Five sensational bottles to give a wine-lover this year
Great wine, like art and music, propels, deepens and ignites emotion quietly and viscerally. Sure, tasting notes try to describe the experience — cocoa, bonfire, baked apple — but they’re only allusions; the real excitement lies in the shifting interplay of tastes and textures so difficult to capture in words. To be really understood, a wine needs to be experienced. With that, here are five pulse-quickening wines I’d love to give every serious wine lover I know.
2013 Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy (Vintages Essential 433417 $44.95 in stores and online)
Made from partially dried grapes, Amarone is a rich, dry wine that’s relatively expensive to both make and buy — so pretty special stuff. And this bottle is particularly gratifying, with its fine balance of muscularity and elegance. Serene scents of cherry and chalk pull you toward a brisk, broad, intense attack of ripe berries that slides away slowly to reveal plunging depth — a tumble of warm earth, bittersweet chocolate, marzipan, dried fig, black coffee, tapenade, cassis, charcoal, dried plum, and chalk play on the palate. Meanwhile, a persistent note of red fruit retains lift and harmony. Pour it with cheese.
2012 Izadi Seleccion, Rioja DOC, Spain (Vintages 486403 $24.95 in stores only)
With an instantly seductive perfume of stewed plums, crushed berries and split vanilla bean, this fragrant Tempranillo-based wine draws you in before voluptuous, overlapping flavours of red and black fruit, warm wood, raw nut, leather, cola and meat jus seduce. Quite a complex, tightly wound wine. And when the intense but juicy fruit begins to fade in the mouth, a tannic frame reveals itself with a drying sensation, firm final tug and black olive finish. Quite an expressive and impressive wine made from low-yielding vines that average 60 years old. Great with chorizo.
2015 Peter Lehmann The Barossan Shiraz, Barossa, Australia (Vintages 522235 $21.95 in stores only)
The Barossa is one of the best places in the world to produce plush, saturated choco-berry-scented Shiraz. And here we have, at a very reasonable price, a textbook example of what a premium version of that wine should taste like. With its rich folds of cashmere fruit, it enthralls with crushed black cherry and plum flavours imbued with toasted coconut, café latte, melted milk chocolate and toasted oak with a finish of red and black licorice before tapering to a long, languid finish. This bottle is sure to please discerning Shiraz lovers. Pour it with slow-roasted meat.
2015 Zuccardi Concreto, Paraje Altamira, Uco Valley, Argentina (Vintages 455774 $39.95 in stores only)
When I first tasted this wine in November, I was blown away. Ever since, I’ve been counting the days till it hit shelves Dec. 9 — so I could tell you about it. But truly, it’s wine that has to be tasted to be understood. It’s not just about fruit, but rather minerals and elements; stone, iron, chalk, granite, salt and oyster shell pervade a subtly blackberry-scented centre while quicksilver allusions of black olive, violet and dried herbs catch the senses. This is a mesmerizing wine that doesn’t seem to care if you like it. But of course you will. It’s magnetic, and dirt cheap for what it is.
2016 Halos de Jupiter, Cotes du Rhone, France (Vintages 276596 $17.95 in stores only)
Halos de Jupiter is the pet project of the Rhone’s top consulting oenologist, Philippe Cambie, and fellow winemaker Michel Gassier to showcase their passion for Grenache — and this sub-$20 wonder does so beautifully. The soft, velvety entry of blueberries and plum fools you for a moment into thinking that this is a simple wine, but then the fruit drops away to reveal a kaleidoscope of dark flavours — tapenade, smoked herbs, slate, cocoa powder and roasted coffee bean. This is not a long wine, but certainly an intriguing and well-made expression of the Cotes du Rhone. Pour it with cassoulet.
Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer. She is also a London-trained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at .
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