquem seems to have been touched by heaven and is still the greatest dessert wine to cross my lips. As Burgundy is my predilection I have had many a Burgundy that deserves to be at the top of the list. 1969 DRC Montrachet is elegance and terroir personified. 1978 Romanée-Conti is still in its youth and flirting with perfection. 1990 Jayer Cros Parantoux, which when it is from a great bottle is nothing short of heavenly. But France is not the sole object of my affection. Italy’s 1985 Sassicaia would put most Bordeaux First Growths to shame. And I will never forget the thimble full of 1795 Terrantez Madeira that I was privileged to taste (George Washington was president of a nascent country called America).
And as fortunate as I have been to drink these, there are those that I still covet. Vintage Krug is the stuff of legend. I’ve tasted back to 1961 but not the famed 1938 vintage, of which there are only four bottles remaining in the Krug cellars. 1947 Petrus, which akin to the 1947 Cheval Blanc, is legend among cognoscenti. I have always wanted to taste the 1990 JL Chave Hermitage Cuvée Cathelin, perhaps the world’s greatest Syrah. I am still searching for the perfect Nebbiolo, and from everything I have heard from collectors, 1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino is it. As long as I am putting it out there, 1847 and 1921 Château d‘Yquem are as rare as they come, and I would probably have to drink those on bended knees. And don’t forget my beloved Burgundy 1971 Rousseau Chambertin and 1978 DRC Montrachet are wines that I will do almost anything to taste. And the wine that has been on my list since the day I fell in love with Burgundy is the 1945 DRC Romanée-Conti, which this past week broke the record for most expensive single 750ml bottle sold at auction for $558,000.
More fanciful wines I would love to taste would be the one that Jesus made from water at the wedding at Cana. What do you think that tasted like? Or the very first Madeira, when that person first tasted that wine that made the trip to the New World and back all the while being stored as ballast in the hold of a ship. Or the first sparkling wine would be some- thing. “Come quickly I am drinking the stars!” as Dom Perignon is quoted as saying. Let me be more realistic. Who has a bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti in their cellar?
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