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100 Wines to Try before you Die

It’s the connoisseur’s favourite dinner party subject: what’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? We recruited the world’s top experts to come up with the most awe-inspiring wine list you’ll ever see.

Burgundy

Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Vieilles Vignes 1993

‘A sublime example of silky, powerful, intense grand cru Burgundy’, says Nick Adams MW. ‘It’s just emerging from its shell and expressing its terroir and sheer class.’

Comte Lafon, les Genevrieres, Meursault 1981

Its Montrachet may be the pièce de resistance at Lafon, but the Meursault is its standard-bearer. £180

Dennis Bachelet, Charmes-Chambertin 1988

This tiny estate produces softer wines than its Chambertin neighbours. Its hallmarks, as exhibited in the 1988, are finesse, class and perfume. £60

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, La Tache 1990

Steven Spurrier’s favourite wine of all time. ‘Still deep in colour, floral in aroma, velvety and enveloping on the palate,’ he says. ‘More than a work of art, it is a work of nature brought to life by the dedication of man – the purest expression possible of its soil.’ £3,000 (case 12)

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, La Tache 1966

Len Evans concedes that Spurrier’s beloved 1990 La Tâche ‘may one day be better’, but maintains that for drinking now, it’s difficult to beat the 1966. ‘Just exquisite – incredible nose, length and strength, power with harmony and finesse.’ The 1972 and 1978 were also mooted.

£3,740 (case 12)

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Romanee-Conti 1966

If the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti appellation is the central pearl of the Côte de Nuits necklace, the Romanée-Conti vineyard makes up the diamond encrusting. The 1966 is a wine of ‘pure strawberry fruit and aromas … poetry in a bottle’, says Ch’ng Poh Tiong. ‘The most unforgettable wine I’ve ever had.’ Only 7,000 bottles were made. £11,000 (case 12)

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Romanee-Conti 1921

If the 1966 was an indulgent choice, the 1921, is the stuff of dreams. Along with the 1945, 1978, 1985… ‘A mind-blowing, extraordinary taste of bewitching spices – heady concentration and opulence on a solid base,’ says Sutcliffe. ‘Unequalled – I can taste it now.’

Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Musigny 1978

Nick Adams MW remembers enjoying a jeroboam from the domaine’s own cellars four years ago. ‘Beautifully mature and expressive, this was a true expression of the silky gaminess which ultra-fine, old Burgundy can produce,’ he says. ‘Every aspect of the wine was in total harmony.’

£350

Domaine Leflaive, Le Montrachet Grand Cru 1996

To many connoisseurs, Leflaive is Puligny-Montrachet. But it is for its Le Montrachet that it makes our list. Clive Coates MW, Mr Côte d’Or himself, simply says that it is a wine one should drink ‘on bended knee and with heartfelt and humble thanks’. £120+

Domaine Ramonet, Montrachet 1993

Ramonet is an artisan domaine, with a reputation for doing things by instinct, so sometimes bottles can be of uneven quality. When they’re good, though, they’re seriously good, as with the 1993 Montrachet. ‘The nose is smoky, minerally and very complex’, says Sayburn. ‘The palate remains very elegant and fine with an amazing rush of nuts, caramel and citrus fruit on the finish.’ £1,000

G Roumier, Bonnes Mares 1996

‘If these are desert islands wines, this is for the days when Friday catches a wild pig,’ says Giles MacDonogh of this Côte de Nuits gem. £165

La Moutonne, Chablis Grand Cru 1990

This is everything that fine, mature Chablis should be. ‘A wonderful combination of mineral fruit and flinty acidity,’ says Rosemary George MW. ‘Beautifully balanced and mature, but still with potential for future development.’ £30

Lafon, Le Montrachet 1966

Owned by René Lafon, there exists a mere third of a hectare in the Le Montrachet climat here, but it is enough to make a deeply intense, fat wine, none more so than the 1966, a stunning Burgundy vintage. £500

Rene & Vincent Dauvissat, Les Clos, Chablis Grand Cru 1990

Dauvissat’s wines have a reputation for ageing superbly. In doing so, reckons Parker, ‘They exhibit a marriage of fruit and spicy vanilla oak that is glorious to experience.’ A toss-up between this and the 1996.

