The methods I use to determine my "Wine of the Year" have nothing to do with point scores or detailed comparisons of every wine I've tasted over the last 12 months. No, my metrics are much more simple and visceral! Previously I've used the "Gulp-ability Factor" and the "Lemonhead Effect." This year, however, I feel a bit less, well, silly, and a little bit more serious.
Maybe it's "the market" or just that I've begun to mellow with age, but it seems more than ever that wine has become "productized" by the mainstream. It's become a magic formula of point scores, marketing hype and quick shortcuts to get to that place where wines are bought and sold simply as investments.
My Wine of the Year is more complicated than the hedonistic drinkers of the past two years. It's also a wine that you've probably never heard of and one that I hope will bring you away from wine as a product and back to the roots of wine enjoyment, as it's done for me.
The 2005 Palari Faro, aside from being a layered, complex and delicious red, illustrates how there are so many incredible values out there in the wine world ... that an estate's "top wine" can sell for well under $100 and is just as profound as a bottle that costs $1000+ ... that a wine's value can be determined by what's in the bottle!
I personally guarantee that the 2005 vintage of Palari Faro is NOT investment grade wine - that is unless you are an investor in your own long-term enjoyment. This is, however, a wine that you won't easily find on store shelves after this year. There is simply not enough wine produced and the wine's recent awards mean the winery has sold out long ago.
I initially discovered Palari Faro when a friend and customer (who is, ironically, an investment banker) brought a bottle to NYC BYO Ivo & Lulu, introducing the bottle simply as one of his favorite wines. Alongside wines of much greater "breed" it stood out as a world-class wine - but its authenticity was what was so thrilling.
How easy would it have been for the Palari estate to abandon its traditional practices and follow other Sicilian producers to make some Cabernet-Syrah-Merlot super-blend and market it to the masses? (Answer: Very easy indeed.) Instead, they have come to the forefront of critical praise and consumer awareness, quietly, and not at all through the easy roads so often traveled.
I've heard the wine compared to Chateauneuf-du-Pape and there are some obvious similarities. Both wines wrap savory notes of earth and spice within layers and layers of complex, ripe fruits. But I'd also like to place this wine, ever so gently, within the sphere of great Burgundy. No, this is not Grand Cru Burgundy with an Italian accent, but there is a fineness and detail to the Palari Faro which calls upon the more juicy and polished red Burgs of 1997, 2003 and 2005. Fans of New World Pinot Noirs will also love this wine - with its vivid red fruit the Palari Faro approximates the accessibility of California's Central Coast more so than the deep purple Pinots from Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This is stunningly elegant juice, but it is also robust, warm, friendly, comforting with a drop-dead beauty and a very soulful ease. It's just the thing to open before you sit down by the fire this winter with a group of close friends. Enjoy it as it opens over the course of a few hours.
A specially priced six-pack is also the ideal candidate for your cellar. Given my experiences with previous vintages, my guess is that this edition of Palari Faro will continue to improve for the next 10 years, with 2030 as a possible "drink-by" date.
I was on the hunt to secure this wine in March when the 2005 edition was named the Tre Bicchieri "top wine" by Gambero Rosso, one of the most coveted winemaking awards in Italy. It's taken me 6 months to source a well-priced parcel that we could offer at the sharpest of prices, and sadly, this will be our only shipment.