May 8th will mark the one-year anniversary of Josh’s Wine List. Back in December, when I launched my podcast, I did a wrap-up of my favourite English wines of the year. But, one thing I never did was an end of year list.
I love end of year lists. Top 10s, top 100s, ‘a year of music in review’. I love reading them and I love writing them.
I was conflicted at the time if I should do one at the end of 2018. A lot of end of year wine lists I was reading felt like bragging rights more than anything useful, and so I left it.
I’ve decided an overall ranking would be too hard. However, I am going to do an 'All Winners’ list - a phrase I’m hearing Gilles Peterson say as I write it.
The next few issues therefore are going to be some of my winners from the last year. In three price brackets: Under £20, Under £15 and Under £10.
For each, I’ve included my original tasting note and any new additional notes in italics.
White & orange wine: £15-20
The Davenport Horsmonden 2016 is my favourite English white wine I’ve had this year (You can get the 2018 direct from Davenport, or the 2019 from Abel & Cole for £17.50). The acid wasn’t as overpowering as I was expecting for an English white, and lemon zest, peach and flowers came through on the nose. April 2019 Update: I had no idea when tasting this, it would go on to become such a staple. Will’s Horsmonden white & pinot are two English classics.
Le Grappin, a winemaker who splits his time between south London and Burgundy produced the first Burgundy Aligoté I tried. It's slightly pricier that others, but it has lower acidity and fantastic mouthfeel. The 2019 skin contact vintage from the winery's natural offshoot, Du Grappin, is available for £24. April 2019 Update: I ended up drinking five or six bottles of this over the last year and it's still a go-to winner when I see it.
A bit further south, the Bouquet des Garrigues - a white Côtes du Rhône - offered lemon and grapefruit and a liveliness that’s enticing. April 2019 Update: This wine set off a journey into finding Rhone style whites I liked and from here I discovered white Riojas. This was, on reflection, one of my favourite two or three whites of last year.
While in Oddbins, white chardonnay fans should really buy a bottle of Arsonist (£20). The body structure and flavour here reminded me more of the Northern Rhone more than California. White flowers with an incredibly fleshy texture. Top notch chardonnay at a very good value price.
Red wine: £15-20
Markus Schneider in Pfalz, Germany has made an incredible wine from the grape combo. Ursprung is a brilliant wine and one I’d recommend even in this higher price bracket. Red berries, spice, oak. Tannins are low and overall well balanced. Great with food but still just as nice to drink afterwards. It’s under €10 if you can get it in Germany, but is worth the higher value already imported. April 2019 Update: I ended up buying a few bottles of this whenever I saw it. A real delight.
Cibonne "Tentations" Rouge (€15 direct) is a Provençal red made from syrah, grenache, and tibouren. This was nicely perfumed, with blackcurrants and herbs. Far nicer in my mind than its pricier wines. April 2019 Update: This was from the Red Squirrel tasting, which cemented itself as one of my favourite importers.
Kekfrankos is Hungary’s name for the Blaufränkisch grape. St Donat’s Magma (17.99) is some of the best value I’ve found in red wine in a long time. Spicy red fruit with black pepper. This has a very long and elegant finish that hints at chocolate at the end. Bold and Syrah-esque. After my trip to Hungary last year, I was really keen to find some incredible reds, this was a highlight.