My top wines from 2021, part 1: reds

Now we are well into 2022, but I thought it would be fun to look at some of my favourite wines from 2021. It was a strange year, with large parts of the usual wine tasting calendar suspended through lockdown, but I still tried lots of very interesting bottles. Many of these were drunk and not just tasted. I’ve not put them in any particular order, but strong showings here from Spain, South Africa, Australia and the USA. And even a couple from Canada – my only long haul travel in 2021.

Terroir al Límit Les Manyes 2018 Priorat, Spain
14.5% alcohol. This is from an old vineyard of Garnatxa Peluda, located at 800 m in the mountains above Scala Dei. The altitude means that it’s out of the licorella – the slate that forms most of the Priorat vineyards – and instead soils here are clay, rich in chalk and gypsum. Winemaking is all concrete, and is infusion, with very gentle extraction, and 100% whole bunch. The result is a remarkable wine. Not deeply coloured, this has a perfumed nose of sweet red fruits with some pepper, a hint of wax and iodine, a touch of liquorice and very fine herbal hints. It’s perfumed and inviting. The palate has amazing texture and detail, with very fine tannins and appropriate acidity supporting smooth, sweet red fruits with savoury hints of pepper, minerals and super-fine herbal hints. This is a really stunning effort, with astonishing elegance and drinkability, but also seriousness and potential for future development. 97/100

Place of Changing Winds High Density Pinot Noir 2019 Macedon Ranges, Australia
12.5% alcohol. Just 568 bottles are produced. Between 20 000 and 33 000 vines per hectare, with all the work done by hand and low yields of just 100-200 g per vine. Fully destemmed and then aged in one Stockinger and one Dominique Laurent cask. Minimal SO2. This has an amazing floral nose with sweet black cherries and stewed plums, and finely integrated green notes. The palate is fresh and supple with a grainy edge to it, and lovely sleek fruit. It’s fully ripe, but there’s also freshness and structure, with some complex spice and dried herb notes as well as black cherry and plum fruit. This has weight, but it also has softness and polish, and is so silky and refined in the mouth. Shows lovely freshness on the finish, with the structure to suggest that there’s a long future ahead. 96/100

Charles Joguet Chinon Clos de la Dioterie 2014 Loire, France
Charles Joguet achieved fame with this domaine, but when it was sold, it lost its way a bit. But fortunes have revived under winemaker Kévin Fontaine (he joined in 2006), and now the domaine is on top of its game. Dioterie was the first single plot wine that Joguet isolated, and it’s next to cellar, on a NE-facing clay-limestone slope. Vinification is gentle extraction followed by long elevage (the wines usually spend three winters in barrel). Very refined nose with aromatic berry and cherry fruit with some chalky notes. The palate is fresh and seamless with a bit of grip (but the tannins are quite fine) and bright cherry, raspberry and blackcurrant fruit, always staying fresh and well defined, but offering a bit of sleek, seductive fruit, too. This is an immense wine: still compact and youthful, beautifully precise, unfurled, and showing astonishing purity and refinement. It’s a tiny bit nervy and taut, but in a really good way: this has a long life ahead of it. If you can find some, buy it! (I’ve already searched, in vain.) 96/100

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2016 Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Les Carmes is cool Bordeaux: the blend for this 2016 is 41% Cabernet Franc, 39% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and maturation is 65% in new barrels, with the balance matured in used barrels, foudres, concrete vats and terracotta. No crushing, and there is (unusually for Bordeaux) some whole bunch here! This has a fresh, brooding blackcurrant and berry fruit nose with a touch of creamy vanilla from the new oak, but also lovely pure fruit intensity. The palate shows concentration, but also smoothness: the tannins are molten but still present, with real density but no austerity. It’s a seductive wine, but still keeps its form, and the gravelly edge and slight chalkiness reveals its Graves origins. A proper wine, with the whole bunch component integrating really well. This has a bright future ahead of it. 95/100

