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Posted Tuesday, 9 October 2012 / Written by Samantha Sheldrick / Leave a comment
Asks Richard Dare, Averys’ fine wine advisor
I often ask my customers this question and the reason I do so is five or six years ago, soon after I began collecting and buying wine I asked myself the exact same question, admittedly I had a rather modest collection, perhaps just 15 cases in total. However almost 90% comprised of red wine from either Bordeaux or the Rhone valley with a sprinkling of modest Burgundy (I didn’t understand it enough to buy with confidence) and just 18 bottles of white in total, all of which was Meursault.
These were the wines I enjoyed the most and my cellar represented that, however, I had an impending sense that there was nothing really unique about my collection. How many others exclusively buy Bordeaux, Rhone and Burgundy? It was clear I found the famous names of the classic French regions just so alluring, world renowned for producing the finest wines in the world, when the point of purchase came, it was just too difficult to contemplate parting with well earned cash for anything else.
My lack of experience and knowledge at the time meant some serious guidance was required and Bordeaux and Rhone were the only signposts available, providing a warm blanket of relative safety in the confusing world of wine.
It was upon this realisation that I decided to make a concerted effort to seek out wines that I wouldn’t usually consider. This meant spending more time understanding what I was buying. It began simply; I would buy a wine I had never before tried, whilst I drank it, I found out what the grape varieties were, where exactly it came from (The Hugh Johnson Wine Atlas was indispensable), how it was supposed to taste and whether or not it could age. As expected, there were some very questionable wines and it soon turned into a rollercoaster of serious ups and downs, but even with the downs I learnt what I didn’t like and soon built up a bank of wines that I knew to avoid and perhaps more importantly learnt why I didn’t like them.
This simple exercise ignited a real passion for wine within me and it was less than two years after this wine epiphany that I decided I wanted to work with wine and joined Averys Wine Merchants in 2007. So why has this any relevance to you? Because this passion is the single reason why my wine collection is now not only far more interesting and reflective of myself but now also comprises of a range of wines suitable for any manner of drinking occasion. From everyday drinking wines and special occasion bottles, to dinner party wines and those to offer unexpected visitors.
It also opened up a new world; it doesn’t take long to learn that wine lends itself to a myriad of historical, geographical and geological influences, no vineyard is quite the same as any other and a good wine will always leave you with a sense of its origins and birthplace. There is an almost infinite combination of factors that can make a single wine interesting. To name just a few of the variables at play, there are thousands of grape varieties, subtle climatic differences, varying soil types, different vineyard aspects and a plethora of winemaking techniques. It is these intricacies that make drinking wine such a satisfying, complex and ultimately enriching experience.
A lifetime spent learning about wine would never be enough time to learn it all (a comprehensive understanding of the Cote D’Or alone would take several lifetimes!) but this is what makes wine such a fascinating drink. You can always find something that offers you a new, unforgettable experience, a taste that sparks your senses and imagination. It is this heterogeneity of wine styles that offers untold potential in enabling you to find a wine you’ll fall in love with, it is this that keeps my personal passion for wine burning. This is why I continue to seek new flavours and styles of wine, furthering my understanding and knowledge and more importantly discovering great new flavours and tastes.
It also means you can take a short-cut. This on-going, perhaps never-ending quest of mine has enabled me to discover a number of fascinating, unique wines that cannot fail to brighten up your own wine cellar. The following are five such wines, so before you buy another case of Bordeaux or Burgundy for the cellar, take a moment to re consider, you won’t regret it.
Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Riesling 2007
£225 per case of 12 (£18.75 per bottle)
2007 is a great vintage throughout Germany’s fine wine regions. These are wines of marked intensity, yet the huge ripeness is balanced against record levels of acidity giving the wines a razor sharp cut. It’s a small vintage, yet boasts all that is lip-smacking and attractive about the finest Riesling – crystalline purity, terroir expression, lithe textures, precision and laser beam focus. If you can resist this stunning wine for another 5 years, you’ll be richly rewarded.
Pol Roger Vintage Champagne 2002
£288 per case of 6 (£48 per bottle)
It’s no secret that the wine trade is in love with Champagne’s 2002 vintage and the wines continue to be highly sought after, these are the most exciting wines in over a decade, many of them the equals or betters of the wonderful 1996s, if anything they possess a little extra richness and weight. With years of glorious drinking ahead of it I’m recommending this very strongly as a prime candidate for the cellar, it will be fascinating to drink over the next 10-12 years.
Chateau de Beaucastel 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
£280 per wooden case of 6 (£46.67 per bottle)
The whites of the south, and in particular Chateauneuf-du-Pape, are truly exceptional and distinctive wines, not only packed with fruit and lovely to drink in their first flushes of youth but also wonderfully opulent, full bodied and long lived. I would recommend you either start drinking this wine over the next few years or leave it for 8-10 years. Once it has emerged from its sultry teenage years it will really blossom into a richer, more seductive and complete wine.
Finca La Anita Petit Verdot, Mendoza, Argentina
£250 per case of 12 (£20.83 per bottle)
Grown high up in the Andes, it isn’t often you find 100% varietal Petit Verdot but this is a real winner, crafted from fruit grown on 40 plus year old vines. If you love deep, full bodied and inky Reds this comes highly recommended with its rich dark fruit, cherry, eucalyptus and mint flavours. It is already beginning to drink well and it will reward a further 5 years in the cellar.
Felton Road Bannockburn 2010 Pinot Noir, New Zealand
£335 per case of 12 (£27.92 per bottle)
This is one of the finest estates in New Zealand and the Pinot Noir is one of the finest made anywhere in the world. A brilliant wine offering rich, full and ripe Pinot fruit, it has more in common with a top Chambolle Musigny, possessing the hallmark clear minerality and focused acidity.