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France: Maison Louis Jadot
Few producers anywhere match this négociant’s ability to turn out both reliably tasty, value-priced everyday wines and world-class cuvées—everything from simple Beaujolais to grand cru Burgundies that sell for hundreds of dollars. That’s partly thanks to Jadot’s enormous vineyard resources, and partly to the extraordinary skill and vision of Jacques Lardière (left), Jadot’s longtime technical director, who is retiring this year after more than four decades of making stellar Burgundies. Erudite, articulate and boundlessly enthusiastic, he’s a hard act to follow, but incoming winemaker Frédéric Barnier has already shown his talent with Jadot’s subtle 2010 whites.
2010 Louis Jadot Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Clos de la Croix de Pierre ($38) Crisp and light at first, then filled with honey and pear notes, this premier cru white gets its name from the large stone cross at the entrance to the vineyard.
California: Talley Vineyard
Anyone who has any questions about whether Chardonnays from California can develop over time should taste some older vintages of Talley Vineyards’ Rosemary’s Vineyard, or its Rincon Vineyard bottlings—even wines from the early 1990s are still showing well. Despite that, for a top Californian estate, Talley’s prices remain reasonable, both for its estate and single-vineyard wines (something that’s true of its layered Pinot Noirs as well).
2010 Talley Vineyards Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay ($42) There’s a sneaky intensity to this masterful Chardonnay, which comes from a hillside vineyard in the Arroyo Grande Valley area.
Austria: Schloss Gobelsburg
Here’s a good recipe for great wine: Take a 12th-century monastery with vineyards in some of Austria’s finest terroir and hand the winemaking over to a young collector obsessed with the idea of making his own wine. That’s what happened at Schloss Gobelsburg, where Michael Moosbrugger has been producing some of the Kamptal region’s top bottles for 16 years now.
2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Steinsetz Reserve Grüner Veltliner ($25) Made with grapes from a vineyard south of the monastery, this substantial Grüner Veltliner is loaded with juicy melon flavors.
Tthis year, one of the most iconic wineries in Australia, d’Arenberg, celebrated its 100th anniversary. Founded by Joseph Osborn (a teetotaler), it’s now run by his great-grandson Chester (left), who has helped d’Arenberg remain one of the most inventive and vital producers in Australia. Osborn makes more than 50 wines, many with outlandish names like The Broken Fishplate or The Wild Pixie. D’Arenberg’s quality is consistent at all price levels.
2010 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab ($16) Rhône-style wines from Australia are sometimes overripe, but this one is refreshing and bright, particularly the 2010 vintage.
Argentina: Bodega Colomé
Swiss-born entrepreneur Donald Hess owns wineries in many places, the most remote in Argentina’s high-altitude Salta region. Colomé’s biodynamically farmed vineyards lie at elevations of about 10,000 feet, resulting in wines with terrific freshness and purity. The clear mountain air also inspired Hess, a noted art collector, to make Colomé the site of a museum dedicated to the work of the renowned artist James Turrell.
2009 Colomé Estate Malbec ($27) Less massive and powerful than Malbecs grown in Mendoza, Colomé’s flagship shows succulent red-fruit flavors and soft tannins.
Spain: La Rioja Alta
This century-old bodega, one of Rioja’s most storied wineries, makes superlative red wines based on the Spanish Tempranillo grape from its base in the small town of Haro. Rioja Alta was absent from the US market for several years—a shame. The good news: It once again has an importer, Michael Skurnick Wines.
2001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial ($34) A spicy blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, this red has incredible freshness at 11 years of age—a tribute to the skills of technical director Julio Sáenz.
France: Château de Fieuzal
When Irish Financier Lochlann Quinn purchased de Fieuzal in 2001, this Bordeaux château had been an under-performer for several years. Now, after substantial investment in the winery and vineyards, and the arrival of the extremely talented estate manager-cum-winemaker Stéphen Carrier (left), a veteran of both Château Lynch-Bages and Napa Valley’s Newton Vineyard, the 161-year-old Pessac-Léognan estate is making some of its best wines ever.
2009 Château de Fieuzal Pessac-Léognan Blanc ($70) Aging in new French oak barrels gives this citrusy white a creamy texture.
South Africa: Fairview
It’s hard to pin down Fairview’s multitalented Charles Back. When he’s not experimenting with grape varieties never before grown in South Africa at his Spice Route project or starting foundations to help underprivileged winery workers own land at his Fairview estate, he’s engaged in quirky projects like building a tower-like home for the goats on his estate. This later became the inspiration for his affordable Goats Do Roam wines.
2010 Fairview Chenin Blanc ($12) Back makes several Chenin Blancs; this one is a particular steal.
Italy: Giacomo Conterno
In 2004, Roberto Conterno (left) took charge of this famed Piedmontese winery, continuing in his father and grandfather’s traditional vein—aging Barolo in massive Slavonian oak casks rather than smaller French barriques, for instance. With the ’08 vintage, Conterno will release wines from the first new vineyards the winery has purchased since its founding in 1908, located in the Ceretta cru.
2007 Conterno Cascina Francia Barolo ($130) A harmonious, almost sweet-seeming Barolo, with power that becomes apparent when its intense Nebbiolo tannins kick in.
Top Wine Guide Values
2010 Jumilla Panarroz ($9)
A Spanish red that over-delivers on intensity, given its modest price.
2010 Sella & Mosca La Cala Vermentino ($13)
This bright, citrusy Vermentino from Sardinia is a perfect seafood wine.
2010 Vidal Fleury Côtes du Rhône Blanc ($13)
Its floral-melon character comes from 75 percent Viognier in the blend.
2010 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay ($13)
Cool breezes in California’s Livermore Valley keep this pear-driven white crisp.
2011 Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato ($15)
Effervescent and lightly sweet, this Australian Moscato is an ideal aperitif.
Wine by the Numbers
Yearly wine consumption in the US: 2.49 gallons per person
Wine consumption in Vatican City: 14.47 gallons per person
Rank of Vatican City in per capita consumption, worldwide: 1
Rank of US: 53
Average price of a bottle of wine (US, retail, 2010): $6.18
Price of a bottle of 1830s Veuve Clicquot recovered from shipwreck near Finland (auction, 2012): $19,650
Price of the most expensive bottle of wine ever in a non-charity auction (2011), a double-magnum 1947 Château Cheval: $304,375
Equivalent number of average-price bottles of wine: 49,252
Size of largest wine bottle ever (created in 2011): 12’2” tall, 3’3” diameter
Volume of largest wine bottle ever: 533.57 gallons
What it contained: a Swiss blend of Pinot Noir and Dornfelder
Age of vines in first vineyard in France to receive Historical Monument status: 200 years
Age of owner of those vines: 85