Le Soula Rouge 2014 Côtes Catalanes IGP, France
Sweetly aromatic with some peppery notes, some cherry and a bit of blood. Very fresh, fine and peppery with lovely red fruits. Bright and precise with nice juiciness under the fruit. Fine, peppery and tapering: this is very Burgundian in style. 96/100

Quintessa 2017 Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
14.5% alcohol. This has a red tint to the colour: it’s not all black fruits. It’s really aromatic with floral red cherry and berry fruits, and a bit of blackcurrant, as well as some wood spice. The palate has freshness to the blackcurrant and red berry fruits, with nice texture and balance, as well as some cedar and sandalwood notes from the new oak (76%). It’s a beautifully put together wine: there’s a bit of oak showing now, but it integrates quite well, and there’s potential for development here. This is a terroir wine, not a wine of style, and I’m really impressed. On day two and day three, it opens out and softens and becomes a bit more Napa, but still with balance. 95/100 (US retail $200)

Nicolas-Jay Momtazi Pinot Noir 2019 McMinnville, Oregon
This is ripe, fresh and quite dense with keen acidity and bright red cherry and raspberry fruit. Great concentration here and lots of freshness, with a slight liqueur-like richness on the mid-palate. This is really fine and potentially long lived, combining good structure and acidity. Sensational. 97/100

Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 California
14.2% alcohol. Brooding, fresh blackcurrant and cherry fruit on the nose. This is smooth, pure and textured on the palate with very fine, silky blackcurrant and cherry fruit. The remarkable thing about this wine is how it combines freshness, delicacy and concentration. There’s a lovely purity to the fruit, some floral characters, and very fine grained tannins. It doesn’t taste forced, although it is fully ripe, and I love the purity and focus. 95/100

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2017 Tuscany, Italy
14% alcohol. First made in 2011. Very fine and detailed, but also dense and full flavoured, with fine black cherry and blackberry fruit with some dusty strawberry notes on the nose. The palate has great concentration and good structure, but no rusticity. There’s a touch of damson and a hint of balsamic on the finish, giving a savoury buttressing to the fruit, but everything is in place: dry, fine grained tannins, good acidity, plenty of vivid fruit and the potential for a long development in bottle. Has a real grip to it: this is benchmark Sangiovese from good terroirs. 95/100

Querciabella Riserva 1997 Chianti Classico, Toscana, Italy
12.5% alcohol. This is refined and concentrated with sweet blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, a grainy, finely spiced texture and some hints of chalk, earth and tea. Very fine and concentrated with smoothness as well as great weight and balance. Drinking perfectly now: this is such a wine. 96/100

Sierra de Toloño La Dula Garnachas de Altura Rives de Tereso 2019 Rioja, Spain
This is from a 1944 vineyard next to Remelluri. Very fine and pure with supple cherry and raspberry fruit, showing some peppery hints. It has sleek, pure fruit with real finesse and some mineral undertones. A really thrilling Rioja. 95/100

Yangarra Ironheart Shiraz 2016 McLaren Vale, Australia
14.5% alcohol. This is brooding, intense and quite savoury, with notes of blood and iron, as well as sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. It’s a fresh, structured and slightly backward wine, with acidity prominent, and a slight pithy, reductive tension. Has a bitter plum finish. There’s lots to like here, but it’s unyielding and unresolved at the moment, even though it promises a lot more to come. As such, it is hard to rate. I followed it over three days and it slowly began to yield, but not much. There’s not a hint of overripeness here, nor any obvious oak, and in terms of profile it reminds me a bit of Wendouree, although the region and soils are different. But it makes me think it has a long life ahead of it. 95/100

Château Mercian Mariko Vineyard Syrah 2017 Nagano, Japan
13.5% alcohol. Aged for 18 months in oak barrels (25% new). Stony clay soils at 650 m, VSP training. Wonderful nose of pepper-infused sweet black cherry fruit. Very pure and refined with lovely aromatics, and the pepper character is so lovely, and doesn’t stick out too much. The palate is fresh and focused, with some summer pudding fruits and well integrated oak. This is really fine and linear, and quite spectacular. Cool climate Syrah at its most elegant. 95/100 (UK retail £40.00)

