My Wines of the Year were meant to follow my Review of 2022, in the first few days of the New Year, but I was struck down with the nasty “Not Covid” virus, which frankly lasted longer than my bout of real Covid did. So, somewhat delayed, here we have them.
I’m broadly following the same format as last year. This means a wine selected from each month. These are not the poshest wines I’ve drunk. Okay, one is a classic Burgundy, but frankly I don’t want to see another list of Pétrus, DRC and DP Plénitude. I’m not in any way trying to knock people who are wealthy enough to drink (and then write about) these wines, not even those journalists who can’t afford them but whose status leads to them being invited to taste them. Lord knows in the past I’ve had my opportunities. It’s merely that those are wines which no normal wine lover can afford, and the majority of my readers are, I know, ordinary, if passionate, wine lovers. The wines I’ve selected here are almost all wines which you can go out and buy, albeit potentially a more recent vintage. Some of them are priced well under £30.
I’ve obviously got my favourite producers, and I’ve tried hard not to include all of the obvious ones, those I bang on about every other month or two. So, no Gut Oggau, no L’Octavin, no Réka-Koncz. I’ve also tried not to repeat what I wrote last year, although whilst no wines are duplicated, some producers are (interesting). This has made it even more difficult to make my selection, and I had to make some hard choices. First, there are not twelve but thirteen wines. We call it a “baker’s dozen” in the UK. It simply means that I just couldn’t choose between two wines from November, so I decided to include them both. One producer has two wines (May and October). Again, I’d have liked to avoid that, but in all honesty both wines deserve inclusion. I did have to stop this list being half-filled with Alsace though.
So, here we go, thirteen wines from 2022. Not the “finest”, but those I found the most interesting, stimulating, exciting, and with the best stories to tell, so-to-speak. Also, I hope, not the same old wines as trotted out in other people’s selections.
Where possible I’ve listed the importer and/or retailer. All of these are wines drunk at home and will have appeared in one of my “Recent Wines” articles throughout the year. The relevant month and part are listed in case you wish to read a little more because it’s not my desire here to repeat a whole tasting note or give fuller details about production etc.
January – Vieille Vigne Sylvaner (2015/16 blend), Jean-Pierre Rietsch (Alsace, France)
J-P is a producer of whom I’m a long-standing fan. Based in one of the most exciting wine villages in Alsace (Mittelbergheim), Sylvaner may be much maligned but this is probably the terroir that produces the best in the region. The argilo-calcaire soils and lees ageing produce a wine of profound minerality, yet it is also one of the kindest Sylvaners on the palate you’ll taste. Stunning with some age. This came from source, but the UK importer is Wines Under the Bonnet. Find it in “Recent Wines January 2022 Pt 1”.
February – “VO” Mencia 2016, Veronica Ortega (Bierzo, Spain)
Veronica’s wines impressed me when I first tasted them in numbers in March 2020 at the large Viñateros tasting. This is 100% Mencia from very old vines off limestone (not slate). Gorgeous ferrous cherry flavours, violet bouquet and mineral texture. Purchased from Vine Trail, you can find it in “Recent Wines February 2022 Pt 2”.
March – Field Blend 2018 “Skin Fermentation”, Hermit Ram (N Canterbury, New Zealand)
Theo Coles makes my favourite wines in New Zealand and this one comes from his Limestone Hills vineyard in one of the most talked about, newer, cool climate regions on the South Island. It’s a zero-additives wine blending five international (both red and white) varieties, which see six weeks on skins. Intoxicating wafts of red fruit. Imported by Uncharted Wines, and found in “Recent Wines March 2022 Pt 1”.
April – Complètement Red 2020, Lambert Spielmann (Alsace, France)
I can’t help thinking that Lambert is a star in the making, although to be fair I could say the same of rather a lot of young winemakers in Alsace at the moment. Based in Epfig, this cuvée is made from 25-y-o Pinot Noir from Nothalten, fermented as whole bunches. It’s a pure, zero-added sulphur, wine with bright red cherry and hints of spice. Imported by Tutto Wines, see “Recent Wines April 2022 Pt 1”.
May – “Ambero” 2020, Petr Koráb (Moravia, Czechia)
The first of Petr’s wines to feature here, a skin contact Orange Traminer from vines near Boleradice, where we stayed later in the summer. The 2020 saw extended lees ageing in robinia (false acacia) casks (I think the ’21 moved to ceramic vessels). I noted peach, tarte-tatin, Lucozade…and amazing depth. Imported by Basket Press Wines, see “Recent Wines May 2022 Pt 2”.
