Food & Drink

14 Bottles That Will Change the Way You Taste Wine

Wine is about an experience, and expressing a sense of place.
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When I talk about "benchmark wines," I think it's important to have a balance. Sure—sometimes a ridiculously expensive bottle can change your life, but other times they only disappoint. Wine is about an experience, and expressing a sense of place. Here are 14 wines that do exactly that.

Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan is the beverage director of Himmel Hospitality Group in Boston and a Ribera y Rueda ambassador.

1. German Riesling


$29.99 (P1,553.24)

Few wines have a better quality-to-price ratio than German Riesling. They are food friendly, super complex, and amazingly age-worthy; buy some for yourself and see what happens after 10 years to a $20 bottle of wine. It will be hard to believe that more people haven't figured it out, but that's okay by me. My go to is Dr. Loosen's Ürziger Würzgarten, dominated by exotic spice ("würzgarten" means spice garden), ripe apricot, peach, and notes of honey and ginger.

Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan is the beverage director of Himmel Hospitality Group in Boston and a Ribera y Rueda ambassador.

2. Champagne


$259.99 (P13,465.40)

I would start every day with champagne if I could. Seriously, I would put it on my Cheerios if I didn't get such funny looks. Pol Roger's Sir Winston Churchill changed my view of what I thought champagne is—from a fizzy beverage enjoyed during weddings and on New Year's Eve to one of the most complex, age-worthy, moving wines on the planet. The 1985 Sir Winston was like an amazing bottle of aged white burgundy but with brightness and freshness rolled in.

3. Muscadet-Domaine de la Louvetrie


$13.99 (P724.57)

Don't be confused by the nameminerality, combined with ripping acidity, tart fruit, and a unique saline component that is reminiscent of being rolled by a wave in the ocean. These are wines that scream of a place. Try their Amphibolite Muscadet.

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4. Oregon Pinot Noir


$37.99 (P1,967.58)

Still a relatively new area of production in the world of fine wine, these wines are still figuring out what they are but they are a perfect balance of Old-World and New-World style. They have fruit but it is more tart than California Pinot Noir and they have earthy notes as well but they aren't as funky as some of their French counterparts. I love J. Christopher's Dundee Hills Pinot Noirs. They are ageable but still approachable in their youth and really speak about where they are from.

5. Barbera


$31.99 (P1,656.83)

The workhorse grape of Piedmont in Italy, always playing second fiddle to Nebbiolo, these wines are often overlooked. They are reasonable, refreshing, and driven by fruit but with something that is so clearly Italian in their profile. My favorite is Elvio Cogno's Bricco dei Merli from Alba. Drink it now or in five years—it will be delicious either way.

6. Ribera del Duero


$389.99 (P20,198.36)

Vega-Sicilia is the most historic property in Spain when we talk about quality wine production. With a 150-year history, not much has changed in how they do things or what they want out of their wines—which is perfection. The estate and their wines move slowly; the current release of their flagship wine, Unico, is 2005. The perfect balance of structure and finesse, these wines are timeless. If you are lucky enough to try Unico, take note that you are one of the lucky few in the world.

$34.99 (P1,812.20)

Tinto Pesquera helped place Ribera del Duero on the map and stands as one of the absolute icons of Spanish wines. The wines are viewed as "old school" but have amazing values. I happened to be born in the worst year for wine production ever, 1984. The 1984 Tinto Pesquera Gran Reserva provided me with an invaluable understanding of tempranillo outside of Rioja. That being said, the 1984 vintage is nearly impossible to find. Luckily, their current release wines are more available and offer some of the best, adorable and ageable wines you’ll be able to find.

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7. Red Burgundy


$399.99 (P20,716.28)

As a spoiled wine kid, I had the chance to drink plenty of Burgundy, more than most can fathom. After all these years, the 1985 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays holds a special place in my heart. It embodies everything you’d want in a wine—it’s pretty, lifted, elegant, savory and spicy. Every time I drink this wine, it still blows my hair back. Every. Single. Time. Spend the money and try this one out. It’s worth it.

8. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon


$229.99 (P11,911.64)

It took the tasting of Paris for the world to pay attention to California wine, but some of the most awe-inspiring wines in the world have been coming out of the Napa Valley since the 1950s. Diamond Creek Vineyards, located on Diamond Mountain in Northern Napa, is an ideal setting as I have ever seen in California. They produce tiny quantities that age as well as Bordeaux but with a little more generosity of fruit; their Gravelly Meadow is as good as any bottle of Bordeaux I have ever had. The 1991 is my benchmark.

9. Rueda Dorado


$7.99 (P413.82)

As unique a beverage as I have ever had, this wine from Hijos de Alberto Gutierrez (they are the only producer!) is a holdover from a time long past. The tradition of fortifying wine in Rueda and then aging and baking it in the sun in glass containers for months is something of legend. It resembles sherry (they have flor there too) but it is different since verdejo is not as austere as the palomino grape and it shows in the final wine. This wine is truly unique and will change your perception of "traditional" wines from Rueda.

10. Amarone della Valpolicella


$325 (P16,832.40)

Another wine with a unique method of production, the Corvina grapes in this vintage are dried for months in lofts outside of Lake Garda in northern Italy. The resulting wines are fruit driven but layered by notes of bitter chocolate, earth, ginger, honey, and saffron and are massive with some reaching 17 percent alcohol naturally. Giuseppe Quintarelli is the benchmark, and his wines are so good you might just want to smell them, not drink them.

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11. Syrah


$69.99 (P3,624.92)

The Northern Rhone is the birthplace of the grape we call syrah (or shiraz), and these wines can be truly monumental. Full of structure, black fruits, and dominated by meat, smoke, pepper, and an exotic spice, these are as some of the most compelling wines that no one knows about. J.L. Chave's St. Joseph is one the best and most value-driven examples out there.

$109.99

Typically, the syrah conversation starts and ends with Jean- Louis Chave. Recently, I decided to match it against Sean Thackery Orion for a blind tasting at a dinner party. Needless to say, the Orion more than held its own. This wine ages beautifully. I opened the 1989 but routinely drink the wine from the 90s, 2000s, and today and it is all you could want. It smells like bacon, sweet ripe frot, spice, and eucalyptus—a secret I don’t usually share.

12. Chablis


$89.99 (P4,660.76)

While Chablis is often seen as catnip for somms, the 2014 vintage is beyond magical. The wine is salty, tangy, mushroomy and everything nice. Do yourself a favor and find this wine. Run, don’t walk. Try any of the recent selections from William Fevre if you have trouble finding Bougros and I promise you will not be disappointed. Just don’t share any with your friends.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

Prices are based on the conversion rate of $1 = P51.79.

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