Escala Humana Malbec El Peral 2018 Tupungato, Mendoza
14.5% alcohol. This is beautifully floral and expressive with green-tinged black cherry fruit with some blackcurrant, too. The palate is fresh and detailed with lovely fresh, floral detail. Very fine and bright, showing juicy raspberry and cherry notes. Some structure, but also amazing freshness and detail. Really fine. 95/100

La Grange Tiphaine Côt Vieilles Vignes 2018 Touraine-Amboise, Loire, France
13.5% alcohol. Biodynamically farmed Malbec. This deeply coloured wine is floral on the nose with sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit as well as a hint of nice reduction. The palate is vivid, inky and fresh with nice structure and acidity under the vivid black fruits. Sleek, ripe, but really fresh, showing immense concentration, freshness and purpose. A lovely wine. 94/100 (UK agent Dynamic Vines)

Ramos Pinto Quinta de Ervamoira 2018 Douro, Portugal
15.5% alcohol. Fermented in lagares, then matured for 18 months in French oak. This has a wonderfully aromatic nose with floral black fruits as well as some fine green notes. There’s a hint of gravel and some Mediterranean herbs, too. The palate has some warmth, but also a resolved, smooth tannic structure under the sweet, quite lush black cherry and blackberry fruits. It has a sense of place, for sure, and although the alcohol contributes some sweetness and warmth, there’s balance here: it flirts with over-ripeness and gets away with it. The oak is very much in the background. Delicious already, this elegant, polished wine should age well over the medium term, but really doesn’t need much cellar time to be appreciated. I was initially scared by the alcohol level, but this is beautifully composed and has a wonderful smoothness and ease to it. A beautiful expression of the Douro Superior. 95/100 (UK retail £95, this was bottle 6 of 4370)

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Riserva RV 350 2016 Piemonte, Italy
15% alcohol. This year the vineyards were La Serra and Fossati. Complex nose with some spice, minerals, tar and herbs, as well as very fine red cherry and redcurrant notes. The palate is concentrated with powerful notes of spice, minerals and a touch of dried herbs, as well as cedar, tar and gravel. Lovely concentrated fruit here. Fine, expressive and complete. 97/100

Reynvaan Family Vineyards Foothill Reserve Syrah 2017 Walla Walla, Washington State
14% alcohol. This comes from the ‘Foothills in the Sun’ vineyard. It has wonderful aromatics of blood, meat, bacon and pepper with sweet cherry fruit. The palate is fresh and supple with lovely berry fruits and a hint of green, with some bacon and pepper savouriness. So fresh and lovely, with a touch of iodine and iron on the finish. This is very lively and fresh, but also has some depth and richness. 96/100

Storm Vrede Pinot Noir 2018 Hemel en Aarde Valley, South Africa
13.5% alcohol. This has a complex nose with black cherries, raspberries, cedar spice and some herbs. The palate is supple and structured with some blood and iodine, as well as taut raspberry fruit with good acidity and firm tannins. This is such a distinctive Pinot Noir with the good structure, saltiness and also a grainy, savoury character that makes it an attractive option for food matching. 95/100

Gramercy Cellars Syrah 2015 Columbia Valley, Washington State
13.3% alcohol. From four vineyards, this is 56% whole cluster and is aged for 15 months in neutral French oak. Wonderful aromatics of olive, pepper and direct cherry fruit. The palate is fresh and direct with lovely cherry fruit and wonderful meat and olive notes. Very fine and expressive with peppery framing, developing nicely. 95/100

Chapoutier Sicamor Crozes-Hermitage 2018 Northern Rhône, France
14.5% alcohol. This blends different terroirs, with coarse-grained stony granite (Tournon granite) on the western side of the Hermitage hill, puddingstone on the eastern side of the Hermitage hill, and alluvial terraces in Les Chassis area. Destemmed, then fermented and macerated for 4-5 weeks, aged in 600 litre barrels for a year, then six months in concrete tanks. This is brooding, dark, reductive and savoury, with black cherries, blackberries, spice, cloves and pepper. It’s meaty, dense and compact with good structure and acidity, and also some depth. There’s an amazing energy to this wine, bringing in layers of flavour. Ashy and dark with iodine and meat. 95/100

