Uncorking 2024: fine wines and hidden gems to try

Uncorking 2024: fine wines and hidden gems to try

by Westgarth Wines January 04, 2024

Welcome to 2024! If you've got 'trying some great wines' on your New Year's resolution list, you're in for a good time. This year, I've picked out a few wines that are definitely worth your attention.

Our Sommelier's picks for January

First things first: there’s no better way to start the year than by popping open a fantastic bottle of Champagne. This year, I've settled on one absolute favorite that I had the pleasure of trying recently. It's tasting incredible right now and is the perfect way to kick off the new year. Just like a great appetizer sets the tone for an amazing meal, this champagne promises to set a high bar for the months to come.

Grower-producer Cédric Bouchard has really made a splash since he started his own label, Roses de Jeanne, in 2000. He's quickly built up a cult following among Champagne lovers and high-end restaurants. His home turf is the Aube region, nestled near the medieval city of Troyes on the way to Burgundy. This place is a bit special in the Champagne world, known for its unique clay and limestone soils and a warmer climate that's just perfect for growing Pinot Noir grapes.

In this corner of the Champagne region, I've found Bouchard is doing things a bit differently. He's stepped away from his family's traditional winemaking ways and embraced a more natural, bio-dynamic approach to growing grapes, even though it's not officially certified. It's this commitment to a more organic style of viticulture that really makes his champagnes stand out. With Roses de Jeanne, Cédric Bouchard isn't just making Champagne – he's redefining the craft.

He has two main lines of Champagnes; the Inflorescence series which comes from his father's vineyards, and the Roses de Jeanne, which are all his own. Each line shows off his unique take on winemaking.

The Côte de Béchalin, which used to go by the name 'La Parcelle', is a real gem from Cédric Bouchard. It's a pure Pinot Noir coming from a small, half-hectare plot. It only produces about 2000 bottles each vintage, making it quite a rare find.

This 2008 Blanc de Noirs Côte de Béchalin is in a great spot for drinking right now, and it'll stay that way for the next few years. It still seems quite youthful, but the flavors are beginning to soften up. The nose reveals notes of red apple, apricot, citrus peel, almonds, and white flowers. The palate is creamy and complex, approachable, with a charming, long finish.

Last year, I had the chance to visit Nicolas Bernard and Véronique Bonin and let me tell you, their wines are some of the most exciting and captivating I've tasted in Burgundy. Although they are not the only ones following biodynamic principles and working their vineyards meticulously – there is something different about their wines. The texture and depth of flavor on the palate is simply unmatched, especially in great vintages like 2017.

The Clos du Cromin vineyard is a south-southeast-facing vineyard, right on the edge of Volnay-Santenots. Until 1971, they used to grow red grapes here, but then the Bonin family decided to switch things up and plant Chardonnay. The vineyard itself is about 10 hectares and has a history as a stone quarry.

Now, the Bonins' plot is right at the top of the slope where the soil is a bit thinner. This spot is actually the first one they harvest each year, and thanks to its south-southeasterly exposure it catches the sun just right.

The soil is a type of deep clay known as 'Marnes Blanches,' and is peppered with small pebbles throughout.

The 2017 Clos du Cromin really hits the sweet spot between richness and minerality. It starts quite earthy, with notes of fresh rain and chestnut. After a short aeration, chalky notes with a mix of fruity scents like pear, peach, and a touch of citrus come through.
On the palate, it is smooth and tangy with a light floral touch. The wine has this cool, spicy mineral feel that sticks around for a good while. The finish is pure and really stays with you. I would recommend trying this wine with fish, such as turbot or sole, ideally with a nice creamy, buttery sauce – a match made in heaven.

When I visited the Lokoya winery in 2018, I got to try a bunch of their wines. Let me tell you, they were amazing! Each one was smooth, complex, and had a subtle old-world vibe.

Lokoya, started in 1995, makes four different Cabernet Sauvignons, each from a special spot in Napa Valley: Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, and Diamond Mountain. They're all about keeping it natural – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, no fancy stuff in the winemaking process, just letting the vineyards do their thing.

What really stood out for me was how each wine was like a snapshot of its own place – you could taste the sunshine, the soil, everything. The winemaker, Chris Carpenter, really knows his stuff and it shows. He lets the grapes and the land speak for themselves. And from all the wines I tasted, the ones from Spring Mountain really stood out.

The 2016 I had the chance to taste recently, and was blown away by how amazing this wine is. It so distinctly reminded me of my visit to California and to Lokoya. The wine is still a baby but already shows a bit of evolution; notes of blackberry, cassis, and blackcurrant leaf, followed by tobacco, cedar, and licorice. The palate is concentrated but these wines always have great structure, fine tannin, and a sense of minerality. I would recommend decanting this wine a bit in advance (about 30 minutes), and serving it with a lean cut of beef or even game; it will be great!

As we round off the selection, remember that every new year brings the opportunity to venture off the beaten path. So, to finish, here are a few off-piste wine recommendations to explore this winter.

Campania isn't usually the first place I think of when it comes to fine wines, and I bet I'm not the only one. That's exactly why I've added this wine to my list. It's a wine that consistently surprises me with its unique character and distinct personality.

Established in 1993 by Silvia Imparato just outside Salerno in the picturesque town of San Cipriano Picentino, the wine quickly gained critical acclaim, but I find it is still widely unknown outside Italy.

It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Aglianico, and Merlot, aged in French oak. Due to the location of the vineyards, protected by the Picentini Mountains and their proximity to the sea, the wines always show great complexity, power, and finesse and age beautifully if you have the patience to wait.

The 2006 – a bit shy and reserved to begin with, turned out to be a real treat, with earthy, smoky notes on the nose, followed by notes of tobacco, bay leaf, licorice, and just a hint of balsamic. The palate is still quite tight, and tannin is present but in a good way, giving the wine a slightly rustic feel. I enjoyed this with pappardelle and a wild boar ragu and it was just fantastic.

After working several vintages abroad in France and California, Chris and Andrea Mullineux set out to start their own project in Swartland, a wine region situated about 35 miles north of Cape Town. Within a short few years, they have managed to achieve global recognition for their wines, and for a good reason. Their ambition is to make wines that are true expressions of the Swartland terroir, and this is highlighted in their single terroir range.

The 2015 Syrah Schist is sourced from their Roundstone Estate, planted in 2000. The nose is powerful, with notes of dark fruit leaping out of the glass, followed by black pepper, black olive, and a slightly meaty, gamey note. The palate is generous, with very well-balanced supple tannins, but still packs a punch. This is a serious wine, probably just at the beginning of its drinking window and it will continue to improve for another 5 to 10 years.

With this, I hope you have a few ideas of what to try in the coming months. Best wishes and a prosperous 2024. Cheers.

Take a look at some of our other hand-picked wine selections here:

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