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Listed here are the High Wines of 2023, In response to James Suckling

Listed here are the High Wines of 2023, In response to James Suckling

Of the nearly 39,000 bottles rated by the JamesSuckling.com tasting team in the past year, there could only be one No 1, but what an incredible bottle it is, writes James Suckling, as he picks the top wines of 2023.

We’re celebrating this year’s JamesSuckling.com Top 100 Wines of the Year with a bottle of champagne. It’s not just an incredible bottle of champagne, it’s the best wine we rated this year out of the almost 39,000 reviewed by me and my team of seven tasters/editors. It’s the largest number of wines we’ve ever reviewed in a year, beating last year’s record of about 32,000.

A significant amount of wines were rated in our office in Hong Kong, but most were taste on the road during visits to countries and regions around the world, from France, Spain and Italy to the United States, Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Argentina and Chile. We lost count of how many miles we racked up on flights or the literally hundreds of vineyards and winemakers we visited. It was hard work but we all loved it – learning, discovering and tasting.

However, it was a July tasting in Champagne of the newest release of Laurent-Perrier’s Champagne Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée N26 that inspired us the most in 2023. It’s a sensational bottle that shows incredible texture, depth and complexity. Its great structure will keep it fresh and vivid for a very long time, yet it’s equally energetic and intense, highlighting its beauty now. Champagne producers have always said their bottles are first great wines and then great champagnes, and this is certainly the case with the Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée N26.

It also highlights how Champagne may be one of the most exciting regions in France and Europe at the moment. Climate change may have benefited the region, with champagnes in the most vintages now being richer and drier with slightly more alcohol – about 12 percent on average. It’s also increased the production of table wines in the area, with pinot noirs and chardonnays now comparing with the best of Burgundy.

Meanwhile, what makes the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée N26 so magical is its exceptional blend of vintages, three beautiful years with the uniquely powerful 2008 vintage giving it the edge. It’s a perfectly harmonised blend of 65 percent 2012, 25 percent 2008 and 10 percent 2007. The 2012 gives the Grand Siècle Cuvée N26 its balance and form, with subtle and bright fruit, while the 2008 gives it a vertical depth and focused energy with a subtle phenolic tension that frames the wine gorgeously. Finally, the touch of 2007 delivers more liveliness and vivacity.

The only drawback with the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée N26 is its price: about US$235 a bottle. Granted, that isn’t outrageously expensive from a prestige cuvée or any other world-class wine, considering its phenomenal quality and the exorbitant prices for wines from regions such as Burgundy and Napa Valley. But I must admit I was slightly surprised by the price of nearly all our top-rated wines in 2023. A hundred dollars doesn’t go very fast these days to buy the best wines in the world. The average price per bottle of our Top 100 is about $140; I didn’t consider any wine for our Top 100 costing more than $400 a bottle.

The best value in the Top 100 list seems to originate from Austria, Germany and New Zealand. The top wines of South America used to represent value, but they’ve doubled in price in recent years. Spain and Italy have also become expensive. Two categories for relative values to consider are pinot noir and chardonnay from California. There were two bottles from the former category on our list and three from the latter.

I tried to include as many of the 50 or so 100-point wines we rated this year, as long as they were available on the market and not profoundly expensive. Our list included 17 wines with 100-point ratings. The least expensive of these is about $100 – El Enemigo Cabernet Franc Gualtallary Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard 2019. It could have been our Wine of the Year, but the production was slightly less than 5,000 bottles and it’s already very difficult to find. So, it’s No 2. The Moric Blaufränkisch Burgenland Lutzmannsburg Alte Reben 2021, at No 8, is slightly lower priced and the wine has essentially put the underrated grape of blaufrankisch under the global spotlight for wine lovers.

You probably already know the names of the other wines in our Top 10 of the Top 100, since they’ve been part of this list over the years. However, a newcomer is a single-vineyard Brunello from Casanova di Neri, the 2019 Giovanni Neri. There are a number of 2019 Brunellos on our list, and the wines will be available on the market in January.

Please remember that the selection for wines in our Top 100 list is based on ratings, price and availability in the global marketplace. Wines should have a minimum production of about 500 cases of 12 bottles with a few exceptions. We also factored in what we call the “Oh, wow!” element, or the intangible attractiveness of wine. It’s those bottles we fall in love with and want to drink.