Bachelder Wismer Foxcroft Gamay Noir 52% Whole Cluster 2019 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
13% alcohol. This has an intriguing spicy, savoury, slightly mineral reductive nose with some taut, floral red cherry fruit. The palate is juicy and lively with some good structure and acidity under the red cherry and raspberry fruit with a spicy graininess. There’s a suppleness to this wine, but also good structure. It has perfume, silkiness, some spicy mineral reduction and nice tannins: it should age in interesting ways. The extra whole bunch component seems to have tempered some of the bloody reductive wildness. It’s the best Niagara Gamay I’ve tried. Almost Côte du Py-like in style. 95/100

Château La Grave à Pomerol 2000 Bordeaux, France
Very fine and open, and in a beautiful place. Shows open cherry and plum fruit with a grainy structure under the fine red cherry, raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. There’s a touch of chalkiness, too. Such elegance here: it’s not a famous wine, but it has evolved so beautifully. 95/100

Les Forts de Latour 2000 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Dark, fine, gravelly and structured with a bit of angularity. This has amazing finesse and precision, showing blackcurrant, blackberries and a touch of iodine, as well as some cedar notes. Still nicely weighted, with good structure, this is fine and expressive and is in a good place right now. 95/100

Therianthropy The Negotiant Redfoot Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
13.3% alcohol. This is joyful. Perfumed and aromatic with sweet cherries and plums and some floral notes. The palate is bright and fruit focused with some spicy notes, a silky texture, and lovely fruit. It’s softly tannic with good acidity and a fine spicy finish, and a texture reminiscent of carbonic maceration. Lovely fruit-forward style with gorgeous balance, and lots of interest. Very fine. 94/100 (JG)

Envinate Migan Vinos Atlánticos 2019 Spain
12% alcohol. This is Listan Negro from three parcels that are over 100 years old, at altitudes of 400-600m in Orotava, Tenerife. Fermentation is in concrete with partial whole cluster, and ageing is in a mix of barrels and concrete. This is beautifully aromatic with floral red cherry fruit, some pepper, and warm herbs and spices. The palate is so fresh and textural with cherries and cranberries, some silkiness, but also an assertive brightness with keen acidity and some reductive notes that work so well adding a spicy framing to the red fruits. It’s probably going to be a little divisive, but I find it thrilling. A Tenerife Grand Cru. 95/100

Cara Sur Parcela Los Nidos Paraje Hilario 2018 Valle de Callingasta, San Juan, Argentina
13% alcohol. This is from a single 0.5 hectare parcel co-planted with red varieties, parral trained. It’s mainly Bonarda with some Barbera and a few small bits of Criollas. Altitude is 1500 m and the vines are 80 years old. Fluvial terrace from the precordillera of the Andes, blended with alluvial influence from the Los Patos river. Whole cluster fermentation with wild yeasts in 2000 litre concrete with no temperature control, followed by ageing in 1000 litre concrete eggs. This is really good: lovely floral cherry notes combine with sour cherry and plum notes, and a lively spiciness. Has a lovely bitter herb twist which good acidity and tannins. This is concentrated and fresh with a grainy, juicy finish. Such a complete wine with some structure, good acidity and lovely balance. It has a bit of grunt: it’s not polished. But I like this. 95/100

I Brand & Family Cabernet Franc Bayly Ranch 2017 Paicenes, California
12% alcohol. This is amazing. It’s floral and fresh with fine strawberry and cherry fruit on the nose with nice hints of green and some dried earth. The palate is fine and tapered with lush, sweet, smooth texture to the strawberry and red cherry fruit. This has lovely depth, some fruit sweetness, and refined green notes. There’s just a hint of that chalky Cabernet Franc character under the sweet, subtly herb-tinged fruit, but the main theme is silky, smooth cashmere-texture refined red fruits. Quite beautiful. 95/100 (£36 Vincognito)

