What to drink in 2017

Outgoing Head of Buying, Tim Sykes, on what to look out for over the coming months

The 2015 Vintage

Tim Sykes

I couldn’t write this guide without making mention of the 2015 vintage – almost universally excellent throughout Europe. There will be plenty of opportunities to stock up on delicious wines from this vintage over the year.

Our 2015 Rhône en primeur offer, which closes at the end of February, is packed with high-quality reds and whites from across the price spectrum. Keep a lookout also for our release of the 2015 Burgundies in March. Buyer Toby Morrhall says that he has never tasted a red Burgundy vintage like it; some producers with very long memories (or very well-stocked cellars) are comparing it to the legendary 1929 vintage.

We also still have a good selection of 2015 Bordeaux available on our website (go to the en primeur section) for members who missed our original offers last year, or for those wishing to top up their purchases from this outstanding vintage. Later this year, we’ll be putting together an offer of 2015s showcasing the best of the vintage from across Europe. For those who can’t wait that long, we currently have a very enticing line-up of everyday Rhônes on offer from the 2015 vintage on our website.

The following suggestions for drinking over the course of this year, include wines available now, as well as some ideas for wines to take out of your reserves or cellars. As usual, I have also put together a mixed case of my personal picks for everyday drinking this year.

Bordeaux

Bringing in the 2016 harvest at Domaine Jaume Bringing in the 2016 harvest at Domaine Jaume

For Bordeaux last year I suggested 2007 as a vintage providing plenty of pleasure and in 2015 I made similar comments about 2004. Both continue to show particularly well, and look keenly priced alongside some of the more highly acclaimed vintages. We have a few magnums left of the delicious 2004 Château de Camensac (ref N-CM18814, £58) if you missed our offer late last year. Drinking well too are 2000, 2001 and 2002. Most 2003s are at their peak and can be broached, and the 2005s are finally coming out of their shells, although the top wines would benefit from more time in bottle. The same applies to high-end 2006s and 2008s. In general, 2009s are lovely now, with ripe fruit and plenty of weight, but the more senior 2010s could do with a little longer to show at their best. Patience will, however, be rewarded as this remains one of the very best vintages of recent times. At the more affordable level, wines from 2011 and 2012 can be enjoyed now.

We have just launched our first Exhibition Margaux for a decade. This 2014 wine is made for us by Château Brane Cantenac. It typifies the refined, perfumed style of the Margaux appellation – and is already delicious.

Burgundy

In Burgundy we have been spoiled by a run of super white vintages. Ripe 2015s or perfectly balanced 2014s at Mâcon or Chablis village or premier cru level are a joy. At village level in the Côte de Beaune, 2012 Meursaults and Pulignys are lovely, while the 2011 premiers crus are at a charming point in their evolution. As for the reds, at village level the 2014s have sweet tannins and the 2011s are open for business. The lesser 2009s are full, plump and ready, and the 2007s and 2006s are attractive now

Rhône

The Rhône has fared well in the last few years. 2012 was a successful vintage everywhere in the Rhône and the generous bright flavours make these wines very enjoyable and, apart from the top wines, ready now. 2011s are soft and ripe and drinking well now but the best may still be to come. 2010 has been a slow burner of a vintage and the wines still taste remarkably young and vibrant. Signs are that these wines are just coming round and will be good towards the back end of this year. Another sleeper has been 2005 and the wines are also showing positive signs that they can be enjoyed. A favourite and undervalued vintage is 2006 and with ten years on the clock, these wines are quite superb. Hermitage La Chapelle and Cornas Saint Pierre 2006 will be re-offered this year and there are gems from Côte-Rôtie that will appear during the course of 2017.

Read how members of Society staff helped with the 2016 vintage at Domaine Jaume in Travels in Wine™ on our website. Left to right: Simon Mason (Head of Tastings), Justine Allum (Member Services), Helen Bourne (Merchandising), Emma Dorahy (Buying), Naomi Norwood (Showroom)

Read how members of Society staff helped with the 2016 vintage at Domaine Jaume in Travels in Wine™ on our website. Left to right: Simon Mason (Head of Tastings), Justine Allum (Member Services), Helen Bourne (Merchandising), Emma Dorahy (Buying), Naomi Norwood (Showroom)

Alsace

2015 was a good, if small, harvest in Alsace and the wines have generous fruit and easy drinkability. Other recent vintages may all be consumed now, though the fine, structured 2010s should still be kept. 2008s are blossoming beautifully. 2016 in the Loire has produced fuller, riper wines which, like the 2015s will be approachable young. 2015 reds are juicy and delicious; 2014 reds and whites are in the more classic style preferred by Loire aficionados.

Italy

We have just made a first-release offer of Brunello 2012 and 2013 Barolo will be released later this month. The wines, whilst approachable now, have good ageing potential. Down the track 2015 and 2016 in Italy are both looking promising for nebbiolo (Barolo), while 2014 is lighter, but good growers, as is so often the case, made attractive wines. 2013 is our pouring Chianti vintage currently and the wines are looking very good and full of life. Again, 2014 in Tuscany is a lighter vintage. Elsewhere 2016 was an up-and-down year with early-picked grapes at an advantage in most regions because of autumn rains. There will be some very good whites in Friuli and Alto Adige. In the main, 2015 whites from across Italy are excellent.

