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Must Try Wines, with Updates and Explanations

May 6, 2012 Leave a comment

After publishing the first post about Must Try Wines, I had an extended dialog with @PeterZachar on Twitter, where Peter provided good suggestions as to more ”must try wines” to be added to the list. Then I thought about whole rationale of ”must try”, ”must do”, ”must see”, ”must experience”, and I believe it makes sense to talk about it first.

When it comes to ”must experience” in the wine world, I believe there are few deciding factors to get a given wine into that category. First one probably is a price. In the end of the day, this is how first known ”must try” classification came about – famous Bordeaux 1855 classification was made out solely on the price of the wines sold by various Chateaux. Of course price is just a consequence, an artificial showing of other, more fundamental factors, such as quality, reputation, demand and availability – but it is easy for us, humans to comprehend numbers, so the price serves as an aggregate measure instead of quantifying all other fundamentals independently. Looking at Chateau Petrus, Screaming Eagle or Seppeltsfield Port, each one faring at about $2500+ a bottle, it is easy to say ”if ever possible, I really really want to try it”.

Next factor is a reputation of the wine. Reputation in general is hard to assess, right? Well, when it comes to the wine world, one side of reputation also happened to be quantified for us – in the form of the infamous wine ratings. All over the wine blogosphere you can find beating and bantering of the various point rating systems – however, whether good or bad, consumers like to have some simple numerical indication of one ”thing” being better than another ”thing”. No, I’m not planning to divert into the 100-points scale discussion – what I’m alluding to is the fact that it is very easy to include wines rated 100 points into the ”must experience” category. Probably 98 to a 100 points will do just fine, as I can bet I would never be able to tell the difference between 98 and 99 rated wines, so 98 to a 100 is a good range. Should all 100 points rated wines be included into ”must try” list? I don’t think so, simply because you have to draw a line somewhere.

Another side of reputation shows up in the form of someone’s opinion – not a single person, but rather as a collective opinion. If the wine receives multiple [substantial] praises from multiple people, it is probably worth considering for the ”must try” subject – however, all these praises will most likely become reflected in the price, and almost certainly will affect one more ”must have” deciding factor – availability.

What do we usually want the most? That’s right – something we cannot have. In the industrial world, if we run out of something, we can make more of it. It doesn’t work the same way in the wine world. Deeply engrained in the concept of terroir, the most sought after wines are produced from the very specific vineyards – yes, you can plant more vineyards, but they will not bear the same fruit and you will not be able to produce the same wine. Therefore, you can’t address the increased demand by just making more – and your wine becomes less available (and its reputation most likely is increasing). The next step is for the wine to be sold only through the mailing lists thus injecting some sanity into that supply and demand equation. And in many cases price of wine goes up, completing the full connection between our three key ”must have” factors – price, reputation and availability.

I hope I gave you enough insight into my logic. To come up with the additions to the original ”must try” list, I did two things. First of all, I used the exact recommendations from Peter. Second approach was based on using the Wine Spectator online and searching for the wines with 98 to 100 ratings in particular regions and countries – then looking at the prices and styles to decide if I would be interested in experiencing that wine. The result can be found in the updated table which is available as a standalone page on this site (please click this link).

Few more comments, if I may. For most of the wines from France, actual vintage is not essential – all these wines show remarkable consistency in good years and in bad years. Also for Bordeaux, Burgundy and Sauternes the actual ”must try” wine is a flagship which usually goes under the same as the winery itself. Same is true for California ”cults” outside of Rhone Rangers. For all other wines, the exact wine is listed. Also for Port, Madeira and Spanish wines the exact vintage is listed and important.

I just want to repeat the same disclaimer as last time – this list is a personal reflection – feel free to criticize it or make it yours and change it. I’m sure there are plenty worthwhile wines which can be added to this list – this is why I’m sharing it with you. Yes, you are welcome.

Let’s raise the glass for the best experiences of our lives! Cheers!

Must Try Wines

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

It is not so simple to talk about ”must have experiences” – as we move on in life, the idea of ”must have” can be changing dramatically, taking something which was considered divine to something you can literally despise.

Our experiences are personal, and they have value within our view, our picture of the world. This is true pretty much for everything, but this is ultimately true when it comes to food and wine. If someone is strictly a white zinfandel drinker, convincing him or her that this Chateau Latour is a good wine would be an impossible task. Therefore, does it make sense to come up with the list of ”must try wines”? I believe so. This doesn’t have have to be a ”must try” list for everyone, but this is rather a personal belief based on the present relationship with the wine world. By reading books, blogs and magazine articles, talking to people (twitter conversations included), and then doing more reading, talking and thinking (and drinking!!!), this list came by as my personal reflection. These are the wines I would like to experience at least once – nothing more and nothing less.

Few notes about the list. First, it is built by country, and then sub-regions. The primary idea behind including most of the wines you can see on the list is their reputation, which is based on what I read and heard. Yes, majority of the wines in the list are super-expensive, but this just a consequence of their reputation, I guess. Considering that, I also included possible substitutes for some of the wines – some of the substitution suggestions are based on the official (and semi-official) ”second labels” (here’s a link to the post I wrote for The Art Of Life Magazine on the subject of the second labels) – for instance all of the Bordeaux First Growth have their official second label wines (some of them even have third labels now). Some of the other suggestions are simply based on geographic proximity and ownership – for instance, Chateau Hosanna is located next to the famed Chateau Petrus and both are owned by the same owner, Christian Moueix.

And few more points. If you want to get that list in the form of the PDF file, here is the link for you. If you are interested in my logic as to why particular wines and wineries are there – I will gladly explain, just ask a question. If you think there are other wines I should include in the list, let me know – I will greatly appreciate the suggestions. However, if you think that I’m wrong and some of the wines shouldn’t be on this list – well, tough luck – the is is my personal list, and this is the way I see it at the moment.

Without further delay, here is the list. Cheers!

Country/Region
Winery/Wine

Potential Alternative

France

Champagne

Krug Clos du Mesnil Krug Grand Cuvee NV
Krug Clos d’Ambonnay
Salon Le Mesnil

Bordeaux

Chateau Latour Les Forts de Latour
Chateau Lafite Rothschild Carruades de Lafite Rothschild
Chateau Mouton Rothschild Le Petit Mouton
Chateau Haut Brion Le Clarence de Haut-Brion
Chateau Margaux Pavillion Rouge
Chateau Cheval Blanc Le Petit Cheval
Chateau Petrus Chateau Hosanna
Chateau Le Pin

Burgundy

DRC Grand Cru Échezeaux
DRC Grand Cru Richebourg
DRC Grand Cru La Tâche
DRC Grand Cru La Romanée-Conti
DRC Grand Cru Montrachet

Sauternes

Chateau d’Yquem

Northern Rhone

E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne
E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline
E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque
Chateau Grillet

Southern Rhone

Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin
Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee da Capo
Italy

Piedmont

Gaja
Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Falletto

Tuscany

Ornelaia Masseto
Antinori Solaia
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto
Ornelaia Le Serre Nouve, Le Volte
Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano

Veneto

Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone
Spain

Rioja

1964 Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” Gran Reserva Rioja

Ribero Del Duero

Vega Sicilia Unico Valbuena 5°
Bodega Dominio de Pingus
US

California

Bryant Family DB4
Colgin Family
Harlan Maiden
Screaming Eagle Leviathan
Sine Qua Non
Alban Vineyards
Saxum

Washington

Cayuse
Quilceda Creek
Portugal
Taylor’s Scion Very Old Port
Australia

Barossa Valley

Penfolds Grange
Seppeltsfield 100 year old Para Vintage Tawny
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