Twenty-one brilliant New Year’s wines

The following reviews (some of which have already been published) are aimed at a mixed bag of wines I’ve tasted over the past year and recommend them for drinking at any major celebratory occasion as well as ringing in the new year. All are made in France and Italy, with the exception of one from South Africa. All have been selected for their overall quality and distinctiveness. On a subjective evaluation level, they range between 94 and 98 points – although most are over 96 points. They vary in price from $25 to over $300. Each contains plush fruit flavors that are well integrated with tannin and acidity. These are generally well balanced and harmonious wines made with great attention to detail.



Chateau Angelus. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”. 2021

This first Angélus wine from 50-90 year old vines is unusual in the 2021 vintage due to its dominance of Cabernet Franc (60%) over Merlot (40%) in the blend. Creepy, deep plush flavors that include orange peel, tar and beef jerky. A complex and integrated rodeo of aromas on the nose. Nicely balanced in the mouth, with hints of blueberries in a matrix that contains darker flavors of liquorice and sage. Creamy tannins fully integrated with fruit flavors.

Croix de Labrie Castle. Saint Emilion Grand Cru. 2021

From a vintage stricken by frost and mold, this 90/5/5 aged vine Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend retains the estate’s signature smoothness and grace. Rich flavors include raspberries, maple syrup and – after five minutes in the glass – tar and syrup. Some brownies attack, mint and mocha in the mid-palate and a beautifully lingering finish that includes some aniseed and tangerines. Fresh and bright acidity. Elegant and complex with a unique Cabernet Franc flair, delivering the mysterious angel in the bottle from Croix de Labrie. Toujours elegant.

Petit Village Castle. Pomerol. 2021

A 65/26/9 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine from the Pomerol plateau, rich in clay, is processed by gravity and sorted by density rather than visual means. Flavors are bright and concentrated, and include maple syrup, cola, wild strawberries and some violets, ferns, oranges and mint. Flavors include Dorp liquorice and maple syrup. A full-bodied and balanced wine with bright acidity, chestnuts and red cherries on the palate and a long finish with light morels.

Beauregard Castle. Pomerol. 2021. 95 points.

This 70/30 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend is organic, low yield. Well balanced, with big fresh aromas with plenty of black and red cherries and flowers that include violets. Mid palate of red cherries, light liquorice, mocha and plums. Dark fruit and liquorice aromas with light acidity in the mouth.

Castle of Monlot. Saint Emilion Grand Cru. 2021

55/45 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend from vines up to 40 years old. Rich, round, slightly spicy and beautifully focused flavors that include those of red plum, dark plum and even tangerine. Wild red fruit attack, rich and bright acidity and silky tannins on the palate and aromas of red cherries, black berries. Nice length and a finish of morels and mocha. Consider pairing it with sirloin steak cooked over burnt vines.

Couvent des Jacobins. Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020

An 85/10/5 blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from this château’s first organic vintage. Contains subtle aromas of silky dark fruits and black cherries. Deep, dark and complex in the mouth with invigorating acidity that highlights dark fruit. Structured and rich mid palate and light raspberries on the finish.

La Lagoon Castle. Haut-Médoc. 2021

This Left Bank blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot by Caroline Frey has rich, delicate, perfumed and round aromas that include black cherries, blueberries and raspberries. A balanced and light blend of red and black fruits, smooth tannins and lively acidity. Creamy and dreamy. Harmonious aromas of red cherries, mocha and macaroons on the palate and a hint of After Eight mint on the finish. It is difficult to stop drinking.

Grand Renouil Castle. Canon Fronsac. 2015

Aromas of smoke, syrup, nettle and ferns with hints of orange peel and leather. The palate includes smooth, perceptive tannins and pronounced semi-mint flavors. A confident wine, slightly young and tannic but with a whirlwind of mint, cherries, molasses and intoxicating energy.

Chateau Fleur Cardinale. Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé. 2021

A 70/20/10 Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend aged in new French oak for up to 14 months. Creamy flavors including brownies, liquorice, red cherries and black berries. An excellent wine with firm and supple tannins, glowing acidity and a mid-palate of red fruits including cranberries. This goes well with roast duck breast or a Moroccan tajin.

dr Jules Lavalle Reserve Heritage. Clos des Ormes 1st Cru. Morey-Saint-Denis. 2017

Aromas of flowers, chalk, raspberries and blackberries. Bright acidity blends with minerals and smooth red fruits including red plums, medium palate. Light, powerful and goes well with pumpkin cream soup or beef goulash. Annual production is limited to 400 bottles.