Terroir Sense Frontères Guix Vermell de Montsant 2019 Montsant, Spain
This is from a 4 hectare vineyard called Les Montalts that is at 800 m altitude. It’s just a few hundred metres away from Les Maynes (in Priorat) and it’s planted with 45 year old Garnacha bush vines. Vinification and ageing is in Italian terracotta amphorae, and this is whole-bunch infusion-style maceration. 13% alcohol. This is so finely wrought and elegant, with textured liqueur-like red cherry and berry fruit on the palate, some fine sappy notes, and liqourice and pepper notes. It has good acidity, a red fruit core, and a fine spicy finish with some liveliness. Astonishing elegance, with the sleek fruit hiding some substantial tannic structure. There are layers of finely interleaved flavour here, with amazing complexity despite the smoothness and elegance. Quite profound, with the elegance and complexity and texture of the very finest Burgundy, morphed with the very finest Châteauneuf (think Rayas, or Bonneau). This should have a long life ahead of it. It also has amazing drinkability. 97/100

Dodgy Brothers Juxtaposed Old Vine Grenache 2017 McLaren Vale, Australia
14% alcohol. This is from the Smart Vineyard in Clarendon, planted in 1921. It is perfumed and fine with sweet cherry and plum fruit, with some strawberry too. There’s a lovely freshness here, with some subtle green hints, and a silky, smooth mid-palate with refined cherry fruit, with the sweet fruit cloaking the structure. A midweight wine, with fantastic harmony allied to enough structure to make this a mid-term ager, but not too much to stop it being immediately drinkable. 94/100

Vanguardist Grenache 2017 Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale, Australia
13.9% alcohol. Foot crushed with 40% whole bunches, then aged in a mix of barrels, puncheons and an egg. This is a deliciously lighter style of Grenache with red cherries and plums and some subtle ginger and pepper notes, as well as a fine green hint. It’s perfumed, and has a nice silky texture, with a bit of grip on the finish. This is a beautiful expression of McLaren Vale Grenache. 94/100

Viña Tondonia Reserva 2007 Rioja, Spain
13% alcohol. Really aromatic with a savoury, spicy edge to the cedar, black cherry, plum and dried herb nose. The palate is supple and really elegant, with some structure under the red and black fruits, savoury notes of iodine and wood, and some spicy tomato and plum on the finish. It’s structured but surprisingly mellow and approachable even now. Drinking really well now, this is pretty much irresistible. So fine. 95/100

Quinta do Noval Reserva 2017 Douro, Portugal
14% alcohol. 80 % Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franca. Aged in French oak, 35% new. This was from the very dry and warm 2017 vintage. Heady aromatics of floral cherry and berry fruits with some cedar, olive and spice notes. Very refined and quite pure. The palate is supple, fresh and expressive with black cherries and blackberries supported by some finely spiced tannic structure and hints of tar and olives. Very sophisticated: balances sweet fruit with good structure and it’s just so classy, with a real sense of place. Drinking very well now, but will be at its peak, I’m guessing, in five years or so. Polished and modern, but really good. 95/100 (Portuguese retail is €50)

Figli Luigi Oddero Barbaresco Rombone 2016 Piedmont, Italy
14.5% alcohol. From 2.5 hectares of rented vines in Treiso, from a vineyard with lots of limestone in the soil. Long gentle extraction in concrete fermenters followed by ageing in large format oak (an 8500 litre botti) for 18 months. This has a wonderfully intoxicating, almost haunting nose of sweet cherries, strawberries, rose petals and dried herbs. The palate is fresh and cool, with lovely sleek red fruits and then a wall of tannin pressing in and constraining it. I love the combination of fruit (red cherries and cranberries with some sweet liqueur-like notes) with fresh acidity and tannic crunch. It’s beautifully balanced, with a good tension between the subtle, elegant fruit and the structural elements. This has a long life ahead of it. Finishes with a slight sour cherry and bitter herb note that tapers beautifully. 95/100 (£34.68 Justerini & Brooks)

