Story by Manos Angelakis
Bottle and label photos courtesy of the wineries
Ten Red Wines I enjoyed in 2015
I get to taste a lot of wine! Many of the wines I taste are good, a few are outstanding, and there are a few stinkers in there as well. During the year, I sample at least 700 to 900 bottles; numerous samples from some of the best vintners in the world, plus a lot of others. I love food-friendly wines and I happen to like aromatic and robust reds, light aromatic whites, and sweet dessert wines. I never drink wine on an empty stomach or eat a good meal without wine. I try to pair the appropriate wine with the dishes we prepare at home. I consider myself and my wife as very competent cooks, so we try to cook meals appropriate to the wines we will be tasting.
Following are ten of the red wines that I enjoyed most last year. Some are expensive, some are not. They all gave me a lot of pleasure.
This past spring, Ornellaia’s winemaker Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja and estate director Axel Heinz were in New York City to launch their 2012 L’Incanto vintage and they were kind enough to invite me and a few other prominent wine writers to join them for a vertical tasting of their flagship wine. Though young, the 2012 exhibits the proverbial concentration that distinguishes Ornellaia’s great vintages; richness with an expansive structure that concludes with an almost endless finish. It is a great wine, with a sweet opulence, truly an “enchantment,” with a spicy palate of blueberry, bing cherry and blackberry; cassis, espresso and chocolate notes highlighting the long, luscious finish.
Tenuta Luce Della Vite is a Montalcino winery founded in 1995 as a joint project of the Frescobaldi and Mondavi families. 2008 Luce is a Super Tuscan, an exceptional blend of 45% Sangiovese and 55% Merlot. It has smooth, ripe accents of dried plum, sour cherries, and blackberries along with pungent roasted espresso, tobacco leaf and a hint of eucalyptus. It is very well balanced with an exceptionally long finish that adds to the enjoyment.
2009 Galena. Domini de la Cartoixa is 11 hectares of organically grown vines in Priorat, near the village of El Molar. Consistently high quality grape production and best bunch selection ensures that the wine, Galena, is one of the best the vineyard produces. High minerality imparts freshness to this wine. Each vineyard plot is fermented and macerated separately in stainless tanks. Malolactic fermentation also takes place in steel. Then, assembling of the different plots and different varietals in the blend (Garnacha Negra, Cariñena, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon) is done before the wine is placed in French (80%) and American (20%) oak barriques to age for 12 to 15 months; final blending of the barrique contents takes place before bottling.
In Italy, 2006 was one of the better years in the first decade of the 21st Century. Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso created in Montalcino an exceptional Brunello, the 2006 Reserva La Fiorita, a lovely, full-bodied powerful wine, with layers of aromas and flavors rich and deep on the palate showing ripe cherries, raspberries and plums with a hint of mushrooms and licorice, with aromas of dark forest fruit, tobacco and smoke predominating, but also hints of sweet spice, leather and cedar on the long spicy finish. I specifically remember this wine because it accompanied a roasted leg of lamb coated with liberal amounts of lemon juice, garlic, thyme and oregano.
2011 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is meticulously created at the Puente Alto vineyard in Maipo Valley. For the 2011 vintage, the predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon wine was combined with 1% Cabernet Franc; the wine is aged in French oak barriques for 15 months. The vineyard is managed row by row to achieve the perfect potential for each vine. The wine is refined and elegant, with silky tannins and an intense ruby-red color. A surprising minerality dominates the layers of cassis, black cherry and damson plum flavors; hints of spice, tobacco and hoisin sauce also appear on the palate. The nose of the long, lush finish is filled with notes of chocolate, eucalyptus, pencil shavings and herbs. It is the result of Concha y Toro’s chief winemaker Enrique Tirado’s, expertise.
Portugal in not normally known for highly nuanced table wines but the 2008 Consensus, a wine from the Lisbon area (previously known as Estremadura region), is as good as any of the much better promoted top wines of Italy and France. Created by the DFJ winery, it is a lovely blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Touriga Nacional. It is a great wine, tasty, smooth and elegant with an intense and persistent finish. This is a classic meat-lover’s wine with gentle tannins, rich, vibrant, and intensely fruity, with black fruit, spice and leather on the nose and cassis, black plum and spicy chocolate flavors. It is excellent for pairing with game dishes. Mr. José Neiva Correia, winemaker and manager of DFJ Vinhos, should be very proud of this wine!
One of my most recent acquisitions was Damilano’s 2008 Barolo Cannubi. It is a single vineyard wine. Damilano owns 5 acres and rents another 19 acres on the renowned Cannubi hill. This is a full bodied, massive wine with pronounced -- though a bit jammy -- aromas of black cherries, raspberries and spices and hints of tobacco, licorice and cedar. The silky persistent finish leaves a lasting impression. Roasted quail, pheasant, or truffled risotto would pair very well with this exceptional Barolo, but a charcoal roasted, Mediterranean-herb coated, pork shoulder would not be out of the question either.
The 2007 Lineage came from Livermore Valley, California. The creator of this exceptional wine, Steven Kent Mirassou, is very passionate about his handcrafted wine that is a very classic Bordeaux-styled blend. It is as close as I can think to one of the best vintages of Châteaux Petrus - my favorite Bordelaise Grand Cru. This wine is soft and sensuous, with a nose of dark fruit (big juicy plum, blackcurrant and cherry) and blackberries. The tannins are completely settled by now; the finish ends with subtle hints of spice, sandalwood and sweet chocolate. It is a very elegant blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Merlot. Very well structured and beautifully balanced.
Cellers Scala Dei is a winery with a very ancient name; it is the founding winery of Priorat. Today it is a member of the Grupo Codorniu one of the world's largest wine producers. 2010 St. Antoni de Scala Dei is one of the best wines made from Garnatxa Negra produced in Catalonia; the wine is colored deep cherry red with intense violet highlights. Sour black cherries and plums, delicately balsamic on the nose and a rather tannic black fruit dominated palate. There’s also some vanilla and a hint of cedary cigar box with notable menthol nuances and a smidgeon of slate. It has a long, slightly tarry, tannic finish. Can be cellared for at least 12 to 15 more years before it peaks.
Fattoria’s Le Pupille’s 2012 Morellino di Scansano Reserva was nicely spicy, a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon that had one year in oak and one year in bottle prior to release. In my opinion, it is a very nice wine that will become much better with a couple more years in cellar and has the possibility of a long life.
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