Portugal

2015 was an excellent vintage across Portugal. Top-end whites will be drinking well this year, and there are delicious reds from all regions. We will be offering a selection of more mature Douro reds over the year – we have a range of excellent wines from Passadouro in the current Fine Wine List. We also now have two Exhibition reds from Portugal to compare and contrast: a fine young 2013 Douro and a hearty 2011 Alentejano

Spain

From Spain, perfectly mature and elegant Ribera del Duero Bohorquez 2007 is showing really well at the moment. Rioja vintages that are reaching full maturity now are 2001 (which will still keep), 2005 and 2006. For longer-term keeping the 2010 reservas are a must.

Germany

Read about harvesting at Domaine Jaume in our Travels in Wine™ pages

Read about harvesting at Domaine Jaume in our Travels in Wine™ pages

We still have small amounts of stock left over from our 2015 German offer, which went out late last year. The wines, which are ripe, fleshy and concentrated, but with vibrant acidity, are considered to be amongst the best that Germany has produced in a generation.

Austria

From Austria the Exhibition Grüner Veltliner 2015 now has several months’ bottle age and is really starting to sing. Early samples of a new Society’s Grüner Veltliner 2016 look exciting, despite it being a tricky vintage.

We have increased the Argentine range this year with more wines to come. Malbecs are particularly pretty and perfumed from the Uco Valley, which includes the sub-regions of Gualtallary and the very fine Paraje Altamira. Worthy of particular note are Mendel’s wines which are European in style and work well with food. We have also added a cabernet from the north, grown at 1,800m altitude.

Chile

Mendel’s celebrated winemaker Roberto de la Mota with director Anabelle Sielecki Mendel’s celebrated winemaker Roberto de la Mota with director Anabelle Sielecki

We have added more Chilean carmenères this year, and those of Koyle and Primus are ripe yet not over the top. Wines produced from the Rhône varieties are increasing in quality. Look out for Undurraga’s whites and reds, and Koyle’s superb 2014 Cerro Basalto. 2016 was cool and is the best vintage for whites for a number of years.

South Africa

Increasingly South Africa has strength in depth, offering wines to suit all pockets and palates. 2015 was a great vintage across all regions and styles and is worth seeking out whatever your taste. For wines currently on a high, look for top chardonnays and sauvignons which are now world class, and white blends from the friendly and affordable Percheron Chenin Blanc Viognier (ref N-SA11741, £5.95) to the very best the Cape has to offer from the likes of Chris Alheit and John Seccombe. Bordeaux-style reds are on a roll too and regularly feature in our Fine Wine Lists.

New Zealand

The 2016 New Zealand sauvignons look classic in style, with the Exhibition Sauvignon particularly strong this year, and we have a new fighting-price wine also from Hunter’s called Rata that punches well above its weight.

We are also selling Kumeu Village wines from the very strong 2014 vintage which we tried from barrel with Michael Brajkovich MW when we were there a couple of years ago.

Australia

The latest range of (newly labelled) Blind Spot wines explores cooler-climate regions and alternative varieties chosen because they often suit their locations better – our picks this year would be the Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2016 (ref N-AU19381, £10.95) and the King Valley Barbera 2015 that we have shipped for the first time – full of juicy cherry notes.

USA

In the USA 2014 zinfandels are singing; The Society’s 2014 Zinfandel is now in stock, as is the 2014 Ravenswood Zinfandel, both thoroughly delicious, the usual big bold berry notes countered by some sour cherry and spice.

Tim Sykes’ Case for 2017

A 12-bottle mixed case containing five reds and seven whites handpicked by The Society’s head of buying Tim Sykes for enjoying now.

Ref N-MX1742 £90 including delivery. Available until Sunday 5th March, 2017.

Reds

Château Lamothe Saint-Germain, Bordeaux 2015

Grignan-les-Adhémar, Delas 2015

Ionos Greek Red Wine

Ravenswood Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel 2014

Salvaje del Moncayo Garnacha 2015

Whites

The Society’s Falanghina 2015

Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Viognier-Roussanne Marsanne 2016

Pepp Grüner Veltliner 2015

Quinta de Azevedo, Vinho Verde 2015

Kumeu Village Hand-Harvested Chardonnay 2014

The Society’s Vin d’Alsace 2015

Casa Ferreirinha Planalto Reserva, Douro 2015

All Wines mentioned by Tim

January 2017

Members' Comments (2)

"Is it just me, or does this article rather lose its way? Maybe I was wrong in thinking it was giving us an idea which vintages to drink this 2017. It certainly starts off like that, but by the second page is more telling us about the last couple of vintages, and what the Wine Society has to sell us. For example, having read the article, which years of red Italians should we be turning to?).
Maybe I misconstrued the plan.
And, of course,... Read more > doesn't make it a bad article.....
.
"

Dr John G Larkin (11-Feb-2017)

"Dear Dr Larkin - thanks for your comments and apologies for any confusion. The thrust of the article was intended to be about recommendations for wines that we would be offering over the coming year but also with a mention of those vintages that are reaching their optimum drinking period. Do look out for the Buyers' regional reports published with the Annual Report in the next couple of months. Here there will be further info and updates on wines... Read more > coming on stream.

Joanna Goodman
News & Content Editor
"

(22-Feb-2017)

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