Best of the Best 2002: Wine: Best International New Releases

<< Back to Robb Report, June 2002
  • Paul Wasserman

Austrian Overture
Nigl 2000 Riesling Privat (Kremstal, Austria). Few regions have burst on the scene with such a cornucopia of world-class, food-friendly, and refreshingly un-oaked wines as Austria. And Nigl has proven itself one of the country’s best. This wine is truly a monument to the wine maker’s skill. The 2000 Riesling Privat has an almost brutal power and concentration, exhibiting a profound minerality that can be likened to sipping liquid diamonds of the purest quality. If this description sounds somewhat masochistic, keep in mind that a few years’ aging will polish this vintage to silky textural perfection, rewarding you with an aromatic complexity and food-friendliness that most Chardonnays can only covet.

Importer: Michael Skurnik, 516.677.9300

Que Syrah!
Jean-Louis Chave 1999 Hermitage (Rhône Valley, France). The Chaves have been making Hermitage since 1481; since then, theirs has emerged as one of the finest Hermitages produced. Happily, there is little that’s new in this five-century-old cellar, though the 1999 Hermitage does represent one of those rare landmark vintages that offers wine makers the opportunity to approach perfection, to realize the essential. This vintage is one of the purest, finest, deepest, and most transparent essences of Syrah you will ever encounter. The suave, rich, smoky, ultraripe fruit coats a forceful but supremely elegant tannic backbone. The flavor reminds one of dragées, the sugar-coated almonds given out at French weddings and baptisms: sweetness followed by a crunch. Great wine does indeed taste of metaphors.

Importers: Langdon Shiverick, 216.861.6800
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 510.524.1524

Serious Sipping
Krug 1988 Clos du Mesnil (Champagne, France).
Krug Grande Cuvée and vintage Krug are serious Champagnes. But Clos du Mesnil—the firm’s prestige cuvée made with 100 percent Chardonnay grapes from a walled 1.87-hectare vineyard dating back to 1698—is even more serious. Befitting the most expensive Champagne in existence, this vintage is glorious—an absolute must for both collectors and discriminating consumers. Aromas of toast, lime, and exotic fruit combine with the deepest vinosity, high acidity, and a supremely elegant and complex finish that seems to last forever. 1988 Clos du Mesnil is not a Champagne to party with, but to pair with food and, even more appropriately, to cellar.

Importer: Clicquot Inc., 212.888.7575

Now That’s Italian
Bruno Giacosa 1996 Barolo Falletto di Serralunga Riserva (Piedmonte, Italy).
1996, 1997, and 1998 have blessed Piedmonte with a string of superlative vintages. Yet a war rages in this Italian province between traditional and modern wine makers. In this landscape, Giacosa remains as neutral as Switzerland. Unabashedly traditional, his wines are of such incredible depth and quality that no one can contest them. Of the three vintages, 1996 is best built for the long term and this wine will one day rank among the greatest Italian wines ever made. Everything that characterizes Barolo—rose petals, leather, mint, tar, and earth—wrestles your taste buds. Your palate, of course, won’t win, but this is what you expect from a great, young Nebbiolo. You’ll want to cellar this wine for decades to come.

Importer: Winebow Importers, 201.445.0620, www.winebow.com

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