If you think you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted Grange or vintage Château d’Yquem, consider adding these highly covetable wines to your cellar.
Choosing the world’s best wines is no easy task for a wine critic. But if money was no object, I would be tossing up between the famed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from Burgundy; the world’s great dessert wine, Château d’Yquem; and its rival from Germany, a trockenbeerenauslese by the revered Joh. Jos. Prüm. Throw in a bottle of Champagne and I’d have to go for one of the top-shelf names such as Salon, Krug, Dom Pérignon, Louis Roederer Cristal or Comtes de Champagne.
Closer to home, our iconic Barossa shiraz duo – Henschke Hill of Grace and Penfolds Grange – attract the attention of collectors and the nouveau riche. But savvier wine geeks seek out alternatives offering comparable quality at a fraction of the price. Henschke’s Mount Edelstone and Penfolds’ RWT and old-school St Henri fit the bill, as does John Duval Wines’ Eligo or the raft of Rhône styles from Torbreck – the founder of which, Dave Powell, is back in business under the Powell & Son banner. It’s unknown if he’ll re-create the cult of Torbreck but with his 2014 Steinert Flaxman’s Valley Shiraz priced at $750, his brashness is unabated.
I can’t go past Tim Kirk’s Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. And rare gems like Giaconda Chardonnay and Bass Phillip Pinot Noir are also bucket-list candidates. Then there are newer, edgy labels such as Cloudburst in Margaret River and Thousand Candles in the Yarra Valley.
For a really topnotch selection, you need to head to the world’s best wine regions. In Australia, wine tourism in Tasmania, Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula and Orange is booming. Across the Ditch, Central Otago claims the limelight. In the Northern Hemisphere, France is to the fore: Bordeaux, Burgundy and, naturally, Champagne.
The hipsters have their own ultimate list, with the mysteries of vin jaune from the Jura region of eastern France vying with the equally enigmatic skin-contact whites of Trentino and Alto Adige in Italy’s north-east. Italy is the hottest wine destination right now. Piedmont has its Barolo and Barbaresco, while Sicily has the cult wines of Mount Etna (if you haven’t heard of Etna’s red variety, nerello mascalese, you soon will).
Meanwhile, Greece is experiencing a metamorphosis. Try a new-wave retsina, Ritinitis Nobilis, from Peloponnesian producer Gaia. At $25, it’s not as cheap as those of yesteryear but it’s so much better.
The ultimate destination for the wine connoisseur is Georgia, in Eastern Europe, which has a winegrowing history dating back 8000 years. Tradition remains strong, with qvevri (clay-pot fermenters) still in use. The region may not be on every tourist’s itinerary but a fervent wine-lover will stop at nothing to fill their bucket list to overflowing.
2008 Gaja Sorì Tildìn Langhe DOC
Piedmont, Italy, $1362 (magnum)
Angelo Gaja changed the face of Piedmont with his single-site Barbarescos. This one has perfumes of rose petal and star anise with concentrated red-fruit flavours and tightly wound tannins. Share a magnum and a feast of white truffles with friends.
2003 Krug Clos du Mesnil
Reims, France, $1622
This is the ultimate blanc de blancs from a tiny walled plot in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. It has white peach, hazelnut and ginger, an explosive palate, taut acidity and a graceful finish. A wine of incredible finesse from such a hot, dry vintage deserves to be drunk with reverence.
2014 Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir
Gippsland, Victoria, $500
Phillip Jones strikes again with this super-exclusive pinot noir from the exceptional 2014 vintage. There are intense aromas of berries, spice and earth, plus sumptuous flavours restrained by a swathe of pumice-like tannins. It’s extremely focused and long. Duck à l’orange, please.
2015 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier
Canberra District, NSW, $96
Tim Kirk’s latest release is a cracker. Delicious to drink now, it also has the potential to age for a decade or longer. Raspberries and ripe plums abound in this wine with savoury spices and a penetrating finish. Try it with a traditional leg of lamb and roast vegetables.
2014 Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli
Kakheti, Georgia, $48
American-born John Wurdeman has embraced the ancient wines (and qvevri) of Georgia. Skin contact gives this wine an amber hue with aromas of honey, acacia and fresh walnuts. It’s full-bodied and full-flavoured, with a grip of tannin sufficient to mop up a buttery chicken Kiev.
Shop these wines at Qantas epiQure