For reasons I won’t reveal until I post the notes of the wines in 3 or 4 days, this month is something of a celebration tasting. For that reason I’ve decided to cast my mind back over my wine-tasting history and select some of my favourite wines.

I’ve been involved in formal wine-tasting since 1992, and leading them myself since 1999.  Over that time, I think formal wine tastings and blind-tasting parties (“Sock Parties“) probably have put me in contact with over 6,000 wines. If you include also wines at other tastings (including suppliers’ tastings), in growers’ cellars, at restaurants and at home… the total is getting towards 10,000…

So many wines! How does one possibly choose one’s favourites? Of course – it’s impossible, so there has to be some way of narrowing the field. First of all it can’t be a matter of singling out the stunning vinous moments of particular wines in particular situations. That list is too long – and anyway the wine moments unrepeatable [the 1982 Chateau Montrose; the Musigny Blanc; the Jurancon sweet wine called (I think) Quat’centaire…]

So the first narrowing has to be to looking past individual bottles to types of wine… and then find examples of my favourite version of that type.

That’s still a big task, a long list of 20 or so is quite easy – but then???

First of all I’ve decided to omit Sparklers (Mailly Grand Cru Rosé since you ask), Rosé in general (pink Sancerre, or Rioja Rosada), Fortified wine (quite a long list including Manzanilla, Tawny and Baul…). I’ve also – even more reluctantly – decided to omit full dessert wines (Eiswein, Jurancon and sweet Chenin…) not least because we sampled some only last November.

That leaves “table” wines, and still there is quite a long list: Riesling (both traditional German off-dry and dry from Alsace and elsewhere); other Alsace grapes; Chenin (both demi-sec and sec); Gruner Veltliner (!); some dry South Italian styles (Greco, Fiano, Falanghina); some Rhone whites; and White Burgundy and that’s just on the White side.

We tried a transcendentally good traditional off-dry German Auslese in November– I don’t think I can better that so we’ll “settle” on a dry Riesling.

Of the other whites, the two grapes I drink most are Chenin and Chardonnay, so I think they are the wines I’d try to show. As it’s so useful for hors d’oeuvres, I prefer to start with an off-dry Loire Chenin. The Chardonnay will just have to be White Burgundy!

Over on the red side it’s no simpler. Favourites are Pinot Noir; Claret (particularly right bank); Chateauneuf; Barbaresco; Chianti; Amarone; some Portuguese styles and – of course – Cabernet Franc.

We tried Nebbiolo only in February, so we can leave that out. My leading candidate for the Portuguese (Ventente), was sampled in December and some of us attended a Chateauneuf tasting as recently as April so let’s omit those wines too. I think Pinot Noir has to be in, and so too Chianti.

So the final choice comes down to: Cabernet Franc or Right Bank claret – both lovely and too similar to include both…I had second, third and fourth thoughts about which to include and only decided when trying to identify the actual example to show.

So the list of styles comes down to:

Demi-sec Chenin         Alsace Riesling          White Burgundy

Red Burgundy          RB Claret / Cab. Franc                  Chianti

So… now to the problem of choosing the particular wines. The Chenin has to be Vouvray or Montlouis, and although the best example might be a 10 year old Huet, I can’t get that – so we’ll have to make do (!) with a 10 year old Montlouis from Berger Freres.

The greatest Alsace Riesling I ever tasted was the “flavour symphony” that was the 1990 Lorentz Altenberg GC, and although that’s all gone I do have the 2007…

White Burgundy is composed of many styles I like, the experience of Chablis (then 10 year old 1990 Fourchaume) with a warm Chaource salad in Chablis is still with me… lovely wines from Chassagne and Pernand-Vergellesses and “lesser” wines from Santenay, Givry, Rully, St Veran and even Hautes Côtes still ring a bell… but in the end I went with the quite restrained style I prefer – Chablis.

Over on the red side of Burgundy the choice is as wide – though not as vaunted (for cost reasons), the best 1er cru wines I’ve had (Chambolles, from Vogüé, Barthod and Roumier; Volnay from Devevey, Buffet and others) approach (or in the case of Vogüé – far exceed) the 3 figure barrier. So we are more in lieu-dit territory from Beaune or a leaner style from Maranges, which I eventually plumped for.

The choice of Cab Franc or RB claret was resolved for me by similar considerations (Troplong-Mondot 2005 would be £150+) – but last year some of us tasted 13 Cabernet Franc blind and I happen to have two bottles of the winning wine (scoring 17.37/20): Château de La Grille 2001.

The driveway to Felsini

The driveway to Felsini

The Chianti is rather easier – my favourite Chianti is from a grower called Felsina, located in the South of the Classico, East of Sienna. My favourite (which some of the group shared at an organised WING meal at Broadway in 2007{?}) is the 2001 Rancia Riserva and I happen to have 2 bottles left – so I’ll conclude my “favourites” tasting with them!

Tasting Notes will be with you in 3 or 4 days…

Until then…