The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Orange, Oxidized, Ketchup and Rioja, the Top Five Wines of 2013

Posted on | December 11, 2013 | Written by Emma Criswell | No Comments

vin santo barrelI’m very lucky to work in this industry and taste as many wines as I do. I’m exposed to countless producers, both those storied and those lesser known, all makers of stellar wines. With all the variety I’m privy to, it’s exceedingly difficult to choose my top five of the year, but after a lot of thinking, I’ve managed to whittle it down. In ascending order, these are my top five wines of 2013.

5.  1998 Gravner Breg Anfora

When Sergio first introduced me to Gravner, I’d yet to have an “orange wine” and I was completely blown away by the flavor and complexity. I have been a Gravner loyalist ever since. Typically, I’ll enjoy a bottle of 2003, as the 2005 is still too young to drink, but I did have the opportunity to taste the 1998 and it was even better than anticipated—warm, balanced and beautiful—it’s always hard for me to choose descriptors because the wine changes so much from the time it’s opened, to when it hits your glass, to when it touches your palate, from first to final sip.

4. Vin Santo from barrel in Florence

There’s really no way to describe this but a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To see the mats where grapes are dried, to touch the family crest on the barrel and to be able to have a sip from said barrel—there’s really nothing more to say than perfectly golden.

Chateau Auson3. 1947 Chateau Ausone St. Emilion Grand Cru

Ketchup is my main tasting note here, and this is one of the oldest wines I had all year. I had the pleasure of attending a Christie’s pre-auction dinner and sampled this beautiful wine. It was part of an auction lot that was originally purchased for around $36 a case in the early 1950’s.

2. 1987 R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Tempranillo blend

I’m always excited to find a birth-year wine that I enjoy, especially because I am mostly relegated to California Cab for my birthdays. I was very excited to find this one on a wine list and it was quite delicious. Tobacco, smoke, some red berry skin, a lot of sweet cherry. Perfectly ready to drink and not over the hill in any way.

rioja blanco1. 1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva Blanco 1998 Viura, Malvasia

Aged, oxidized and delicious, this wine was my absolute favorite of the year. It was on the by the glass list at Ai Fiori for a while and I would always go to visit my former roommate and savor this wine. Not everyone likes oxidized wines, but they are some of my favorites, and this year, an oxidized wine was my favorite wine. The toasty, honeyed apple skin character is really not matched by anything else.

It always interests me the way my tastes change from year to year. Not only that, but I’m fascinated how my favorite wines also change in structure and taste. Most years, all of my favorites are red; sometimes I go through sparkling phases; other years I can’t get enough Syrah. Of course, what I’m exposed to has to do a bit with wine trends, and those trends in turn influence my favorites, but I’m always willing to try something new and what’s recommended to me. Being open to wine from all producers and in all its forms allows you to not only open your palate, but also to open your mind to new producers, regions and grape growing techniques. The wine world is ever evolving and we must evolve with it, lest we miss out on an incredible wine.

Honorable mentions: Conterno Dolcetto 2011, many of the Poulsards I’ve had throughout the year, and Andre Clouet 1911 Champagne.

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