Grape Nomad’s Top 10 Cellar Picks of 2017

It’s that time of the year again, time to recap my favourite wines of 2017, a year that had a huge personal impact on me. It flew by so quickly that I don’t even remember which events significantly influenced the world (except for Kim Jong-un’s missile craziness and Trump’s rants to that). What I do remember is that I tasted some D-O-P-E wines that would make it in the top 10 life-changing list easily. Unlike the 2016 cellar picks, this year was a lot more diverse and tightly knitted to exciting stuff that happened to me along the way. As a side-note, these are not bottles necessarily released during the year, nor are the scores something you have to blindly follow. I urge you to explore, be open and enjoy whatever gems you find from these top 10 picks.

Dobogo Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2007
Tokaj, Hungary

Dear baby Jesus, YES. The light golden yellow color doesn’t tell me much at first, but as soon as the wine touches my palate, another universe opens its doors and takes me away. The nose of this Tokaji is exciting by itself that it makes me come back to it constantly, minute after minute – notes of jasmine, almond cookies, vanilla, honey, quince, apricot and orange marmalade, pineapple, ripe peach and yummy splashes of minerality. Beautiful structure, freshness and length. Rich mouthfeel, not overpowering for a second, followed by dazzling acidity to counter the dripping sweetness. A hint of bitterness completes the perfect regional and stylistic expression of this fairly young Aszu. I’d recommend getting your hands on this outstanding bottle and keeping it for further aging, because pure brilliance waits just around the corner.

Occasion: first step on UK soil
GN score: 97/100
Average price: 74 EUR (S$119)

#koccintsaszuval #aszuday #dobogo #6puttonyosaszú #tanulunk #cewi

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Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995
Champagne, France

Do you remember Zlatan’s 30-yard screamer against England in 2012? This is the wine equivalent of that, except it’s French. The nose reveals tones of baked apple crumble, quince, cinnamon, jasmine, lemon zest and delicate minerality. If you are looking for the true definition of Champagne, you’re getting it exactly in this bottle. Intense, powerful, yet elegant palate with flaunting texture and a textbook balance of acidity and alcohol. Eternal finish and SO FRESH (!) for a 22-year old blanc de blancs with a €100 price tag. An effortless condensation of everything you love about this bubbly liquid. Unbelievable stuff.

Occasion: trying a 1995 champagne for the first time
GN score: 96/100
Average price: 128 EUR (S$205)

Opus One 1994
California, USA

This wine reminded me of how the battle with the waves always ends in triumph if you keep your ship together (pun intended). It starts out opulent and chunky, but tips into a beautifully calm aftertaste that could last for decades if you let it. Notes of fine aging (black tea leaves, caramel, toffee, ripe strawberry and blackberry) on the nose. Tannins and acidity are still there, but don’t grip the palate like they once used to – rather complement the structure and help keep everything intact. This is not the best wine I’ve tried this year (because Tokaj y’all), but it’s definitely a life-changing one that really hit home. Thank you kind stranger, you will be remembered.

Occasion: looking back on all the madness
GN score: 96/100
Average price: 351 EUR ($S559)

贅沢な夜でしたぁ…🍷 #opusone1994 #lastorder

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Craggy Range Sophia 2013
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

If you think there is no great wine outside of Europe because you orgasmed right into the industry with a teaspoon of 1982 Pomerol, you need to shut your whiny, pretentious mouth and do your research. This wine people, this wine has no time for comments. But because this is the internet and many of you reading this right now will never get a chance to taste this epitome of liquid beauty, I’ll give you my impressions. What a journey this was through taste bud heaven – notes of mocha, sweet cherry, plum jam, chocolate and vanilla stick. Titanic structure. Lush, elaborate and still a baby. Neither Tolstoy, nor Dostoyevsky, nor Homer, nor Camus, nor Voltaire, nor Balzac, nor Cervantes, nor Hesse could say more. Find it. Taste it. Experience it.

