Rounding up the 10 best wines and champagnes of 2021 from hundreds of worthy contenders.
Hello 2022! It’s fair to say 2021 was a tough year for everyone and it doesn’t seem to get better anytime soon with the coronavirus still plaguing us 2 years after it emerged. These are trying times but a good glass of wine is cathartic.
I recounted the number of wines that I tasted in 2021 and made a list of the 10 best wines. It wasn’t easy to do, especially Luc and I tasted in excess of 200 wines. 80% of them are of different varieties and vintages, excluding many others we tasted directly from the casks at the winery. We rarely repeat a bottle unless it’s our absolute favourite.
The twice-a-year pilgrimage to Burgundy helped us a lot in learning and understanding more about Burgundy wines. We are so grateful to be welcomed by these producers.
Our holiday to Porto in November imparted us with knowledge about Port wines. Prior to the manic Christmas festivities, we were invited for a champagne dinner at L’Assiette Champenoise by Arnaud Lallement in Tinqueux. It was organised by Jerome from the champagne house Legras et Haas in Chouilly, which was already dedicated to champagnes before 1980. The dinner opened my eyes to impressive old and mature champagnes.
A good wine is paramount for the festive season. This is a very personal top 10 wine list from a culmination of many wine tastings at home, restaurants and in the company of friends throughout the year with no self-imposed limits. Some of these wines might break the bank but the experience is priceless. With Chinese New Year fast approaching, you might want to consider stocking up on some of these.
The 10 best wines and champagnes of 2021 (in no particular order):
Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998 (champagne)
This is indeed one of my top 3 champagnes of all time. I have to express a big thank you to a friend for sharing this Champagne with us several years ago for Luc’s birthday.
I have always been a massive fan of Salon. When I tasted this Krug for the first time, however, the experience was surreal. The terroir is simply legendary. It defines the purity of a single plot of Chardonnay harvested and produced only in their best vintages.
The iconic walled vineyard in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger is no larger than 1.84 hectares. There were only 12,000 bottles and 489 magnums of this vintage bottled. This 1998 vintage celebrates the 300th birthday of the Clos (which means walled plot of vines in French). It was really a good year for Chardonnay as they had bountiful sunshine during the harvest.
The champagne has a nice pale golden hue and aromas of almond, apricot, honey, grapefruit and blossom. There is a hint of secondary aromas yet it’s still crisp, intense and complex. I love the presence of minerality as well as candied fruit. The bubbles are very fine and that velvety texture just makes you crave for more. Anything goes with this fine champagne. I paired it with some Osietra caviar and pan-seared scallops.
The champagne retails for about RM7,000.
Dom Pérignon 1947 (champagne)
At the L’Assiette Champenoise old champagne dinner, I brought a bottle of Dom Pérignon 1980 (widely considered an amazing vintage). It was magnificent – a champagne older than me but tasted as though it was bottled yesterday.
We moved on to the DP 1947. I braced myself not knowing what to expect. The bottle was popped open by one of our friends.
It has a nice amber colour, as expected of an old champagne. The effervescence has almost vanished. The aromas are delicate and very appealing. There is brioche, toast, honey and dried fruit. It possesses exceptional complexity and has matured so beautifully in the bottle.
I was very impressed how well Dom Pérignon can age. We had a few others that very night including DP 1978 and the Rosé 1982. They were all in perfect drinking conditions.
No wonder the 1947 vintage is considered the vintage of the century for French wine. It is still one of the best wines money can buy in 2021. It goes for around RM5,000 to RM6,000 in auctions.
NV Michel Fallon Ozanne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (champagne)
This elusive producer from Avize makes only about 1,000 bottles or so each year, making Champagne Ozanne a rare find. I managed to unearth 2 bottles of this lying in a shop in Switzerland.
It’s easy to understand why one is a fan of Selosse-style champagnes. Michel has been working for 25 years with Anselme Selosse. Therefore, he has a better understanding of the “Selosse” method – which he applies to his own wine – than just about anyone else. Vinification done on oak and a long secondary fermentation on lees gives the wine a fine and creamy effervescence.
