Every year, Wine & Spirits Magazine declares their top wineries of the year; the global makers who have dominated a rigorous blind-tasting process. Surprisingly, this year’s list was particularly globe-trotting — Chile, Georgia, Slovenia, Chile, and Uruguay were all represented alongside the powerhouse regions of California, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France.
Here are a few stand-outs.
Azores Wine Co
On the youngest — a mere 300,000 years old — volcanic island in the Azores lies Azores Wine Co, a small winery founded by Antonio Macanita and Filipe Rocha spotlighting the hyper-specific terroir of Pico Island. It’s a wild place to make wine — soil is hard black rock and vines creep up out of cracks in the surface. From that rugged terrain, Rocha and Macanita make elegant, old-world wines — mineral-driven rosés and expressive versions of Arinoto, Verdelho, and Isabella, among other indigenous grapes.
Out of the Douro Valley, Luis Seabra is making weird wines. Not weird by modern standards, but odd by Douro norms. His wines are bright, often Burgundian in style, and instead of single-vineyard wines he focuses on single-soil, making expressive wines specific to the dirt that they’re born out of. For example, granite soil makes stony, lemon-pithy Alvarino while Rabigato and Codega grown in schist soils make firmly mineral and full-bodied whites that nod to the old world.
When winemaker Luigi Baudana didn’t have children, he was a bit stuck — there was no one to leave his Serralunga d’Alba property to. So he went to the Vaira family to set up a plan for maintaining their legacy. Instead of cannibalizing the Baudana name and all their vineyards, the Vairas act as the keeper of the Baudana legacy. To this day, vines are harvested and wines — Barolos, rarer whites among them — made exactly to Luigi’s specifications.
Across special parcels of the Willamette Valley, Josh and Caroline Bergstrom make beautifully expressive Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Sure, they grow in one region but they push the limits of what boundaries mean. Outside the winery, there’s ancient volcanic soils (dinosaurs abound, if your imagination entails). A short drive away are marine sedimentary hillsides, iron-rich basalt, and ancient sandy soils. Some soils add lightness to the wine, others have a sanguine quality, and all are entrancing.
Ridge shot to fame in 1976, when the Santa Cruz Mountain-based producer swept at the famed Judgment of Paris. Today, the Bordeaux blends still hold cult status for Ridge’s ability to coax out richness and concentration out of the high-elevation Santa Cruz mountains. Elegant and excellent — order immediately if budget allows.
Founded by former Burgundy distributor Ken Pahlow (alongside Erica Landson), Walter Scott has become one of the most sought-after producers in Oregon, wooing wine drinkers with profound and pure Pinot Noir grown on basaltic volcanic style in Eola-Amity Hills.
Run by Pepe Raventós, the heir of a bonafide 500-year-old Cava dynasty, Can Sumoi operates off of a 400-year-old estate and the 400 hectares of land that came with it, including 20 hectares of parellada, xarel-lo and sumoll vineyards. The label is a departure from Raventós’ usual bubbly approach, as they focus on still whites, reds, and oranges.