Occasion: finding out that NZ wine can be CRAZY
GN score: 96/100
Average price: 59 EUR (S$95)

Dom Perignon 2002
Champagne, France

Last year at this time, I was studying for the hardest exam of my WSET studies and wondering what the fuck I’m doing with my life. This year I’m still doing the latter, but in a bit more ritzy style. After tasting the 1990 (birth year Champagne, yay), 2002 was the second DP to follow up on the mind blowing. Not that aromatic as I remember the ’90 – more on subtle notes of buttered toast, ripe Honeycrisp apple, lemon zest and vanilla stick. Excitingly fresh with probably the most refined mousse I have ever tasted in any beverage. The balance of acidity and alcohol is hazardous, making you want to gulp down a 170 euro bottle of wine like it was your grandmother’s rose syrup. May we live and prosper to drink more of both.

Occasion: reminiscing over my first DP with the fam
GN score: 95/100
Average price: 170 EUR (S$271)

Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2007
Alsace, France

The heavens have spoken and they’re ecstatic about this 10-year-old Riesling. Still shy on the nose, just opening up with notes of quince, peach, yellow melon and crushed stone. Dry, high acidity, superb balance – everything you love about this grape. Steely and smooth palate, outrageously fresh, showing eternal potential. Just a bulls-eye of a wine.

Occasion: Riesling
GN score: 95/100
Average price: 51 EUR (S$82)

Gala Ryzlink Vlašský Hermes 2015
Moravia, Czech Republic

This wine is one more reason why I have mixed feelings about the gold medal, award-winning hype. Some wines are underscored, some are over-the-top, ridiciously missed and some just hit the sweet spot perfectly. On the side note, so much has been said about these awards that I’ve decided to write a true, straight-to-the-core article about the whole craze, but for now, back to the wine. Deep lemon yellow in the glass. Dazzling nose reminiscent of a 6am summer morning run when you jump out of bed like a madman and grasp how becoming an early riser could truly work for you – notes of citrus peel, fully ripe green apple, dill, brioche and wet stone. Full-bodied, balanced, complex, long-lasting. This wine is worth every second of your time and pleasure, especially if you want to be blown away by your first Czech wine. All hail Gala.

Occasion: drinking a wine that lived up to the hype of a gold medal, finally
GN score: 95/100
Average price: 14 EUR (S$22)

Gentille Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Some wines are meant to be archived, some just to say “fuck it, let’s enjoy life now”. The latter is proper for this hedonistic bomb. Gentille is a boutique winery located in west Herzegovina with micro annual production. Everything they make in a year can’t be bought in the next five. Yes, they’re THAT good. This Cab is packed with blackberry, blackcurrant, cherry, baking spices, cedar and hints of wet soil. Explosive in the mouth with pronounced tannins and examplary structure. A wine to be appreciated with serious food like the grill.

Occasion: friends, family and good times
GN score: 95/100
Average price: 15 EUR (S$24)

Carolina Rdeča 2006
Goriška Brda, Slovenia

Is this wine part of real life? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you want to explain the answer to the terribly dumb question “what makes wine so special”, this bottle would be your chief argument. A typical Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc aged in French oak, showing notes of blackberry, ripe fig, caramelised chocolate, raisins and clay. Deeply complex and polished, with an aftertaste lasting into the afterlife.

Occasion: first competition I’ve judged
GN score: 95/100
Average price: 27 EUR (S$43)

Alpha Box & Dice F Is For Fog 2014
Adelaide Hills, Australia

A Nebbiolo from Australia? Quit the bullshit, you’d say. But believe me, this is something you NEED to try. Key points of classic Nebbiolo are high acidity, strong tannins and a pale garnet color. It originates from the northwestern Italian region of Piemonte, where the fog impressively contributes to the ripening of this tough variety. In the core, Alpha Box & Dice produced a true Nebbiolo – pale glassy red color, representative aromas of rose petals and cherries, dry with intense tannins and acidity. Stunning red fruit appears on the palate, but not that weak-ass cherry that you smell in a Pinot – more on the hardcore chocolate cherry griotte. Sweeter and more fruit-driven than its Italian counterpart, but still retains complexity thanks to gorgeous oak aging.

Occasion: first step into the glorious Wine RVLT, one of the best wine bars I’ve visited by far
GN score: 90/100
Average price: 15 EUR (S$24)

[🌧🌧🌧] It's gonna be one of those nights… [📷] @danik_83

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Written by Aleksandar Draganić.

A WSET certified grape juice drinker pulling corks @ Wakanui Singapore whilst inspiring everlasting love for hedonistic journeys. Find me at @grapenomad

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