France was the biggest source of wines for our Top 100 list, accounting for 33. Bordeaux took the lion’s share. Its vintage released on this market this year was the fantastic 2020, the latest in a great trilogy that included 2019 and 2018. The 2020 might be the best of the three. Most of the coveted names, such as first growths and trophy wines from the Right Bank, were left out of the list because of their extremely high prices and our limit of $400. Some 2020 Bordeaux sell for as much as $6,250 a bottle, such as Petrus.

Italy followed with 17 wines. Again, don’t miss the few 2019 Brunellos on the list because they’ll be released in Early January 2024. It’s a beautiful and refined vintage after the slightly meagre 2018 and the overly ripe 2017. Some structured and balanced 2019 Barolos are also listed. However, the star is the late-released Damilano Barolo Cannubi Reserve 1752 2016, which was wine of the year for the Top 100 list for Italy’s largest newspaper, the Courier della Sera. A great wine from a great vintage, it costs $350 a bottle.

Chile and Spain had eight wines each, with Argentina, Austria and Germany close behind with seven each. The top wines of Spain seem to be getting more and more expensive and I hope they’ve reached the limit, but they’re compelling wines for their provenance and extremely high quality. By comparison, the best of Chile are relative bargains. Austria and Germany make some of the world’s most affordable great wines with single-vineyard designations.

The United States has six wines in the Top 100. Unfortunately, you won’t find any Napa Valley reds on this year’s list as many producers didn’t bottle wines because of the 2020 fire, and those in the valley that did make outstanding wines in 2020 were too expensive for this list. But there are two beautiful Napa chardonnays, plus a chardonnay from California’s Central Coast that might surprise you, as well as two gorgeous Sonoma Coast pinot noirs.

New Zealand has three wines this year in our Top 100, and not just pinot noir and chardonnay. Te Mata’s Coleraine Bordeaux blend is a long-established star wine from the island nation, and the 2021 is one of the best ever. Australia fell short this year with only one wine, though it’s from one of the best vine-growing families in Oz, the Middletons of Mount Mary. We were happy to see Hungary, Portugal and China with one wine each. The latter is a country on the move in the world of wine.

We are excited about our Top 100 Wines of the Year from JamesSuckling.com. We hope you find it compelling enough to buy a few bottles on the list and try them yourself.

Here are five outstanding wines to consider.

Five bottles scoring 100 points.

1. LAURENT-PERRIER CHAMPAGNE GRAND SIÈCLE GRANDE CUVÉE N26

100 POINTS

Laurent-Perrier Champagne Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée N26

This is really something. Electric on the palate. The aromas are so complex with sliced fresh and dried ginger, subtle pie crust, tarte tatin and hints of nutmeg with some salted caramel. Toasted bread, too. Always subtle. The palate is full- to medium-bodied yet hemmed-in with a freshness and balance that draws you back. Savoury and vibrant. It’s full of energy. Spectacular.

2. EL ENEMIGO CABERNET FRANC GUALTALLARY GRAN ENEMIGO SINGLE VINEYARD 2019

100 POINTS

See Also

El Enemigo Cabernet Franc Gualtallary Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard 2019

A complex, restrained and deliciously austere cabernet franc with damp earth, oyster shells, blueberries, thyme, rosemary and mushrooms. Super serious and chalky on the palate with lots of dissolved, minerally textured tannins. Very long and uncompromising!

3. SEÑA VALLE DE ACONCAGUA 2021

100 POINTS

Seña Valle De Aconcagua 2021

An extremely pure and elegant vintage for Seña. This is really fresh, nimble and floral on the nose with subtle cherries, plums, redcurrants and wild lavender. More red fruit here with lots of layers and just a touch of sweet spice. Very discreet and subtle, with the elegance, freshness and poise you’d expect from 2021.

4. CHÂTEAU FIGEAC ST-EMILION 2020

100 POINTS

Château Figeac St-Emilion 2023

A mesmerising nose here, with flowers such as violets and red roses, then it shows cherries and currants with some mineral and black truffles. Full-bodied yet so refined and harmonised with ultra-fine tannins that run the length of the wine. Magnificent.

5. DR BÜRKLIN-WOLF RISELING PFALZ PECHSTEIN GC 2022

100 POINTS

Dr Bürklin-Wolf Riesling Pfalz Pechstein GC 2022

It’s hard to understand how the hot and dry 2022 growing season could have yielded a dry riesling with this level of mind-bending concentration and wet stone minerality. This astonishing wine conclusively proves that riesling can not only cope with climate change, but it can also shine in this challenging new context.

Source: Prestige Online

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