First of all, let it be loudly and clearly stated that this is not a list of the best wines of the world. It is merely the list of the best wines that I have tasted during calendar year 2008. At a rough estimate, I tasted or re-tasted some 10,000 wines in the last twelve months. That may sound like a great many wines (it comes to about 30 daily) but there are so many wines and so few hours in the day that I make no apologies whatsoever for either my tastings or my idiosyncrasies.
Second, I have, as always, listed wines in order of the scores they received. I am the first to agree that scores say little about the nature of a wine. In my oft-stated opinion, they do however, once one comes to know a critic and his/her tastes, say a great deal about what that critic thinks of the overall quality of the wine. It is far more important that the reader actually go to the trouble of reading the tasting note, for once in tune with a given critic that may give valuable clues as to whether the wine will be to one's personal taste. Within each score category, wines are listed by a more-or-less alphabetic order.
As to the "lower end" of the list, in which wines earn a "mere" 94 points, I had to play around a bit, for well more than a hundred wines tasted earned that score and there, I confess, my personal taste most definitely comes to the fore. As I offered no apologies for my idiosyncrasies, nor do I offer no apologies for that personal touch.
As is said at the end of every lecture offered at the College de France: "Questions, objections and complaints will be entertained".
1. Krug, Brut Champagne, 1996: A truly great wine! Light shining golden, full-bodied but so elegant that it seems more to float than to sit on the palate, opening to show intense but never forward or vulgar aromas and flavors of citrus and apples, toasted white bread, malt, yeast, roasted nuts and Oriental spices, all on a mineral-rich background. With a long, long lasting mousse and miniscule bubbles that seem to go on forever and a superbly long finish. Unbeatable. Approachable now but best 2010-2035 and very possibly longer. Score 100.
2. Chateau Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 2005: How nice it is from time to time to be proven correct and this is one of those cases in which I can comfortably pat myself on the back as my barrel tasting note holds firmly. One of the very best ever from one of the very best chateaux. Almost impenetrably deep garnet in color, full-bodied, with enormous concentration and generous soft tannins and just the right dose of spicy oak, all in superb balance and with structure that bodes well for a very, very long future. On the nose and palate rich blackcurrants that yield to red and black berries, spices, a hint of orange peel, all leading to a superbly long and generous finish. Grandiose but elegant. Approachable and enjoyable by 2015 but best from 2025 and well into mid-century or beyond. Score 100.
3. Chateau Leoville Las Cases, St.-Julien, 2005: A great when tasted at barrel-tasting and great yet. So dark purple in color that you might think of it as black, full-bodied, with the tannins now settling in beautifully and showing finely-tuned balance between those, the wood and fruits. On first attack blackberries, black currants and a hint of freshly cut Mediterranean herbs, those opening to show notes of a pine forest after a light rain and finally, on the incredibly long finish, the fruits rising along with hints of mint and tar. This one will be approachable by 2015, will start to come to its peak only in 2020-2025 and will cellar comfortably until mid-century. Score 100.
4. Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes, 2003: On of those Yquem wines that is destined to be among the immortals. Full-bodied, with generous botrytis influence, honeyed dried apricots and apples and fresh pineapple, those matched beautifully by hints of baked pie crust and a light peppery-spicy sensation that runs through and then lingers on and on, seemingly without end. Superb even at this stage but best only starting in 2015-2020. Keeping in mind that the 1847 and 1921 wines are still drinking mangificiently and the 1986 and 1989 wines are still in the infancy I would have no fear whatever as to how long the wine is cellarable. This is one that will comfortably outlive everyone alive today. Score 100.
5. Gaja, Barbaresco, Sori Tildin, Piedmont, 2004: A truly great Barbaresco, full-bodied but with such gently caressing tannins that it seems to float in the mouth. On first attack tar, spicy oak, sweet cedar and spring flowers, those yielding to red and black fruits, licorice and finally, on the super-long finish a distinct reminder of dark chocolate mousse. Magnificent. Approachable by 2010 or so but best only starting in 2015 and then cellaring comfortably until 2025 or longer. Score 99.
6. Gaja, Barbaresco, Sori San Lorenzo, Piedmont, 2004: Deep and dark, concentrated and intense, muscular but at the same time with a gentility that amazes. Full-bodied, with still firm tannins integrating nicely and showing superb balance and structure, all of which bode for a long, long future. Opens almost explosively in the mouth, subjecting you first to blackberries and tar, then to red berries and mint, then to chocolate and tar rising again and finally, on the unbelievably long finish hints of black tea and cured cigar tobacco. Unless you own a case or more don't even dream of opening this one until 2012 and even then try to hold off as this will be at its best only from 2015-2035. Score 99.
7. Emilio Lustau, Oloroso Sherry, Almacenista Pilar, Aranda y Latorre, 1918: So dark, thick and chocolate-laded that you might easily mistake this for a fine, well-aged Pedro Ximinez. Dark brown towards black in color, full-bodied, but remarkably light on the palate, showing dark chocolate, molasses and, walnut, orange peel and raisin notes that linger on and on. Oily, powerful and bone-dry, the ideal accompaniment to a fine cigar. Alas, I have no accurate tools to suggest how long this exquisite wine will hold its own. Considering its age and current status, I'd have to suggest drink now or in the next hundred or so years. Score 99.
8. Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Masseto, Tuscany, 2004: At its best one of the world's best Merlot wines and this is indeed one of the very best. Dark, almost impenetrable garnet in color, opening with a remarkably rich nose of berries and spring flowers, goes on to show aromas and flavors of currants, wild berries, and exotic tannins Full bodied, with generous firm tannins, this is a simultaneously fresh and dense wine, one that shows its muscles and elegance simultaneously. Approachable by 2010 but give this to 2014 to show at its best and then cellar without fear until 2025, perhaps longer. Score 99.
9. Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, 2005: All that one hopes for in a fine Chateauneuf. Full-bodied and concentrated but so well balanced even in this youthful stage that it seems at first to float on the palate, only after a few second bursting forth with a remarkable array of aromas and flavors. On first attack raspberries and cherries with floral overtones, those followed by blackcurrants and sweet herbs, and finally revealing notes of cigar tobacco and leather all of which linger long and comfortably on the palate. Try this one now if you must but the wine will be at its best only starting in 2012 and will cellar comfortably until 2035, perhaps longer. Score 98.
10. Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes, 2005: Guiraud at its very best! Honeyed golden in color, full-bodied, with an abundance of botrytis spices and funkiness. On first attack lemon custard and baked apples, those opening to ripe yellow peaches and, throughout a deep, well-balanced sweetness. Finishes with a long spicy peaches and cream note that lingers on and on. This one is going to be fascinating as it ages, darkening, losing some of its sweetness and picking up a deep, rich spiciness. Approachable by 2010 but best 2015-2045. Score 98.
11. Chateau Hosanna, Pomerol, 2005: Even better than the fabulous 2000 from this chateau. Dark garnet, full-bodied, with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins and tantalizing hints of spicy wood. Opens to show a generous array of black and red berries, blackcurrants, chocolate and cigar tobacco, all on a lightly spicy background. As long as it is complex. Needs time. Best from 2018-2040, perhaps longer. Score 97.
12. Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia, 2005: A wine that rarely surprises us when it attains scores of 95 or higher (which happens fairly frequently) but this year there are some surprises. Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with a bit of Cabernet Franc blended in, showing even darker garnet and more full-bodied and concentrated than is usual, this is, to coin a phrase, a super Super Tuscan. Opens with blackcurrant and blackberry fruits on a background of near-sweet herbs, moves on to reveal notes of tobacco and white chocolate, and finally, on the super long finish what you will swear is peppery raspberry jam. In short, fantastic. Approachable by 2010 but best from 2015-2035. Score 98.
13. Domaine Georges Vernay, Condrieu, Coteau du Vernon, Rhone, 2006: No matter how you cut it, the very best Condrieu of the 2006 vintage and indeed Viognier at its very best. Deep gold, with orange and green reflections, a full-bodied wine that builds in power as it sits on the palate. Opens with summer fruits, those with a creamy overtone, goes on to reveal spring flowers and generous stony minerals, and finally notes of freshly baked croissants and melon. An unusual wine in that despite its power it almost floats on the palate, the flavors playing gently through and lingering long and comfortably. Approachable now but best 2010-2018. Score 98.
14. Chateau Rauzan Segla, Margaux, 2005: As Aliza Doolittle sang so nicely "Loverly". Full-bodied with super soft, almost silky tannins and notes of spices flowers on the nose. Opens to show blackberry and blackcurrant fruits on a soft, round and superbly balanced and structured with a finish that goes on seemingly without end. Drink even now and you will be delighted but to find this one at its elegant best hold until 2015 and then count on cellaring comfortably until 2040. Score 97.
15. Vega Sicilia, Alion, Bodegas y Vinedos Alion, 2004: Even better than the truly outstanding 1994 wine, certainly the very best Alion ever! Dark, almost impenetrable garnet towards royal purple, full-bodied, with generous tannins but those near-sweet and gently mouth-coating. On first attack you cannot escape the toasty oak and floral notes, those yielding comfortably to currant and berry fruits and all supported by notes of chocolate, black licorice and freshly cured tobacco. Remarkably long and generous. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from 2010-2018, perhaps longer. Score 97.
16. Antinori, Solaia, 2004: Every bit as superb as the 1997 and 2003 releases. Full-bodied, intense and concentrated with chewy but gently mouthcoating tannins and a light hand with spicy oak, opening in the glass to reveal layer after layer of blackcurrant, black cherry, wild berry and floral notes. From mid-palate on look for notes of dried, candied fruits and, with the tannins rising a long and generous finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from 2010-2022, perhaps longer. Score 96.
17. Arvay. Aszu, 6 Puttanyos, Tokaji, 2000: The best ever from this producer. Generous botrytis influence in this medium- to full-bodied oak-aged wine. On the nose and palate candied citrus and berries along with cinnamon, cloves and minerals, all leading to a long crème patisserie and espresso-rich finish. Elegance on a grand scale. Drink now-2035, perhaps longer. Score 96.
18. Banfi, Brunello di Montalcino, Poggio all'Oro, 1999: The sixth time I have tasted this wine and I have not a single regret about all of the good things I have said about it in the past. Full-bodied with soft tannins integrating beautifully with layer after layer of sweet and smoky cedar, spicy oak and cherry wood. On the nose and palate plums and black cherries playing beautifully with hints of porcini mushrooms, freshly roasted coffee and nuts and dark chocolate. Elegant and long, a truly superb wine. Drink now-2018. Score 96.
19. Barossa Valley Estate, Shiraz, E&E Black Pepper, Barossa, Australia, 2002: One of Australia's consistently best and most interesting Shiraz wines and this year no disappointment whatever. Impenetrable royal purple in color, full-bodied, with gripping tannins and tremendous concentration. On opening attack black cherries and blackberries and Oriental spices, those opening to reveal notes of stewed plums, bitter-sweet chocolate and licorice all on a generous background of black pepper. Long, mouth-filling and intense yet coming together as a round, coherent and elegant whole. Best 2010-2020. Score 96.
20. Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2005: Dark garnet towards royal purple in color, full-bodied and at this stage of its development so closed as to make enjoyment difficult. One need have no fear though, for everything is here in just the right proportion and all that is needed is time As it develops in the bottle look for a concentrated and mineral-rich wine opening slowly on the palate to reveal notes of black and red berries, figs and minerals, those supported by hints of freshly ground coffee, leather and dark chocolate. Best 2010-2030. Score 96.
21. Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume, Coteaux du Layon, Loire, 2006: Made entirely from Chenin Blanc grapes, showing generous Botrytis spiciness and funkiness that make way for tropical fruits, figs, mineral and candied citrus peel, all of the elements coming together seamlessly with generous sweetness in fine balance with fruits and acidity. Fine competition for the best of Sauternes! Drink now-2035. Score 96.
22. Bertagna, Corton, les Grandes Lolieres, 2005: Full-bodied, concentrated and intense, with still firm tannins and generous oak, those parting slowly to reveal generous ripe cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruits on a background of spices, generous acidity. A super-long finish. Barely approachable now – needs at least two hours in the glass to open, so put this one in a corner and hold until it starts to reach its peak somewhere about 2018 and then cellar without fear until 2030 or longer. Score 96.
23. Bollinger, Brut Champagne, La Grand Annee 1999: A fine Champagne from a fine vintage year. With a superbly long mousse and tiny, concentrated bubbles that seemingly last forever, the wine opens with a rich floral, fruity and light toasty nose and then goes on to just delicate enough citrus and citrus peel fruits, all on a background of freshly baked brioche. Remarkably long and elegant. Drink now-2022. NIS 720. Score 96.
24. Domenico Clerico, Barolo, Pajana, Piedmont, 2004: Full-bodied, concentrated and intense, with mouth-coating tannins and generous toasty oak that give the wine an almost chewy texture. No far though, for the balance and structure are here and the wine simply needs time to revel its true charms. Opens to revel generous plum, blackberry, cherry and licorice notes, those going on to a superbly long finish. Destined to always be muscular but beyond that, showing controlled elegance. Approachable by 2010 but best only starting in 2013. Score 96.
25. Disznoko, Aszu, 6 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2001: Full-bodied, with generous sweetness and botrytis overlays set off by crisp acidity. On first attack, oranges, lemon and honey, those followed by quince and peach fruits, all leading to a mineral-rich finish that goes on and on seemingly without stop. The stuff of which dreams are made. Drink now-2030. Score 96.
26. William Fevre, Chablis, Les Clos, Grand Cru, 2004: My fourth encounter with this wine. My earliest tasting note holds firmly. Fevre did some marvelous Chablis this year but this is by far the best of the best. Medium- to full bodied, on first attack showing generous minerals and a light hint of sea-water, those opening to reveal white peaches and green gage plums, those followed by the unfolding of green apples and once again, flinty minerals. Long, generous and elegant. Approachable now but best from 2008-2015. Score 96.
27. Gaja, Costa Russi, Langhe, 2004: On first attack what amazes is the concentration and intensity of this wine, so deep that one wonders if it will manage to open before the tasting is long finished. No fear though, for within minutes in the glass the wine blossoms and, like the hundred year blooming cactus the flowers are well worth waiting for. Full-bodied and almost muscular but with tannins that coat the mouth with a gentle kiss and showing layer after layer of raspberries, blackberries and purple plums, those parting to show generous hints of dark chocolate. On the long, long finish look as well for as hint of charcoaled steaks (I know it is unreasonable but it was specifically T-bone steak that came to my mind). Approachable by 2010 but best 2012-2018. Score 96.
28. Gaja, Barbaresco, Piedmont, 2004: Full-bodied, deeply aromatic, showing fine balance and structure and with soft tannins and vanilla opening to reveal a dazzling display of raspberry, blackberry, cassis and strawberry fruits, those on a background of tar, all leading to a finish that seems to go on without end. Approachable and enjoyable now but best only starting in 2012 and then cellaring comfortably for 25 or more years. Score 96.
29. Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, 2005: Deeloping beautifully and every bit as superb as at barrel tastings. Dark almost impenetrable purple towards black in color, and with still firm tannins integrating nicely but needing time. At this stage showing great concentration, structure and balance. Given tie, however, this is going to prove truly elegant. A gnerous array here of blackcurrant, blackberry, spicy cedar wood, licorice and, on the long finish a note of what at one moment seems to be vanilla, at another chocolate. Approachable by 2012 but best from 2015 and then well into mid-century. Score 96.
30. Paolo Scavino, Barolo, Carboric, 2003: Full-bodied enough to be thought of as chewy, with firm tannins still holding on tightly but with balance and structure that show very well for the future. Opens with purple plums blackberries and basil, those leading to notes of vanilla and spring flowers. Long, generous and complex. Built for aging. Approachable by 2010 but best starting in 2013. Score 96.
31. Fratelli Seghesio, Barolo, Vigneta La Villa, Piedmont, 2004: Intense and concentrated, super-dark garnet in color, full-bodied, with soft tannins, notes of leather and tobacco on first attack, those yielding to blackberry, cassis, licorice and bitter-sweet chocolate As the wine develops look as well for notes of asphalt and a lingering spicy note. At this stage a muscle-bound "hunk" showing off at the beach but give this one time and it will show true power and elegance together.Best 2012-2025, perhaps longer. Score 96.
32. Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling, Turckheim Brand, Grand Cru, Alsace, 2005: Another rousing success for this wine, even better than the already superb 2003 and 2004 releases. Opens firmly with minerals and notes of citrus flowers, and then opens first to reveal orange, grapefruit and nectarine fruits and finally to generous hints of white peaches and spices. Crisply dry with a smoky note that runs through to a super-long finish. Long, deep and elegant, the wine is comfortably approachable now but can be cellared comfortably until 2022. Score 96.
33. Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 2005: Even better than the memorable 1999 wine! Full-bodied, with firm tannins and judicious wood notes integrating nicely now, the wine opening slowly to reveal blackberry and blackcurrant fruits, those backed up generous hints of smoked meat, Oriental spices and, on the long finish hints of chocolate and licorice. Approachable now but best 2012-2025. Score 95.