This bottle is from 2015 and disgorged in 2020. The nose carries notes of grilled almonds, toasty walnuts, brioche, orange blossoms and tangerine peels. It is slightly oxidative, leaner and purer than the Selosse Initial. The candied citrus, pastry richness, intensity and minerality noun together in the long finish makes this champagne a winner. Incredibly hard to find, it is one of the most expensive Grand Cru champagnes from this region.
I bought these two bottles for about RM750 each.
Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Côte de Nuits-Villages ‘Aux Faulques’ 2019 (wine)
One of the new favourites I discovered in 2021 is a red Burgundy that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. It drinks so well, even though it’s a young wine.
Domaine Jean-Marc Millot owns 1.8 hectares of this Aux Faulques parcel from the village of Comblanchien. Located just south of Nuits St. Georges, it is a stone’s throw away from Clos de la Marechalé. The wine emits a bright translucent ruby hue, which I find very appealing in a Pinot Noir. It is wonderfully cherry, floral, teeming with wet earth and raspberry notes with a touch of smoky minerality that shows its rusticity. It’s taut but lively and medium-bodied with good structure.
Many consider this wine to be a Premier Cru instead of being a Village because of the quality it showcases from this terroir. It is an excellent value-for-money red from the Côte de Nuits appellation – a rare occurrence these days due to the soaring prices of Burgundy wines.
The ebullient Alix Millot, daughter of Jean-Marc, is no doubt a veritable winemaker who brings forth feminine touches to her wines. The retail price of this wine hovers around RM160.
Domaine Denis Mortet Fixin Vieilles Vignes 2019 (wine)
A bang for your buck, this is another of my favourite red Burgundy selections from the region of Côte de Nuits-Villages. It is produced from very old vines, over 60 years old of two lieu dits: Champs Pennebaut (northern section of Fixin) and Champs des Charmes (southern section of Fixin). Fixin (fee san) Vieilles Vignes offers wonderful aromas of red and dark fruits such as sour cherries, raspberries, gooseberries and macerated strawberries. The wine is fruity yet intense and a little smoky on the palate.
It exhibits a very elegant finish and lots of finesse. There is no doubt that Arnaud Mortet is a very talented vigneron succeeding his father and making wines that are refined, elegant and precise.
Prices for this bottle are around the RM250-300 mark.
Domaine Fourrier Clos Saint-Jacques 2010 (wine)
Jean-Marc Fourrier took over the 10 hectare family domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin at a tender age of just 23 in the 1990s. He also worked under the tutelage of Henri Jayer, the legendary winemaker in Vosne-Romanee. He possesses plots in Griotte-Chambertin and the Clos St Jacques, whose vines were planted at the beginning of the last century. These wines have attained the status of “cult wines” among serious Burgundy lovers.
When I first tasted this bottle, I thought it was the best wine I’d tasted in the whole year. This is the impact of his wines because they are so expressive and the fact that he only produces minute quantities of them.
This wine is filled with red berries, plums, stone fruits and liquorice with layered nuances of floral and earthy notes. It oozes fine minerality with a medium-body finish. The wine is faultlessly well-balanced with a tremendous depth and precision, and satin-like tannins. I’m enamoured with this wine. This is a wine that you can’t enjoy on a frequent basis because it’s an absolute treat.
A bottle of this wine will set you back around RM3,300. If only I can find more of it.
Marchand Tawse Musigny 2010 (wine)
Pascal Marchand began a small négociant company in partnership with a fellow Canadian Morey Tawse after having taken over the management of Domaine de la Vougaraie for 7 years. They own the smallest parcel in Musigny, at 0.09 hectares out of 10.85 hectares in the Grand Cru appellation. Depending on the vintage, this wine may be labeled as Domaine Tawse, Domaine Maume, Maume by Tawse or Pascal Marchand. We have drunk a bottle of Musigny 2013 from this producer but labeled as Marchand Tawse.
Musigny is one of Burgundy’s crown jewels. This producer happens to produce the fewest bottles. We were fortunate to find a Musigny this rare on a wine list in the restaurant. It has a bright red ruby colour. After a decade, this wine has aged beautifully. You get notes of red fruits, violets and jammy fruits, which after a long cellaring resulted in maturity and complexity. There are also undertones of sous bois, earth and moss, together with notes of leather. Definitely one of those Musigny to look out for.
