The Vine Inspiration Wine and Music Awards 2016

Last year, in an attempt to channel my inner Neal Martin, I gave the world The Vine Inspiration Wine and Music awards – sales of promotional stickers were surprisingly slow (that’s how these wine “competitions” make their money, right?), but I remain undeterred and the 2016 VIWMAs are here. As with last year, no tasting notes have been consulted – these were wines that made a lasting impression.

Album Of The Year

In my 2016 predictions I proclaimed that this would be the year of Barbacarlo. And so it proved having tracked down bottles of 1994, 1996 and 2000. It’s as if the entire wine world suddenly discovered Lino Maga’s wines with a huge back catalogue cropping up on lists in Milano, London and New York. It was the Barbacarlo 1994 that set pulses racing quickest – a delicious wine at peak maturity, although you sense 1996 will eventually outlast it. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve googled the distance from Milano to Broni so maybe 2017 will be the year of visiting Lino Maga.

Music: Frank Ocean – Blonde.

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Breakthrough Artist

Mick O’Connell (MW to give him his official title) tells me that the locals in north-east Sardinia laugh at him for picking the grapes for his Garnacha Not Guerra so early. Shows you what the locals know! Jamie Goode raved about the 2015 release ensuring that there was a clamour to get your hands on one of the 360 bottles. I managed to squirrel a few back to Ireland in my suitcase thinking it’d be a rarity on these shores, but Mick’s recent move back home ensured my exclusivity wasn’t enjoyed for long. No matter, London’s loss is most certainly Dublin’s gain – or so I’ll be telling myself if I make the cut to lend a hand labelling the next vintage.

Music: Shura – Nothing’s Real

Best Live Performance

The best live performance award saw incredible competition this year. Ruling out BYO evenings and trade tastings so as to ensure a modicum of fairness, a bottle of Cantina Giardino Sophia 2014 at Lyle’s really stood out and paired really well with the entire tasting menu. It managed to hold off two immature Nebbiolos – the first a Bartolo Mascarello Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 in Noble Rot which gave an early preview of the next great Langhe vintage and late push from Gianni Canonica’s Barolo 2012 in N’Ombra de Vin which, although waaaaayyyyy too young, was delicious alongside beef tartare.

Music: Fakear at Metropolis

Critics Choice Award

A keenly contested category as you might imagine. It’s hard to look past the luncheon of the like-minded that took place in the Spring and included a number of contenders in Overnoy Arbois Pupillin 2009, Barbacarlo 2000, Clos des Vignes du Maynes Cuvée 910 2013 and various bottles from from Bindi, Giuseppe Mascarello, Arianna Occhipinti, Jean Foillard and Olivier Rivière to name but a few, but a last minute visit with Ramiro Ibáñez before I left Sanlúcar provided one of the most interesting wines of the year. UBE 2014 is a blend of Palomino Fino, Palomino de Jerez and Palomino Pelusón from albariza de antehojuelas soils – herbal and lively but requires a bit of time and effort to fully get to grips with.

Music: Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine (cheating slightly with this one as I hear it was released in France a couple of years ago but thanks to critical acclaim achieved its international released this year).

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Comeback Artist

Another one of those ‘did she ever leave’ questions. Well…no…of course she didn’t but for some inexplicable reason the wines from La Stoppa fell off my radar until Elena Pantaleoni visited Ireland earlier in the year. A mini-vertical of Macchiona was probably the highlight as it was a wine that I’d struggled with previously, but in terms of sheer drinkability the Trebbiolo Rosso was a joy and an astoundingly good bottle of Ageno 2008 later in the year showed the benefits of a bit of bottle age.

Music: Maxwell – blackSUMMERS’night.

Produttori Playlist Award

Can you win a lifetime achievement award in consecutive years? Probably not. So in order to shoe-horn my annual admiration for Produttori del Barbaresco into these awards, I’ve created a new category to highlight the bottle from this outstanding co-op that delivered the most pleasure this year. The contenders were 1988, 1996, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. The 2008 showed potential, and in terms of pure pleasure the 2004 probably has the most universal appeal, but I must admit to having a soft spot for the 1996. Soft spot in this case is an oxymoron for this notoriously tannic vintage, and one which Aldo Vacca described as the last of the pre-global warming vintages. Yes it was still tightly wound, but therein lay part of the appeal.

Music: Ólafur Arnalds – Island Songs

Smythson Special Award

A couple of years ago I was given a present of a monogrammed Smythson tasting note journal. Its pages are not sullied with incoherent notes of my everyday drinking but instead it serves as a chronicle of the greatest and most enjoyable wines I’ve encountered. It’s the kind of thing that if you won the lottery you’d drop it off at your local wine merchant, order a case of everything and drink splendidly for the rest of your days. While several wines have made it into the notebook this year, the pick of the bunch was surely Valdespino’s Toneles, a singular wine if ever there was one. Only 100 bottles of this venerable old Moscatel are released each year from the solera of one 1000 litre barrel. My lone half bottle seemed almost never-ending since mere sips were sufficient given its complexity and intensity.

Music: The Gloaming – 2

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Happy New Year!

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