34. Domaine Comte Armand, Pommard, Coles des Epeneaux, 1999: Super-dark ruby in color with a rainbow of reflections, full-bodied with huge tannins and gentle notes of sweet cedar, those in fine balance with fruits, alcohol and acidity and needing only time to settle down. Opens even now in the glass to show ripe, a generous array near-sweet black fruits those supported nicely by hints of bitter-sweet chocolate, licorice and on the super long finish a hint of vanilla. Needs time for the elements to integrate. Best 2010-2025. Score 95.
35. Domaine d'Auvenay, Chambolle-Musigny, 2004: Raspberry towards dark cherry red, opening with earthy and citrus peel notes, opening in the glass to reveal raspberry, currant and citrus peel, all on a background of minerals. A deeply aromatic, fat wine with just the right level of acidity to keep it all in balance and on the super-long finish a tantalizing hint of bitter herbs. Approachable and enjoyable now despite its youth but don't hesitate to cellar this one until 2025. Score 95.
36. Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, 2006: Deep golden straw with orange and green tints, full-bodied enough to be thought of as creamy but with finely tuned balancing acidity. On the nose spring flowers and almonds, and on the palate a tempting array of peaches and cream, that followed by notes of cinnamon, apples, and biscotti all coming to a long and generous finish. Approachable now but best from 2011-2022. Score 95.
37. Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Vieilles Vignes, 2006: Full-bodied, with a texture that at first calls to mind sweet cream. On first attack melon, freshly baked croissants and a hint of anise, those yielding to apples, quinces and, as so often typifies the best wines made from Roussane grapes, a clear note of herbal tea. Exquisite now but even better from 2011-2020. Score 95.
38. Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Layon, Clos de Ste. Catherine, Loire, 2006: What might be called a double "oh wow" wine, the first exclamation coming with a nose resplendent with figs and apple butter, the second as the flavors, of quince, mangoes and green almonds sneak up on the palate. Concentrated and intense while simultaneously rich, complex and elegant. Drink now-2025.. Score 95.
39. Albert Bichot, Pommard, Domaine du Pavillon, Les Rugiens, 2005: Wow. Full-bodied, with still intense tannins but opening in the glass to reveal a generous array of black and red berries, cassis, red plums, all in fine balance and with the structure that bode very well for the future. Complex, long and destined for elegance. Best 2012-2030, perhaps longer. Score 95.
40. Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils, Chambertin, Grand Cru, 2004: Deep ruby in color, full-bodied, with firm tannins and spicy oak notes nicely. On first attack raspberries and red cherries, those going on to red currants and cranberry notes all on a light spicy and herbal background. Generous and chewy at this stage, destined always to be a big wine but one that will show elegance if given time. Best 2010-2020, perhaps longer. Score 95.
41. Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, St. Emilion, 2005: Showed beautifully at barrel tastings and even better now. Remarkably full-bodied and concentrated, with silky-smooth tannins that caress gently. On first attack blackberries and espresso coffee, those going on to blackcurrants, black cherries and bitter-sweet chocolate and on the super-long finish a tantalizing note of mint. Approachable by 2010 but best only from 2015-2035. Score 95.
42. Domaine Louis Carillon, Bienvenues Batard Montrachet, 2005: Opens slowly in the glass but when it does open it does so with a "boom". Full-bodied and intense with a nose generous with citrus and cherry flowers, opening to show an exciting array of summer fruits, walnut oil, marzipan spices and minerals. One feels the oak here but even that seems to fold seamlessly into the wine, leading to a long spicy and toasty finish. Drink now-2022, perhaps longer. Score 95.
43. M. Chapoutier, Ermitage La Pavillon, Rhone, 2001: Made entirely from 65 year old vines of Syrah. Dark, dense and concentrated. Full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating beautifully with toasty oak and fruits. Opens with aromas and flavors of currants and espresso coffee, those yielding to plums, wild berries and white chocolate, all of which linger beautifully on a long and generous licorice-rich finish. Drink now-2018. Score 95.
44. M. Chapoutier, Vionie de Paille de l'Ardeche, 2002: A dessert wine made entirely from Viognier grapes that are allowed to partially dry on the vine and then spread (reccioto style) on straw mats before pressing. Deep golden towards bronze in color, with generous honeyed sweetness balanced by finely-tuned acidity. A marvelous display of aromas and flavors here – at one moment dried apricots and melon, at another mango, at yet another, a hint of marzipan. Creamy in texture, lingers beautifully on the palate. A wine that leaves you wanting more. At its best with fruit-based desserts, but at its very, very best with desserts containing frangipane cream. Score 95.
45. Inniskillin, Riesling, Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, 2006: One of the best ever from Inniskilin, Light gold with orange and green tints and reflections, medium-bodied, with moderate sweetness set off nicely by lively acidity. Opens with a generously but not cloyingly floral and honeyed nose, goes on to open in the glass to reveal apple, summer fruits, and a hint of pineapple, those on a lightly peppery background. Try this one with an éclair filled with vanilla pastry cream and you'll know what paradise is all about. Drink now-2020, perhaps longer. Score 95.
46. Louis Jadot, Corton Charlemagne, 2005: Gorgeous! Full-bodied, creamy and packed with smoke and minerals, all parting to reveal apples, spices and nuts, those then yielding to citrus peel and hints of toffee. With a tantalizing hint of sweetness that runs through this is one that will show very, very nicely as it develops. Best 2010-2025. Score 95.
47. Chateau Leoville Barton, St.-Julien, 2005: Showing every bit as beautifully as at barrel tastings. Dark garnet towards purple, full-bodied, with smooth tannins settling down nicely to reveal currant, berry and purple plum fruits, those complemented by gentle toasty oak and, on the long fruity finish a hint of red licorice. Best 2015-2035, perhaps longer. Score 96.
