When I first started getting the list of my top wines of the year together, I noticed that there were a ton of sparkling wines on the list, which should not have some as a surprise since I usually have close to 200 bottles of fizz in the cellar at any given time (I kind of dig the stuff). So I decided, somewhat at the last minute, to split the list into two and yesterday, I published my list of the Top Ten Still Wines of the Year.
Today, the bubbles get their due.
As I mentioned yesterday, the criteria this year are the same as the last two years: in order to make it onto the list of the Top Ten Wines of the Year, the wine would first have to have been selected as a Wine of the Week.
So, without further ado….
#10. 2012 Gruet Winery Grand Blanc de Noirs Limited Release (New Mexico): Retail $30. Imagine a bad day. Not the worst day you have ever had, but just your run of the mill “bad day.” Undoubtedly, at some point during that day, there was a point that was actually good, or at least “not so bad.” Even if you do not believe me, it has to be true, almost by definition. Well, this bottle for me was certainly that bright spot. I had gained three pounds, watched my football team get embarrassed, and hurt my arm playing catch with my son. This wine? Stellar. Citrus and baked bread with good acidity and a lingering finish. It made me forget about my crappy day. Almost. Outstanding. 90-92 Points. (9/21)
#9. N.V. Champagne Pierre Legras Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru: Retail $50. We have had a few of these by now and there has been a bit of variation. The first bottle was stellar, the second, good, but less than mind-blowing. Well, this third bottle was back to the beginning. As I have stated before, I am not a huge Blanc de Blancs guy, but should the rest of the bottles (10 more) resemble this one, I might have to amend my opinion of the style. Croissant and lemon and great acidity. I dare say this even has some time ahead of it, but it is impressive now. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
#8. 2002 Saint-Chamant à Epernay Champagne Brut Cuvee de Chardonnay: Retail $75. Tarte Tatin a go-go on the nose with a hint of oxidation. The amber color is expected for a champagne with a dozen years on it, but there is still plenty of sparkle left here. On the palate? I am shocked that this is a Chardonnay as there is plenty of backbone and depth. This wine is Fantastic with loads of character, flavor, and life remaining. But it is oh so good right now. Outstanding. 92-94 Points. (7/20)
#7. 2000 Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut Millésimé: Retail $80. Last week I was at a couple tastings with Régis Camus, the Chef de Caves who, when I told him I had a couple of bottles of this he replied “2000? Il faut les boire.” So I did. A bit dark and weak on bubbles, but huge on flavor. A bit nutty and some oxidation but this is gangbusters. As in right down the middle of my strike zone. Rich, full, and thought-provoking. Can’t wait to visit Régis in Reims. Hope he remembers me or I will look rather foolish (but I am rather familiar with that road). Outstanding. 91-93 Points. (11/16)
#6. N.V. Gosset Champagne Grand Rosé Brut: Retail $80. These were on sale at the PLCB for a ridiculous $37 so I bought a bunch of bottles. We took this one to a BYOB restaurant with some friends and it was a hit–great fruit and deep flavors, this is every bit as good as the Grande Réserve, my all-time favorite non-vintage. Fantastic red berry fruit and a depth of secondary flavors that was remarkable. This is why I love champagne. Outstanding 92-94 Points. (10/19)
#5. 1999 Perrier-Jouët Champagne Cuvée Fleur de Champagne: Retail $150+. 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier. I have said it before, there are few bottles that I would rather open than an older bottle of champagne. Slight sigh on opening, but there was a sigh (indicating there were at least a couple of bubbles left–a good thing). Slightly golden color with a faint sparkle and caramel on the nose. On the palate some fruit and a mustiness that I love. Old Champers. Whoa. Bring it. And then bring some more. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
#4. 1996 Taittinger Champagne Brut Millésimé: Retail $85. I pulled this out on our anniversary since we met in ’96 (not really–we met a few years later but ’96 was such a great year in Champagne I’ve decided to retro-actively declare it the year we met). The golden color had me really worried as I have had more than my fair share of oxidized wines this year. On the nose there is caramel, a hint of citrus, and freshly baked croissant. This is fantastic, a wonderfully mature champagne with all those favors coming through on the palate too. Outstanding. 93-95 Points. (11/1)
#3. 1998 L. Aubry Fils Champagne Le Nombre d’Or Campanae Veteres Vites Brut: Retail $85. If you do not like old Champagne this is not for you. So if you have a bottle of this, I will gallantly take it off your hands.
A bit golden with some faint bubbles, but oh that nose. Whoa. I seem to be saying this a lot lately: this is why I love old champagne. I guess old Champers is more of an acquired taste–I have shared old champagne with a number of friends who have not been all that enthralled, so I am hesitant to break a bottle out with someone who is not clearly a fan. I understand why someone would not like it (they’re freaking bonkers), but at the same time I do not want to “waste” one of the great pleasures in life on a total whack job. Outstanding. 93-95 Points. (9/7)
#2. 1997 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut Millésimé: Retail $80. Whoa. After the last bottle of this, I was more than depressed. So depressed, in fact, that I chose to ignore this last bottle, hoping that it would just go away. Tonight, Mother’s Day, I decided to pop this open since I had to do it at some point, right? Well, whoa. Lemon, croissant, and just a hint of oxidation. I dare say that this is the best champagne I have had this year. On the palate, it is fabulous–a burst of citrus, followed by a biscuity goodness, with a finish that lasts for over a minute. Yum. Outstanding. 93-95 Points. (5/11)
#1. 1999 Mailly Grand Cru Champagne Brut Millésimé: Retail $75. I brought this back from France in ’07 and the last bottle was spectacular. This time around, I was honestly a bit worried, since I have not had the greatest luck lately with oxidized/corked wines. My fear was underscored as the cork was stubborn–resisting extraction, but it eventually succumbed with a healthy “pop.” Slightly golden with plenty of sparkle, and a creamy richness on the nose. It gets a “Whoa” just on the nose. Creamy and rich on the palate and at least another full Whoa. Acidity balances out the creaminess and the finish is unreal. A third “Whoa.” What is beyond Outstanding? Outstanding++. 94-96 Points. (10/5)
Honorable Mention: I have talked about the numerous Jeroboam bottles of Mailly Grand Cru before–I found these online for the ridiculous price of $40 delivered. That’s right, $40 for the equivalent of four bottles of perhpas my favorite producer of champagne. They were marketed for the millenium and thus by 2001 when I came across them, they were on the cheap. We bought a ton of these: for friends, neighbors, and of course for ourselves. I estimate that in all, we bought well over 100 of these, 40 or so of which, we kept for ourselves this was our next to last bottle….
N.V. Mailly Grand Cru Champagne Brut Réserve: Jeroboam. Retail $250? We have had this for over a decade and we finally organized a group of people to get together to drink this bad boy. Well, we waited a bit too long. There was still fizz, and some good flavors, but neither lasted very long in the glass. Not overly oxidized but it was noticeable. Not the best one of these we have had, but how can you not like a Jeroboam. (1/25)