June – Cuvée David Pearson 2015, Breaky Bottom (Sussex, England)
I made my first visit to Peter Hall’s idyll of a vineyard folded within the South Downs last year so it’s not surprising I drank a good few bottles of Breaky Bottom. “David Pearson” is a blend of the three major Champagne varieties. It has a filigree spine of brittle acidity, like a frosted spider’s web, on which hangs intense fruit. You can buy older (and more expensive) bottles, but this is a remarkable wine, all the more so for what I paid (£35.50 from Butlers Wine Cellar, Brighton, and they still have some). See “Recent Wines June 2022 Pt 1”.
July – Federweiss 2018, Bechtel Weine (Zurich, Switzerland)
Mathias Bechtel is one of the rising stars of Swiss wine. Based in the tiny Zurich sub-region of Eglisau, with vines reaching up to 500 masl, he’s best known for his stunning, and mostly expensive, Pinot Noir cuvées. Federweiss is the name most usually given to a “Blanc de Noirs” cuvée of no special note, but Mathias makes his as an orange-tinged Rosé via a light berry maceration which is mineral and fruity. Available periodically from Alpine Wines, see further “Recent Wines July 2022 Pt 2”.
August – Neuburger 2018, Joiseph (Burgenland, Austria)
Luka Zeichmann is the winemaking partner of an exciting venture based on vineyards around Jois, at the top end of the Neusiedlersee (the cellar is a trek south, in Unterpullendorf). Neuburger is a rare variety, once considered a peasant grape but now seeing a lot of interest. This is textured with pear fruit and considerable complexity with age. One of those wines with thrilling tension. Only 800 bottles made. Imported by Modal Wines (£38 for the 2020 currently), see “Recent Wines August 2022 Pt 2”.
September – Tolone Riesling 2018, Nikau Farm (Gippsland, Victoria, Australia)
Nikau is the home farm of Dane Johns and his wife, Hannah, whose Momento Mori wines you may know. The 1.5ha of vines currently in production have never been sprayed. There’s a touch of Chardonnay in here too, all off silica and sandstone exposed to the weather off the Bass Strait. Seeing 48 hours on skins, the mere 500 bottles made are both singular and remarkable (and show only 9.3% abv). Light, quite acidic, but something else. From Les Caves de Pyrene, see “Recent Wines September 2022 Pt 2”.
October – Raspberry on Ice 2021, Petr Koráb (Moravia, Czechia)
Blending Pinot Noir and Saint-Laurent, Petr’s second offering here is probably the most joyous wine I drank last summer. I was introduced to it under the trees on the green outside his winery, but have since drunk all too few bottles at home. It’s just the purest pale raspberry juice with a hidden 12.5% kick, the most complete embodiment of gloglou you could imagine. It was imported by Basket Press Wines. I hope Petr made some more in 2022. See “Recent Wines October 2022 Pt 1”.
November – Bugey Cerdon 2019, Renardat Fache (Bugey, France)
I love this wine for its simplicity and for forging ahead despite its unfashionability (a demi-sec sparkling pink) and the ignorance of the public as to just how perfect this style is for summer (and just 8% abv). Bugey is a sleepy region between Jura and Savoie, but this artisan producer exports to Japan. They, at least, know great wine when they sniff it out. An Ancestral Method, bottle-fermented, blend of Gamay and (rare nowadays, but very traditional) Poulsard in this “Black Label” estate bottling, with zippy red fruit. The acids counter the residual sugar. Imported by Raeburn Fine Wines, see “Recent Wines November 2022 Pt 1”.
As I said, I can’t split November’s top-two, so we also have:
Superglitzer 2018, Rennersistas (Burgenland, Austria)
Stefanie and Susanne have since been joined by Brother Georg in taking over their father’s well-established winery on the edge of Gols, on the top eastern corner of the Neusiedlersee, and they have turned it into a fine natural wine estate on a par with the many other estates following this path in this singular village. Superglitzer was new in 2018. Blending Blaufränkisch, St Laurent and Zweigelt with a drop of Roessler, it’s a light red with fruit, depth and spice. As I said in my original note, you can always trust a Renner wine to put a smile on your face, this one especially. Imported by Newcomer Wines, see “Recent Wines November 2022 Pt 1”.
