Due to the pandemic and its consequences, the fine wine faction was not quite as strongly represented this year as in 2019 and previous years. Nevertheless, many top winemakers had brought their entire collection with them. Some even reached deep into the treasure chest and presented true rarities. Here is a selection of my top 5 wines in Düsseldorf 2022.
Château Haut-Bailly 2019
Traditionally, the presentation of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux takes place on Monday mornings with the presentation of the currently bottled vintage: so this year, 2019. In my eyes, this time Haut-Bailly from Pessac-Léognan was just ahead of Pichon-Baron and Léoville-Poyferré. The newer era Haut-Bailly is always a dense, very complex wine with refined tannin management. This year the fruit is almost painfully intense, reminiscent of quite great Napa wines. Yet the wine is wonderfully balanced and remains unmistakably French in its elegance.
Brunello di Montalcino Biondi-Santi 2015 Riserva
The winery’s new owner, the French luxury goods holding company EPI, presented parallel Brunello 2016 and the 2015 Riserva at ProWein. These are wines of transition: Jacopo Biondi-Santi held full control of production for the last time in 2015, while in 2016 the final assemblage was already out of his hands. As little as this says against the outstanding successor, the 2015 is a legacy: a keystone in a saga in which family history was also wine history. Indeed, the wine is a monument, powerful in tannins and acidity, yet fuller and more elegant than in earlier times. For the first time for Biondi-Santi with high (but well-integrated) 14.5% alcohol . (To the aftertasting)
Champagne Besserat de Bellefon Réserve 1986
The Champagne house had a lean period for many years and is still weakly represented in Germany. Yet the Maison has a great past and has been going on the offensive in terms of quality since 2018 at the latest. By opting for a lower bottle pressure and a stop of lactic acid fermentation, it also stands unique. From the rare Vintage Collection, Besserat de Bellefon presented the 1986 vintage, which was disgorged in 2019 and thus spent more than 30 years on the lees. The result is a wonderful plea for aged champagnes: with full bouquet of nuts and heavy lees, complex, vinous and almost oily on the palate, with good freshness and minutes of finish.
Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Pritchard Hill 2018
Napa Valley had a very strong showing at Düsseldorf 2022. Many wines were presented whose prices have now reached the proverbial astronomical heights and are hard to find in Europe. My favorite was the Pritchard Hill from pioneer Chappellet winery, whose eponymous founding family began growing grapes as early as 1967, the second new winery ever in Napa Valley after Prohibition. Pritchard Hill above Lake Hennessey produces distinctly “mountain wines”: somewhat cooler than down in the valley, but with enormous spiciness and concentration. Time will tell if this wine, blessed with freshness and fantastically pure fruit, will match the greatest of its predecessor vintages and then earn a triple-digit rating.
Château Musar 1960
What country is more crisis-tested than Lebanon? In any case, the Hochar family will not be deterred from traveling to Düsseldorf with their wines this year – a stroke of luck for any lover of complex, unorthodox wines. The fact that Musar wines have to mature before they become cult is known to many collectors. With the small vertical 2016, 2000 and 1998, sales director Marc Hochar demonstrates this impressively in Düsseldorf. But when he then conjures up a decanter of the 1960s vintage (newly corked and relabeled in 2012), the wine happiness is complete. The whirlwind of youthful individuality has given way to balsamic wisdom, complex tertiary layers of leather and tobacco stand alongside the finest age sweetness and lingering mellow fruit notes. Simply a sensation!