White wine of the Year
The year was only six weeks old when we opened and drank what may have been the single best bottle of wine that we drank all year.
It was a 375 mL bottle of 1999 Chateau d’Yquem, the ne plus ultra of Sauternes, which packed more punch, and produced more flavor descriptors than the Jelly Belly test lab.
Initially, the most identifiable flavor note was one of gorgeous, golden saffron, but this quickly transitioned into hints of marzipan, Tasmanian honey, Italian torrone bars, nougat, marshmallow, Indian spices, and by the time we were finishing up the wine, it was redolent of bright, youthful cherries!
This is not a tasting note I have ever seen ascribed to an ‘Yquem, but every one of those present at our dining table, including one of America’s top sommeliers, agreed with these descriptors.
Red wine of the Year
The awe-inspiring, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Le Secret des Sabon, is starting to copy the San Francisco Giants – a magnificent achievement, reclaiming the crown for the second time in three years.
In 2012, the 2001 Le Secret des Sabon was my Best Wine of the Year.
And now, just a few years later, a different vintage of Le Secret des Sabon repeats the achievement. Only this time, it’s the sensational 2004 Le Secret des Sabon that is my Best Red Wine of the Year.
I bought this bottle at the winery in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in July, 2006.
Jean-Jacques Sabon, owner of the winery, sold me this bottle from his own, private locker. The wine was made under the direction of a close friend, wine consultant Alain Benquet, who has been a hidden resource at this winery for many years. (Maybe I should start to refer to Alain as the actual Secret of Sabon!?)
For the record: The 1999 Yquem mentioned above was opened during the first six weeks of this year and the 2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape was opened during the last six weeks of the year. In between, we’ve opened, tasted, and drank more than a bottle a night every night... and not one of these other bottles merited a mention in his column. That’s either a comment on how good these two Wines of the Year are... or how mediocre so many other, high-priced wines really were.
After an hour left breathing, the Secret des Sabon relaxed, exhibiting loads of ripe red fruit; within two hours, the wine started to resemble a decadent Richebourg; while not syrupy, the wine had a texture that I wished I could spoon into my mouth.
Bravo Maison Roger Sabon and Alain Benquet! (For clarity, the producer of this sensational wine is the firm Roger Sabon; Jean-Jacques Sabon was the son of winery founder Roger Sabon.)
For score keepers, both wines rated a perfect, 100 points.
Happy holidays ahead to all readers. May you have found some equally thrilling wines this past year to crow about. And may you find several next year that are as noteworthy.