Rall Cinsault 2019 Coastal Region, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. Unirrigated bush vine vineyards grown on iron-rich clay soils, with whole bunch fermentation and ageing in used oak and concrete. Wonderfully floral, elegant nose with red cherries, some raspberry and a liqueur-like richness. The palate is fresh and elegant with lovely purity and notes of raspberry and cherry, with just enough spicy tannin to provide balance. Lovely balance and weight here, with a sheer, silky core. One of the best Cinsaults I’ve tried. 95/100

Shypoke Le Corbeau Charbono 2018 Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
13.5% alcohol. This is given a cold soak, then fermented with gentle punch downs, and then goes to used French oak for malolactic fermentation and maturation. Inky dark in colour, it has a lovely focused nose of black cherry and plum, with some tea-like detail and a hint of smoke. The palate is fresh, vivid and shows concentrated berry fruits with some supple black cherry and a fine hint of green. It has ample tannin, but it fits in beautifully with the fruit, and the whole experience is one of freshness, depth, concentration and structure. A stunning expression of Charbono, this is fine and detailed with freshness and focus. Lovely density here. 94/100

Lambert Wines Syrah 2019 Yarra Valley, Australia
13.5% alcohol. Old red/black volcanic soils, vines planted in 2001, organically farmed. 80% whole bunch, matured in a 5000 litre foudre. This is fresh, vivid and really fine with lovely black cherry and blackberry fruit with a touch of pepper. It’s sweetly fruited with some silkiness on the mid-palate, but at the same time has freshness and appropriate structure. A beautiful floral, fruity expression of Syrah. 95/100

Big Basin Lester Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
13.3% alcohol. The Lester vineyard is located in the Corralitos foothills at the south end of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and benefits from cool fogs and air from the Monterey Bay. Sandy loam soil. 100% whole bunch in 2017. Sweet, textured fruit that’s lively, grainy and spicy with plenty of richness. It’s a bit meaty with some green notes, but the dominant theme here is lovely sweet fruit. Very fine. 95/100

Comm G.B. Burlotto Barolo Acclivi 2017 Piemonte, Italy
This is really elegant and fine, but also has lovely concentration. It’s dense and structured, but the structure integrates perfectly with the pure red fruits. So many layers, such purity, touching perfection, perhaps, with its density, elegance and finesse. 97/100

Pierre Cotton Ygueule 2018 Vin de France
12.5% alcohol. This Beaujolais red, bottled as Vin de France, is made in an interesting way. It’s half carbonic maceration, half direct press (this bit made like a white wine), with the result a lighter-style red. Light in colour, it is supremely elegant, with fine, supple, fresh red cherry fruit, coupled with smoothness, purity and an amazing silky texture. Such a fine, smooth, elegant wine with fine spiciness on the finish. Tapers beautifully. 95/100 (£25 Littlewine)

Niepoort Voyeur NatCool 2019 Douro, Portugal
11.5% alcohol. Macerated and fermented in 1000 litre amphora. A range of varieties, including some white ones, from six different vineyards. After maceration the wines were blended and then went back to amphora to finish ageing. High altitude vines give freshness. This is a pale cherry red colour with lovely aromas of cherry and redcurrant, with some subtle herbal hints and a touch of tar and earth. The palate is light, juicy and refined with sweet cherries and plums, some raspberry, and a lovely textural quality that I’d associate with amphora ageing. Such elegance and brightness here, with a bit of crunchy structure. A brilliant example of a lighter red and there’s no hurry to drink this up. 94/100

Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate 2017 Piemonte, Italy
This was a very dry vintage with some rain at the end of May, then none save a little rain in August that saved the vintage. They picked 13 September, which is very early (October is the norm here). Sweetly aromatic with liqueur-like red cherry and black cherry fruit, as well as hints of leather and dried herbs. It’s ripe, smooth and liqueur-like on the palate with sleek cherry fruit, but also showing good structure and density, with good grip and a hint of pepper. Some firmness on the finish. 95/100

