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What They Were Drinking

A look at the wines of the 2018 Naples Winter Wine Festival, where elite vintners and the globe’s most discerning collectors converge each January.



 

As one of the most prestigious wine auctions in the world, the 18th annual Naples Winter Wine Festival (held Jan. 26-28, 2018) featured eye-popping prizes, like a 10-day trip around Cape Town vineyards with winemakers Shari and Garen Staglin with 12 vintages of their coveted Staglin Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. And while not everyone in the sold-out crowd of more than 600 walked away with one of the 61 auction lots, all attendees were treated to a flow of wine throughout the three-day blockbuster affair.

Each pour went through a rigorous screening process by festival organizers, and many came directly from 34 participating vintners, as well as from donations by festival trustees. From bottles that not even money can buy (wait lists and a huge helping of luck are needed) to consistently highlyrated pours that can be purchased at most fine wine shops (without having to mortgage your house), here’s a look at what stood out. 

LOUIS ROEDERER CRISTAL ROSE CHAMPAGNE: This rare Cristal rosé is to serious wine collectors what Birkins are to luxury handbag fanatics. It’s the most highly coveted Champagne on the market and nearly impossible to get. Here, it was spotted on a trustee’s table as a gift for his guests during the auction. 

2014 AO YUN CABERNET SAUVIGNON: Retailing around $300 per bottle, an entire auction lot at the festival was built around this relatively new yet exclusive Cabernet Sauvignon. The draw? It is the first big-money Western-style commercial endeavor to come from China, bankrolled by LVMH.  

 

2001 SILVER OAK ALEXANDER VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON: The honored vintner of the 2018 festival, the Napa commercial powerhouse Silver Oak, brought usual and celebrated vintages such as this 2001 from their Alexander Valley vineyards. Sold at a lower price point than their Napa Valley Cabernet, the bottles are dependably robust. Younger vintages retail just under $100. 

2012 ESTATE-BOTTLED FAR NIENTE OAKVILLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON: Speaking of powerful Napa Cabs, Far Niente’s focus is limited to just two varietals—Cabernet and Chardonnay. While pricey at upward of $200 per bottle, it is available for purchase via the winery’s website.

 

KRUG BRUT GRANDE CUVÉE 164eme EDITION CHAMPAGNE: Most sparkling wine is non-vintage (not dated). If you narrow that to what’s allowed to be labeled “Champagne,” only a handful of producers denote the year their creations were made. A sip of this is a taste of history—Krug is a leader in the Champagne region, and this was the house’s 164th offering of Grande Cuvée.  

2014 KISTLER VINE HILL VINEYARD CHARDONNAY: A single-vineyard wine, all of the Chardonnay grapes used came from the same plot of land in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. With tightly controlled distribution, the wines are in high demand.   

 

2014 ANTINORI TIGNANELLO: From a centuries-old, still-family-run cellar, this wine revolutionized the industry when Marchese Piero Antinori (the 2015 NWWF honored vintner) released it in the '70s as a “Super Tuscan” IGT—it was the first blended Italian wine (i.e., not from any single type of grape) to be recognized as a premier pour. Today, it retails just under $70 at most high-end wine shops. 

2010 DOMAINE LOUIS LATOUR CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE GRAND CRU: Ask any Master Sommelier of the elite club of 236 what their favorite type of wine is, and the answer is uncannily often white Burgundys. The region in the eastern central part of France is conducive to Chardonnay grapes and has strict rules governing the appellation of wines, with the Grand Cru vineyards at the top of the quality pyramid.  

 

KELLY FLEMING WINES—CABERNET ROSÉ AND SAUVIGNON BLANC: One of the more affordable lines on offer throughout the weekend (with bottles around or less than $100), this small producer gets that je ne sais quoi factor from the limited availability of its wines. A treat for wine fest guests was the Cabernet Rosé—Fleming makes only six barrels of it per year and does not sell them anywhere except the vineyard. 

 

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