48 Wine Recommendations from 2017
All the bottles our wine columnist Tom Firth suggested we try this year.
From light and sparkling cava to dark and fortified port, we drank our way through 2017 with these wines. The most inexpensive is $12 and more than half are under $30. There is one splurge bottle priced at $450. If you get one of the 5,000 or so bottles of it, make sure to savour every sip.
Recaredo 2011 Intens Rosat Brut Nature Gran Reserva, Penedès, Spain
One of the finest cavas available, and a rosé, too. Deeply coloured (for rosé) with slightly bruised strawberry and cherry fruits, brioche and mineral aromas. Flavours are intense with clean berry fruits, plenty of depth and a long, almost tart finish. Drink or keep — it’s delicious either way. $55
Codorniu NV Dulce Anna, Penedès, Spain
A sweeter style of cava, and one that might be more suitable for casual sparkling-wine drinkers. Look for tropical fruits, a decidedly pineapple-like character, as well as richness on the palate. Tired of off-dry gewürztraminer with spicy Asian-inspired cuisine? This might be your new best friend. $20
Poema NV Cava, Penedès, Spain
Using the traditional varieties of macabeo, xarello and paradelle, look for a citrus aroma with plenty of toasted almonds and apple. Light and crisp with great acidity, the mild nuttiness on the palate would be perfect with sushi (or chips). $21
Segura Viudas NV Heredad, Spain
Possibly the first “premium” cava in our market, just as popular for its packaging as for the wine inside. Lemon and lime lead the way on the nose with mineral and saltine-cracker toastiness on the palate. Lots of depth and great balance — a deal for the price. $30
Agusti Torello Mata 2011 Cava, Penedès, Spain
One of the few producers making wine strictly from its own vineyards, the quality in this bottle is noteworthy. Deep expressions of toastiness and sourdough bread lead off, with citrus and apple flavours following. Rich and almost powerful in the mouth, it’s a pleasure to drink. $30
Dibon NV Brut Reserve, Penedès, Spain
Oh, hello there, little charmer! Lively green-apple fruits, a little herbaceousness and spiciness, and just a touch of succulent leaf make this very well-priced cava a treat on its own or mixed into a cocktail. $17
Adega de Monção 2015 Escolha Vinho Verde
Comes from a co-operative and made from alvarinho and trajadura grapes. Look for hints of grapefruit with peach and pear fruits. It’s quite dry, with the barest hint of fizz. A perfectly refreshing glass of wine. $14.
Aphros 2013 Vinhão, Vinho Verde, Portugal
One of those elusive red Vinho Verdes, this one is bursting on the nose with sour cherry and blackberry fruit with just a little bit of earthiness. Full bodied, it’s a little sour, a little rustic and delicious. Try pairing with game meats or Bolognese-style sauces. $27.
Aphros Ten Vinho Verde, Portugal
A leading producer of Vinho Verde, the loureiro in this bottle is biodynamically farmed and is lovely and delicate with citrus and a bare hint of mint leaf aromas. Excellent balance, a rock star Vinho Verde. $23.
Aromas das Castas 2015 Alvarinho-Trajadura Vinho Verde
With flavours of fresh oranges, apricots and peaches, it has a dry profile and plenty of crisp acids — ideal for pairing with grilled poultry or a lighter seafood dish. $22.
Casa de Compostela 2015 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Limes and clementine oranges lead off on the nose with a decidedly floral perfume quality in this Vinho Verde based around arinto, trajadura, and loureiro. Slightly frizzante in the mouth, this bottle is light, refreshing, and would be best with simply prepared foods like grilled poultry or seared scallops. $16.
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde
Probably the best-known vinho verde, and a staple for a lot of white wine drinkers, Casal Garcia embodies the style of wine the region is known for. A little crackle of bubble, a little sweetness and apple and lime flavours. $12.
Casal Garcia Sweet Vinho Verde, Portugal
Some people like their whites a little on the sweeter side, and this one delivers. Delving into dessert wine territory with about 70 grams of residual sugar per liter, it still has pretty tropical fruits, a pinch of effervescence and a little acid to boot. Try pairing with custards or creamy desserts with fresh fruit. $12.
Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé
One of a handful of pink Vinho Verdes out there, this wine is easy, refreshing, versatile and totally quaffable, with a tickle of bubbles and slightly tannic raspberry fruits. Wine for fun! $13.
Muralhas de Monção 2015 Vinho Verde
Also made from mostly alvarinho and trajadura grapes, this wine has prominent citrus and intensity on the nose with clean tropical fruit flavours. It can be enjoyed on its own or with a variety of seafoods. $18.
Pouco Comum 2015 Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal
An excellent bottle of alvarinho through and through, with lemony and flowery aromas that yield slightly waxy apple peel and tropical fruit flavours bracketed by tart acids and an ever-so-slightly creamy mouthfeel. Bored of pinot gris? Give this a try. $20.
Quinta da Aveleda 2014 Vinho Verde, Portugal
A fine blend of loureiro and alvarinho, the strengths of each show well, with floral and fruity touches of vanilla, honey, melon and lemons on the nose. Quite dry and quite crisp on the palate, it’s a perfect alternative to sauvignon blanc. Pair with seafood or poultry. $13.
Quinta do Ameal 2014 Loureiro Vinho Verde
Loureiro is possibly the best white grape for single-varietal Vinho Verde. Look for apple and honey aromas, with a little tropical or banana notes. It’s quite dry on the palate and shows no effervescence. Rich, stylish and delicious. $17.
Chateau Musar 2007, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This premium red from Lebanon is made without filtering or fining and with naturally occurring yeast and is definitely worth trying. Mostly cabernet sauvignon with Cinsault and Carignan, it’s deeply coloured with earthy berry fruits, some punchy tannins (think of your cellar!) and oodles of depth. $57
Stirm 2015 Rancho Arroyo Perdido Old Vines Grüner Veltliner, Santa Ynez Valley, California
A front-runner in natural wines in the U.S., Ryan Stirm makes wines in some exceptional vineyard sites with limited production. Limited to 155 cases, this grüner is light and delicate with lime and white pepper. Super-refreshing and a joy to drink. $39
Stirm 2015 Kick-On Vineyard Riesling, Santa Barbara County, California
Never pass up a chance to drink good riesling. With about three grams of residual sweetness, this one is honeyed with melon and lime aromas, flinty, mineral-type flavours with loads of citrus and fruit on the palate. From start to finish, it’s a “hell, yes!” $29
Menti 2015 Roncaie Sui Lieviti, Veneto, Italy
This is a very interesting producer making some wild wines. The Roncaie can vary quite a bit from bottle to bottle, but it’s always delicious. It’s cloudy, a little gunky on the bottom of the bottle and lightly frizzante. Above all, it’s tasty. $26
Frontonio 2014 “Microcosmico” Macabeo, Valdejalon, Spain
Never mind that the wines of Spain are hot right now and never mind that macabeois a wonderful grape. This wine feels authentic right from the start, with clay earthiness, yellow apples and lively acids. Stunning. $22
Foradori Fontanasanta 2015 Manzoni Bianco, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Manzoni Bianco is a cross of riesling and pinot blanc, which grow well in the mountainous Dolomites of northern Italy. Medium gold in the glass with hints of gingerbread spice over base aromas of apple and clay-mineral tones, dry, crisp and perfectly balanced, it’s a wine of nuance that should be discussed at the table. $39
PB Hein 2014 Celebration Red, California
A dynamic blend of grenache and syrah with about 10 per cent zinfandel and a smattering of petit syrah, this is a perfect wine for special occasions when the grill is fired up. Raspberry and brambly berry fruits with cherry cola, spice, and a little gingerbread too. Great with ribs (glorious ribs!) drenched in sauce. $22.
