My top wines of 2021: part 3, sparkling, sweet and fortified

The last part of my round-up of leading wines from 2021, and it’s time for bubbles and sweet stuff. Again, quite an eclectic selection here.

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 2014 Nova Scotia, Canada
12% alcohol. TA 12 g/l, pH 2.94, dosage 4 g/l. This is a really beautiful fizz. It comes from a low-cropping block on the home estate. Wild ferment in four old barrels, partial malolactic, then aged for four years on lees. Bright and citrussy with mandarin and grapefruit, and lovely sea-shell saltiness and a mineral streak. It has keen acidity, but it’s well integrated. Fruity and fine with lovely precision, and a crystalline finish. Superb. 94/100

Gramona III Lustros Finca Font de Jui 2012 Corpinnat, Spain
12% alcohol. This is a zero dosage (brut nature) traditional method sparkling, disgorged in August 2020 after 91 months on lees. It’s complex, linear and intense with bright lemon and lime fruit and good acidity, with some hazelnut, almond and candle wax complexity. It’s not overtly toasty, but there’s a subtle bready richness alongside the citrus intensity. Astonishing precision, and a laser-like finish. This tastes of Penedes: it’s not trying to be Champagne, and it’s quite wonderful. 94/100

Champagne Pascal Agrapart Avizoise Extra Brut 2013 France
12% alcohol. Old vines from clay-based soils. Long fermentation in oak, wild yeasts. 3 g/l dosage, disgorged February 2020. Very expressive crystalline citrus on the nose. Taut, linear and fine on the palate with keen acidity. Very linear and very 2013. There’s some richness from the clay in the soil and it matches well with the elegance of this vintage: powerful, with energy and tension, and a candied lemon finish. 95/100

Champagne De Saint Gall Orpale Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2008 France
12.5% alcohol. De Saint-Gall are a growers cooperative and this is their prestige cuvée. It’s quite brilliant, and in a peer group with the top Blanc de Blancs Champagnes. Wonderfully aromatic with sweet citrus fruit, some white peach, and fine bread and toast notes. There’s a richness and also a subtlety to the nose. The palate has structure and also keen acidity, but it’s well integrated into the toasty citrus fruit. There’s a touch of grapefruit here, a bit of pithiness, and a superb balance with the ripe fruit so well countered by the acid and fine bitter hints. It’s a serious effort. I’d love to see this blind in a line-up with some other prestige cuvées. 94/100

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Elizabeth Salmon Brut Rosé 2008 France
12.5% alcohol. This is 76% Grands Crus and 24% Premiers Crus; 55% Pinot Noir from the Mo Montagne de Reims and the Grande Vallée de la Marne; 45% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. 9% of the base wine is red wine from Valofroy in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. 17% of the blend is fermented in old oak (this is the first time for this cuvée). Dosage 7 g/l. Full orange pink in colour. Powerful and lively with a core of dense citrus (lemons and orange peel), nice structure and lovely purity. There’s some structure here as well as finely balanced dosage that works perfectly, resulting in a long, tapering, juicy finish. The red fruit component is more cranberry and raspberry than anything else, and it meshes really well with a fine toastiness and a touch of creaminess, to create a seamless whole. Just the faintest hint of sappy green from the Pinot Noir wine component, with lovely balance between the sweet fruit and the more savoury, structural elements. 94/100 (UK retail £165)

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Grand Crus Blanc de Blancs 2011 France
12.5% alcohol. Lovely aromatics of delicate citrus fruit with some white peach and melon richness, as well as subtle bread and toast. The palate is really powerful, with a lovely toasty undercurrent providing some bass notes and a massive treble flourish from the keen acidity and powerful citrus fruits. There’s some richness here from the dosage, which plumps up the mid-palate and extends the length, and then a really nice lemony acid line. Great concentration, but it retains delicacy and finesse. I think this should age really well in bottle, and there’s hidden power here under all the attractive sweet fruit and autolytic toastiness. A superb wine, and a great example of Comtes. 97/100

Champagne Philipponnat Clos de Goisses Juste Rosé Extra Brut 2008 France
This is a blend of 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir from Philipponnat’s famous Clos des Goisses, south-facing and steeply sloped. It’s their rare Juste Rosé, and this was disgorged in March 2019 with a dosage of 4.5 g/litre. Hat tip to Anton for opening this for us. Pale in colour. Delicate, fine and sappy with some leafy hints, as well as strawberry and cherry notes, and a twist of citrus. So delicate and expressive with lovely purity. An amazing wine, combining structure and delicacy. 96/100

Champagne Ulysse Collin Les Maillons Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut 2016 France
Olivier Collin owns 2.5 hectares in this 6 hectare lieu dit, which is located in the Coteaux du Sezannais. 100% Pinot Noir planted in clay soils over soft chalk. Long base wine ageing of 12 months in barrel. This is dense with some structure, and lovely cherry and pear fruit, as well as dense citrus characters. This has real depth of fruit with some notes of nuts, honey and spice. Very fine. 96/100

Champagne Dom Perignon 2008 France
I was so impressed by this: one of the very best DPs. Intense and lively with real finesse. Fresh toasty notes and crisp lemon combine into a crystalline array of flavour. Pure and focused with freshness and a lovely mineral/matchstick edge. Pristine and pure. 96/100

Champagne Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne La Bolorée 2016 France
From the Aube, this cuvée comes from a small parcel of Pinot Blanc planted in 1960 on a south-facing hillside. Soils are 50 cm of sand/clay over chalk. Disgorged April 2020 with no dosage. Fine and intense with a lovely acid line. Lemony and tart with real precision, showing some crystalline character. Very fine and linear. 95/100

