Sommeliers reveal their top wines of the year

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Drinks: Drinks, Wines

As 2018 comes to an end, we asked top somms to share the wines that made their year and what food they liked to pair with them


Hans Wejnefalk Larsson, head sommelier at Hide Above, London

Marques de Murrieta, Blanco Reserva 1950, Rioja, Spain

This wine was viscous and intense, with plenty of dried fruits, spice and bitter orange marmalade. It pairs perfectly with our red mullet with smoked saffron and bread sauce. The spices featured in the dish marry very well with the wine’s herbaceousness, while the saffron combines beautifully with the dried fruit element of this Rioja.

Château Léoville-Las Cases, Grand Vin de Leoville 1961, St-Julien, Bordeaux, France

For someone like me who loves Bordeaux, this was a close to a spiritual moment. The wine was in perfect condition. It’s not the kind of wine to surprise you, but rather it impresses with balance and perfect structure. I’ve paired it with our roasted pigeon, which is served with a pickled quince tart and pigeon liver parfait on top of black pudding purée and finished off with a tobacco and red wine sauce. The pigeon’s savouriness, together with the black pudding puree and the delicate fruit of the wine creates a beautiful harmonious experience.

 

Daniel Davies, head sommelier at Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Cotswolds

Remhoogte Vantage Pinotage 1997, Stellenbosch, South Africa

I was lucky enough to taste this at Remhoogte at the beginning of this year. At first I was skeptical at a Pinotage with so much age, but it was incredible, still with fresh acidity and rounded fruits. I thought it was a great example of not to judge a book by its cover. I’ve paired it with pigeon breast, with kohlrabi, date and ssanjang sauce.

Pietro Beconcini, Ixe Tempranillo IGT Toscana 2015, Tuscany, Italy

When we think of Tuscany, Tempranillo doesn’t spring to mind, but it has been planted at the Beconcini estate since the Spanish were on the St Francis pilgrimage. Winemaker Leonardo Beconcini uses very low-intervention practices, allowing the vineyard to speak for itself. The 2015 has a burst of intense dark and dried fruits, but the palate is quite different, with a high acidity that makes it perfect with food, like homemade pasta with wild boar and ragu.

 

Fernando Carocha Teixeira, head sommelier at Social Wine & Tapas, London

Franck Massard, Licis 2014, Ribeira Sacra, Spain

This red from Ribeira Sacra is made by a former sommelier and friend Franck Massard. It shows beautiful black cherries, rounded tannins and a very complex structure, with lots of overlapping layers. I suggest you pair this with a braised pork belly, with a chorizo and red pepper purée.

Barão de Vilar, Pollen Street Social Vintage Port 2011, Portugal

I am Portuguese, so couldn’t miss the chance to suggest some port. We recently developed a new project with a port wine producer Barao de Vilar, which is making our own label Pollen Street Social Vintage 2011. It’s packed with aromas of plums and liquorice, and shows a smoked finish. I pair it with a tangerine and honey tart with almond milk sorbet.

 

Melania Battiston, head sommelier at 28°-50° Wine Workshop and Kitchen, London

Kumeu River, Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Auckland, New Zealand

One the most elegant and memorable Chardonnays I’ve tried from New Zealand. I pair it with a cep velouté with herb chantilly and breadcrumbs. The acidity of the wine highlights the herbal component of the chantilly and the creaminess of the velouté. The earthy flavour of the mushrooms and the crunchiness of the breadcrumbs balance the complexity of the smoky and nutty oak nuances in the wine.

 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Nebbiolo Il Favot Langhe 2013, Piedmont, Italy

This is one of my favourite producers in Piedmont. Excellent value for money, Langhe Nebbiolo pairs with a classic Piedmontese main course: cubes of veal fillet fassona with Parmesan cream and Alba white truffles shavings … 2018 is a memorable vintage for truffles!

 

Michael Driscoll, head sommelier at Cambium Restaurant Careys Manor Hotel, Brockenhurst

Gaia Wines, Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2017, Santorini, Greece

I was introduced to this wine by a friend at a tasting, I couldn’t believe how complex and alluring it was! It has the purity and salty-fruitiness of an Albariño and the smoky funkiness and elegance of a Puligny-Montrachet. This is my absolute favourite for this year and if you decant, it will open up and show more honeyed characteristics. I pair it with the chicken and chorizo bon bon with octopus and romanesco mayonnaise from the menu at the Cambium.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château de Beaucastel 1998, Rhone Valley, France

This came across on a supplier’s ‘bin-end list’ earlier this year, so I promptly relieved them of a few bottles. The 1998 has more Grenache in it than usual for Beaucastel, lending a dusty, gamey nose. The fruitiness is quite mature, with most of the freshness gone, but the liquorice and all the herbaceous notes are still there. I pair this with roast partridge. Our guests love how the gamey, aged character of the wine compliments the partridge.

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