As readers will know, I live in Lima Peru, where it’s flooded with Malbecs from Argentina and all sorts of New World wines from Chile. Having been previously spoiled in the US where I traveled frequently, never far from an upscale wine boutique or, at least, a Total Wine megastore, living in Peru was a shock. Gone were the endless options for wines such as a Tokaji from Hungary or some super-rich Bordeaux.
Peru is not an advanced wine country by any stretch, as I have written about previously. My neighbors and friends here may be horrified to hear me say it, but Peru is simply ass-backwards in this area of culture. If a wine doesn’t taste like a raisin, they are not up for it.
Now add COVID to the mix, and 2021 was a rough year to be a street-level, gutterpunk wine reviewer. Even though my focus is on affordable wines, for much of the year I had no access to wine at all, given that much of the stuff had been stored in tiendas that were shut down, without air conditioning. The vinegar industry must have loved this season.
Thankfully, as shops and importers began to re-open, I found more and more offering local delivery, allowing me to start up wine reviews again without having to break quarantine or travel restrictions. Panuts offered me a fairly large supply of New World wines (again, mostly from Argentina and Chile, with a smattering from Italy and Spain). And, more recently, I discovered Franco Peru, a Peruvian importer of French wines. (No luck, so far, on any similar operations offering bottles from Germany or California.)
This means we’ll have a brief rush of French wine reviews before the end of the year, and it’s already born fruit (pardon the pun.) An Alsatian Gewurztraminer has already won the first 5-star review of 2021, pushing it ahead of the 4- and 4.5-star reviews from the rest of the year. (It really looked like 2021 might have to award a Winepisser Best Wine award to a wine that had not earned a full five stars.) We should be able to get in a few more reviews before the end of the year, possibly a French Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a Sauternes, and maybe a few authentic Bordeaux — no promises, though, as December 31 is set to arrive quickly.
So 2021 may have been a weak year in total wines reviewed by your Winepisser, but at least we should have a healthy competition among those that made the cut.
No matter who wins, I will be grateful for 2021 as it raised my appreciation for a few grapes I had been otherwise ambivalent about: namely, Albariño and some creative Argentinian red blends.
It certainly looks like a French wine will win this year, but it will be a result of a limited selection, and not wine snobbery. In the meantime, before I resume international travel, I will keep searching for importers who can get me a wider variety of bottles, from a wider geographic region.