December – Morey-St-Denis “Clos Solon” Vieille Vigne 2006, Domaine Fourrier (Burgundy, France)
This is the only so-called classical wine in my list, I suppose. It was also my penultimate bottle from a domaine I have adored as much as any over the decades since I discovered the wines of this region. I used to visit every year until I came to prefer the quiet of Arbois to the increased traffic around the Côtes. These wines are expensive now, but back around the mid-2000s this single vineyard’s old vine cuvée was considered especially good value, relatively speaking of course. Smoky, savoury, this is not at all showy, just beautifully balanced, almost understated. Perfect with Christmas lunch. Purchased from The Sampler (Islington) in London around the time of release, see further “Recent Wines December 2022 Pt 2”.
A few more things remain to be said before we begin embarking on another year of wine. I often try to bring in my other passion, music. I’ve been so much focused on my vinyl collection that it is certainly impacting the wine budget, as has whisky. Moving to Scotland, I’ve definitely increased my appreciation, and consumption, of whisky, but really good whisky gets expensive. I’ve been drinking widely here, but for very subjective reasons I’ve been getting to know and enjoying the different bottlings from Kilchoman, an authentic farm distillery at Machir Bay on Islay’s wild west coast.
For what it’s worth, going back to the music, my album of the year is Dublin band Fontaines DC’s “Skinty Fía”. I’ve also been listening to Stanley Clarke, Dream Theater, Robben Ford and Green Tea Peng (among a few hundred others). The opportunities to purchase vinyl are worryingly numerous within striking distance of where I live. Edinburgh is less frequented on the touring circuit than Glasgow, but my gig of the year was, without doubt, seeing Wishbone Ash perform Argus in its entirety on the 50th anniversary of its release (Queen’s Hall, 28/10/22).
I like to tell you what I want to be drinking in this coming year. It occasionally encourages the odd importer to be brave. My tastes only change slowly so I still want more Bugey, Alsace and Swiss wine in my cellar please. I would also love to see more Japanese wine imported. I don’t mean the obvious labels, but the artisan wines which one is seeing reach Scandinavia, and even France, I notice. I continue to find real excitement in Hungary and Czech Moravia and I hope to widen that interest out into more Slovakian wines and further afield. I think 2023 will also be the year when a new raft of Jura names you’ve never heard of will begin to appear.
When it comes to fingers on the pulse, I think our once broad-church wine scene is losing out a little. There are many reasons, not least new markets picking up our allocations. Brexit, with its increased and complex paperwork for producers as well as importers, is the main reason we have to fight for what we do get. There’s a kind of symbiotic link between Japan and Scandinavia in that both seem to be right on the button, especially in spotting talented new natural wine producers in the field.
That said, I am eternally grateful that we do still have importers like Les Caves de Pyrene, Basket Press Wines, Vine Trail, Newcomer Wines, Tutto Wines, Indigo, Wines Under the Bonnet, Uncharted Wines and others, and we have an ever-growing throng of wonderful indie wine shops, which have even grown in number in 2022, despite the economic climate. Let’s support them. Use it or lose it, as they say.
Wishing all my readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2023.
Hi David, and a happy new year!
no mention for us?….. don’t you love us anymore? 😉😆
hope all is well.
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I do Ben, and you are not the only one to not get a mention. I’m aware that I haven’t bought any wine from you for ages. I’m basically a lot more broke than I used to be. I’ll amend the piece and offer my profuse apologies. Happy New Year.
Hey! No need to change and and don’t worry about buying wines….! I just respect your palate and opinion and thought it a good chance to say hi!.
Come down to the Sourcing Table shop/bar in Peckham if you are ever in that part of town…
You may not know but we escaped to Scotland last year. So happy up here, 30 mins outside Edinburgh. Always wanted to come to the shop, never managed it. Saw dog&b up here at the Cork & Cask wine fair. Trips to London will be rare. And thanks for your kind words. So prod me if any of you are heading up here again.
Love edinburgh !
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Bugey Cerdon Wojtkowiak is a favourite of my Mum. I’ll try & track this producer down. And Grandstand finish to the year, I see. 😎
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The Fourrier was gorgeous. A reminder of almost a different life for me. Happy New Year Mark.