£50+

Robert Arnoux, Clos de Vougeot 1929

Robert Arnoux owns a 0.4ha parcel of Clos de Vougeot’s 50ha grand cru vineyard and produced this legendary tipple 75 years ago. ‘Vibrant cherry colour, strawberries and raspberries still surviving on the palate – I could not believe the wine was this old,’ says Sayburn.

Alsace

JosMeyer, Hengst, Riesling, Vendange Tardive 1995

‘Not at all sweet, but not fully fermented either, this is my Riesling of the moment to drool over,’ says Tom Stevenson. ‘It’s absolute perfection when partnered with a tatin of cherry tomatoes served with crème fraîche.’

Trimbach, Clos Ste-Hune, Riesling 1975

It was a hard choice as to the greatest dry Riesling vintage of all time (1990, 1983, 1979, 1976…) but there’s no doubt as to the top producer – Trimbach. The 1975 Clos Ste-Hune can still be found at specialist retailers and occasionally in the auction room, but true connoisseurs will insist their bottles came direct from Ribeauville.

Zind-Humbrecht, Clos Jebsal, Tokay Pinot Gris 1997

To many lovers of delicate, fruity white wines, Zind-Humbrecht is the ultimate Alsace estate. The wines are powerful and rich, nowhere better demonstrated than in this Pinot Gris.

£378 (case 12)

Champagne

Billecart-Salmon, Cuvee Nicolas-Francois 1959

Serena Sutcliffe MW gave this wine a facetious 101 points at the great Millennium Champagne tasting in Sweden. ‘The ultimate “divine hedgerows” bouquet, creamy delicacy allied to great depth and finesse, mega-dimension and length,’ she recalls. ‘I shall probably never taste this again, but I will never forget it.’

Bollinger, Vieilles Vignes Francaises 1996

This 100% Pinot Noir Champagne is extremely rare and is ‘simply the greatest Champagne of the moment,’ reckons Stevenson. Made from 0.6ha of ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines.

£200

Charles Heidsieck, Mis en Cave 1997

In 1857, Charles-Camille Heidsieck went to the United States. He became so popular, the Americans called him ‘Champagne Charlie’. The rest is history. ‘The highest consistency, top-quality Champagne for everyday drinking,’ says Stevenson. £37

Dom Perignon 1988

Moët & Chandon’s legendary luxury cuvée honouring the famous monk was launched in 1936. The 1988 is ‘as clear as the purest diamond,’ according to Richard Juhlin. ‘It has toast, coffee beans and orange fruit on the nose, and clear, sharp fruit and nuts on the palate.’ One for the cellar, it will be even better in a decade. £130

Dom Perignon 1990

(in magnum)

If you can’t wait, however, try a magnum of the 1990. According to Stevenson, the standard 75cl bottle of 1990 can show traces of greenness, but in magnum, it has a ‘fabulous purity of ripe fruit and an immaculate mousse.’ £200

Krug 1990

To be honest, we could have included just about any Krug grande cuvée with five or more years’ bottle age. ‘A vintage Krug is the standard by which all other vintage Champagnes are tasted,’ says Juhlin. The recently released 1990 is arguably its best ever. ‘Big-bodied, creamy, and delicious,’ says Norm Roby. £125

Louis Roederer, Cristal 1979

In 1876, Tsar Alexander II of Russia made a special order for an ultra-rich Champagne, bottled in clear glass. Since then, Roederer has never had a problem selling its Cristal, with today’s prime customers tending to be US pop icons. According to Broadbent, the 1979 is ‘perfectly mature’ and ‘superb in every way’. £100+

Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses 1982

Made from a 5.5ha vineyard acquired by founder Pierre Philipponat in 1935, the Clos des Goisses is the top wine of the house and one of the few walled vineyards, or clos, in the region.

£100+

Pol Roger 1995

The Champagne house founded in 1849 is arguably the most consistent of all. Winston Churchill’s favourite, the top choice for Steven Spurrier is the 1995 – soft, elegant, yet ripe. £37

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