James Suckling: Awards of the decade

Jamessuckling.com celebrates its ten-year anniversary this year. After 100,000 tasting notes and countless events, James Suckling has decided to mark the occasion by announcing three one-off awards that he feels defined the last 10 years of his wine journalism.

Wine of the decade

It’s not Bordeaux. It’s not Burgundy. It’s not even a 2016.

James Suckling’s wine of the decade is Chilean Almaviva 2017, to which he awarded 100 points in April 2019, stating “It’s structured and powerful. Dense and very, very deep”.

Almaviva is a collaboration between Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Concha y Toro Winery. Suckling praises Almaviva for growing the reputation of Chilean wine around the world.

The wine itself can be described as a happy accident. Back in 1978, the estate thought they planted Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the Merlot turned out to be Carménère, which they subsequently included in the blend and haven’t looked back since.

Charted below, the 2015-2017 Market Prices are close to London open prices, attributed to the still plentiful supply in the market. However, once the supply clears, prices, as seen in 2009-2012 vintages, rise to the £1,300 level, where they happily rest.

For a James Suckling 100-point wine, 2015 and 2017 offer two relatively good value additions to any cellar.

Winemaker of the decade

At the helm of Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Clerc Milon, Château d’Armailhac, Domaine de Baronarques in France, as well as Almaviva in Chile and Opus One in Napa Valley and awarded winemaker of the decade, is one key man.

Winemaker Philippe Dhalluin

In 2003, he was hired by the late Baroness Phillippine de Rothschild to be managing director and winemaker across the six estates. What Phillippe brought was a new level of precision. He sought out to replant old vines, introduce smaller fermenting vessels, and tone down the levels of oak, which he thought masked the terroir of each unique region.

“I make the best wines possible as a winemaker,” says Philippe, and the many 100-point wines awarded under his tenure (and possibly countless more to come) is a testament to just that.

Liv-ex interviewed Philippe Dhalluin in 2016, which addressed developments at Mouton, the fine wine market and Bordeaux 2015.

Winery of the decade

The winery of the decade, Masseto, recently opened its own cantina in Tuscany.

The renowned Italian pure Merlot producer did not have its own physical production site until last year, instead producing in the cellars of Ornellaia.

Masseto 1991 and 2001 are the most expensive vintages offered at £10,320 and £9,564 per 12×75 respectively.

Masseto 2001, 2011, and 2016 all carry 100-point scores from James Suckling yet the 2011 is one of the least expensive vintages at £4,480 per 12×75.