Yalumba 2011 Patchwork Shiraz, Barossa, Australia
Shiraz is about the best go-to wine for a barbecue, and Yalumba’s Patchwork is a cut above the rest. Ripe berry fruit with undercurrents of blueberry and plum under those jammy cherry characters. It’s big, naturally, but well-balanced with milder herbal flavours on the palate appearing and plenty of acid suitable for burgers, steaks or just relaxing on the deck. $29.
Di Arie 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, El Dorado, California
Cabernet sauvignon is still the king of red grapes, known for showcasing the place it was grown, but also for its high quality when grown by skillful hands. Di Arie’s has the classic nose of cherries and plum with bell pepper, spice box and cedar. Serve with well-aged steaks grilled to perfection. $52.
Pierre Henri Morel 2012 Signargues Côtes du Rhone Village, France
France’s Rhone Valley is a terrific place to find well-made wines of excellent value. Based around grenache and syrah with generous fruits, a touch of spice and dried herbs, it offers good complexity on the palate and finishes with a slightly earthy tone. Should handle sausages with flair, or larger cuts of meat. $20.
Fontanafredda 2015 Gavi di Gavi, Piedmont, Italy
The best things at the barbecue aren’t always red, like this little gem from Italy’s Piedmont region. Dry and remarkably intense, this mineral-driven, tropical and silky white would be absolutely perfect with seared scallops or garlicky barbecued shrimp. $21.
Zuccardi Q 2013 Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina
One of the up-and-coming wine makers in Argentina, Sebastien Zuccardi is identifying new terroirs, soils and sites to make the very best malbec. Incredibly floral on the nose with deep layers of fruit and herb leaf, it’s chewy on the palate with muscular tannins, yet remarkably elegant. Bored of malbec? This might change your mind. Try this the next time you fire up the smoker. $25.
Fonseca 2008 Quinta do Panascal
Single-quinta wines mature a little faster than declared-vintage Ports. That said, the ’08 from Fonseca’s premium quinta is just starting to shine, so don’t feel you have to rush to enjoy the raspberry, cassis and cherry fruits or savour the herb and toasted-coconut aromas. $75.
Ramos Pinto 20-Year-Old Tawny Port
A great example of a 20-year tawny that, to my mind, delivers the best of fruit and barrel. Look for intense floral aromas with orange, sponge toffee and wood spice and a complex palate that seems a little lower in sweetness than others. Refreshing on its own or with nutty or toffee-flavoured desserts. $74.
Quinta do Noval 2007 Silval Vintage Port
This “second label” vintage port from Noval is a worthwhile acquisition for the cellar. The 2007 is still quite the monster, but it’s going to shine in a decade (or three), with intense dark fruits with a distinct chocolatey character along with deep spice notes. Plan on drinking it in about 2030 or so. $75.
Kopke 1965 Colheita Port
A real treat for fans of tawny Port. Layers of exotic orange, saddle soap, tea leaf and a little bit of fresh garden pea on the nose, in addition to all that toffee, wood and citrus-oil flavour you love. Perfect with butter tarts, roasted almonds or a crème Anglaise. $184.
Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port
A classic and easygoing port to keep on hand. Named for the six grapes comprising the blend, this is a solid introduction to the Graham’s house. Juicy, plummy fruits with a clean, mint-leaf character throughout. Pair with good cheddar or some figs. $32.
Fonseca 2007 Unfiltered Late-Bottled Vintage Port
Prominent floral and savoury aromas with herb and plum notes. Being unfiltered gives the character a little extra oomph, but this LBV is ready to roll right now with chocolate brownies or blue cheeses. $29.
