“The Magnificent 12” (Sampling Some of The Wine World’s Best at Wine Future 2023)

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Sunny day in Coimbra, Portugal
Sunny day in Coimbra, Portugal

Welcome to part two of the 1WD coverage of the epic tastings held during the Wine Future 2023 conference in Coimbra, Portugal. For details on the event and guided tastings (and my reviews of some of the best of the best when it comes to Portuguese wines), see part one.

The second guided tasting at Wine Future 2023 featured what was billed as “The Magnificent 12?—after having showcased twelve of Portugal’s most incredible wines, the focus turned to international offerings. Leading the tasting was a long-time 1WD friend (IRL, not just online) and fellow Philly-area wine guy Mark Squires (yes, that Mark Squires, from Robert Parker‘s Wine Advocate).

No preamble required here, and we’ve got a lot of wines ahead of us (all of them worthy of attention), so let’s jump in…


NV Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut, Champagne, $55

A 60/24/15 blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Munier, mostly culled from Grand Cru sites, this bubbly is a classic and an easy ringer to kick off a tasting. Excellent autolytic character with lots of breadshop/yeasty stuff drives the nose, and there’s gorgeous apple action throughout, and fantastic acidity. If anyone was feeling sleepy when they sat down to this, the electric energy of its palate wouldn’t have allowed them to snooze for long.


2020 Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Grosses Gewachs Alte Reben Reserve, Mosel, $100

I have a soft spot for Mosel Riesling, but I think even the haters would recognize this as an incredible, ageworthy single-vineyard showcase. The vines sourcing this white are ungrafted, and it spends a year aging in oak. White flowers, limes, slate, quince, apples, light spices, roses, and pristine flavors of apricot and lemons… It’s just lovely stuff, people. The freshness and transparency are alluring, and while the acids are BIG, they give a sense of polish around the edges that perfectly balances the tart fruitiness.


2021 Pyramid Valley ‘Snake’s Tongue’ Pinot Noir, Central Otago, $NA

One of the more surprising entries in this lineup, this New Zealand Pinot is aged in 500L barrels and sees a small percentage of new oak. It’s full-bore stuff, especially for NZ: ripe, gamey, smoky, floral, powerful, structured, leathery, concentrated, silky, and very long. Hints of citrus mingle with red berry, blue plum, tea leaf, rhubarb, and wild raspberry flavors, delivering a near tidal-wave of complexity for the curious.


2021 Bibi Graetz ‘Colore’, Tuscany, $335

I have some history with Bibi, who I interviewed during my Playboy gig back in the day, and with this label in particular. This Super Tuscan take on Sangiovese is the result of an old vine selection from four vineyards, and spends 18 months in older oak barrels of various sizes (matched to the blocks and parcels). Colore has steadily trended more and more elegant since its debut, and this is an extremely elegant vintage of it. Dark cherries and orange peel grace the nose with almost immaculate purity; in the mouth, it displays an fresh, linear, and deep (rather than concentrated) core of supple red fruit. It’s crazy fresh, crazy long, crazy good, and will age for a crazy amount of time (a decade, easily).

crowd pleaser

2014 Shabo Winery Lukuridze Family Wine Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon, Ukraine, $NA

This was the surprise wine of the tasting, and with it WF `23 made a bit of a statement in solidarity with the currently beleaguered Ukraine. This Cab exhibits classic notes of violets, rose petals, blackcurrants, oak, pencil shavings, and sage on the nose. The palate is dark and plummy, but with great spiciness, nice structure, and awesome currant fruitiness. It’s as stately as a butler, and as friendly a fine Cab as they come.


2013 Joseph Phelps Vineyards ‘Insignia’, Napa Valley, $370

Napa haters who decry that its Cabs are too big to age well will have had to STFU after tasting this popular blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc from seven different vineyards. Violets, tons of graphite, dark plums, iron, leather, forest floor, sweet oak spice… it’s exactly where it ought to be after a decade in the bottle. And it’s still sexy AF on the palate, with blackcurrant fruit flavor that’s equally deep and wide. Good tannin scaffolding, a bit of heat, but an insanely high quality level.


2015 Viñedo Chadwick, Puente Alto, $430

Speaking of Sexy, this Cabernet from a small (15 ha) Chilean vineyard also made the cut. The nose is assertive: spicy as all get out, herbal, and sporting plenty of cedar, graphite, peppers, cassis, mint, and blue plums. The mouthfeel is smooth, with rich dark fruit that feels opulent, leathery, and chewy. It’s a mouthful of Chilean Cab greatness, with a classic character and high-end steakhouse appeal.


2019 Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard ‘Mundus Bacillus Terrae’ Adrianna Vineyard Malbec, Gualtallary, $370

Catena’s Laura Catena (who was in attendace at WF `23 as a speaker), described this red (sourced from ungrafted, massal selection vines growing at low-flying-aircraft altitudes of up to 1,500 meters) as benefiting from the “elegant microbes of the Earth” found in their vineyard (apparently, some of them were actually previously unknown to science). This red starts floral, mineral, deep, and tightly wound on the nose, signaling that it’s still got a long life ahead of it in the bottle. Blue and black fruit, wild herbs, and a mouth-coating texture mark the palate. Asses are being kicked by this, and names are being taken.

crowd pleaser

2018 Yalumba ‘The Octavius’ Shiraz, Barossa Valley, $100

Sniffing this old vine Shiraz brought my mind right back to the tasting I attended in Yalumba’s cellar several years ago. But not at first, because the nose on this beauty unravels slooooowly. Pepper, eucalyptus, raspberries, red plums, oak… and then… BOOM. Leather, herbs, chewy red fruits, taught acidity, and intensity matched by vibrancy. Once it gets going, it shows off its old vine depth in ways that simply cannot be hated.


2011 Casa Ferreirinha ‘Barca Velha’, Douro, $700

A bit gratuitous to throw in a Douro red after an entire tasting devoted to Portugal’s best wines? Maybe, but this legendary red is so good, all is easily forgiven, and quickly. A blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Cão, the nose on this is amazingly complex: dried flowers, dried herbs, juicy and savory plums, tobacco, game, smoke, camphor… it just doesn’t quit. The palate is in a nice supple state, but still has plenty of structure in its tannins and acids for further aging. Savory, woody, and a perfect match for hearty red meat, it’s pretty epic.


NV González Byass Tío Pepe ‘Estrella de los Mares’, Jerez, $NA

Fino style Sherry fans, perk the f*ck up! This fortified delight is from casks (comprising just 1,000 bottles) shipped on a round-the-world sailboat journey to emulate the development of the Sherry wines of history. I’m not sure what, if any, impact that had on its development, but I am sure that’s it damned excellent. Rancio, minerals, dried white figs, white clay, and a pure hit of alcohol start the aromatic volley, followed by a nutty palate that goes on nearly as long as its shipping voyage. And yet, it never overstays its welcome or feels like a burden, thanks to its lift and perfume.


2019 Klein Constantia ‘Vin de Constance’, Constantia, $100

I’ve had multiple run-ins with this storied dessert label, some near and some far (like, at their very doorstep), and all welcome. The story of this producer’s rebirth is nothing short of astounding (consider this: for nearly a century, from the 1880s to the 1990s, they made no wine at all). This vintage of the historic sticky made from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains offers up sweet mandarins, dried flowers, sultanas, white fig compote, and plenty of salinity. The plush palate is supple and broad, with candied and over-ripe citrus fruit, a juicy texture with more vibrancy than you’d expect, and as much power as you can handle.


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