As another year of wine adventures wraps up, SOMM TV Podcast hosts Jason Wise and Claire Coppi are ready to spill the beans on their top wines of 2023. Forget about fancy ratings and critics’ picks — this is all about the wines that left a mark, the ones that made them go “Whoa!” during their epic travels while filming for SOMM TV.
From the sun-drenched Napa Valley to the canals of Venice and beyond, these two wine buffs have tasted a lot of wine this year. Now, they’re sharing their top picks, some of which you might’ve already caught a glimpse of in recent SOMM TV episodes. But there are more gems waiting to debut in 2024, popping up in episodes and films that’ll have you reaching for the corkscrew in anticipation.
This isn’t your usual “best of the best” list. It’s more like a scrapbook of liquid memories, each bottle telling a story of the places they’ve been and the amazing folks they’ve met.
Listen to the Wines of the Year podcast episode anywhere you listen to podcasts, including iTunes, Spotify, or online, or continue reading to uncork the tales, swirl the stories, and cheers to the wines that made 2023 one heck of a ride.
Top Reds of 2023
First up, Claire throws a spotlight on Napa’s Meghan Zobeck of Burgess Cellars, who released her first vintage of Gamay Noir under her own label, M. Zobeck Wines. “I expect incredible Gamay from Beaujolais Crus, and I’ve had some great [versions] from Santa Barbara, but this one just surprised me,” professes Coppi. “It’s serious, beautiful, and elegant.”
Zobeck’s 2020 Gamay hails from the Barsotti Vineyard in the El Dorado AVA, a sub-appellation of the Sierra Foothills. Kismetly, it has all the charisma of Zobeck herself, who proved to give Coppi a run for the grand prize in SOMM TV’s Sparklers, which received a James Beard Award nomination in 2022 for best cooking competition show.
“This is probably the best Gamay I’ve ever had; it is so good,” Coppi says, which receives a joking reply from Wise. “Look, Megan Zobeck is one of my favorite humans, but you can’t blow her up this big on her first vintage.” Coppi is steadfast in her pick, however. “I think it’s because it was so unexpected. It stands out in my mind.”
Wise’s pick for the year’s top red is one of the most surprising wines to hit shelves but also “an obvious pick, especially if you’ve seen Cup of Salvation,” says Wise. Molana is the first wine made in Iran since 1978 and a pivotal focus of the latest SOMM film.
“It’s from a grape called Rashah, an ancient red grape in the northern part of Iran, in the mountains,” explains Wise. “It’s a much more complex wine than I expected when I first tasted it. And, of course, I waited in fear and a lot of other emotions for this wine to end up in the bottle for a long time [because it’s in the film]. But it’s excellent.”
Top Sparkling Wine of 2023
In the effervescent world of bubbles, Claire Coppi and Jason Wise find common ground in their sparkling pick for the top wines of 2023, an aged Franciacorta.
Ca’ Del Bosco Annamaria Clementi 1980 stole the show, quite literally, during SOMM TV’s Drink A Bottle with Maurizio Zanella and Jason Wise. Popping the cork on this aged masterpiece is like unlocking a time capsule of effervescence, having been aged on its lees for over 40 years. “It didn’t taste as old as it was, in a good way, because I do like age on bubbles a lot. But there was such a lack of oxidation,” says Wise.
That lack of oxidation is because of how the bottle was stored, sur point, meaning with its neck down following the completion of autolysis but before dégorgement, allowing the yeast sediment to consolidate in the neck of the bottle, acting “like a plug,” adds Coppi.
Coppi, who got to taste the wine after filming, was shocked by its youthfulness. “It had all that lift of the acid still in there, the carbonation, and all the beautiful primary fruit notes.”
“The wine was confusing in that I would never have blind-tasted it as a 1980 bottle of sparkling,” Wise says, adding, “I don’t know anyone who can call a 43-year-old Franciacorta.”
“That’s my number one sparkling, hands down,” he concludes.
Top Whites of 2023
Diving into the realm of whites, Coppi and Wise pick vastly different standouts for the top white wines that rocked their glasses in 2023.
From filming during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, Coppi recalls a gathering where Mayacamus winemaker Braiden Albrecht was pouring a magnum of 2005 Chardonnay. “It’s one of those other instances where you just have to smile and step out of your body for a moment,” Coppi continues, “like, this is really cool.” It was a memorable occasion that included a dinner. “I was really lucky; all those little pieces come together to help make that wine special.”
On the flip side, Wise urges you to forget what you know about Muscadet for his white wine pick: a ’97 Muscadet. “Some wines have very little besides the acid as their character when released,” Wise explains. “There are some Rieslings like this and a lot of Muscat like this. But, when you put that age on them, they turn into a very interesting mellowed-out version, with flavors that would never have existed.”
This game-changing Muscadet came from Clos des Briords from Domaine de la Pépière, located on the hillsides of the river Maine. It’s not typically a classic, expensive, or something you age with intent, but “really good if you put it away, and that’s the fun and unexpected [part of wine],” says Wise.
Wildcard Pick: Top Wines of 2023
Before drawing the curtain on their vinous escapades of 2023, Coppi and Wise throw a wildcard pick into the mix.
Coppi takes us back to 1890 with her wildcard pick: D’Oliveiras Verdelho Madeira tasted during a Madeira convention in Beverly Hills. It’s not just a wine; it’s a sip of history, a testament to the resilience of Madeira. “It holds up. [Old Madeira] still tastes incredibly fresh, but it gets even more complex, rich, and fabulous,” says Coppi, a devoted Madeira fan. “It’s a time capsule in wine; I love the history. I love the story… to think about what was happening in the world then and who was still alive?”
Wise surprises us with a wildcard pick that’s both cinematic and sparkling. “If you had told me on my bingo card that one of my favorite, best, or most important wines of the year would be a Prosecco, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he says.
The tasting of San Francesco della Vigna Prosecco took place in Venice, in one of the city’s monasteries. “It’s the only place in Venice proper, within the city, that has a vineyard on the Isle,” explains Wise. “They have two vineyards, one planted to Malvasia and one planted to Glera, which, as many people know, is what they use to make Prosecco.”
Wise is careful with details, not releasing too many plot points in the upcoming Life of Wine film. “The Prosecco that they make at this monastery is incredible. However, the story of wine as a whole, the idea of wine becoming a commercial product, and all of these things are why I had to pick this wine,” he explains.
Life of Wine is coming in 2024 to SOMM TV and special theatrical events, and spans filming in 12 countries, including the Vatican and its secret archives. “It took me five years to get permission to do this. I don’t know if anyone else has ever done it,” says Wise, “It’s an epic movie.”
Sign up for the SOMM TV newsletter for news on the film’s release. In the meantime, cheers to the unexpected, the extraordinary, and the wines that made our hearts skip a beat in 2023.