Best wines to drink in 2021
Matthew Jukes gives his verdict on which bottles to enjoy this year
Matthew Jukes, a winner of the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year Trophy, picks out the best wines you should be tasting in 2021. He has been the MoneyWeek wine correspondent since 2006 and his four highly-acclaimed, annual wine reports, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piemonte and 100 Best Australian Wines are published on his website matthewjukes.com.
These reviews were originally published in MoneyWeek
2018 Kelly Washington, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
An insanely delicious Kiwi interloper
Tamra Kelly-Washington is a gifted winemaker and one who goes the extra mile for every one of her carefully crafted wines. Highly experienced, having worked to great acclaim in both Europe and also her homeland of New Zealand, she consults for Michael Seresin’s wines in Marlborough and is responsible for giving his portfolio an exquisite, new lease of life. She also works with her husband, Simon, on their family wine label, and this newly released pinot will show you, in just one sip, why she is a force to be reckoned with and a name to follow very closely.
The grapes are sourced from the Monte Rosa vineyard in my favourite sub-region of Central Otago, Gibbston. The wines from this part of Otago are particularly fragrant and graceful, and in slightly warmer vintages they summon up marvellous, stylish juiciness. In 2018, Tamra used 20% whole bunches to bring enviable spice and tension to this silky red, and with 28% new French oak used for 11 months, there is an underlying classiness and flamboyance which echoes the elevated level of ripeness found in this vintage. This is a perfect example of a winemaker using sensitivity, taste and experience to exactly match the terrific calibre of her pinot fruit to the precise recipe needed to create an insanely delicious wine.
Drinking well already, and with a rather chaotic 2019 Burgundy En Primeur circus going on around us this month, find solace in this Kiwi interloper.
2019 Zwillingslauser, Grüner Veltliner, Winzerhof Sax, Kamptal, Austria
A perky Austrian white with style and panache
Grüner veltliner is a fabulous white grape and many of us are familiar with its charms. Not long ago you could only find this cheeky grape on trips to Austria, but nowadays most supermarkets stock budget versions and it is fair to say that they rarely let you down if you are after competently made, dry, perky white wines with a little more flavour intrigue than your average sauvignon blanc or chenin blanc.
If you climb to the top of the grüner ladder the wines are often rich and heady and, although gastronomically and intellectually challenging, they are not particularly refreshing. In between the £8 high-street offerings and Hirtzberger (my favourite estate) at around the £40-mark, there are hundreds of largely unfamiliar estates making useful wines. This week, I have found a relatively inexpensive grüner for you with a tremendous amount of character and flair.
Zwillingslauser translates as naughty twins, and twins Max and Rudolph Sax are the winemakers behind this delicious wine. Theirs has been a family business since 1660 and it’s fair to say that there is no shortage of experience here so I urge you to seek out this rewarding wine. Smooth, pure, layered and silky, the pear and apple theme is balanced perfectly by zesty acidity. It will shock you with its style and panache.
2019 Timorasso Piccolo Derthona, Colli Tortonesi, La Spinetta, Piemonte, Italy
An absolute diva from Piemonte
Superstar winemaker Giorgio Rivetti is most famous for his trio of masterful Piemonte reds, Barbarescos Gallina, Starderi and Valeirano. He has ventured south to Tuscany, too, where his rich, layered, oak-soaked style of red winemaking works well with his various “Super-Tuscan” incarnations. But his most remarkable recent release is, shock-horror, a white wine, and it comes from the little-known Colli Tortonesi region of Piemonte. Situated some 50 miles to the east of Alba, the wines from the hills to the east of the town of Tortona are starting to register on curious, wine-geek palates.
Best-known for producing workman-like versions of the red grape barbera, it is the super-rare, indigenous white grape timorasso that has shone a spotlight on this region. I always seek out examples of timorasso when I tour Piemonte, but I have never tasted one as spellbinding as this. There are no tricks whatsoever in the winemaking, just a discreet period of lees contact and then it is bottled without delay. Fresh onto our shelves, this is one of the most beguiling wines of the moment. With a flavour silhouette reminiscent of a Premier Cru Chablis, but with more exoticism of stone fruit and honeysuckle on the nose and a fleshier mid-palate, this is an absolute diva of a wine and the value, given its illustrious heritage, is staggering.
2017 Rully Blanc, Monopole Clos Folie, Domaine de la Folie, Burgundy, France
Two sensational whites drinking now
I have written-up recent 2019 Burgundy En Primeur findings in various posts on my website, but we all need beauties to drink now while we are waiting for young wines to mellow. I have a pair of exquisite whites from two world-famous estates and they are both eminently affordable and drinking now.
