Wines of the Year
By Nico McGough
Wine importers often look back as the wine year is coming to an end. I certainly do that, and for 2019 there are two, maybe three, ‘wine discoveries’ that have made this year special.
We have to go back to last January, the moment our purchasing starts up again after the very busy Christmas season. During more than three months, we taste all the new vintages of wines that are in our collection, about 600 to be precise. But there is also a great ‘urge’ to add new titles, to find new wines that will knock our customers off their socks. Of the 1,000 to 1,500 new wines we taste, only a tiny proportion will successfully make it into the collection. After coming in number one in five buyer’s guides in a row, here in Holland, we have a reputation to uphold. Extreme precision in purchasing is the basis of our nationwide success.
One sunny January day, I made acquaintance with two new wine producers, and re-connected with one Domaine that I have been following now for about 30-odd years. It is evident that Wine God Bacchus was on my side that crisp winter day all the way ‘down south’ in France.
On that specific day, I assessed approximately 400 different wines, and two of them didn’t just ‘stand out’ – they jumped at me from the glass. The first one came from a wine region called Almansa, located in eastern Spain at the latitude of the island of Ibiza. The winery is called Bodega Santa Cruz de Alpera, and here they produce around 15 million liters of wine a year. Not a place where one would expect to find such an outstanding product. Only a small portion of their total production is organic, and it is sold under the name Cueva del Chamán, starting from only €9.95. Deep, intensely fruity reds and beautiful whites, clean as bottled mountain air.
The second ‘trouvaille’ is a family domaine in the southern Rhône area, just under the nougat city of Montélimar. Here, the Rhône splits into a canal side (east) and a river side (west). In the small town of Bourg-Saint-Andéol, on the eastern side, you will find Château Rochecolombe. The wines are truly amazing, starting with the regular Côtes du Rhône ( €12.95), for which we had just received a 9 in one of Holland’s best newspapers. The wine is staggeringly good, with 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah grapes. Not knowing what you have in your glass, you might think it is a whopping €70 Côte Rôtie, but not so. This wine offers a fabulous price-quality ratio at only 1/6th of the price of the big and expensive Côte-Rôtie. Besides the regular wine (organic, unfiltered), they also have Cotes du Rhône-Villages (€14.95) and Côtes du Rhône St Andéol, barrel aged, at €16.95.
Still humming with joy about my two super finds, I bumped into one of the wines I have adored since the start of my career; Château du Cèdre. This classic castle is based in Cahors, close to the river Lot. The wines are dense and made from 100% Malbec. I know of no other producer in this area (or for that matter worldwide) who can beat this producer. Especially now the wines are all organic and they also have a non-sulfite wine. We immediately jumped at this opportunity, as they were looking for an importer in the Netherlands. This was a clear case of being in the right place at the right time. The collection consists of ten wines; reds and whites ranging from €9.95 to €125 per bottle. The sensational sulfite-free Cahors is remarkably cheap at €22.95 and, for lovers of ‘vins naturels’, a must.