Ipsos. Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. DOCG. 2015. 97+ points.

Fine, silky wine with aromas of cherry and earth. Like slurping clouds. Slight grain and supple tannins. Quite a miracle.

Fonterutoli Castle. Siepi 2020. Tuscany IGT. 97+ points.

A happy medley of luscious aromas of red and black cherries, black berries and black pepper with some menthol. Excellent balanced tannins in the mouth with rich and juicy red and black fruits. Complex yet light. Slightly ethereal and easy to drink.

Ricasoli. Roncicone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. DOCG. 2019

This 100% Sangiovese wine comes from marine soils and is endowed with a generous set of swaying aromas including earth, nuts, red plum, black berries and some tarragon. Balanced and generous in the mouth, this is a creamy and firm wine to start an autumnal main course with.

Tenuta by Ghizzano. venero Terre di Pisa Rosso. DOC. 2018

An explosion of red fruit flavors with herbs – tarragon and rosemary. Also aromas of candy cane, peppermint and eucalyptus. Flavors include mushrooms, black pepper, spices and thyme. long finish; nice acid.

Podere Giodo. Brunello of Montalcino. DOCG. 2017

The color of brick and amarone. A touch of these aromas of orange, sandpaper, plum, fig, mocha and a slice of eucalyptus and you’re hooked. Saturated with emotional pleasure, one cannot escape the seduction from this glass. Flavors include caramel and cherries and figs in juice with sharp acidity and structured but subtle tannins. Fit with a kebab skewer that includes pineapple slices to match the acidity.

Fattoria Le Pupille. Saffredi. Tuscany IGT. 2019

A 70/26/4 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot. Rich red cherry and raspberry flavors – a bucket full of red fruit and even orange zest. Balanced in the mouth, with flavors that include some molasses and orange/tangerine on the finish. Complexity emerges after five minutes in the glass with herbs – sage and tarragon – and black fruit giving way to red fruit. Elegant tannins in this layered cake similar to a complex and soft Saint-Èmilion.

Fattoria Le Pupille. Piemme Tuscany Bianco. IT. 2019

Limoncello and Vin Constance on the nose; clean fresh flavors from this 100% Petit Manseng. Only 1,800 bottles produced for 2022. “Smells of pine forests on the Tuscan coast, with resin,” added winemaker Ettore Rizzi.

Biondi-Santi Tenuta Greppo. Brunello of Montalcino. DOCG. 2016

Produced by accelerated ripening of the grapes, this wine presents a strained balance not typical of a warm vintage. Strong aromas of black cherries, cassis, minestrone and plenty of herbs. Layers of flavors of liquorice, morels and – after five minutes in the glass – figs and mocha. This balanced wine with clean acidity is a meal in itself.

Beba99. Tuscany. Vino Rosso Dalle Terre by Anghiari. 2019

Think tapestries here – luminous threads. aromas of blackberry, holly, cherry, wet moss and strawberry; a misty forest with wild fruits along the way. This wine is an airy tangle of complex aromas – light like a Beaujolais, although more delicate and refined than many others; fine and subtle like a burgundy, although older than some. Cherry and caramel aromas emerge like fireflies from a shaken glass – brilliant, energetic, but light and ephemeral. This is an unvarnished and unpolished beauty, albeit with polished tannins.

Winery Terlano. Terlano Primo Grand Cuvée. South Tyrol DOC. 2016

A 75/22/3 blend of Pinot Bianco/Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc with crisp, rich, sour and racy flavors of honey and salt. Rich and balanced with flavors like yellow pears, mild menthol and some honey on the finish.


Little Constantia. Sauvignon Blanc. Constantia Valley. 2021. 95 points.

This screw-top bottle contains wine made from grapes grown over decomposed granite and Table Mountain sandstone. Fresh aromas of lime, grapefruit and papaya. A beautifully creamy sip with green apple flavors as well as some lime and gooseberry. Undulating but soft acidity with a slight kick on the finish. Pair with ceviche and lime or a dessert of slightly tart apple pie.

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