Every year since 1988, Wine Spectator has released its “Top 100 Wines” list where editors sift through thousands of entries to compile the most exciting and renowned wines of the year. Among the 18,000 submissions editors tasted in 2014, only those mastering magnificent quality, value and availability made the cut. We’ll walk you through the top 10 wines on the list, then you can choose for yourself which selection to consider when completing your holiday shopping:
1. Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port ($82)
The champion of the list, Dow’s vintage port had an ideal growing season, allowing buyers to covet the mere 2,000 cases imported to the US (out of 5,000 total cases). This wine hails from the Symington family, who’s been producing port since 1882. Not overly sweet, Dow’s vintage port combines dark fruit, chocolate, and spice flavors to create a true representation of a modern style port.
2. Mollydooker’s Shiraz McLaren Vale Carnival of Love 2012 ($75)
We’re not surprised Carnival of Love made number two, as this is Mollydooker’s 6th appearance in the top 100 list, and the third time in the top 10. This wine’s bold flavor is balanced by its rich texture, and further complimented by notes of red berry, black cherry and cardamom.
3. Prats & Symington’s Douro Chryseia 2011 ($55)
This elegant red is aged in 100% new French oak barrels, providing its reputation as a high-quality table red wine. Flavors of red plum, raspberry and dark currents are counteracted by notes of black olive and chocolate, and completed with a strong finish reminiscent of white pepper.
4. Quinta Do Vale Meao’s Douro 2011 ($76)
Quinta Do Vale Meao’s use of native Portuguese grapes has created this tannin rich, seductive red. Utilizing an array of dark fruit, this wine contains notes of cream and spice with hints of molten chocolate and a mineral-like finish.
5. Leeuwin’s Chardonnay Margaret River Art Series 2011 ($89)
Besides its iconic, artistic label, this Chardonnay has a ripe, complex flavor that makes wine lovers yearn for a bottle from its very limited supply of 600 cases. A tart taste is mixed with tropical fruit such as pear and mango, while flowers and other spices supply a supple yet intense finish.
6. Castello di Ama’s Chianti Classico San Lorenzo Gran Selezione 2010 ($52)
Harvested and bottled in San Lorenzo, a small Tuscan valley with 50 acres of vines, this vibrant red combines leafy, woodsy flavors with notes of wild cherry, strawberry and rose. The finish is drawn-out, but rich from start to end.
7. Clos des Papes’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 ($135)
Working with an organic process, the grapes for this wine were destemmed and aged in old oak barrels to produce its elegant yet powerful taste. Flavors of cherry and plum and notes of roasted apple-wood match its polished aroma. The finish is hefty, yet smooth, and has a subtle hint of licorice.
8. Brewer-Clifton’s Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2012 ($40)
Maintaining a consistent style for over 20 years of winemaking, Brew-Clifton’s technique provides a vibrant red with spicy tannins. The pinot noir’s pure and vivid taste clearly demonstrates the freshness of the fruit used in the process; wild berry and pomegranate respond well to notes of lavender, black tea and mint.
9. Concho y Toro’s Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Don Melchor 2010 ($125)
Being Chile’s largest wine company, its no question that Puente Alto can produce a top tier wine. Allowing the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to hang on vines longer than usual gives this wine its refined taste. Macerated cherry, creamy plum and a paprika tang mixes well with notes of cocoa powder to create a lush finish.
10. Chateau Leoville Las Cases’s St.-Julien 2011 ($165)
This Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for the greatest share of the 240-acre French estate is originates from. Having a core of crushed plum and blackberry, a charcoal-like texture and taste of iron balances the fruit flawlessly for a balanced finish.