It’s been a good year for wine, around the world.
I’ve described in this space something like 10 wines a week, or more than 500 wines. Lost wines rediscovered. Obscure wines gaining fame. Rich, heady red wines. Delicate, subtle whites.
After this it’s hard to narrow them down to the best 10 wines I’ve tasted in 2015. On the other hand, the homework has been rather pleasant.
Along the way it has become apparent that to be really good, a wine doesn’t have to be expensive — though sometimes it helps. And it can come from nearly anywhere.
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So here, in no particular order, are my 10 favorite wines of 2015. (Needless to say, they’re all highly recommended.)
▪ 2012 Merry Edwards Winery Pinot Noir, “Meredith Estate,” Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California: lush, intense aromas and flavors of black cherries, spice and earth, ripe, smooth tannins, long finish; $57.
Pioneering female winemaker Merry Edwards says her top pinot noir vineyard, Meredith Estate, in California’s Sebastopol Hills, makes deeper, more complex wines with each vintage since it was planted in 1998. Food match: Edwards recommends a veal chop with oyster mushrooms.
▪ 2012 Terrunyo Carmenère, by Concha y Toro, DO Block 27, Peumo Vineyard, Cachapoal Valley, Rapel Region, Chile (85 percent carmenère, 15 percent cabernet sauvignon): dark violet hue, hint of oak, concentrated aromas and flavors of black cherries, black plums and spice, lush fruit, ripe tannins, silky body; $40.
Carmenère for decades was a major blending grape in France’s Bordeaux region. But in the 1870s a root louse plague killed nearly all of France’s vineyards. And when replanting began, growers didn’t bother with the grape because it was so finicky to grow. More than 120 years later it was rediscovered in Chile. It’s mellower than cabernet sauvignon, more powerful than merlot. It could become Chile’s top red wine. Food match: a hearty beef stew.
▪ 2014 Alamos Torrontés, Salta, Argentina (100 percent torrontés): orange blossom perfume, flavors of ripe apricots and tropical fruits, crisp; $13.
Born when Spanish missionaries created hybrids of the Muscatel and Mission grapes, it was little known outside Argentina until the late 20th century, when newfound political stability allowed an explosion of exports. It’s so perfumed its fans say you could put a dab behind each ear and go out for the evening.
Food match: spit-roasted pig.
▪ 2013 M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut “Occultum Lapidem,” Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages Latour de France (50 percent syrah, 40 percent grenache, 10 percent carignan): hearty and full-bodied, aromas and flavors of rosemary and licorice, powerful tannins, long finish; $30.
The syrah grape is a team player, blended with other red grapes to make it more approachable. In the South of France it is blended with grenache and carignan to make a complex wine of pleasing softness, fragrance and fruit.
Food match: the best meatloaf your mother ever made.
▪ 2012 “Modus” Super Tuscan IGT Toscana (50 percent sangiovese, 25 percent merlot, 25 percent cabernet sauvignon): aromas and flavors of black cherries, mocha and cinnamon, rich and hearty, with firm tannins; $23.
Sometimes called “Chianti on steroids,” Super Tuscans were created to compete with the modest post-WWII Chiantis made mostly of traditional Italian sangiovese. Winemakers broke the rules by adding such non-Italian grapes as cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Food match: a two-pound grilled, rosemary-scented porterhouse steak.
▪ 2014 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde, Portugal (loureiro and alvarinho): light, crisp and fruity, with floral aromas and flavors of white grapefruit and limes; $9.
Tangy, crisp and mouth-watering, vinho verde translates as “green wine.” But the wine is white. The “green” means it is best drunk in its youth.
Food match: mussels steamed in white wine and butter.
▪ 2012 Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars “The Leap” Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Grown, Napa Valley: big and bold, with aromas and flavors of black cherries, black pepper and black coffee, age-worthy; $85.
No country in the world makes better cabernet sauvignon than America. This one comes from a top micro-climate in Napa Valley next to towering mountain crags that help retain heat for ripening. It is aged in expensive French oak barrels for 20 months before bottling.
Food match: roast lamb.
▪ 2013 Galerie Wines “Equitem” Sauvignon Blanc, Knights Valley, Sonoma County (100 percent sauvignon blanc): cut grass aromas, crisp and lively, with flavors of lemons, grapefruit and minerals; $30.
Sauvignon blancs range in flavor from gunflint at the tart end to pineapples at the ripe end, leading to chronic arguments about which is the real thing. This one has three characteristics that win my vote — cut grass, grapefruit and minerals. You’d never mistake this for a chardonnay.
Food match: oysters in all forms — raw, grilled with barbecue sauce, fancied up as Rockefeller.
▪ 2013 Rabble Wine “Force of Nature” Zinfandel, Mossfire Ranch Vineyard, Paso Robles (100 percent zinfandel): floral aromas, flavors of black cherries and dark chocolate, soft, ripe tannins, long finish; $23.
I like to compare zinfandels to everybody’s favorite uncle — hale and hearty, sometimes a little loud, but always mellow.
Food match: grilled chicken with spicy barbecue sauce.
▪ 2013 “The Whip” white blend by Murrieta’s Well Winery, Livermore Valley (28 percent semillon, 24 percent chardonnay, 14 percent sauvignon blanc, 11 percent orange muscat, 11 percent viognier, 11 percent gewürztraminer, 1 percent white riesling): big, opulent, rich, complex and intensely fruity, with flavors of apricots, lemons and melons; $20.
Wine fans chronically argue whether great wine comes from great grapes or great winemakers. This one is a vote for the tinkering, creative winemakers.
Food match: an entire, multiflavor, 15-dish dinner.
Fred Tasker: firstname.lastname@example.org