48. Domaine Leroy, Vosne-Romanee, 2004: Medium- to dark ruby qua garnet, a concentrated, intense and finely-tuned wine. On the nose and palate a tempting array of red and black berries, red plums and black cherries, those matched handsomely by spices that play nicely on the palate, at one moment simple salt and pepper, at another a complex mixture of Oriental spices. A powerful wine at this stage, needing time to show its elegance and smoothness. As this one develops look for notes of wild flowers, forest floor and tantalizing hints of near-sweet smoked meat that will come into play. Approachable now but best 2010-2025, perhaps longer. Score 95.
49. Albert Mann, Riesling, Grand Cru, Schlossberg, Alsace, 2007: A fuller-bodied than usual Alsace Riesling, at this stage showing mostly a floral nose and apple and peach notes, those almost closed down because of the wine's heaviness. No fear though, for all is here in fine balance and all that is needed is time in the bottle for the elements to come together. As it does look for a mineral rich white with generous ripe peach, green apple and green melon notes, those with generous granite-like minerals in the background. Destined for elegance. Best 2011-2020. Score 95.
50. Rocche de Manzoni, Barolo, Pianpolvere, Soprano Bussia Riserva, 2001: Full-bodied, with silky smooth tannins that caresss gently and open to reveal concentrated plum, berry and dried apricot fruits, those matched by Oriental spices and notes of toasted rye bread. Long and complex. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2020. Score 95.
51. Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva, Costasera, Veneto, 2003: At one moment dark ruby, at another dark garnet, and at all times casting purple and orange reflections, Masi's first Amarone Riserva and a success story from any point of view. Full-bodied, with tannins that are simultaneously soft and intense, and reflecting its 30 months in Slavonian and French oak with surprisingly gentle, near-sweet cedar wood. A blend of 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta and 5% Molinara grapes, on first attack showing cherries and red plums, those parting to reveal notes of wild berries, raisins and chocolate and then, leading towards a super long finish, hints of vanilla and spices. Approachable and even thoroughly enjoyable even now but best 2010-2030, perhaps longer. Score 95.
52. Vina Montes, Alphya M, Santra Cruz, Rapel, Colchagua, Chile, 2005: Every bit as excellent as the 2004 release. Full-bodied, with fine concentration and with soft tannins and generous but not imposing spicy and vanilla rich oak parting to show blackberry, currant and coffee notes, those yielding on the finish to notes of tobacco and leather. Long and generous and still in its infancy. Approachable now but best 2010-2016. Score 95.
53. Bodegas Muga, Torre Muga, Rioja, 2004: One of the very best ever from Muga. Dark garnet with purple and green reflections, full-bodied, with generous but softly mouth-coating tannins in fine balance with fruits and a gentle cedar overlay. On first attack currants and bitter-sweet chocolate, those leading to notes of wild berries and purple plums, all on a light earthy background. Approachable now but best from 2010-2020 when the wine will start to show leathery and mineral overtones. Score 95.
54. Clos de l'Oratoire des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone, 2005: Medium-ruby towards garnet in color and giving the visual illusion of a light wine that awaits us. An illusion indeed, for this blend of 80% Grenache blended with Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre is a monster. But what a beautiful monster this is waiting for our pleasure. Full-bodied, intensely concentrated but superbly well balanced. On opening attack currants, figs and tar, those yielding in the glass to smoked meat and tobacco. Tannins rise on the finish, so drink this one now only if you feel up to tackling the beast. Best 2009-2015, perhaps longer. Score 95.
55. Domaine de Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Reservee, 2005: As might be said, a Chateaneuf for Chateauneuf lovers! Dark garnet in color, full bodied, with tannins that start off firmly but meld nicely in the glass. On the nose and palate blackberry, wild berry and fig fruits complemented nicely by notes of garrigue and strong coffee. Rising on the remarkably long finish a note that calls nothing to mind more than a fine boeuf Bourguignon. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2025, perhaps longer. Score 95.
56. Perrin et Fils, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Les Sinards, 2006: Made from the younger vines of the estate, it might be fair to call this one the baby brother of the Beaucastel Chateauneuf. Medium- to full-bodied, with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins parting to reveal a tempting array of blackberries, black cherries and citrus peel, those supported nicely by hints of spices and a light note of sugared toasted brioche that comes in comfortably on the finish. Approachable now but best 2010-2016. Score 95.
57. Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Pauillac, 2005: An "oh wow" wine, not because it is "great'" but simply because it is luxurious and absolutely delicious. Full-bodied, softly tannic, a remarkably round wine even at this stage showing generous red fruits, tobacco and chocolate on first attack, those opening from mid-palate to reveal hints of sweet herbs, and spices. As this one develops look for the meaty notes that typify the chateau's wines. Best 2014-2030. Score 95.
58. Chateau de Rayne Vigneau, Sauternes, 2005: One of the best ever from Rayne Vigneau. Full-bodied with notable botrytis influence and great concentration. Light golden in color at this stage of its development, opening with citrus and spices, going on to ripe, honeyed summer fruits and generous hints of roasted Brazil nuts. A remarkable wine, with generous sweetness well balanced by acidity and almost floating on the palate. Approachable now but what a waste that would be unless you have a carton or more at hand. Best from 2014-2040. Score 95.
59. Francesco Rinaldi& Figli, Barbaresco, Piedmont, 2004: Full-bodied and at this youthful stage of its development tight, tannic and intense, but showing fine balance and structure that bode well not only for the future but for a long future. Opens with notes of crushed berries, strawberries, peaches (yes, peaches) and rose petals, those followed by notes of fresh raspberries, all long-lingering and generous. Destined to always be a chewy wine but one that given time will show distinct softening of the tannins and a muscular elegance. Best from 2011-2022, perhaps longer. Score 95.
60. Ruinart, Dom Ruinart, Brut Champagne, 1996: Medium- to full-bodied but so well balanced that it seems to float on the palate. Crisply dry, with fine balancing acidity and showing a tempting array of lemon, grapefruit, and candied apples. A superbly long mousse, sharp, concentrated bubbles that go on and on and a finish on which you will find hints of honey and vanilla pastry cream. Drink now-2020, perhaps longer. Score 95.
