2023: The Year In Review


Two thousand twenty-three was an annus mirabilis chock full of cherished memories. I have never put my nose so hard to the grindstone with 80 articles hatched on Vinous alone, nor have I "partied" so hard. Never traveled as much or tasted so widely. I must have missed the slow-down memo that comes with middle age. I seem to possess more energy than ever in the past, so I might as well use it. It was a year when I returned to some of my favorite countries post-pandemic, bade farewell to my eldest (not before handing her an invoice for 18 years of fatherhood) and spawned my book. It was also 12 months tinged with sadness, a year when I lost friends way too soon. I was planning to ease off the gas. My 2024 diary already reminds me that there is no chance of that happening.

My Likes in 2023…

Daughters’ dark sense of humor.

The warm reception for The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide.

Old friends/New friends.

My Barbour coat. Vital to keep warm in cellars, vineyards etc.

Parkrun. How many have avoided illness because of their Saturday 5k run around their local park?

Wine. Obviously.

Record fairs + bricks ‘n mortar record shops.

Southend Pier on a sunny Sunday morning.

Davada Coffee & Records in Kyoto.

Wine list at Noble Rot (Mayfair) and XXXXXX in France (redacted to prevent pillaging).


Kaki fruit.

The Rest Is History podcast.

Gabrielle and Lili – merci beaucoup.  

Hiking in Lancashire in January in my trusty Barbour.

My Dislikes in 2023…

Daughters growing up so quickly.

That Amazon probably makes more money from my book than its author.

Friends lost in 2023.

My bow-tie. Still takes two hours of YouTube tutorials to tie successfully (but worth it).

France banning Parkrun because participants need a medical certificate. Ridiculous.

Bad wine.

The rising cost of vinyl.

Southend Pier when wet and windy.

Starbucks, even though I’ve never been.

Restaurant wine lists that only offer natural wines.



A music podcast talking such gibberish that I shouted at my iPhone driving up the M6.

Monsieur who broke into my hotel room in Bordeaux (see December).

Month by Month

January – It’s not until January 5 that I drink my first DRC. I’m sure that contravenes a local bylaw. Perusing my diary, 2023 begins with a 20km hike across the Lancashire dales, partying in North London, plus several verticals in a fruitful off-season trip to Bordeaux. The month’s most momentous moment was when I received a text from my publisher notifying me that they had just taken hold of the first hard copy of The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide 1870-2020. I walk across the wintry windswept Thames in trepidation to see my newborn. As soon as I set eyes upon Luke Bird’s design - I love it. It perfectly evokes the tenor of the book: vivid, irreverent but erudite, classy and reassuringly weighty in your hand. Now, will anyone buy it?

Three notable wines: 1971 La Tâche (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti), 2020 Chambertin Clos-de-Bèze Hommage à Philippe (Domaine Duroché), 2014 Cornas Chaillot (Thierry Allemand)

This is actually the moment I saw my book for the first time. I know, I know. I was long overdue for a haircut, and it was very windy crossing the Thames.

February – Two trips this month, one to Stratford-upon-Avon to channel my inner Shakespeare (obviously, it didn’t work), then a wonderful trip to Lisbon with my daughters that coincides with unusually clement weather. We dine like royalty though I resist eating too many pastéis de nata. I look forward to returning: Lisbon has so much to offer.

Three notable wines: 2018 Carrocel Tinto (Quinta da Pellada), 1955 Chambolle-Musigny (Paul Ponnelle), 1967 Hermitage (Domaine J-L Chave)

March – For some stupid reason, I see whether my body can complete the Surrey half-marathon. Answer: Yes! But the last three miles hurt. I am indebted to the “two-hour thirty” posse of runners for getting me over the finish line. Running such a distance was unimaginable a few years ago. The month is spent ferrying my eldest to look at universities the length and breadth of Blighty, only for her to end up at one less than 30 miles away. Still, it’s nice to see cities like Manchester and Cambridge. Maybe I should become a student again? It’s a packed month of tastings, including a week in Beaujolais as I take the reins from Josh Raynolds, who tragically passes away, days after my return. Our last conversation was not about the terroir of Moulin-à-Vent, but the UK’s best shoegaze band.

