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Wine90’s Wine of the Year
If you’re a member of any of the major wine message boards you’ve seen the habitual “wine of the year” threads that populate them at this time of year. Partly inspired by the need to bash Wine Spectator’s Annual Top 100 but also because these topics seem to embrace a human need; the need to categorise, file and rank experience. This phenomena is clearly visible in the countless retelling of the year shows that dominate the TV listings around this time (Sports Personality of the Year, Comedy Awards, Music, etc). The desire to recount the year is no less prevalent amongst us wine drinkers.
This “Wine of the Year” choice is a very personal matter. For some, their wine of the year will be connected to a special memory, an anniversary, a birth, a date with a new love or the wine they celebrated their first birdie (or in my case even making par) with. My choice for wine of the year is similarly sentimental but unconnected to events in my personal life.
For me a great wine, a truly great wine, is more than just a flavour, colour or an aroma, more even than a composite of all three. The wine has to feel well made and that is altogether a more difficult thing to assess. Sure the fruit has to be of the highest quality for a memorable finish but as with all great wines the key is balance and to achieve the perfect balance the skills of the winemaker coupled with the perfect year and the quality of the fruit must come together in perfect harmony.
When this happens, you have a truly great wine and for me there was only one contender in my tasting year – Romano Del Forno’s Amarone della Valpolicella 1996.
Not even inside the traditional Classico area, Dal Forno is still unquestionably the King of Amarone. No other Amarone producer manages to pull off such mouthwatering ripeness of fruit. The new oak employed, the ripe fruit and the skill in creating balance by the winemakers allows Dal Forno to stand alone at the top of Amarone production and, as you can imagine, such attention to detail does not come cheap for the consumer. Dal Forno’s Amarone della Valpolicella estate is minuscule, at 8 hectares there are only around 1000 cases produced annually meaning even the most recent vintage will set you back £200 a bottle.
1996 isn’t really considered one of the top years for Amarone yet this wine, just about coming into it’s drinking window, shows fantastically well. The colour just starting to tinge lighter at the rim and the complex bouquet beginning to show telltale signs of maturity the Amarone hasn’t even reached your lips and you’re on tenterhooks, grinning and looking around for a friend to say “hey, hey, just put your nose in this”.
As an aside, I also did this last week when (wine that shall remain nameless) had a nose exactly, and I mean bang on the money exactly, like Cif (Jif for everyone over 30).
Although the wine doesn’t actually have a 350 day finish, I sampled this wine in January of 2009 and despite countless competitors it is a wine I can recount with pinpoint clarity, an experience I will always remember and my 2009 wine of the year. If anyone wishes to test that theory I am available for more Dal Forno tastings any time any place.
Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Vapolicella 1996 – BUY – £350
A thick lush dark purple and only just fading lighter on the rim. This nose is killer. Rushing notes of blueberry, blackcurrant, vanilla and a creamy coffee. If you’ve experienced the Italian confectionary “pocket coffee” there are a few packets of these mixed into the blend it would seem. The palate is the real joy, full bodied, huge structure, fruit forward, perfect balance, tannins caressing and the real showmanship in this wine? 17.5% alcohol resting perfectly within the structure and never overtaking or leaving a hot finish. 98 Points
I don’t know if you’ll be more shocked at the £350 pricing, the 17.5% alcohol or the 98 Points, fact is, this wine is what it’s all about, that it happens to be Italian? What can I say?
Where can I buy this Wine?
Europeans – Arvi – €396
Americans – Vinfolio – $599
Brits – Arvi – £350
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G’wan then, what is your wine of the year?
G’wan then, what is your wine of the year?