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Final Thoughts on the Wines of 2016 – It’s a Great, Big, Beautiful Wine World Out There

Let’s wrap up the just concluded year with some final thoughts.  When I look back at 2016, I realize that there were some familiar wines which shined as expected, but there were more unexpected ones which grabbed our attention.  You can see that a bit in our list of the Top 25 Wines of 2016 (read that here), which includes wines from all over the world.  Some from very unexpected places.  It just keeps getting better for wine lovers, as quality and variety ever increase.  There is a great, big, beautiful wine world out there.

What jumps out from 2016?  More than anything it is the world class quality from less heralded regions, or at least less popular in today’s mainstream wine market.  With the thousands and thousands of choices now readily available much of what is out there falls into this category.  A great example was our series of reviews on IMG_1994French wines and production regions.  (you can start that series by clicking here)  We could have focused on the usual,  big name areas, including the great regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux.  We never really got to them, however, as we revisited great wines from the Loire Valley, including Chinons and Vouvrays and some excellent Sauvignon Blancs.  When we turned to Burgundy it was Chablis, and then whites from the Maconnais which provided great moments.  These are all classic wines and they have been making wine forever, but many people simply don’t consider them.

We then went a stone’s throw south from the Macon and reviewed some wines from Beaujolais, an area I have always liked but not really associated with “great”.  I was mistaken.  A fortunate opportunity to spend a few hours with Romain Teyteau,  USA Export Director for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, and to taste some of the cru Beaujolais from 2014 and 2015 provided new perspective.  Beaujolais produces much more than the light, fruity, drink it now, Beajolais Nouveau.  There is village level wine as well as cru designated wine from the top ten village areas, clustered in the northern part of Beaujolais.  Here the wines are more serious, more structured and can age.  The 2014’s were clDuboeuf Dinner 6assic for the region, with kirsch aromas and flavors.  The 2015’s benefitted from a perfect season, bring richer fruits and complex notes, and are spectacular.  We tried several of the same wines from both vintages, and it was a stunning study in the differences a year makes.  A case of the 2015 Cote du Py Morgon from Duboeuf sits in our cellar now.  Wine Spectator gave it 90 points in their Top 100 issue just published, although I personally believe that is too low.  Matt Kramer in the same issue waxes on his favorite wines of the year, and it is cru Beaujolais.  I can definitely appreciate his point.  The cru village wine from 2015 in Beaujolais is simply phenomenal.

Another stalwart in 2016 was South Africa, again.  This has become one of our favorite wine producing regions, especially Stellenbosch.  We featured the wines of Kanonkop in one review, and their 2011 Paul Sauer is amazing. The rest are great as well.  You should try some of these.  Moving to South America, we continued to expand our exposure to Chile and Argentina.  Years ago Cheri and I drank a lot of wine from Chile, as they became a great option for reasonable quality, low cost juice.  As you dig deeper though, you find a range of wines to rival anywhere.  The high end is spectacular.  The Vina Koyle Auma is one prime example of that.  Across the Andes in Mendoza we featured the wines from Pascual Toso, and found a Malbec that finally pushed the Wow! button for me.  There were many others.

img_2339A completely unexpected surprise was a table of wines from Israel at the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, which were not only drinkable, but outstanding.  The Domaine du Castel Gran Vin is a red blend to rival top Bordeaux.  We had no idea.  Just before that a big article had come out in the Spectator, so apparently the world is starting to take notice.  Based on what we found, Israel will be carving out a place at the world wine table.

We tried great values from Bulgaria, more excellent wines from our friends at Vinska Klet Goriska Brda in Slovenia and some fabulous German and Austrian whites.  Alsace provided one of our favorite whites of the year, a Pinot Gris from Domaine Haegi.  These are all examples of the incredible variety out there.   We certainly also tasted great wines from Napa and Sonoma, and Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piemonte and Tuscany as well, but that we expect, and probably take for granted.

Of course Mother Nature has much to say, and the vintages from year to year will vary with the winds and the rains, but in general top-25-2016there is a solid trend in the world wine industry, and it is up.  We should all be taking advantage of that.  Get out, try new wines and find a whole new world to explore.

If you want to see more on any of the wines mentioned just go to our Top 25 Wines from 2016 list and you can link to everything.

A votre santé.

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