Another five of the best wines of 2008.
A lot of great wines are made every year. To add to those I listed in my previous column, here is a selection of five other memorable wines that I tasted in 2008.
Gaja, Sarbaresco 1989, Piedmonte, Itaty
Angelo Gaja hardly needs an introduction. Two decades ago, he set the benchmark for quality Nebbiolo-based Barbaresco wines. Consumers felt it was worth paying high prices for his wines. Unlike those of his neighbours, Gaja wines were (and still are) made from estate fruit, aged in French barriques ant were single vineyard bottlings.
Some laud Gaja as a revolutionary; others think he is a rebel. Caja even went so far as to blend other varieties such as Barbera in his Barbaresco to add "freshness", thereby flouting wine laws. In less than-ideal years, Gaja will declassify flagship wines or refuse to offer wines for sale.
I enjoyed this 1989 with a meaty pasta. It kept on evolving in the glass. It began with some fruit, then after awhile, it developed mocha, leather and chestnut flavours.
Later, it showed hints of dark soy, chocolate and mint. Yet after an hour, there was spice and raspberry fruit overtones.
I regret finishing the wine after two hours as the last draughts hinted at Chinese herbs with more to come,
The 1989 will continue to mature for the better part of the next decade.
Sadie Family, Columella 2004,Swartland, South Africa
Eben Sadie is a young but gifted South African winemaker who has worked in Germany, Austria, Italy, the US and France. He believes wine is made in the vineyard and environs and not in the winery with machinery. After making wine for other people, he started on his own on a shoestring in 2000.
This wine, a Syrah with 20% Mourv6dre, is the best I have ever tasted from South Africa.
It is intense with mint, chocolate, spice, herbs, black and red fruits, and is smoky and floral.
For me, young wines that are so perfumed and complex are ideal candidates for longterm ageing, yet can be enjoyed currently. This wine is complex, luxurious, silky and complete.
De Bortoli 2006, Yarra Reserve Syrah
Tasting like a racy Rhone wine, it brimmed with raspberry with cassis and pepper over tones, plus some nutmeg and small red fruits with nice sticky tannins.
This wine shows a shift from the typical Aussie Shiraz towards European-styled wine
with broad flavours. It is even called Syrah instead of Shiraz - and made its debut in a
time when the rest of Australia was producing early drinking, ripe, full on, intense Shiraz.
De Bortoli is one of Australia's largest privately owned wineries that made its name with the sweet white wine called Noble One Botrytis Semillon. It has several wineries but the one in Yarra Valley is famous for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.
Louis Michel & Flts Chablis Premier Cru 'Montmain' 2007
Chablis is a sub-region of Burgundy, France. It lies north of most of Burgundy's sub-
regions and has soils that are made of marl, limestone and oyster fossils. The climate is
cold and the resulting wines have a purity of flavour.
Although in ancient history, Chablis was produced in small wood containers, modern
Chablis has always been associated with stainless steel tank fermentation - as a result,
the Chardonnay-based wines are crisp, with steely acidity and mineral-like- reflecting the
terroir of the region.
Lately, many producers have succumbed to picking grapes when riper, and fermenting
and ageing wine in bai-riques. The result is a wine style more akin to New World Chardonnay.
Thankfully, there are producers who remain faithful to the "original" Chablis. Louis Michel
& Fils is one of them and this wine is an excellent example of Chablis. I discovered it at a
trade tasting- hopefully, a wine importer will bring it in.
Moët & Chandon 1959
Who says Champagne doesn't age well? This wine, tasted in Hong Kong, attests to the
drinkability of mature Champagne - if it is well nurtured in a cellar with ideal conditions.
The concept of vintage Champagne made of exceptional grapes from the same year was
introduced in 1840, and the first vintage Champagne was produced two years later.
While MoOt et Chandon's non-vintage wines are ever popular, the Champagne
house's vintage Champagnes, known as Grand Vintages, are no pushover. They are distin-
guished by exceptional summer conditions for grape-growing, referred to as "solaires".
The 1959 was incredibly coml~lex with flint, honey, spices and caramelised chives. The fizz was light but it was mouth-filling with overtones of oysters, kerosene, malt, cigar, game, truffles, iodine, earth and some peach. It was impossible to forget once tasted. 1959 may be difficult to obtain but I would not hesitate to put away a few bottles of the vintage 2003 that are available in the marketplace.
Ed Soon is a qualified oenologist and has run wine shops and worked as a winemaker in various countries. He now writes and teaches about wine around Asia.