Folie’s history dates back 300 years, but the recent renaissance at this Domaine is thanks to Clémence and Baptiste Dubrulle. It was Clémence’s grandfather who made the wines famous in the Sixties and Seventies and, after a prolonged slump, they are back to stellar form. This single-vineyard creation is sensational. Planted with 40-year-old vines, this north-northeast, clay and limestone monopole is regarded as one of the finest chardonnay vineyards in the Côte Chalonnaise. With no oak in the mix, this is a pristine wine with white flowers on the nose and a racy, citrus palate.
My second choice is a hugely stylish piece of artistic winemaking: the 2017 Bourgogne Blanc Bachelet-Monnot (£19.18) bears the indelible signature of brothers Marc and Alexandre Bachelet. This is a tremendous wine with a flavour that could easily command twice the price. Layered, sexy, louche and memorable, it is the perfect counterpoint to the more straight-laced Foli.
2018 De Loach, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California
A top-flight Californian chardonnay
The problem with tastings on Zoom and YouTube interviews is that there is nowhere to hide when you are asked to tell the audience your thoughts about a wine, particularly if you haven’t tasted it before. I always “say what I see” and this doesn’t always go down well! On a recent JCB LIVE interview with flamboyant wine magnate Jean-Charles Boisset I was put on the spot with one of his wines. Thank goodness it was stunning! In fact, it was so good that it leapt straight onto this page today.
Of course one has to be prepared for a full-framed style when dealing with Californian chardonnay, so I was impressed to see that under the expressive, cool-climate, Russian River-influenced fruit there is a beating heart of refreshing acidity, which electrifies this dynamic wine. Made from a blend of fruit from three vineyards, each with their specific microclimates, this is a seriously fascinating new release and I was fully prepared for a £50 price tag.
So, if you are searching for a top-flight Californian chardonnay that doesn’t cost the earth then here it is, and if anyone puts you on the spot, I can assure you that you have nothing to worry about!
2019 Westwell Ortega & Ortega Amphora, North Downs, Kent
A pair of English beauties
I have taken to calling in vast numbers of bottles to my home because the interminable lockdowns have made wine tastings impossible. Although this is somewhat of a logistical pain, the mountains of recycling are worth it when I come across wines as beautiful as my featured pair.
Hidden in a sea of English wine samples were two of the most beautiful labels in our land, on wines made from the little-known ortega grape. Developed in 1948 by crossing Müller-Thurgau and siegerrebe, this white variety has spread from its homeland in the Pfalz and Mosel regions of Germany to other cool-climate wine-growing countries, such as England and Canada. It is not as starry a variety as chardonnay, or even bacchus for that matter, but I adore top-flight versions of this grape and Westwell is a master at bringing out its incandescent beauty.
With delicate peachy notes, hints of mandarin peel and rhubarb stalks, this is a bone-dry and yet all-consuming wine with bracing acidity and stunning poise. Owner/winemaker Adrian Pike learned his craft from Will Davenport (a favourite winemaker of mine) and he has an artist’s touch with this grape.
In addition to my headline stunner, Adrian’s 2019 Westwell Ortega Amphora (£25) is fermented and aged in terracotta amphorae made by the Artenova pottery in Florence. There is heady fruit here coupled with raucous traction on the palate and this raspy, faintly masochistic sensation is nothing short of electrifying. Seek these wines out because they are like nothing you will have ever tasted before.
2019 Jules Taylor, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
A quartet of remarkable kiwis
Jules Taylor is a prodigiously talented winemaker and she has just celebrated her 20th year making her eponymous portfolio of wines. I have followed her every step of the way, yet she has never released a set of bottles like the quartet featured in this article, which have just arrived on our shores.
Leading with the remarkable pinot noir (details above), which is so keenly priced it makes all but a handful of pinots in the world look embarrassed, this is a dark-hued and extraordinarily resonant wine. The nose is sensational, with Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie allure, and this sonorous call to arms is followed by admirable restraint on the palate coupled with hints of earth and spice. This is a brilliant wine and one which should be in everyone’s cellar given its fruit purity, freshness and thrilling balance.
While you are ordering the pinot noir, load up with 2020 Jules Taylor Pinot Gris (£16.50) – a smooth, tangy, toned and hauntingly refreshing version of this oft-dowdy and dilute white grape. The 2020 Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc (£14.95) also bears Jules’ trademark delicacy and control, with sleek, lean, citrus fruit, yet with none of the pushy, tropical fruit flavours which make so many Marlborough versions fall flat. Finally, 2019 Jules Taylor Chardonnay (£16.50) is showy, silky, layered and enticing, and yet it still manages to bring vivacity and brisk acidity to the fore in its long finish. Every one of these wines is drinking now, too, so don’t delay.