Unfortunately, unlike my wife, I have never had the opportunity to sample these Burgundian ICONs, which are supposed to represent the ultimate in Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay). I have had awesome Pinot Noir wines from Australia, California, Oregon, Ottago, British Columbia and even Grand Cru from other parts of Burgundy, but alas, not these gems. I would love to compare their Romanee-Conti to their La Tache and even to a Californian Marcassin or Kistler. That being said, sampling any of the labels below (including the Chardonnay based Montrachet), would be awesome.
The first growths of Bordeaux, selected in a flawed process in 1855, has with only a small modification, stood the test of time. There are certainly super seconds like Cos D'Estournel and Leoville Las Cases that can give them a run for their money, but for the most part, this classification works, at least for the Left Bank and the Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. I have visited Chateau Mouton Rothschild and tried several of their wines and I have also tasted Chateau Haut-Brion. So that leaves Lafite Rothschild, Margaux and Latour to be sampled. That being said, sampling any of the five would be great.
The two major appellations on the Right Bank are St. Emillion and Pomerol. The St. Emillion appellation's top wines are broken down into Premiers Grands Crus Classés (A) and Premiers Grands Crus Classés (B) and a very large number of every day wines classed as Grands Cru. Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc are in the former category and deserve to be in this top list while the next three come from the very distinguished region of Pomerol. Although the Pomerols have never gone through the same classification exercises of their Bordeaux bretheren, I will add Château Pétrus, Château Lafleur and Le Pin to my list.
Although there are many appellations in the Rhone Valley, in my opinion there are three that stand out from the rest - Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Although I love the value-driven Gigondas and Vacqueyras appelations, in terms of pure quality, the big three shine more brightly.
For Côte-Rôtie, I could have picked any of the La La's, so I chose La Landonne from Guigal as the sole representative. I wanted to pick one white wine from the Rhone and hence the Rousanne-based L'Ermite, Ermitage by M. Chapoutier was chosen to complement the incredible Ermitage, Cuvee Cathelin by Jean Louis Chave. Finally, I believe that there are many fine choices to be had in Châteauneuf-du-Pape but I only have space for two, the Chateau de Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin and Domaine du Pegau.
Although some may argue that the top five Chardonnay in the world would all be from Burgundy, my preference is to be more inclusive of other regions in the world who have proven themselves to be worthy competition to the ancestral home of this fine varietal. I have therefore chosen two Burgundian blue bloods, one Australian standout, and two brash American beauties from California.
Since the Judgement in Paris in 1976, it is pretty clear that the Cabernet Sauvignon of California can give the Bordelais a run for their money. California is certainly not restricted to this varietal as many of their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are also of excellent quality, but for the purposes of this exercise, we will restrict it to the Cab Sauvs or Bordeaux blends. I have had the opportunity to open a Dominus from the year of my daughter's birth on her 21st birthday and it was truly awesome.
Just as the U.S. west coast has proven to be a leader in Cabernet Sauvignon, it has proven also to be a hotbed for Pinot Noir as well. Stretching from Central California all the way up through Oregon and even into Washington State, there seem to be many micro-climates which produce a large variety of styles of Pinot Noir. From rich and possibly overdone buttery efforts, to more nuanced burgundian beauties, the U.S. west coast has it all.
Although I have travelled extensively in Australia, I have never made it to South Australia, home of the Barossa Valley and great Australian Shiraz. I have been to wineries in Margaret River, the Swan river and the Hunter Valley in NSW and there are certainly other great varietals made in Australia, but for my bucket list, I would like a full frontal Shiraz contest, as in-your-face as the wines. I would line up Penfold's Grange, a Henschke Hill of Grace, a Clarendon Hill Astralis, a Run Rig and a Chris Ringland Three Rivers. It would be an epic battle. I have already cellared a 2005 Astralis, so all I need are people willing to line up the rest.
I applaud the courageous winemakers who broke with tradition and created their own wines and rescued the Chianti appellation from its self-inflicted decline. By combining non-traditional Italian grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and even Syrah with the traditional local Sangiovese they created sublime wines for our enjoyment.