100 wines to try before you die: Top 25

La Tâche

Grand Cru, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Burgundy, France, red La Tâche, the Holy Grail of wine, shows why Pinot Noir is the most noble of all grapes. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) is an iconic estate, and I’ve been privileged to taste in the 13th-century cellars that run under the village of Vosne-Romanée. Powerful and elegant La Tâche is my favourite of their six grand crus. Bernard Noblet, DRC’s cellar master, describes it as a sleek panther. If you choose only one wine on this list of a lifetime, make it La Tâche.


1er Cru, Les Amoureuses, Domaine Roumier, Burgundy, France, red Les Amoureuses is a small and worshipped premier cru vineyard in the village of Chambolle-Musigny, in the Côte de Nuits. With exquisite aroma, poise and texture, it’s a seamless reflection of how outstanding Pinot Noir can be from this revered region. It’s hard to track down a bottle, but try Domaine Direct (020-7837 1142; www.domainedirect.co.uk) or In Vino Veritas, Staffordshire (01827 899449; www.ivvltd.com).  August 23, 2007

Leeuwin Estate

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Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, Australia, white From the early 1980s, this wine has been the most consistently excellent Chardonnay in Australia, with its gently toasted oak barrels and full-bodied fruit. The estate (right), founded and owned by the Horgan family (left), enjoys wind rolling off the Indian Ocean, cooling the vines and allowing the grapes to ripen slowly (Domaine Direct, 020-7837 1142; www.domainedirect.co.uk). February 28, 2008

Château Latour

1er Cru Pauillac, Bordeaux, France, red Recently, Latour’s popularity has seen a dip, as its 1er Cru brothers, Lafite and Mouton blaze a trail to stardom. However, for me, the elegant sketch of the original tower on the label will always be synonymous with Pauillac’s celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon vines and the magical gravel on which they grow.


Grand Cru, Domaine Leflaive, Burgundy, France, white

This is the world’s greatest white-wine estate, with wines evoking blossom, pineapple and  vanilla. Chevalier-Montrachet is my favourite of their grand crus (Corney & Barrow, 020-7265 2418, www.corney-barrow.co.uk).    January 3, 2008

Quinta do Noval Nacional

Port, Portugal, port

According to the Portuguese, God drinks this port on Sundays. The 1931 Quinta Noval Nacional is said to be the greatest vintage ever produced. From fine-wine merchants. December 6, 2007

Bollinger RD

Champagne, sparkling

RD stands for ‘Recently Disgorged’, which means that this distinguished bottle of Champagne has slumbered a little longer in Bollinger’s cellars. This adds an incredible dimension of honeyed richness and depth. From fine-wine merchants.


Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Vintage Rosé Champagne, France, sparkling

This is a life-changing Champagne. The hue is ‘Oeil de Perdrix’, but this innocent pink veneer masks an uncompromising flavour of wild strawberries. It will, in time, become a truly celestial wine (Berry Bros & Rudd, 0800 280 2440, www.bbr.com). November 15, 2007

Château Pétrus

Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, red

Christian Moueix, manager of wine production,  helps create this legendary Merlot-dominant wine. Its hallmarks are complex fruit and discreet flavours, from sweet tobacco to black-forest fruits (Corney & Barrow, as before). February 21, 2008

Tenuta San Guido, Tuscany, Italy, red

Sassicaia challenged regulations by blending international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot rather than traditional varieties. Patient cellaring reveals briary fruit and spicy cedar notes (Fine and Rare Wines, 020-8960 1995, www.frw.co.uk).     July 23, 2008


La Mouline, Guigal, Rhône, France, red

La Mouline, one of Marcel Guigal’s legendary Côte-Rotie trio, is the finest and most elegant expression of Syrah of the three and has a touch of Viognier to lift the aromatics. From fine-wine merchants.  May 21, 2008

Camel Valley

Sparkling Pinot Noir, Cornwall, England

If you’ve yet to be convinced that England is snapping at the heels of the great Champagne houses, this wine will win you over. It’s balanced and complex with delicate peachy flavours and a crisp finish. Winemaker Sam Lindo has captured the idyllic Cornish vineyards in a bottle (01208 77959; www.camelvalley.com). May 14, 2008

Hugel et Fils, Pinot Gris

Sélection des Grains Nobles, Alsace, France, white

There are no cutting corners when creating a ‘Séléction des Grains Nobles’ wine. Each berry is hand-selected from the vine, meaning a vineyard can be harvested over and over again. Every mouthful of this Pinot Gris is a full-bodied attack on your senses (Fells, 01442 870900; www.fells.co.uk).    October 8, 2008

