Favorite Red Wines of 2020

by artfuldiner on January 2, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

I certainly sampled an interesting variety of wines in 2020 – including five days of glorious tastings in South Arica – most of which were quite reasonably priced. Listed below, however, are the 5 red wines that are particularly recommended (favorite white wines will be noted in the post immediately below).

Gigondas 20162016 Gabriel Meffre Domaine de Longue Toque Gigondas (France): Gigondas is a wine Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône valley of France. It is primarily a red wine region, with a very small amount of rosé wine production. The 2016 Domaine de Longue Toque Gigondas is a lush blend of Grenache, Syrah, and splash of Mourvèdre. It is deep purple/ruby in color with intense aromas of black fruits and touches of vanilla and spice. This is a plump, full-bodied wine that is beautifully structured and layered with flavor. Fine lingering tannins move you seamlessly along to an impressively fruity finish. Wine critics have been effusive with their praise. The 2016 Gigondas garnered 93 points from Wine Spectator, while Jeb Dunnuck bestowed a whopping 95 points, calling it “the finest vintage of this cuvée to date. In short, a blockbuster.” And here is one instance where the Pennsylvania LCB has pitched you a real bargain. Listed at $44.00, this “Chairman Select” is on sale for a paltry $19.99.

 Tesselaarsdal Winemaker2018 Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir (South Africa): The Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) valley of South Africa is known for its lighter, elegant style wines. This is also the home of the world class Hamilton Russell Vineyards, which has been extremely influential in shaping the region’s focus by emphasizing the grapes of Burgundy, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The 2018 Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir was produced by Anthony Hamilton Russell’s protégé Berene Sauls, who founded the Tesselaarsdal Winery in 2015. Hamilton Russell initially financed the project. Ms. Sauls is a descendent of the freed slaves of South Africa who were bequeathed the land by former East India Company settler Johannes Tesselaar in 1810. This is a downright elegant wine, silky smooth on the palate with engaging aromas of red fruit. Aged for 9+ months in 100 French oak barrels, the 2018 Pinot Noir is graceful and charming at the present moment but still age worthy.  The price is on a par with what you would expect from a Hamilton Russell vintage. The lowest price I have seen online is $42.93 from the International Wine Shop. Trust me, you’ll want to check this one out.

Legit Cabernet 20132013 Tolaini “Legit” Cabernet Sauvignon (Italy): This remarkable wine garnered 94 points and was chosen as #26 in the Wine Spectator “Top 100 of 2019.” It is rich with aromas of dark fruit and cassis surrounded by the spice of French oak. On the palate, it is full-bodied with excellent depth, balance, and fine tannins, which are indicative of a cellar-worthy vintage. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was farmed organically in the San Giovanni vineyard in the heart of Chianti Classico and produced in a state-of-the-art facility under the watchful eye of world-class winemaker Michel Rolland. This is, indeed, a wine to savor. The label… in case you’re wondering, is the face and hands of the legendary Thelonious Monk. When Tuscan vintner and international wine importer Lia Tolaini Banville met the grandchildren of the late jazz great, she was inspired to honor his memory with a singular wine from her family estate – LEGIT. The retail price is listed at $45.00… However, Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California, is offering it at $31.99; the Red Wagon Wine Shoppe in Rochester, Michigan at $36.99 (plus shipping). Both will ship directly to Pennsylvania. Simply a fabulous wine! Not to be missed!

Trefethen Merlot 20172017 Trefethen Oak Knoll District Merlot (California): The Merlot grape flourishes in relatively cool growing regions with moist soils. This makes it a perfect match for certain parts of the Trefethen estate vineyard, located in the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley, a sweet spot between warmer up-valley regions and the cool southern tip. The 2017 Trefethen Merlot has a splash (5%) of Cabernet Franc mixed in, which gives added pleasure to both the nose and the palate. The wine is definitely fruit forward but not at all unctuous. It spent 18 months maturing in American oak, 44% new, so you’ll definitely sense a healthy amount on the palate. Fortunately, however, the oak is perfectly counter-balanced with luscious red fruit and mouth-watering acidity. The fine tannins indicate that this wine will age very well… but why wait? The price is right, too. Currently on sale in PA State Stores for $19.99.

Cantina Zaccagnini 20172017 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Tralcetto” (Italy): The Zaccagnini Winery was founded in 1978 in Bolognano, a small town in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Starting from a family-run business, the estate has grown rapidly and steadily, reaching its current state of 300 hectares of beautiful vineyards with 70% of an annual production of over 3,000,000 bottles destined for an international market of 45 countries. The 2017 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Tralcetto” is a wine that embodies the essence of terroir. It is produced from 100% Montepulciano grapes, a vine of Tuscan origin imported into Abruzzo toward the end of the 18th century. After vinification in steel, the wine spends 4 months in wooden barrels and can rest even more than 3 years in the bottle. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo doesn’t get the same attention as more familiar Italian reds from such well-known regions as Tuscany, Piedmont, and Sicily. So, for now at least, this wine is still flying under the radar, which is why it continues to be such an incredible bargain – $14.99 in Pennsylvania State Stores – and could very easily become your everyday go-to Italian red.  With its fruity flavor, complex medium-body, relatively soft tannins, and incredible price point, the 2017 Zaccagnini Tralcetto is a wine that’s hard to resist.


Be Safe & Stay Well


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