Catena 2013 Fortuna Terrae Malbec, Tupungato, Argentina
Looking for a super-premium malbec for your favourite carnivore? Fortuna Terrae (luck of the Land) is a small, five-acre parcel of Catena’s Adrianna vineyard. Classic stylings but offering so much more in the balance, with black fruits, plum and garrigue, with cocoa and charred wood on the finish. Stellar from first sip to last drop. $125
Chappellet 2014 Mountain Cuvee, Napa Valley
One of the greats in American wine, Chappellet makes a number of cellar-worthy stunners. Its Mountain Cuvee is a Bordeaux-style blend with deep berry fruits, star anise, licorice and a great earthiness to bring it balance. It’s big, beautiful and a bear of a wine, so let it sleep in the cellar for a bit. A great gift for the collector on your list. $55
Ex Nihilo Merlot, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
One of my current favourites from the Okanagan, Ex Nihilo’s merlot is all about firm tannins supporting deep and layered earthy berry fruits. Merlot is one of my favourite grapes from the Okanagan and the Ex Nihilo doesn’t disappoint. I’d recommend decanting it if you’re opening now, but it will sing after five years or so in the cellar. $40
Kopke 1975 Colheita, Portugal
This is a single-vintage tawny Port that’s perfect for enjoying or gifting. These wines are released ready to drink and exhibit the power and structure of Port, with a nuttiness to balance the sweetness. With peanut-shell and lime aromas, and caramel and crème brûlée on the palate, it’s nearly impossible to only have one glass. A sweet choice for someone you know with a sweet tooth. $120
Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Red, Bieras, Portugal
For my dollar, Portugal still offers almost unheard-of authenticity in its wines. Made from the baga grape, of which Luis Pato is the undisputed master, its nose is smoked strawberries, leather and blueberry with a spicy, peppery palate and some cellar-worthy tannins. $35
Rombauer 2015 Chardonnay, Carneros, California
An almost unapologetic example of what chardonnay can be — big, bold, with loads of oak and shades of sourdough bread while fruits lean toward lemon drops and green apples. Richly flavoured and textured, it’s a wine that drinks like a meal. Don’t serve it too cold, though. $59
Taylor Fladgate 1967 Single Vintage Tawny Port, Portugal
Love old wine, but don’t have the patience for cellaring? The most recent offering from Taylor Fladgate’s single-vintage (or colhita) tawny Ports is a perfect choice. The 1967 is a barrel-aged Port made entirely from 1967 fruit and released this year. With nearly 50 years in the barrel (it spends a little time in the bottle, too), it’s plump with orange and dried-lemon, pecans and salted-caramel flavours, with a long peanut-brittle finish. $264
Thörle 2015 Silvaner, Rheinhessen, Germany
Silvaner, an uncommon grape, is often overshadowed by riesling and other Germanic varieties, which is unfortunate when you consider the honey and vanilla-bean aromas with a touch of plum and spice that waft up from the glass. Lightly oaked from newer French barrels, it would easily be a discussion-worthy alternative to most chardonnays on the table. $26
Tinhorn Creek 2013 “The Creek”, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Tinhorn Creek has a new flagship wine. You might wonder why it took so long, but it was worth the wait. A cabernet sauvignon-based Bordeaux blend, it shows the cassis and bell pepper spiciness cabernet is known for with balanced notes of fruit, earth and spice tones throughout. Note the screw top for long-term cellaring. $65
Valencisco 2010 Rioja, Spain
Hands down, one of the finest riojas to bear the name. Sure, it is a little more fruit-driven than some traditional examples, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just goes down that much quicker. Full of cherry and black-currant fruits, with some smooth but weighty tannins, it’s a good wine to have on hand in the cellar, so buy a few. $58
Yalumba 2012 The Caley, Australia
Limited to approximately 5,000 bottles worldwide, The Caley is Yalumba’s super-premium flagship wine sourced from two of Australia’s notable regions, the Barossa and Coonawarra, and their flagship grapes — shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Mouthfilling and mouthwatering, with layer upon layer of aroma and flavour, it’s a wonderfully crafted wine that showcases its homeland. If your budget permits, buy it, cellar it, and yes, drink it. $450
Zinck 2014 Eichberg Grand Cru Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France
A million miles away from those “gooey” off-dry or sweet gewürztraminers, the Eichberg is a grand cru vineyard noted for its exceptional terroir and the wine it produces. It’s sleek and citrusy on the nose with loads of crushed rock tones, while the palate is citrus and honey, with only a pinch of sweetness. Will age well in the cellar, too. $35