Three notable wines: 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve (Château Rayas), 2010 Le Pergole Torte (Montevertine), 2022 Morgon Aux Pierres Javernières (Louis-Claude Desvignes)

Signing the first books before publication in Spitalfields.

April – The month when the year goes bonkers. First and foremost, The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide hits all good bookshops and marks the start of spin-off dinners, kicking off in über-cool Spitalfields. It’s a joy meeting people and signing books. Anneka organizes the event with a typical aplomb. It’s one of her final projects before she loses her battle with a long-term illness a month later. Her speech that night is something I’ll always remember. Then, there is Bordeaux primeur. My old mate Joel, who helped me with the original Wine-Journal, drives me down in his Ferrari FF. The car is discrete enough not to make me look like a poseur, but its engine makes a noise that causes several winemakers to swoon, accustomed as they are to writers turning up in souped-up lawnmowers.

Vinous colleagues at Lorne restaurant.

Three notable wines: 1899 Yquem, 1959 Sauternes Crème de Tête (Château Gilette), 1953 Calon-Ségur

May – The book-themed dinners continue unabated. The first is in Edinburgh, one of my favorite cities. Its dining scene is dynamic, cobbled streets burgeoning with tempting bistros and restaurants. The following night is a soirée chez Michelle and her hubby near St. Andrews, where I officially sign a copy of Pomerol acquired on the dark web for a price that would make a Burgundy Grand Cru proud. The bagpipe serenade and makeshift throne are nice touches. The month also marks the first time post-COVID that I meet fellow Vinous colleagues at Lorne restaurant. I love the variety of accents around the table. It sounds like a United Nations conference discussing the latest trends in European viticulture. I’m still to meet Eric, Joaquín and Angus in the flesh, but that should be rectified soon in the near future.

Three notable wines: 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon (Kanonkop), 1964 Cheval Blanc, 1865 Giscours

At a Taylor’s Port black-tie dinner at the Tower of London.

June – Maybe my favorite month of the year as I bask in the brief moment when summer lies ahead. It commences with a series of dinners including a black-tie event inside the Tower of London. Mid-June, I start a cavalcade of trips that last until the end of the year, a week in the glorious Mâconnais and then a day trip to Bordeaux for a vertical of 1920s Siran. Outside the vinous realm, there are assorted 50th birthdays and a Hindi/South African wedding that serves the best cuisine of any wedding reception I’ve ever been to.

Question: what connects singer Paul Simon and Neal Martin? We both appear in June’s edition of the monthly Record Collector magazine! I probably confuse most of its readership by namechecking Romanée-Conti and Lafite-Rothschild, but it’s actually a fun piece. In other news: mum gets her first tattoo. And there’s me thinking I’m supposed to discourage my daughters from inking themselves.

Three notable wines: 2008 Romanée-Conti (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti), 1924 Palmer, 1971 Moulin-à-Vent (Hospices de Moulin-à-Vent)

Yours truly in Record Collector magazine!

July – Travels continue with my annual week down in Chablis. There’s a killer supper at Noble Rot Mayfair, four hours of sleep, then I board a JAL flight to Japan for the first time since 2018. This is one of the year’s highlights, not least because I realized my dream of visiting mainland cities by bullet: Tokyo, Nagano, Kanazawa and Kyoto. Kanazawa is an unexpected highlight with its historic gardens and sublime restaurants. Kyoto encapsulates everything I love about Japan, even if I wander into a bizarre ceremony at a shrine involving sacrificial cockroaches.

I text loved ones.

This might be the last they ever hear from me.

Of course, it is all much more innocent.

Having lived there, I eschew tourist spots and spend endless hours hunting vinyl in various branches of Disc Union, which is probably not culturally edifying, but I’m an addict and the weak Yen makes everything cheap. Japan never ceases to take my breath away and this might well be my favorite of countless visits over three decades. Expect mouth-watering Vinous Tables from the greatest culinary nation on Earth in the future. 

