This one’s been simmering on the backburner for a while, and now that Jeni Port has listed her 10 wines you really must try before you die, it’s time to turn up the gas.
From time to time lovers of fine wines and spirits get to taste those rare or obscure elixirs that comprise the distinctive or even archetypal alcoholic drinks of the world. Most of these, it should go without saying, are either expensive or hard to find, or both.
However, when just a few sips of any of these precious liquors will live in your memory forever, who cares about the cost? If you can’t afford to buy one for yourself, hint that a bottle of this or that might be a fine gift. Failing that, share the cost of a bottle with four or five friends.
Here is my selection of essential nectars of the gods, in no particular order:
Vintage port – of your year of birth preferably. I’m not talking fortified ‘port styles’ here – only Portuguese will do. I once had a bottle of the Kopke 1945 – black, powerful, spirity, one of the best wines I have ever tasted. Search online auction houses and sites like this and you’ll find one.
Chablis – Grand Cru Chablis – is it the best chardonnay in the world? From north of the Burgundy region. Pale, steely, dry crisp, ageless. Nothing like Australian chardonnay.
Absinthe – makes the dreams last longer. Was banned for years in many countries. Once known as the Green Fairy. Perhaps Green Goblin would have been more to the point as its combination of high alcohol and the wormwood-derived hallucinogen thujone sent certain French artists and poets to the edge of lunacy. Apparently, modern versions are less maddening.
Penfolds Grange – A wonderful red by any standard and arguably Australia’s greatest wine – certainly its most expensive. The Penfolds RWT Shiraz will do as a substitute.
Black Sherry – from Jerez in Spain. A luscious and sweet, deep dark sherry made from Pedro Ximenez grapes. I like the Valdespino version. The closest you will come to it in an Australian wine may be one of Bill Chambers’ rare muscats.
Bordeaux – Any of the first growths: Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion, Château Mouton Rothschild. A good St Emilion is right up there with the best – say the Château Cheval Blanc, if you can find one.
Single Malt Whisky– Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Smoke gets in your eyes, and either of these could bring a tear to the eye of a first-timer. I get misty whenever I taste one.