Gran Selezione Castello Fonterutoli 2018 Chianti Classico, Italy
Finely aromatic with cherries, cedar, plums, spice and dried herbs. The palate is relatively pale in colour, wonderfully structured, and shows a combination of sweet red berry fruits with some fine spices. It has power and elegance, with real beauty. Sensational stuff, superbly balanced and yet also immense, despite the pale colour. 97/100

Famille Carabello-Baum Nuits-Saint-Georges 2019 Bourgogne, France
14% alcohol. 60% whole cluster, 20% new oak. Sweetly perfumed and aromatic with a fine spicy edge to the lush black cherry fruit, with a hint of blackcurrant. Very rich and aromatic. The palate is sleek, textural and structured. The oak integrates perfectly with layers of spicy structure and sweet, dense but supple fruit. Really impressive and very stylish: structured and potentially long-lived even though it is delicious now. Such a lovely wine. 95/100

Scions of Sinai Féniks Pinotage 2019 Stellenbosch, South Africa
12% alcohol. Dry farmed bush vine Pinotage vines planted in 1976. This is really brilliant: a very pure, fresh, linear expression of Pinotage with lovely focus to the bright red cherry and black cherry fruit, some nice grippy structure (but it’s integrated) and good acidity. There’s lovely freshness to this wine with a low extraction style, but still plenty of flavour. Tasted blind this would never shout ‘Pinotage’: it’s just a beautifully fresh, appropriately structured red with the potential to develop. One of the very best Pinotages I’ve tried. 94/100 (UK importer Indigo Wines)

Daniel Landi Las Uvas de la Ira Tinto 2019 Mentrida, Spain
Meaning literally ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, this wine is made from old-vine Garnacha sourced from four different vineyards high up in the Sierra de Gredos. It’s silky and refined with cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruit with smoothness. Utter elegance with some Bakewell tart and sweet liqueur cherry notes but also some balance from sour cherry.  Low tannins and real smoothness. A touch of lavender too. 95/100 (£25.50 The Sourcing Table – I declare and interest as contributing editor – UK agent Indigo, US agent Eric Solomon’s European Cellars)

Dominio del Águila Reserva 2016 Ribera del Duero, Spain
14% alcohol. This is from very old vineyards, with some vines pre-phylloxera, at 900 m altitude with sandy limestone soils. As an old vineyard it’s mostly Tempranillo, but there’s also some other varieties in it: Blanca del País, Garnacha and Bobal. Whole bunch, foot trodden, then after fermentation it goes to French oak for three years. The result is quite remarkable. It’s Ribera del Duero, but with real beauty and purity, and moderate extraction but also great concentration. There’s some oak evident, but it sits in the background. Sweet black cherry and blackcurrant fruit on the nose with some creamy, spicy undercurrents: it’s ripe, luxurious, but still fresh. The palate has some chalky, grainy, mineral structure that has some grippy bite, but there’s also pure, sleek black fruits. This is really nicely balanced. Amazing finesse, allied to concentration. It’s classic Ribera, for sure, but with real balance. 95/100

Koerner Mammolo Sciaccarello 2020 Clare Valley, Australia
13.2% alcohol, pH 3.22, TA 7.8 g/l. Planted in 1998, this comes from Vivian vineyards (another neighbour). This is usually bottled as a straight varietal wine in the south of Corsica (it’s Sciaccarello there), while in Tuscany it’s a minor blending component (known as Mammolo). They are the only ones in Australia who have this variety. It has huge berries and keeps good acidity. It’s destemmed and 50% whole bunches are retained. Aged in 2000 litre Slavonian oak foudres. This reminds me of Frappato – it’s a pale-coloured, aromatic red wine with floral sweet red cherry and plum fruit, as well as some raspberry and cranberry, as well as a slight hint of rhubarb. There’s some almond, too, and it’s beautifully textured with a smooth mouthfeel, hemmed by bright acidity and just a hint of tannic grip. Such a beautiful, expressive wine – this has smashability and purity, and I really love it. As an aside, everyone working in warm climates should try this variety! 95/100

See part 2, top whites, rosé and orange wines of 2021