Champagne Bruno Paillard Grand Vintage Extra Brut 2012 France
12% alcohol. A blend of Pinot Noir (60%) and Chardonnay (40%) from eight crus. 20% fermented in used French oak barrels. Eight years on lees followed by 16 months post-disgorgement aging (something Bruno insists on). Disgorged in March 2020 with a typically low dosage of 4.5g/litre. This has a beguiling aromatic nose with some honey, marzipan, nut and toast, but leaving room for the vibrant fruity notes of cherry, apple and lemon. There’s lovely acidity on the palate that isn’t obscured by too much dosage, and it breathes life into the cherry, table grape and lemony fruit, with some orange peel and almond nuts, as well as a tapering lemony finish with a hint of seaweed and oyster shell. Complex, covering lots of different layers of the flavour spectrum, finishing assertive and bright. A serious effort. 94/100

Champagne Billecart Salmon Le Clos Saint-Hilaire 2002 France
A great year. 11% natural alcohol, late-ish harvest. Dosage is 1 g/litre. 3774 bottles. ‘We saw a step up in the Clos standing in the market with 2002,’ says Matthieu. Nuts, honey, spice and cherries, as well as some crystalline citrus fruit on the nose. Powerful and structured with a real vinosity, showing a balance between citrus and apple fruit with the savoury nut and toast characters. Lovely intensity and depth with power and presence, and good acidity. Very fine showing great intensity, a touch of marzipan, and a fine toasty, slightly sweet flourish on the finish, which just goes on and on. 98/100

Champagne Drappier Trop M’en Faut! NV France
12% alcohol. This is a beautiful rarity: it’s 100% Fromenteau (Pinot Gris) with zero dosage. Bottled in 2019 this is half 2017 and half 2018, with some aged in barrel. Organically farmed. The name is a spoonerism: they weren’t allowed to use Fromenteau, so the made-up name actually means ‘It’s so good I don’t have enough of it,’ while alluding to its varietal origins. This is from a very warm south-facing plot, and the vines were planted in 2010 by Michel. It’s surprisingly low in acidity, with a pH of 3.55 and a TA of 6 g/litre, but there is some freshness from the phenolics. Half of the grapes were used to make a still wine (Coteaux Champenois). Yellow gold in colour. Toasty, spicy, honeyed nose. The palate is rich and has a spicy frame with sweet pears, a touch of cherry and some baked apple. Powerful and textural with some orange peel, nuts and table grape. So many layers. 94/100

Champagne Dom Pérignon P2 2003 France
Pinot Noir 62%, Chardonnay 38%, disgorged September 2019 (15 years on lees) with a dosage of 5 g/litre. Full yellow gold colour. ‘The nose is consistent with the vintage,’ says Vincent Chaperon, with rich fruitiness and an iodine minerality, a contrast he describes as sun and clouds. Toasty with some rich peach and baked apple on the nose as well as hazelnut and pastry. The palate is bold, taut and structured with real intensity. It shows crystalline citrus fruit, spice and apricot, as well as savoury notes of earth and iodine, spicy minerality and plenty of structure. A remarkable Champagne. 96/100

Champagne Pierre Péters Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV France
12% alcohol. This is from four Grand Cru sites in Côtes de Blancs (Le Mesnil, Avize, Cramant, Oger) with 20% of perpetual reserve. 2 g/l dosage. Very fine and delicate with some ripe citrus, apple and pear fruit, with delicate structure, some crystalline lemon notes, and wonderful finesse. It’s tapered and linear with a lovely spicy structure under the fruit. Beautiful finesse here, with a chalky acid line. 94/100

Ca’ del Bosco Dosage Zero 2016 Franciacorta, Italy
65% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir, 13% Pinot Blanc. Disgorged winter 2020. This is taut and complex with lovely structure to the bold pear and white peach fruit with some citrus detail. There’s a great precision and structure to this wine, but clean fruit is still to the fore. Delicacy and elegance here. It’s really impressive, and once again, shows elegance. 94/100

Cortefusia Franciacorta Rosé NV Italy
2015 base year, disgorged in March 2018. Powerful and spicy with some notes of orange peel, honey and intense citrus fruit, showing good structure. There’s a hint of smoke and some mineral intensity. Very fine. 94/100

Disznókő Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007 Hungary
12.5% alcohol. Such a wonderfully complex wine, at a beautiful point in time. Marmalade, apricot, spice and honey, with some crystalline citrus fruits and a viscous, sweet palate hemmed in by keen acidity, and also a little bit of tannic grip. This is powerful, balanced and layered, with lemon, orange peel, pineapple, honey, and a tapering, spicy finish with nice bitter hints. Such a wonderful wine, offering thrilling complexity, and still relatively affordable. 95/100

Villa Oeiras Carcavelos Superior NV Portugal
19% alcohol. This is a fortified wine from the Lisboa region made from Arinto, Galego Dourado and Ratinho, aged for 15 years in American oak casks. It’s a gold/bronze colour, with aromas of table grapes, mandarin, spice, honey and nuts, as well as a bit of acid lift. The palate is intensely rich and spicy with beguiling complexity, finishing with lime, orange peel and some complex spiciness, together with some burnt citrus peel and cedar. Such a beautiful wine, with amazing complexity. 96/100

Niepoort Vintage Port 2003 Douro, Portugal
19.5% alcohol. This is amazing, showing great concentration with sweet blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, as well as floral overtones and a salty liquorice edge. Brilliant concentration with real detail and intensity. Still has plenty of tannin but beginning to develop lovely harmony, elegance and aromatic complexity. 97/100

See also:

Part 1, red wines

Part 2, white, pink and orange wines