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The Most Memorable Bottles of 2022
A wrap-up of noteworthy wines that I tasted this year. Plus, a Bloody Mary variation to nurse you through New Year's Day.
Looking back on 2022 in Everyday Drinking, I’m worried I’ve been a little too bad-tempered. Perhaps bad-tempered has been an appropriate response to 2022. War, virus, toxic political discourse, inflation, looming recession, et al. Within my little bubble, we’re experiencing a media industry that’s falling apart, with mass layoffs, shuttered publications, and longform journalism becoming an endangered species. We see a wine media that is broken. We see the decline of quality affordable wines. It’s difficult not to focus on the negative.
But there have been many wonderful moments over the past year. One of the best things to happen, personally, was being selected by Substack as a fellow for its Food Writers Intensive. That three-month program was truly a shot in the arm for Everyday Drinking. On April 1st, we muddled along with just a few hundred readers receiving my sporadic newsletter. Now, as the year ends, we are closing in on 10,000 readers each week for my dispatches. I am so thankful to all of you for reading and sharing and helping it grow. Hopefully that’s just the beginning, and I look forward to even more growth (and more paid subscribers) in 2023.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel and report the pieces you read here— from Rioja to Cognac, from Pfalz and Württemberg to Jerez and Montilla-Moriles, from Catalonia to Valle de Guadalupe, from La Dive Bouteille, the natural wine fair to the Slow Food conference in Torino. It was only two years ago that a serious question loomed: Would we ever be able to travel again? Clearly, travel in 2022 is very different than 30 or 10 or even five years ago. Yet while the way we travel may be changing, the impulse to go see and experience and write about it has not.
I am especially grateful to have tasted so many great bottles this year. If my arm is twisted and I have to name my ten most memorable wines of 2022, I’ll go with the ten below (with links to the articles they appeared in). This is not based on a system or points, but completely unscientific. It’s simply based on memory, place, time, pleasure, and emotion.
Domaine Belluard ‘Les Alpes’ 2019 (Savoie, France)
A haunting Alpine white, from gringet, that I drank with friends on a rainy November night at Chambers in New York.
Dautel Bönnigheimer Sonnenberg Lemberger 1999 (Württemberg, Germany) Aka blaufränkisch, sipped on a spring afternoon with Christian Dautel after a hearty lunch of Swabian lentil stew with spaetzle, topped with a sausage.
PM Spirits Palo Cortado Sherry NV (Jerez, Spain)
Tasted from the barrel in Valdespino’s cellars with legendary sherry maker Eduardo Ojeda one morning during the Feria de Jerez.
Bründlmayer Käferberg 1ÖTW Grüner Veltliner 2009 (Kamptal, Austria)
A standout during a memorable tasting of Erste Lage grüner veltliner (“the new white Burgundy?”) in my office.
Recaredo Serral del Vell Corpinnat Brut Nature 2015 (Catalonia, Spain)
Tasted during a whirlwind and eye-opening visit to Penedès, finding Spain’s best sparkling wines.
Knewitz Appenheim Hundertgulden Riesling 2021 (Rheinhessen, Germany) First tasted this GG during a wild after-party at Laurenz wine bar in Mainz, followed by a more focused tasting a week later at the winery.
Lagar Blanco Palo Cortado NV (Montilla-Moriles, Spain)
Paired with the flavors of Moorish Iberia during an incredible lunch at Noor, in Córdoba, at the end of a beautifully surreal trip to Andalusía.
Jardín Oculto Vischoqueña Blanc des Noir 2021 (Cinti Valley, Bolivia)
Discovered this obscure grape during an unofficial, impromptu tasting by the winemaker during Slow Food’s Terra Madre event.
Envínate Benje Tinto 2021 (Canary Islands, Spain)
Sommelier’s choice during a dinner on my last night in Barcelona after a long winter trip to Europe.
López de Heredia Viña Gravonia 2011 (Rioja, Spain)
I tasted so many amazing whites in Rioja (more on that in a few weeks) but I had this on a sunny late afternoon in San Diego at a wine bar, while I waited to fly home after my epic journey to Baja’s wine country.
Happy Bloody Mary Day
I’m not usually one for made-up holidays, but once upon a time I learned (via press release, of course) that January 1st is “National Bloody Mary Day,” it sort of made sense. Once you finally wake up from the previous night’s revelry, a spicy Bloody Mary might be the only way to ease into the New Year. (Serve it with the “donkey ball” eggs poached in red wine I suggested last year).
I know, everyone claims that either they or someone close to them (wife, brother-in-law, aunt) makes The Very Best Bloody Mary Ever. But let’s be honest: This isn’t true. Most Bloody Marys are bloody awful. The Bloody Mary is a deceptively simple, but vexing, drink. In the wrong bartender’s hands, it quickly turns into a gloopy, tomato-gravy, overgrown-foliage disaster.
First of all, no version using one of those pre-fab Bloody Mary mixes can be considered “good” (Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. T). That means, yes, you’ll need to buy tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce to mix yourself. Use a little more vodka (or better yet aquavit) and a little less juice. Be generous with the pepper and spice. And don’t forget that a dash of citrus juice helps keep things fresh and bright.
Finally, can we be completely honest about something? The whole celery-stalk-plus-olive-plus-pickle-plus-pepper-plus-shrimp-plus-whatever on-a-stick is a little bit much. A garnish should garnish. Not take over the glass. One of the very best and most elegant garnishes for a Bloody Mary is a simple lemon peel twist. Serving a Bloody Mary with only a lemon peel, however, takes a certain kind of confidence. You will almost certainly be called out by someone who expects the celery-stalk-plus-olive-plus-pickle-plus-pepper-plus-shrimp-on-a-stick. My general response: “Okay, Mr. T.”
One element of a great Bloody Mary lies in the seasoning, which is both straightforward and specific. One non-negotiable ingredient for me is celery bitters rather than celery salt. Look for celery bitters from The Bitter Truth, Bittermens, or Scrappy’s.
Hands down, the very best Bloody Marys are made with aquavit (sometimes called a Bloody Marion). Other people swear by gin (Bloody Marlene) or tequila (Bloody Maria), but for me aquavit’s herbal profile makes sense in savory cocktails.
With that in mind, below is my favorite, oh-so-simple Bloody Mary variation. I am going to claim, of course, that this is the Very Best Bloody Mary Ever. And you, of course, will disagree.
The Bloody Mary was invented in Paris during the 1920s, but after Prohibition, the drink migrated to New York, where it was served at the St. Regis Hotel. Concerned that more conservative American patrons might be offended by the name, the St. Regis rechristened the drink the Red Snapper. With its equal parts vodka and tomato juice, as well as a squeeze of lemon juice, the Red Snapper is the superior expression of the cocktail, not like the goopy tomato-gravy crap you usually get. My “Nordic” rendition here calls for aquavit instead of vodka.
2 ounces aquavit
2 ounces tomato juice
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes celery bitters
Pinch fine sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice. Add the aquavit, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, celery bitters, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Shake well, then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with the lemon peel twist. Serve with celery, olives, and toothpicks on the side.