The Vine Inspiration Wine and Music Awards 2015

Wines of the Year, Food Oscars, Golden Pints, everyone is at it. For many hacks and bloggers it seems to be merely a thinly veiled exercise to publicly thank the PR folk who gazed upon them favourably over the previous 12 months. The ‘album of the year’ lists are the least banal, with critics falling over themselves to laud artists who the rest of the world has never heard of. I’ll bet that the musical equivalent of an German discount supermarket Chianti would never feature in NME’s annual listing.

Last year, I wrote about the great bottles that never made it to the blog and have decided to do the same this year (with one exception). No tasting notes have been consulted; these wines left an impression that didn’t require any look-back. And so in an attempt to channel my inner Neal Martin, I give you the VIWMAs 2015.


Album of the Year

A tie between a Champagne – Côte 1999 from Raphaël & Vincent Bérêche – and a sherry – González Byass 1982 Palo Cortado.

The 1982 tasted at Gonzalez Byass’ ‘Sherrymaster by Tio Pepe’ course in September was intended to serve as a reference point for Palo Cortado before we elevated to stratospheric levels with older, rarer sherries. In truth, it stole the show in drinkability terms, even if I factor in my predisposition to look favourably upon anything from my birth year. I was in London shortly after Sherrymaster and tried to clear Vagabond Wines, and by association my bank account, out of their remaining bottles. (PS: Lots of writing about Sherrymaster is in the pipeline for early 2016 by the way).

Bérêche Cöte 1999 Champagne

I’ve twice had the pleasure of drinking Bérêche’s Côte 1999. Grand Cru Chardonnay from Le Mesnil Sur Oger, only 600 magnums have been released and, much like the 1982 Palo Cortado, I’d happily buy as many of these as I could get my hands on and afford! Scarcity is the issue here, but it’s certainly no hardship to have to make do with the excellent Bérêche et Fils Brut Réserve NV.

Music: Jamie XX – In Colour.

Breakthrough Artist

Jamsheed. And it’s not even close. Elaine Chukan Brown has long been telling people that we should all be drinking Jamsheed, but it took me until this year to track down some bottles. All four Jamsheed single vineyard Syrahs from Victoria in Western Australia are fermented with a proportion of whole bunches and of those that I’ve tried, the Seville Syrah is the standout feeling a little more lithe than the Great Western Syrah ‘Garden Gulley’. The hunt for Pyren and Beechworth continues.

Music: Maribou State – Portraits

Jamsheed Seville Syrah

Comeback Artist

Elisabetta Foradori. Did she ever leave? Well not exactly, but it sure felt that way for Irish wine drinkers over the past couple of years. Thankfully, Enrico Fantasia from Grapecircus has now secured an allocation of Elisabetta’s wines. Although it’s hard to beat the sheer smile-on-your-face fun of Ampeleia‘s Un Litro, a wine that comes in an appropriately fun size, the Foradori Sgarzon Teroldego 2012 was brilliant. I could’ve just as easily chosen Morei, Elisabetta’s other single vineyard Teroldego. Both spent 8 months in terracotta amphora, and it’s fascinating to taste them side-by-side to explore the differences between these sites.

Music: D’Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah

Foradori Sgarzon

Lifetime Achievement Award

A tough one. As ever, there are no great wines, only great bottles, but Produttori del Barbaresco 2004 drank consistently well throughout the year despite its youth. The same can’t be said for the 2001 which on this year’s evidence requires more cellar time. Even some of the riservas (Rio Sordo in particular) have more appeal at this stage if you really want a Produttori 2001 fix.

Music: Tony Bennett & Dave Brubeck – The White House Sessions Live 1962

Critics Choice Award

Ar.Pe.Pe. Sassella Stella Retica 2010. Well  it’s certainly been acclaimed in this little corner of the internet – you’d be forgiven for thinking that I was on retainer with them over the last while (I’m not!). The 1996 Sassella Rocce Rosse was great and the 1999 Sasella Vigna Regina sublime, but in terms of quality, value, drinkability and excitement the 2010 Sassella Stella Retica was one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year.

Music: Låpsley – Understudy

Best Live Performance

Emilio Hidalgo El Tresillo Amontillado at La Pepona, Seville. Often overlooked in favour of its older brother – the El Tresillo 1874 Amontillado Viejo – the combination of this fino-amontillado with La Pepona’s sardines on toast was superb and demanded two encores during our stay in Seville.

Honourable mentions must also go to Equipo Navazos at La Carboná, Jerez, Mark Haisma at The Fumbally Stables, BYO (Guttarolo, COS and Occhipinti) at Dillisk and Bodgeas Tradición at Stanley’s.

Music:  The Roots at Metropolis Festival

The Roots


The Smythson Special Award

It won’t be for everyone, but Gabrio Bini’s Serragghia Bianco blew me away. A dry Zibbibo from Pantelleria bottled unfiltered and without the addition of any sulphur. A couple of years ago I was given a present of a monogrammed Smythson tasting note journal. I’m afraid to write in it; its pages are not to be sullied with truncated or incoherent notes, and it certainly shouldn’t be put at risk of spittoon splash-back. I decided some time ago that I’d use the notebook as a chronicle of my most enjoyable drinking, a compendium of my many moleskine tasting note scribbles that I could look back upon in years to come. This wine is in the book.

Music: Tame Impala – Currents

Gabrio Bini Serragghi Bianco

Happy New Year!


The stockists for these wines in Ireland and the UK are too numerous to list. For Irish drinkers, my advice is to ask Green Man Wines, 64 Wine or The Corkscrew to order them for you. Emilio Hidalgo Amontillado is available from Celtic Whiskey Shop & Wines On The Green. Noble Fine Liquor in London is your best bet for the Serragghia and Ar.Pe.Pe. The last few bottles of 1982 Palo Cortado in the world may just still be on the shelves of Vagabond Wines on Charlotte St., but I’m racing you to get them!