61. St. Cosme, Gigondas, Valbelle, Rhone, 2003: Dark, youthful royal purple in color and full-bodied, concentrated and tannic enough to be thought of as massive. Opens slowly, but with grace, almost as if it is trying to release its aromas and flavors one at a time – at first showing cassis and toasty oak, those yielding to cola and plum notes, those yielding to blackberries and black pepper notes, all in the end coming together marvelously on the palate and leading to a tannic and fruit-rich finish that goes on and on. Old vine Grenache at its very best. Drinking well now but best 2010-2022. Score 95.
62. The Standish, Shiraz-Viognier, The Relic, Barossa, 2004: Full-bodied, with soft tannins that almost "kiss" the palate and showing fine balance between the tannins, wood, acidity and fruits. On first attack red cherries and plums, those yielding to pomegranate and black pepper aromas and flavors, and finally on the finish cloves and would you believe a hint of peaches and cream. Tantalizing from first sip to the long, long finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2020, perhaps longer. Score 95.
63. Paolo Scavino, Barolo, Bric del Fiasc, 2003: Full-bodied, with gently mouth-coating tannins. Opens with a burst of blackberries, those going on to reveal strawberries, Oriental spices and, towards the long finish an appealing hint of porcini mushrooms. Remarkably long. Destined to be a powerful as opposed to an elegant wine but, as might be said, "what power!" Best from 2010. Score 95.
64. Valdicava, Brunello di Montalcino, 2003: A fine wine, Brunello at its best. Full-bodied, with generous but soft and gently mouth-coating tannins, and showing a rich array of red plum, raspberry and cherry fruits, those on a background of spicy chocolate. Tannins and a note of tar rise comfortably on the long, long finish. Best 2010-2022. Score 95.
65. Domaine Georges Vernay, Cote Rotie, Maison Rouge, Rhone, 2005: Dark and youthful royal purple in color, full-bodied, with super-soft and gently caressing tannins. On the nose and palate a gorgeous array that seems to shift from moment to moment at first sip but then comes together very nicely indeed with black and red currants, black cherries, bitter-sweet chocolate, and stony-earthy minerals, all leading to a long and generous finish. Already elegant and complex but destined to show even better in a few years. Drink now if you must but best from 2012-2025, perhaps longer. Score 95.
66. Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Unico Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, 1996: Ten years after the vintage and showing remarkably youthful in its ruby towards royal purple color, firm tannins and cigar box influences still waiting to integrate. On first attack red currants and cherries, those followed by herbal and herbal notes and finally, on the long finish blackberries and sweet cedar. Long and elegant. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2018, perhaps longer. Score 95.
67. Giovanni Viberti, Barolo, Buon Padre, Piedmont, 2001: Best ever from this producer. Dark garnet towards royal purple, full-bodied, with firm tannins starting to integrate nicely and opening in the glass to show a variety of red fruits (raspberries, strawberries and plums) all on a spicy and smoked-meat finish. Concentrated, mouth-filling and long. Needs time. Best from 2009-2022. Score 95.
68. Allegrini, La Poja, Verona, Veneto, 2000: Another fine La Poja. Made entirely from Corvina grapes, reflecting its oak aging with appealing spicy notes and gently mouth-coating tannins. Opens in the glass to reveal generous blackcurrant and blackberry fruits, those supported nicely by mineral and meaty notes, all lingering nicely. Perhaps not the very best La Poja ever (that honor continues to go to the 1997 edition) but perhaps the one destined for longest-term cellaring. Drink now-2020. Score 94.
69. Antinori, Guado Al Tasso, Bolgheri Superiore Riserva, 2005: Full-bodied, with chewy but gentle tannins parting to reveal spicy red and black berries, currants and notes of Mediterranean herbs. A blend of Cabernet Sauvigjon, Merlot and Syrah. Long and generous. Best 2010-2018. Score 94.
70. Antinori, Tignanello, 2005: A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, showing full-bodied, with gently caressing tannins and an appealing trace of spicy wood. Opens on the palate to reveal a generous array of red and black berries, cassis and minted chocolate notes. Showing just fine now, thank you, but the wine will be at its best only starting in 2012 and then cellaring nicely until 2018. Score 94.
71. Bodegas Ismael Arroyo, Val Sotillo, Grand Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 1996: Full-bodied, with its once gripping tannins now integrating nicely with near-sweet cedar wood notes. On the nose and palate generous plum and currant fruits, those with overlays of earthy minerals and tar. On the super-long finish appealing hints of bittersweet chocolate. Drink now-2018. Score 94.
72. Bodegas Los Astrales, Ribera del Duero, 2005: Modern Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero at its best and almost as good as the exquisite 2004 release. Dark ruby towards garnet, a rich, well-balanced wine with wood, still firm tannins and fruit coming together nicely on both nose and palate. Opens with black cherries and smoke, those yielding to wild berries, minerals and freshly picked sweet herbs, and finally on the long finish hints of mocha. Concentrated but elegant, approachable now but best 2009-2017. Score 94.
73. Chateau de Belle Rive, Quintessence, Quarts de Chaume, Loire, 2003: Sauternes and Barsac have their honey and Tokaji has its molasses but the wines of Quarts de Chaume, as this splendid example, are set aside by their distinct date, sugared nuts and maple syrup notes. Golden towards bronze, almost apricot in color, opening to show hints of licorice and salt water as well as of maple syrup and date notes. With almost intense sweetness, but that balanced nicely and set into proportion by fine balancing acidity, develops in the glass to show candied citrus peel, browned butter, minerals and, coming in on the finish a note of ginger. Remarkably long and complex, deserves to be served entirely on its own. If you do insist on serving it with a dessert, only a light baba will do. Drink now-2020. Score 94.
