Wine Merchant Top 100 2018
The 2018 Wine Merchant Top 100 (a competition devoted to wines only available in the independent trade, judged entirely by specialist independent wine retailers and overseen by David Williams, The Observer’s Wine Critic) results have been revealed and we’re pleased to announce that we have 9 wines in the Top 100, including 2 Trophy Winners.
Best Sparkling Wine Trophy
There's a lot of winemaking experience at Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot. This boutique organic grower, which is based in the premier cru village Vrigny in the North East of the Montagne de Reims, began making wine in 1789, and Champagne in 1930.
But with wines of the quality of this all-Chardonnay winner of The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Sparkling Wine Trophy 2018 - one of the two entrants from the house in this year's final selection - this fine producer is making better wines than ever.
"There is a lovely biscuit nose, with ripe fruit (peach and stone fruit)," the judges said. "Good acidity, vibrant mousse, and also some lovely mushroom character.
"This is really complex for a non-vintage Champagne, there's lots going on, with the balance of fruit and ageing all there. It's also very good value. Impressive, and very much worth adding to any good independent's Champagne selection."
Best Fortified Trophy
Much loved by the judges, The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Fortified Trophy-winner rendered one of the more voluble members of the panel "speechless for the first time in 15 years".
Once he'd got his voice back, the judge was able to describe quite what it was that impressed him - and his fellow judges - so much.
"It is seriously magnificent," he said. "Toffee apple leads to caramel and nuts and all combine to create a party in the mouth. What's more, the amazing after-taste is the gift that keeps on giving."
It's the work of Colheita (wood-aged Port from a single vintage) specialist Barros, which has been in the business for mire than a century, but has been part of the premium Sogevinus group since 2006. The house philosophy is to leave the Port in barrel and bottle to order, leading to consistently mellow, complex, mature wines. From the 2005 vintage, this Colheita is a four-way blend of Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesa.
Top 100 Winners
"Lovely nose of red berries, smoke, peach, oozing fruit character," they said. "This is a nice, textured wine - would be lovely with food - with a lovely mouthfeel and good length."
"Lovely salmon colour, and a refreshingly English style, with classic notes of rhubarb, a touch of strawberry and stored apple," said the judges. "You're paying a premium for rosé, but this really delivers in immediate, classic drinking style."
Described by the Top 100 judges as "posh Greek for neophytes", it has an "almost Burgundian style, with a flinty, reductive edge joining the Assyrtiko flavours of lemon skin, bright acidity and stony minerals"
The current owner Philippe Bouzereau brings his own kind of experience from winemaking around the world. And it shows in what the Top 100 judges called "a very stylish Pinot, with fragrant forest fruit and notes of cherry and spices and a balanced, gentle palate that will develop over time."
"Complex, mature, serious and classy," is how the judges start off their description of this fine single-vineyard Pinot Noir. "With notes of mint, violets and forest fruits, it's quite dense," the judges continues. "But that's no bad thing: this is quintessential Marlborough Pinot Noir."
"Dark but lively fruit," said the judges. "Imagine stamping forest fruits at midnight in an unlit wine cellar. Good balanceof sweet fruit and acidity - a hugely enjoyable wine."
Few of the Top 100 judges had heard of the grape variety Kratosija, or the region, Tikves, but they were mighty impressed all the same by its quality and - no less important - value.
"Lovely vibrant colour in the glass, this is such a fresh wine, full of fruit," the judges said. "On the palate, it's juicy, concentrated, with black fruits and spice. This is a frankly amazing amount of wine for the money."
San Marzano Talò Verdeca, 2017
San Marzano Collezione Cinquanta, NV
Domaine Gouffier Rabourcé, 2016
Poderi Parpinello, Sardinia, Monica di Sardegna Superiore, 2015
Swartland Winery Limited Release Carignan, 2015
Sacchetto Spumante Extra Dry Millesimato 2017
Champagne Collet Brut Rosé NV
Sylvain Loichet Bois de Gréchons Monopole, 2015
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Perrières Blanc 2015
Ktima Biblia Chora 'Ovilos' White, Kavala, Semillon Assyrtiko, 2017
Swartland Winery, 'Bush Vines', Swartland, Chenin Blanc, 2016
Berton Vineyard 'Winemakers Reserve', South Eastern Australia Fiano, 2016
Xosé Lois Sebio, 'Mais Ala', Valdeorras, 2015
Saint Clair, Pioneer Block 17 'Plateau Block', Hawkes Bay, Merlot 2015
Lismore, Greyton, Reserve Chardonnay, 2016
Oveja Negra 'Winemakers Selection', Cabernet Franc Carmenère, 2017
Saint Clair, Pioneer Block 22 'Barn Block', Marlborough, Pinot Noir, 2016
Castello Nipozzano, Chianti Rúfina Riserva, 2014
San Silvestro, Nas-cëtta Langhe 2016
Carpenè Malvolti Brut Rosé, NV
Tramin Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer, 2016
Encantador Airén-Chardonnay, 2017
Château Mayne Blanc, Lussac Saint-Émilion 2015
Champagne Bernard Remy Blanc de Blancs Brut, NV
Ktima Gerovassiliou, Malagousia, 2017
Alpha Estate, Amyndeo, Reserve Vielles Vignes Single Block Barba Yannis, Xinomavro 2014