2021 Whispering Angel, Caves d’Esclans, Sacha Lichine, Côtes de Provence, France
RRP £20.00, www.finewinedirect.co.uk
I was unpacking a few cases of wine on New Year’s Eve and popping the bottles into gaps in my cellar when I came across a plain brown single bottle sample box. How had I missed this? Perhaps my wife had signed for it earlier in the day, and it was lost among other boxes in our hallway. There was no indication on the outside of its contents, but I am delighted that I felt moved to open it because it meant that I managed to taste 2021 Whispering Angel in the last few hours of 2021. It is oddly exciting to taste a wine when it is so young and so recently bottled, and one rarely gets the chance to taste Northern Hemisphere wines in the year of their birth. More often than not, newly bottled samples taste shocked and reticent, but these are not descriptors of this tremendous wine. I usually taste alone, but as my wife and I felt obliged to abandon plans for a party in favour of inviting a handful of neighbours around for an early evening drink, I opened this nascent Angel for a small group of us to taste. The appreciation was unanimous, and I was impressed with the many descriptors offered by our friends – after all, they are all keen wine drinkers. The overarching feeling of the group was that this was a superb effort and one which tasted delicious already but which had a seam of nervy acidity which might propel it forwards for more than just one summer, and I couldn’t agree more. There has been a gradual tightening up of Whispering Angel since the 2019 vintage and in 2021 there is a wonderful backbone to this wine from which the fruit is carefully draped. With the trademark watermelon and pomegranate hints and a deeper and more structured mid-palate than was found on the lithe 2020 this is a more sophisticated wine than its crowd-pleasing predecessor. This, in turn, means that it is a foodier proposition, too, which is great news. So, my very first 2021 Provence Rosé is set to, once again, wow all-comers and this is encouraging news not least because the price has moved up from late-teens to £20 for this vintage in order to reflect its heightened ambitions.