74. Cheval des Andes, Mendoza, 2004: Dark towards inky garnet, full bodied enough to be thought of as dense, and with still firm tannins are just now beginning to integrate. Have no fear though, for this is a wine that opens beautifully in the glass, its muscles balanced by its elegance. Aged in French oak for 18 months, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot (56%, 40% and 4% respectively) opens with blackberries, currants and vanilla, those going on to reveal near-jammy raspberry and espresso coffee notes. In a blind tasting you would probably be willing to take an oath that this one comes from Bordeaux and not South America. Drink now-2014. Score 94.
75. Domaine des Baumard, Trie Speciale, Savennieres, Loire, 2003: Golden straw in color, opening with a nose that calls to mind the aroma of sculptor's clay. Medium-bodied, opening to reveal notes of quince and white peaches, those with a hint of citrus peel and always in the background earthy minerals. On the long finish a generous hint of fits that is bound to make itself more dominant as the wine develops in the bottle. Drinking nicely now but will be at its best only from 2010-2017. Score 94.
76. Chateau Beasejour Duffau Lagarosse, St. Emilion, 2005: Not the very best from this chateau but darned close to it! Full-bodied, with gently mouth-coating tannins, with a remarkably floral nose and then going on to reveal blackberries and currants on a lightly peppery background. Finishes long and generously with hints of licorice and chocolate. Best 2015-2035. Score 94.
77. Chateau Brane-Cantnac, Margaux, 2005: Dark ruby towards garnet in color, full-bodied with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins and hints of spicy wood. Fine balance and structure here as the wine opens with dried currants, plums and black cherry notes, those opening to show notes of bitter-sweet chocolate and earthy minerals and finally, on the super-long finish hints of licorice and the peel of bitter oranges. Long and generous, a fine combination of gentility and power. .Approachable by 2010 but best 2014-2030. Score 94.
78. Clos de Gat, Syrah, Sycra, Israel, 2004: Oak-aged for 20 months. Full-bodied, with oak that at one moment seems spicy and at the next smoky but never dominating; with firm tannins integrating nicely now. A dense, almost muscular wine but one that sits gently and opens to show a tempting array of cherry, berry and currant fruits, those on a just spicy enough background to highlight hints of freshly roasted coffee. Well focused, intense and long. Drinking nicely now but best 2009-2012. Score 94.
79. Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Auslese, Nedeerhauser, Hermannshole, Gold Capsule, 2006: Deep gold, with a rich petrol and floral nose, a concentrated and intense wine with dried apricot, citrus and peach notes supported by flinty mineral notes. Fine balance between deep sweetness and acidity. Finely tuned and elegant, as the wine continues to develop in the bottle look for deeper petrol and mineral notes and, if my guess is correct, a note of red licorice. Approachable now but best from 2012-2030. Score 94.
80. Dosio, Barolo Riserva Speciale, Piedmont, 1982: Deep garnet, full-bodied, with once firm tannins now integrated. Fully mature but holding its peak beautifully, the wine opens with near-sweet almost stewed fruit aromas those parting to make way for remarkably fresh raspberry and, cherry notes, the tannins rising along with hints of spices and licorice on the long and intense finish. Drink now-2011. Score 94.
81. Luigi Einaudi, Barolo, Nei Cannubi, Piedmont, 2001: Dark, surprisingly youthful ruby towards royal purple in color, a full-bodied, mineral rich wine with gently caressing tannins. On the nose and palate generous ripe red plums and blueberries, those leading to a long and complex finish. Drinking beautifully now-2014, perhaps longer. Score 94.
82. Luigi Einaudi, Langhe Einaudi, Piedmont, 2004: A somewhat unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo and Barbera places this wine somewhere between Bordeaux and Piedmont. Whatever, the result is splendid. With a dark and youthful royal purple color, opening with firm tannins that go progressively softer as the wine sits on the palate, and gently oak aged. Shows intense aromas and flavors of purple plums, currants and blackberries, those matched very nicely indeed by notes of white pepper and anise. Long and mouth-filling. Drink now-2013. Score 94.
83. William Fevre,Chablis, Bougros, 2005: Tasted in the same flight with the Fevre's 2003 Vaudesir. Two excellent, even fascinating wines, but lawsy, lawsy, what a difference. The first a mineral rich and crisp wine, this one creamy and so fruity that it hints of sweetness. On the nose and palate candied citrus peel and a note of near-ripe apricots, those leading to a long, sugar-and-spice finish. Elegance and power come together very well indeed here. Drinking nicely now but best 2009-2016. Score 94.
84. Gaja, Barolo, Dagromis, Piedmont, 2003: Made entirely from Nebbiolo grapes, aged for 12 months in barriques and then for an additional 12 months in large oak casks. Dark garnet in color, with mouth-coating near-sweet tannins integrating nicely and well on its way to demonstrating elegance. On the nose and palate red and black berries and cassis fruits, those supported nicely by notes of licorice, tobacco and bitter-sweet chocolate and, rising on the long finish appealing notes of Mediterranean herbs. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2009-2015. Score 94.
85. Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Asili, Piedmont, 2004: Concentrated and elegant at the same time, with firm tannins and generous toasty oak melding nicely to show rich plums, red berries and cassis fruits. In the background, playing on the palate red licorice, notes of tar and a hint of smoked meat. Needs time for its elements to come together. Best from 2012-2025. Score 94.
86. Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom Vineyard, Yarden, 2004: Developed in French oak barriques for 18 months, deep garnet in color, full-bodied, with firm tannins and spicy wood integrating well with fruits and despite its youth already showing elegance and finesse. Look for layer after layer of currant, blackberry and both red and black berries, those supported beautifully by notes of cedar, sage and tar, all leading to a near-sweet fruity finish that lingers on and on. Approachable now but best 2010–2018. Score 94. K
87. Louis Jadot, Grands Echezeaux, 2006: Ruby towards garnet, opening with a nose that reflects spicy wood and generous spices, and then going on to reveal a lush array of aromas and flavors, those including black and red berries, purple plums, spring flowers, and hints of freshly turned earth. A big. wood-rich wine, with all of the balance and structure that one could want. Needs time to show its best. Start drinking in 2012. Score 94. (
88. Krug, Grand Cuvee, Champagne, n.v.: The color of freshly wet golden straw, a truly elegant full-bodied wine. On the nose and palate rye and oats that yield nicely to citrus, green apple and vanilla, all leading to a super-long finish on which one can find hints of minerals and espresso coffee. Powerful but elegant. Score 94.
89. Chateau La Fleur Petrus, Pomerol, 2005: Showing every bit as well as at barrel tastings. Dark ruby towards garnet, full-bodied, softly tannic and showing a tempting array of aromas and flavors. On first attack ripe berries and cherries along with gentle spices, those yielding to minerals and plums and, on the long and generous finish notes of bitter-sweet chocolate. Best 2015-2035. Score 94.
90. Lanson, Champagne, Noble Cuvee, 1998: As elegant a Champagne as you will find. Medium-bodied, with a long mousse, concentrated bubbles and subtle citrus, roasted nuts, toasty white bread and flinty minerals on the backkground, all of which lead to a long and satisfying finish. Drink now-2015. Score 94.
91. Domaine Leroy, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2004: Medium-dark red towards garnet with a somewhat pale rim, again belying the richness to come. Still an infant but already showing balance and structure that bode very well for the future. On first attack generous earthy minerals and a note of jerked beef, those followed by red and black berries, black cherries, and spicy oak notes and from mid-palate on an appealing note of fresh forest floor. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2025, perhaps longer. Score 94.
92. Domaine Leroy, Nuits-St.-George, 2004: Dull garnet, almost appearing watery, but that is misleading because this rich, almost muscular and generous medium- to full-bodied wine opens nicely on the nose and palate to reveal spring flowers and generous red berries and cassis fruits, those complemented nicely by notes of espresso coffee, garrique and, on the long, near-sweet finish, notes of smoky cedar wood. Give this one time to show its elegance. Best 2010-2020. Score 94.
93. Domaine Leroy, Chambolle-Musigny, 2004: At one moment bright garnet, at another somewhat dull in color with a hint of brown, another of those Leroy wines whose color belies its excellence. On first attack raspberries and red plums, those opening to reveal generous granite- and flint-like minerals, garrique and a distinct note of iron (am I the only one to find that iron imparts a somewhat salty note?). Excellent balance between dense but soft tannins, acidity and fruits lead to a long and generous fruit-rich finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2025. Score 94.
94. Domaine Albert Mann, Riesling, Schlossberg, Grand Cru, Alsace, 2007: As close to stone-dry as you will find in a Riesling, but don't let that hold you back for this simultaneously intense and elegant wine shows a marvelous array of aromas and flavors. Opens with apples and minerals, goes on to reveal spiced pears and Oriental spices and finishes long and generously with notes of grapefruit and a hint of peppermint. As is said "elegance on a grand scale". Drink now-2015, perhaps longer. Score 94.
95. Domaine Albert Mann, Gewurztraminer, Steingrubler, Grand Cru, Alsace, 2005: "Where the wild things grow". On the opening nose aromas of freshly forest floor and garrigue and on first attack on the palate the distinct flavor of litchis and kiwis. A generously sweet wine, balanced nicely by acidity and settling down in the glass to show tropical fruits, spices and bitter orange peel. Long and generous. Best 2009-2012, perhaps longer. Score 94.
96. Weingut J. J.Prum, Riesling, Spatlese, Wehlener Sonnenhur, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, 2006: In its infancy now but already showing light gold with orange and green tints and opening in the glass to reveal apricot, orange and orange peel notes. Give this one time and it will develop overlays of lime, flinty minerals and crème patisserie. With fine balance and structure that bode well for the future, the wine is approachable and delicious even now but will be at its best only from 2012-2030. Score 94.
97. Recanati, Special Reserve, Israel, 2005: Full-bodied, dark garnet towards royal-purple, with once firm tannins now integrating nicely with spicy and vanilla-rich wood. Aged in barriques for 19 months, this blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot, all from the Upper Galilee, shows fine balance and structure. On first attack blackcurrant, blackberry and a hint of anise, those followed by lightly toasted, near-sweet cedar and oak along with an appealing hint of black licorice. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2009-2014. Score 94. K
98. Tedeschi, Amarone della Valoplicella Classico, La Fabriseria, Veneto, 2003: Very tempting Amarone, with an enchanting interplay between sweetness and bitterness. Full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely and showing fine balance and structure. On first attack dried currants and a note of cinnamon, those yielding to purple plums and blackberries, all on a background of black pepper and licorice and on the long finish irresistible notes of milk chocolate, Brazil nuts and raisins. Approachable now but best 2010-2025, perhaps longer. Score 94.
99. Poggio al Tesoro, Sondraria, Bolgheri, Tuscany, 2005: A Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (65%, 25% and 10% respectively), but with a distinct hint of the Bolgheri terroir with its blackberry, herbal and rose petal notes. Oak aged for 18 months but showing gentle wood influences. Round and soft, with caressing tannins and a hint of licorice leading to a long and generous finish. Approachable now but best from 2010-2018, perhaps longer. Score 94.
100. Yatir, Yatir Forest, Israel, 2005: A full-bodied Bordeaux blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot. A third aged in new and two-thirds aged in old wood barriques for 15 months, this deep royal-purple wine casts intense orange and green reflections. Soft tannins integrating beautifully and the intentionally gentle hand with the wood come together nicely to let the wine open with spicy berry and cassis aromas and flavors, those going on to show blackberries and an underlying and fascinating mélange of bitter herbs. Long, generous and destined for elegance. Drink now–2014. Score 94. K