At the restaurant, this bottle retails for RM3,800.
Henri Jayer Cros-Parantoux 2001 (wine)
This is a wine that needs no introduction. The winemaker from Vosne-Romanee is a legend and so is the vineyard. Henri Jayer is a well-known Burgundy producer and he makes one of the most expensive Pinot Noir wines in the world. His final vintage was 2001 when he retired. He passed away in 2006. He left the domaine to his nephew Emmanuel Roget.
Cros Parantoux is a territory inexorably tied with Henri Jayer because before that, Cros Parantoux did not exist wine-wise. The 2-hectare plot is situated in the upper part of Vosne-Romanée, above the Grand Cru Richebourg vineyard. Hundreds of sticks of dynamite and more than 48 trucks full of bedrock stones transformed this gruff plot into a young, “schooled” vineyard. There were a total of 24 vintages produced from the Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cros-Parantoux by Henri Jayer between 1978 and 2001.
This is a special bottle which we chanced upon. It was a cask of wines made by Henri Jayer for a group of wine aficionados in Belgium. You could see on the top right of the label where it said “for friends”. We bought a few bottles of this wine from a middle person. There was no better opportunity to open it than during our pilgrimage to Burgundy in June.
The bottle was opened and decanted. It was my first experience with Henri Jayer Cros-Parantoux. I didn’t know what to expect. The wine is dark ruby, incredibly fruity with red and dark fruits. It has notes of minerals, is highly balanced on the palate and fresh. There are signs of maturity as well with some hints of sous bois. It is very intense, elegant and refined. In other words, it’s worthy of a legendary wine.
One of the best wines I tasted in 2021 is not for the faint-hearted. The price tag is in the high 5 figures.
Henri Jayer Cros-Parantoux 1990 (wine)
Who would have thought that I would be so lucky to be able to taste this wine of another vintage in the same year? When our friend celebrated his birthday, he invited us to join him for a wonderful lunch at one of the best 3-star-Michelin restaurants in Switzerland. There, he popped open a bottle of Henri Jayer Cros-Parantoux 1990.
For this vintage, 175 cases of this very wine were produced. Wine critics have noted that its bouquet and ageing potential can easily match up to the finest vintages this estate has ever produced. Alongside 1999, the weather conditions in Burgundy at that time were among the finest of the decade. It was warm and pleasant, with temperatures allowing grapes on the estate to fully ripen. This wine is ruby, beautifully complex and yet fresh. It is very fruit forward with hints of underbush.
Overall, this wine is very elegant, opulent and undeniably of Grand Cru quality. It was definitely a priceless experience.
Dal Forno Romano Amarone della Valpolicella Monte Lodoletta 2008 (wine)
I wrote a lengthy wine review of this bottle in my July article. While I’m a Burgundian snob, I do appreciate Italian wines.
Romano Dal learned from his teacher, the late Giuseppe Quintarelli, to make exceptional wines, starting in 1983. His dense, creamy Valpolicella is among the best of Veneto. His estate and winery are just as impressive.
When I put my nose into the glass, there are a myriad of black cherries, liquorice, cloves and ashy smoke. There is so much going on in the glass, with bouquets of herbs such as rosemary and oregano, oak, figs and bittersweet chocolate, intermingling with one another.
The wine has so much grandeur. It is full-bodied, dense and intense. The juxtaposition of a dark herbaceous wine intertwined with sweetness is intriguing. What a wine and for that, it makes it into my 10 best wines of 2021!
It retails for around RM1,200.
My advice is to buy more Burgundy wines this year, especially the 2019 vintage. The yields in 2020 and 2021 are dramatically reduced due to the weather conditions. It will be super expensive to be buying these wines in times to come. With prices rising every year and the scarcity of these wines persist, I believe Burgundy wines are a solid investment.
Hero and feature images by Krug. All other images in the 10 best wines of 2021 article by Eiling Lim, unless stated otherwise