2007 Blaufränkisch

Lutzmannsburg Alte Reben

Moric, Mittelburgenland, Austria, red

Roland Velich produces the finest blends of Blaufränkisch, a rare central-European variety. This wonderful red wine is packed with blueberry, mulberry and black-cherry fruit and its seamless mineral finish indicates that it will age gracefully (Ultimate Wine Company, 01628 472214, www.ultimatewines.co.uk).    January 20, 2009

Cotat, La Grande Côte

Chavignol, Sancerre, Loire Valley, France, white

Sancerre is the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc. Famed for its gooseberry and nettle flavours, it takes on a mineral edge thanks to the well-draining silex flint soil. Chavignol is the most esteemed cru. La Grande Côte, which can last for 20 years, is a poised, bench-
mark Sancerre. From fine-wine merchants.    October 25, 2007

Château d’Yquem 1er Cru Classé Supérieur

Sauternes, Bordeaux, France, sweet

One of the few wines in the world worth its weight in gold (once fetching £14,000 for a 1937 vintage). It’s a succulent blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, grown on the banks of the Gironde. The vines are attacked by ‘noble rot’, which reduces the yields, so one vine’s worth of fruit makes only enough to fill one glass. Consult Christie’s and Sotheby’s forthcoming auction catalogues.    August 2, 2007

Dog Point Section 94

Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, white

Cloudy Bay is New Zealand’s most famous Sauvignon Blanc. In 2002, two of the team started vinifying fruit from the Dog Point Vineyards. Section 94 is sourced from a special section within the vineyard. The wine matures in old oak barrels and picks up peach and orange-blossom aromas, with a hint of honeysuckle  (Berry Bros & Rudd, as before). November 11, 2009

Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Loosen

Mosel, Germany, white

Erdner Prälat (the priest on the label) gives his name to a red-slate vineyard with a unique micro-climate. Within this tiny site, Erni Loosen produces a sensational wine, capable of lasting a good 50 years. Elderflower and lime-cordial flavours soften the acidity over time (Philglas & Swiggot, 020-7924 4494, www.philglas-swiggot.com). August 16, 2007

Niepoort Charme

Douro, Portugal, red

Charme is the best red wine in Portugal. Layers of intense forest fruits are followed by a discreet but lengthy finish. This profound wine would convert any doubter to the merits of great Portuguese wine (Handford Wines, 020-7589 6113, www.handford.net). May 7, 2008

Château de Beaucastel

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, red

There are 13 grape varieties permitted in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, and Château de Beaucastel is one of the few estates to grow and vinify all of them. These different parcels are fermented and aged separately prior to blending. With its leathery perfume, defined acidity and infusion of spicy cloves, dark figs, black plums, Beaucastel can outlive many other Châteauneuf-du-Papes. From fine-wine merchants. October 1, 2008

Penfold’s Grange

Southern Australia, red

When Grange was created in 1951 by Max Schubert, it became an instant icon. Now run by Peter Gago, Grange is still a successful multi-regional blend-normally,  Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, although, rarely, it’s 100% Shiraz. The last time was 1999-a powerful wine with exquisite cherry notes, soft liquorice and chocolate-dipped cherries. From fine-wine merchants at about £150 a bottle for recent vintages. October 29, 2008

Vega Sicilia Unico

Ribera del Duero, Spain, red

Vega Sicilia is Spain’s most revered vinous export. This mighty red wine is a sun-baked blend of Tempra-nillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec made in the Ribera del Duero region. Unico, which means unique, is only made in the best vintages and released after 10 years of maturation. From fine-wine merchants. July 26, 2007

Château Margaux

1er Cru, Margaux, Bordeaux, France, red

Margaux is known for its finesse and seductive Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blends. Its nothing short of sublime, with a life expectancy longer than most of us. Of all the first-growth clarets, if you have to choose one to drink in your lifetime, pick Margaux. Available through fine-wine brokers.     July 9, 2008


Angelo Gaja, Piedmont, Italy, red

Angelo Gaja’s Barbarescos are famous worldwide. This aromatic wine is a powerhouse not for the faint-hearted, it’s best with robust food. Angelo says: ‘Perfection is not the goal, but originality, integrity and completeness’ (John Armit Wines, 020-7908 0660, www.armit.co.uk). October 18 2007

Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Aszú

Blue Label, Hungary, sweet

Hungary’s historic wine is a deca-dent, syrupy creation of almonds, marmalade, honey and orange blossom, destined to be drunk with the finest puddings or with rich pâtés and terrines. Look for as many Puttonyos as you can afford-each one signifies intensity and concentration, so 5 is modestly delicious  (Cambridge Wine Merchants, 01223 568993, www.cambridgewine.com). September 20, 2007

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