“O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim…
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen…”
— sighed Keats.
The sentiment will find echoes in many wine lovers’ hearts; the only note of dissent may be in deciding what the contents of that beaker should be!
Wine is an integral part of gourmet dining, complementing the food and adding a sparkle to the meal. There are many people, who swear by the health benefits of drinking wine while most people simply drink it because they love the taste. Now wine-preferences being pretty much subjective, there can be almost endless discussions on the merits of the various bubblies.
So, what are some of the best wines in the world? It is difficult to compile a list, which can be satisfactory or comprehensive enough to answer that or find favour with every wine lover. However, below are some of the all-time favourites most wine experts agree on:
1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild – (Red wine, Bordeaux, France)
Renowned British expert Michael Broadbent in his book “Vintage Wine” writes, “The first thing to notice is its extraordinary colour. Its bouquet is equally distinctive; in fact one of the most astonishing smells ever to emerge from grapes grown out of doors. The power and spiciness surges out of the glass like a sudden eruption of Mount Etna: cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger. There is simply no other wine like it. Seemingly tireless – indeed another half-century anticipated”.
The wine is also famous for its labels which are specially designed by famous artists of the day (who were paid in wine) The 1945 Mouton-Rothschild label was designed by Philippe Julian to commemorate the Allied victory and the hallmark V represents Churchill’s ‘V for Victory’.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild was the first estate which started complete chateau bottling of the produce.
1961 Château Latour Grand Vin – (Red Wine, Bordeaux, France)
“The 1961 Latour set a high bar immediately. Its nose had great, deep cassis and black fruits, along with smoke, walnut and layers of complexity. The aromas were so intense… The palate was big and still tight, incredibly youthful and long… This was one of those incredible bottles, which is why one notable critic has hailed it as the greatest wine ever made,” John Kapon, Vintage Tastings.
The Grand Vin is distilled from 47 hectares of old vines, which surround the main Chateau. The Chateau Latour is highly regarded in the Medoc for its superb taste and consistency.
The Grand Vin is made up of the grape varieties, 75 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 per cent Merlot, four per cent Cabernet Franc and one per cent Petit Verdot.
1978 La Tâche – Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – (Red wine, Burgundy, France)
DRC, as it is called at times, is a product of the famous Romanée-Conti vineyard. The 4.4 acre Grand Cru monopole with vines over 50 years old is in Burgundy, France. Only around 450 cases are produced annually and are made from the Pinot Noir grape. The 1978 La Tache in the words of Huon Hooke is “all about fragrance, finesse and balance” and is “as close to the perfect wine as it gets”. About this wine, Robert Parker said, “It is among the greatest red Burgundies I have ever tasted – will continue to improve for several decades”.
To make one bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti it takes the produce of three vines.
1921 Château d’Yquem – (White-Dessert, Bordeaux, France)
Eulogised by Michael Broadbent as “the most staggeringly rich Yquem of all time” and David Peppercorn MW as “one of the miracles of the last century”, this wine has got the rank of Premier
Cru Supérieur. The vines are checked at least half a dozen times and only the best grapes are chosen. The Chateau d’Yquem wines are known for their complex taste, longevity and concentration.
This wine owes its unique taste to the ‘noble rot’ (fungus Botrytis) with which the grapes are infected.
1962 Penfolds Bin 60A – (Red wine, South Australia)
Penfolds Grange, one of the best Australian wines, was first made ‘experimentally’ by Max Schubert after coming back from his year-long sojourn in Europe, spent learning all about wine making. The 1962 Penfolds is a blend of one-third Coonawarra Cabernet and two-thirds Barossa Shiraz. “It is Australia’s greatest red wine and is glorious, wonderful wine with potent cedar, blackcurrant, espresso aromas… a finely woven tapestry of innumerable flavours.” – James Halliday.In 2004, a 750 ml bottle of 1951 Grange was bought for around $50,000.
1947 Château Cheval-Blanc – (Red wine, Bordeaux, France)
“One of the greatest wines of all time” seems a high praise, but it seems fully deserved by this jewel among Bordeaux wines.
“Incredibly pronounced chocolaty, leathery nose, resembling port wine. Rich and ripe with great extract… the celebrated aftertaste… A perfect out-of-this-world experience”.
This overripe, concentrated and rich wine was the result of a very hot summer and ‘tropical’ harvesting.
The movie ‘Sideways’ featured the 1961 Cheval Blanc as Miles’s treasured bottle of wine.
1959 Chateau Lafite – (Red wine, Bordeaux, France)
This favourite of many wine aficionados is a superb wine coming from the Chateau Lafite Rothschild in north-west Bordeaux, France. “The super-aromatic bouquet of flowers, black truffles, cedar, lead pencil and red fruits is followed by one of the most powerful and concentrated Lafites I have tasted. Medium to full-bodied, velvety-textured, rich, and pure, it is a testament to what this great estate can achieve when it hits the mark. This youthful wine will last for another 30 or more years”-Robert Parker
The Chateau Lafite 1787, one of the world’s most expensive wines and a collector’s item has President Jefferson’s initials on it. This wine is, however, no longer drinkable on account of its age.
Chateau Haut-Brion 1959 – (Red wine, Bordeaux, France)
“There is no wine that can deliver the complexity, depth and balance from its aromatics to the flavours on the palate better than a great Haut-Brion and the 1959 has everything going for it” – said Nikos Antonakeas. Haut Brion is one of the original four first growths and is considered one of the best wines of the world. It has evolved from the rich, earthy taste of the 50s and 60s to the complex style enjoyed presently.
The grapes are harvested by hand and the same team of workers handles each parcel, to increase the teams’ familiarity with the individual vines.
Chateau Margaux 1990 – (Red wine, Bordeaux, France)
Chateau Margaux was one of the four wines awarded the rank of Premier cru or first growth in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification and is still considered among the finest wines of Bordeaux.
Norm Roby comments on it as, “sublimely feminine, velvety, fragrant and seductive tone”. Apart from a few minor changes the label has remained the same, reflecting the elegance of the wine itself.
Chateau Margaux 1787, valued at $500,000 by its owner and broken accidentally by a waiter, was the world’s most expensive wine never to be sold.
Screaming Eagle – (Red wine, Napa Valley, California, USA)
This estate is located in Oakville, California and produces around 500 cases annually so the demand is very high, so are the prices. The prices of this wine range anywhere between US$ 1300 to over US$ 2500 for a bottle at an auction. It is considered to be one of the finest cult wines. “97 Screaming Eagle starts off with a complex perfume featuring black currants, oak, caramel, chocolate and toasty oak along with tobacco and licorice scents. Elegant and sophisticated on the palate, this full bodied wine offers a long finish filled with red and black fruits”, said Wine Cellar Insider Jeff Leve.
A lot of six magnums of Screaming Eagle were sold for US$ 500,000 at a charity auction event making it one of the most expensive bottles sold ever.
The wines above are on many oenophiles’ wish list of must haves or at least must taste. In case you are wondering what all the fuss is about, look at it from a wine-lover’s perspective. For the connoisseur, wine is not just a drink, it is a complete experience. Fernande Garvin has the last word when he says, “Wine makes a symphony of a good meal”.
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