Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris on October 18, 2016 1 Comment Everyone’s got a bucket list of one description or another, a detailed and criss-crossed catalogue of experiences which we feel compelled to tick off, before we grow too old and get tied down with the realities and grinding responsibilities of adult life. Some of us have a craving to watch the sunrise glow red over Uluru, others need to pad barefoot through the Forbidden City, or lie in the gardens of the Taj Mahal. Others still feel the call of adrenaline-fueled adventure — to leap from an airplane or swim with dolphins, or to partake in rituals, to dance naked around Stonehenge on the summer solstice. Whatever your ambitions may be, however grandiose or crazy, we’d encourage everyone to put together a ‘bottle list’ alongside their bucket list. That is, a list of wines and wine experiences to try before you reach a certain age. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that age is forty. Reaching forty doesn’t mean you’re over the hill and not open to new experiences, but the chances are if you’re this age already, you’ve done plenty of wine exploration and have lots of viticultural experiences under your belt. This doesn’t mean you can’t join the club — wine is a lifelong pleasure, after all, and there are always new surprises to uncover. Did You Know That Amazon Sells Wine? Without further ado, here is an absolutely non-definitive list of great wines, wine styles and wine experiences to aim for…before real life starts to properly kick in. 1. A Well-Aged Riesling There are many good reasons why Riesling wines are widely regarded as among the world’s finest. The supremacy of the Riesling grape is a long-standing one, and the qualities they possess making for truly stunning wines. Young bottles express a freshness, an acidity and a brightness which is all a great white wine should be. Packed full of intense apple flavors, along with a grassy minerality which is unmistakable, they’re the perfect sunny afternoon wine. Cellar them for ten years, however, and they become out of this world. A carefully aged Riesling is a thing to behold — bursting with deep, intense notes of forest floors and autumn leaves, that acidity breaks down and rounds out to present a complexity which is rare and highly sought-after. This type of Riesling is best produced in Alsace and in parts of southern Germany, but it is also having great success in the US and Australia, too. 2. A Top Californian Rose This is wine at its most fun and relaxing. The next great sunny day off you have, pack a nice picnic full of your favorite things, find a wide open, green space to kick back in with some friends, and pour yourselves a glass of one of the great Californian rose wines. At its best, this stuff is bottled sunshine, and they can contain flavor profiles that are a genuine and game-changing thrill to the senses. Typical examples would include bursting notes of lychee and passion fruit, pink grapefruit and blood orange, and they all dance together in the heat of the day. I was one of those people who thought I didn’t like rose until I expanded my search to California, and now, when the sun is out I don’t reach for much else. 3. One of the Famed Left-Bank Bordeaux Wines Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, but the classic red wines of the best Bordeaux appellations have a fairly strong claim to being the finest red wines in the world. Within the top bottles from the smaller appellations listed around the Gironde river’s Left Bank, you’ll find expertise and skill blended with centuries of tradition and reverence for the art of wine making. This all swims beautifully as one in a carefully balanced mixture of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot varietal grapes, each grape bringing out the best in the other. These wines aren’t cheap — but get together with two friends, split the cost between the three of you (which wouldn’t be more than the cost of a football game or a restaurant meal, if you think about it), and enjoy these serious aged wines as they are meant to be enjoyed: around a table, accompanied by conversation and musings on the nature of life, the universe and everything. 4. Viognier and Lobster For me, Viognier is the ultimate in white wine decadence, and this food pairing represents everything I love about life. Rich, deeply floral wine held in a silky full body, balancing with the sweetness and softness of the shellfish. There are some things in life which are destined to be together, pairings which change the way you look at food and drink as a whole, and this is definitely one of them. The spiritual home of Viognier is the Rhone Valley, so make an effort to get one from one of the original appellations associated with this grape, and luxuriate in what it will do to your palate. The last word in laid-back sophistication. 5. A Top Class Australian Shiraz There’s plenty to love about New World wines. Their boldness, their variations on classic themes, the expression of an often completed different terroir from what the grape varietal is used to. To get the best of the New World, look no further than Australia, and see what they’re doing with Shiraz down under. These are brave, exciting wines for a new generation of wine drinkers. Complex and big on the palate, they’re packed full of dark and intense fruit flavors, yet maintaining a list of tasting notes which is as fascinating as it is long. Get ready for oaky, leathery, peppery taste sensations, which are lifted up by vanilla touches and hints of rich, forest fruit. They’re masculine, boisterous, and a huge amount of fun to drink. 6. One of the Classic Botrytised Wines One of the classic what? Botrytised wines are dessert wines, made from grapes which have been allowed to be affected by the botrytis fungus, a parasite which withers the grapes on the vine, and concentrates the sugars to produce a phenomenal set of flavors. Also known as ‘noble rot’, the best examples of this type of wine are Sauternes from France, and Royal Tokaji from Hungary. If you don’t like dessert wine (and lots of people don’t), prepare to be converted. Even a relatively cheap bottle of Sauternes or Royal Tokaji will blow your socks off with intense, fascinating flavors of dried apricot, candied nuts, dark honey and spice. 7. A Port Which was Made Before You Were Born There had to be a fortified wine on this list, because a glass of Port is such a treat even when it’s from the bottle kept at the back of your mom’s drinks cabinet. Port is the classic fortified wine, hailing from the Portuguese capital, and it really does pack a punch when it comes to aroma and flavor, before giving way to a set of secondary tastes which are completely seductive. It gets better with age — as do many things in life — and if you’re coming up to thirty years old, you’re in luck — 1986 and ‘87 were two of the best years for Port in modern history, and a bottle which is aged for thirty years or more is going to be something to cherish and remember for some time. 14 Wine Varietals You Probably Haven’t Heard Of 8. A Super Tuscan Yes, it sounds like an Italian superhero. But the Super Tuscans were an important set of winemakers, who deserve our respect and admiration, and a great bottle of unorthodox Tuscan wine shows you the real potential of this popular Italian wine region, and how good red wine can be when traditional wineries can follow their instincts and produce the wines that they want to drink. The Super Tuscans felt frustrated by the limitations put upon them by the local government in Tuscany and the restrictive wine laws which they felt were damaging their reputation and output. As such, they started blending their Sangiovese grapes with imported French varietals, and ended up with beautifully balanced wines which are the perfect pairing for your favorite Italian dishes. 9. Blanc des Noirs Ooh, this is a nice one. We all love the idea and the image of Champagne — it’s a wine which is synonymous with luxury and celebration. But sometimes we must stop and ask ourselves: is the image really living up to the reality? The mid-priced bottles of classic Champagne (made primarily from blended Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes) are generally completely indistinguishable from one another, and dare we say it, a bit boring. Other types of Champagne have started to become more popular, and for me, the best of the bunch in Blanc des Noirs, a single varietal Champagne made only from the Pinot Noir grapes. It’s silky, sexy, sultry and has a deeper, more relaxed flavor than the classics. Give it a try, you’ll see what I mean. 10. The Best Modern Chardonnay You Can Get Your Hands On You might be surprised to see this on the list, but I think it’s a great example of how wine styles change from generation to generation. Chardonnay is still often sneered at by wine drinkers — memories of those heavy, creamy, buttery Chardonnays of the 90’s still hang around, from when it was wine for people who don’t really like wine. Modern Chardonnay has woken up, and today, some of the best white wines you’ll find are coming from this varietal. Replacing all that roundness and flabbiness with a strong acidity and real bite, this can and should be one of the most expressive white grapes out there, and in the best bottles from Burgundy, Chile and Argentina, you can fall in love all over again.