I thoroughly enjoy selecting the Top 5 wines to share with you each month. I try to be impartial, focusing on wines that are new to the store, perfectly in-season, or becoming increasing popular with guests. For the last installment of the year 2022, I thought I would showcase the wines that held my attention year-round. These five wines I could not put down and have devoured repeatedly over the last twelve months. Here are my Top 5 Wines of 2022, from yours truly, the Wine Lady.
1. Weingut Tement, "Kalk & Kreide," Sauvignon Blanc,
Sudsteiermark, Austria 2020- $34.99
Winemaker Armin Tement has very big shoes to fill at his family estate in Austria. His father, Manfred, was a founding member of the STK (wine growers association in Styria) solidifying much needed regulations in the Styrian wine industry in the 1980's. Prioritizing quality over quantity, Manfred dedicated their flagship wine, "Kalk & Kreide," to Sauvignon Blanc, rather than Welschriesling or Gruner Veltliner.
In 1991, Weingut Tement was recognized by the German magazine Der Feinschmecker for producing "the world's best Sauvignon Blanc." So what is a son to do? Elevate things to the next level.
Taking the reins in 2008, Armin spent the next decade studying the soil and converting their farming practices to organic. He hopes to certify biodynamic this year. In addition to expanding his farming techniques, his crew also grew in size- brother Stephan joined the team in 2010. Wife Monika and his mom run their well-established B&B! Manfred continues to guide his sons in all things wine and it shows. This wine is stunning in its uniqueness and consistency.
A blend of 50 different estate sites, the aptly named Kalke (limestone) and Kreide (clay) Sauvignon Blanc is downright chewy, chunky, and addictive in its minerality. I've experienced nothing like it before. The stone quality is almost palpable, which is precisely the goal of the Tement family- highlight terroir.
The fruit characteristics are not ignored, bursting with bright citrus that lingers for minutes due to 6 months of lees contact. To speak bluntly, this is the best Sauvignon Blanc I have ever tasted.
2. Vietti, "Derthona," Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi,
Piedmont, Italy 2020- $49.99
Who doesn't love a good comeback story? By the 1980's, the Timorasso grape was all but extinct in Northern Italy, and might not have been missed, but for the work of one man- Walter Massa. He has dedicated his life to the resurgence of this ancient varietal, and it is gaining traction amongst other Italian producers.
Revered producer Vietti decided to roll the dice with this obscure varietal, and I have to say, the outcome is incredible. Only in its third vintage, the Derthona, named after the ancient translation of "Tortonesi," the DOC from which it hails, literally encompasses everything I want in an Italian white wine. The bottle opens to an intoxicating floral nose. On the palate, the initial rush of fresh squeezed citrus fruit is balanced with high acidity and remarkable depth. This thick-skinned grape can age for years before it truly reveals itself. No longer on the edge of extinction, I see a bright future for this enigmatic varietal.
3. Bibi Graetz, "Testamatta," Tuscany, Italy 2019- $109.99
Sangiovese, the undeniable King of Tuscan varietals, displays notes of herbal tea, rose petal, and earth with just a kiss of subtle red fruit. It warms your senses, as if you were standing in a Tuscan vineyard, with the sun shining overhead. It can be approachable young, like a Chianti Classico perfectly paired with a slice of pizza; however, with a little patience and time in bottle, the Sangiovese grape reveals its intricate nature. I like to think of winemaker Bibi Graetz the same way- only time would tell his brilliance in a bottle.
In his early adult years, Bibi spent his days painting abstract art. His family owns the Castella di Vincigliata, a gorgeous piece of property outside of Florence adorned with vineyards and even its own medieval castle! Although the vines had faltered over the years, Bibi saw an opportunity to reinvent himself into a winemaker- one with no practical training. Lack of experience may have created a technical deficit; however, Bibi chose to rely on his senses, not science, to create magical representations of Sangiovese. 20 years later, he has cultivated a loyal following and a 100-point score for his Testamatta 2018 via Decanter Magazine.
I've enjoyed Bibi's wines, and his company, for over 15 years. Each time I open a Testamatta, I have a different experience. The wine is similar to Bibi's personality- alive and always moving. With a few years in bottle, Bibi's wines go from the high energy chaos of youth into more round edges of adulthood. The subtly, almost sincerity of his artistry is ever prevalent in the glass.
4. Cristom, "Mt Jefferson Cuvee," Eola Amity Hills-
Willamette Valley, Oregon 2021-$44.99
My obsession with this wine was born out of withdrawals! I have consistently enjoyed the "Mt. Jeff," as we like to call it in the wine community, for almost 20 years... until last year. Due to the wildfires of 2020, smoke taint made it impossible for the Cristom team to produce this iconic bottle. For the first time in their history, Cristom was forced to source fruit from outside of their vineyard. Often hailed as the best introductory Pinot Noir in Oregon, it was sorely missed by restauranters and retail owners alike. With its return in 2022, it quickly refilled our need for Burgundian-style, biodynamic Pinot Noir at a killer price point.
The nose on this wine is dirty...in the best way. Think cleats on a soccer field, or a freshly planted flower bed. The organic nature of their farming shows through beautifully, while the fruit lays dormant for the first few sips. After some time in glass, the tart raspberry and cherry cola flavors erupt to balance out the earth. It is supremely Old World Burgundy while showcasing the bright red fruit of Oregon Pinot Noir.
5. Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf-du-Pape,
Rhone Valley, France 2018- $69.99
Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which translates to "new house of the Pope," has been making waves since its inception in the 14th Century. The land was developed for vineyards only after the King of France and Pope Clement V decided to make the neighboring town of Avignon, not Rome, the religious center of the Catholic Church. Because wine is viewed as a necessity to both royalty and the church, no expense was spared breaking ground for new vines of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre to name a few. In 1936, Chateauneuf-du-Pape broke ground again being the first region in France defined by AOC classifications. These rules specified which varietals could be planted, at what yields, and minimal alcohol content requirements.
Trailblazing from the very beginning, this region has only gained momentum, especially oversees. 80% of the wine produced is exported from France, mostly to the UK and U.S. Its moniker, CDP, is widely used and synonymous with boldness, elegance, and wine fit for a King or Pope!
Domaine de la Janasse is a family affair. Founding father Aime Sabon works alongside son Christophe, daughter Isabelle, and wife Helene. Their property has grown from 15 hectares in 1967 to 90 hectares today, producing opulent, intense wines. Meaty to the bone, there is no mistaking this wine for any other. What keeps me coming back is the lift on the nose- an unusual purple, floral characteristic that is undeniably Janasse. Drink now or hold for decades, this classic bottling of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault is just getting started and will hold my attention for years to come.
Thank you for reading my last installment of 2022's Top 5 Wines.
Better late than never, you can enjoy my other choices in my blog.