The best wine of my life
I love wine. I mean really love wine. There is a connection to the land and a connection to a specific moment in time that other beverages cannot replicate. That said there is a huge difference between good and truly great wine. I have been privileged to try many, many wines in my career thanks to great friends, wine makers and suppliers. Trade tastings like the Vancouver International Wine Festival , ZAP in San Francisco and Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles have been instrumental in my learning curve and appreciation for all wine. I have been asked many times what are the best wines I have tried. It’s tempting to bring out the old saying that it’s like asking me to pick a favourite nephew/child. It can be said there are no absolutes but if I had to pick one I could because of the significance it played in my personal and professional life.
#1 1985 Sassicaia . I purchased 3 of these bottles while working at Marquis Wine Cellars early in my career. I’d like to say it was good planning to buy three but it was mostly because I was an ardent follower of Robert Parker and he had raved about it in The Wine Advocate. At that time it was a lot of money for me to spend on three bottles of wine but I was starting a collection and thought they would be a good foundation. I don’t remember the first bottle being consumed but the second bottle of it is forever etched in my brain. My wife and I had dinner together at our home and it wasn’t specifically a special occasion but I wanted it to be a special wine so I grabbed a bottle of the Sassicaia. At that time it was probably 11-12 years old. Dinner was served; wine was opened and poured for each of us as we sat down to eat. I took a first sniff and she did as well. I remember being overcome by emotion as we started to eat and drink. There was nothing out of balance on this wine, alcohol was in check, tannins were integrated, aromatics were amazing and I had a moment that clarified my love for her and for wine. The interesting part for me about that moment is that I realized there are probably a number of different categories of wine. Not good, good, great and life altering. The life altering ones are few and far between and they are NOT intellectual exercises they are EMOTIONAL. Emotions are much harder to quantify. When I try wines of that calibre I find it almost impossible to write a tasting note because they strike my heart not my brain. I felt truly alive and electrified as I realized I was enjoying a truly special experience. That bottle was just 26 ounces of fermented grape juice. It was also a window into a different world. This was boldness to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Bolgheri. ( First commercial vintage released was 1968). This was looking forward to the future of Italian wine. It stood Italian winemaking on its head as there wasn’t a category for these wines. We just called them Vino da Tavola , eventually the category IGT was created . Looking back I realize it was an expression of Cabernet Sauvignon but not necessarily an expression of Italian wine making culture and tradition. I accept that. But it was brilliantly conceived, farmed and made. I have rarely seen a review of this wine that did not rave about it. This led me to another conclusion. We often describe wines as being closed or dumb. I am convinced that this wine has never been in a period in which it wasn’t perfectly drinkable and that is another hallmark of truly great wines.
There are a few more wines that deserve mentioning as being truly memorable. I’ll be talking about them at a later date.
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