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Favourite wines of 2023 - Criterion Wine Tours

2023 Favourite Wines of the Year

It’s been a busy year with tours, tastings, seminars and FAM (familiarisation) trips and I have tasted several hundred wines. There have been many highlights and it’s hard to narrow it down to a handful, but here are a few which I have particularly enjoyed:

Sparkling Wines

Domaine des Dieux ‘Claudia’ Brut MCC 2016. From the cool climate region of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, probably the best ‘traditional method’ sparkling wine from South Africa I have ever tasted! A blend of 76% Chardonnay and 24% Pinot Noir with an astonishing six years on its lees, it stands comparison with plenty of far more expensive vintage Champagnes: yeasty, creamy, yet still fresh with great breadth and length on the palate £19.95 at Stone, Vine & Sun.

Champagne Lanson Black Label Brut NV. The surprise but worthy winner of a Blind Tasting of 8 Grand Marque NV champagnes in July. A blend of 35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier, made from between 50 to 60 different crus (villages). Intense nose of ripe fruits and digestive biscuits with yeasty notes. On the palate, somehow manages to be fresh and full-bodied at the same time. Very impressive. Currently reduced for the Christmas season at most major supermarkets, £30 at Sainsburys.

White Wines

Quinta do Romeira Provia Regia 2022. A fragrant, floral white from the tiny region of Bucelas in Portugal. Made from Arinto grape, this has finesse, elegance and fine balance with good length. Will develop more complexity in the next 2 years. £16 from The Wine Society.

Pieropan Calvarino Soave 2021. A single vineyard wine Soave from 60 year old vines planted on very steep slopes. A wine with great finesse and a saline core. Red apple, ginger and honey notes as well as a zesty acidity with herbal hints and an attractive phenolic grip. £22 at The Wine Society.

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2021, from Stellenbosch, South Africa. Always reliable and good value. Rich nose of tropical fruits, with buttery, citrus notes. On the palate, rich, broad flavours with well-integrated toasty oak. £16 at Waitrose but on offer at £13 at time of writing.

Red Wines

CVNE Imperial Rioja Reserva 2015. In a tasting of nine different Rioja Reservas in August, this was the favourite. In fact, so good that I bought a case afterwards! Sweet black fruit, saddle leather and a hint of vanilla. Silky tannins, velvety mouthfeel, layered, with structure and great length. Gorgeous and will last for another 10 years. £55 in magnum from Drinks Direct.

Colome Estate Malbec 2020. A fabulous Malbec from one of the world’s highest vineyards – the Salta region in the far north of Argentina. Intense aromas of blackberries, floral notes and hints of spice. The altitude gives the wine wonderful freshness, and ripe black fruits sit alongside spicy oak and hints of pepper. The fine tannins add to the complexity and body. £19 at Waitrose Cellar.

Moulin-a-Vent Rochegres, Aujoux 2020. If you thought all Beaujolais wines are light, bland, fruit bombs think again! Dark, brooding nose of black and red cherries, black pepper and forest-floor. Medium-full bodied, with loads of flavour, and a long, lingering finish. Outstanding value £12.95 at The Wine Society.

Something Sweet

Samos Anthemis 2017. A perennial favourite! Luscious, sweet Greek vin doux naturel Muscat with beguiling honey, caramelised-orange and raisin aromas. Rich and sweet with balancing acidity. A perfect match for Xmas Pudding, tiramisu or blue cheese. Or could be a dessert all on its own! One of the great value sweet wines of the world – £9.95 for 50 cl at The Wine Society

Finish with a Fortified

Fonseca Guimarens Port 2008. The fruit of three single quinta properties, made when a classic Fonseca vintage port is not declared. Lush berry fruit and balsamic aromas, tempered with notes of coffee and molasses. On the palate the intense fruit is supported by supple tannins and a long finish. Still has plenty of life in it for keeping. £30 at Bon Coeur Wines.

If you do try any of these wines I would love to hear your feedback. I could easily add another 10-15 wines to this list, but maybe that’s for another blog. Keep drinking well and exploring the world of wine. There’s always something new.

You may have noticed that several of my selections come from The Wine Society who are my major source of wine in the UK. Not only do they have a large, well-chosen selection from all over the world, but they also always have the most competitive prices. If you are not already a member do join up. There is a one-off joining fee of £40 but you get £20 off your first order.

Cheers and Seasons Greetings!

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