Three notable wines: 2011 Bourgogne Aligoté (Domaine d’Auvenay), 2017 Entre Deux Blues (Domaine des Miroirs), 2009 Tsugane La Montagne (Domaine Beau Paysage) 

August – A Canadian friend with whom I shared a house in Tokyo, loses her battle with cancer weeks after getting the all-clear. Strange how her voice and especially her laugh are so clear in my head. That’s two people gone too soon within weeks of each other.

From one of the safest countries in the world, I fly to purportedly one of the most dangerous: South Africa. Tension is palpable thanks to a taxi strike and trouble in the townships. Despite this, it will always cast its spell on anyone who visits, and I appreciate its winemakers come without airs and graces. They’re not really tolerated here. Upon returning, there are tastebud-tingling lunches at Mountain, Chez Bruce and 64 Goodge Street. Again, my time on home soil was brief, but at least my daughters can remember who I am. At least, I think they do.

Three notable wines: 2017 Cornerstone (Reyneke), 2022 Skurfberg (Sadie Family Wines), 2022 Are We There Yet (Savage Wines)

Crossing Kowloon Bay on the Star Ferry for the final dinner of my trip to Hong Kong.

September – Another manic month. It begins with a week in Burgundy tasting the 2019 reds, blind, of course, always an instructive and humbling exercise. Just 48 hours home, then I’m on another long haul for my first trip to Hong Kong since 2019. My itinerary goes lunch-dinner-lunch-dinner - repeat until the flight home. Along the way, a smorgasbord of mind-boggling bottles that fill most of my new notebook. I have barely disembarked the plane before I’m broaching a slew of 1920s First Growths and bacchanalia concludes with a slew of post-war Pomerols. As you do. What I love about Hong Kong, apart from its mountainous neon-lit beauty, is the circle of oenophiles whose enthusiasm is matched by their generosity and lack of pretension. There’s no grandstanding. Irrespective of rarity, every bottle is accompanied by bonhomie and laughter. The only downer is that an accident on the M25 nixes my one-night trip to Bordeaux for a 40-vintage Domaine de Chevalier vertical. It’s not the end of the world. At the end of the month, one of life’s milestones. My eldest leaves the nest to start her degree at Imperial College, London. It’s like life’s raison d’être has disappeared with her suitcase. Any tristesse soon vanishes when I realize she’s meeting new friends and having the time of her life. But ask any dad. They’ll always be your “little girl”.

Three notable wines: 1990 Barbaresco Riserva Red Label (Bruno Giascosa), 1921 Cheval Blanc, 1961 Petrus (if you think I’m gloating, you should see the rest of the bottles. I chose these for their provenance.)

October – October begins in Bordeaux to commence the 2021s in bottle. It’s too much to do after the onslaught of Burgundy, notwithstanding that the wines taste better. Soirées galore upon returning, including lunch at Dorian and a charity dinner at Medlar. On October 16, I competed in the 16km Great South Run. I’m no Mo Farah. But I surpassed my modest expectations, and while I won’t claim it was easy, it wasn’t hard because the crowd cheers you every step of the way. The following day, legs a little achy, I drive 600km to Burgundy to commence six weeks of intensive tasting in the Côte d’Or: 170 visits and over 2,500 wines. Difficult? Just approach it like the Great South Run. Pace yourself. No medal and protein bar at the end of my final tasting, though.

Three notable wines: 1890 Branaire Ducru, 2011 Riesling Dalsheimer Hubacker Grosses Gewächs (Keller), 2020 Meursault Le Rencontre (Domaine Bernard Bonin)

November – Just more tastings in Burgundy, really, though I always look forward to seeing old friends who converge upon Beaune for Hospices weekend, and another onslaught of crazy bottles ensues. That said, it’s much quieter than last year. I run every Sunday morning, rain or shine, from my loft apartment to Pommard and back, and then I complete the Foulées Beaunoise. It’s only 10km, but there are three climbs that can catch you out. Cresting the final climb, you see runners weaving their way through Beaune Premier Crus as far as the eye can see. It’s quite a moving sight. You’d think that after that, I’d take a few days to recover, but no, just five days later, I am back on EasyJet to Bordeaux to finish off the 2021s. Glutton for punishment? Not really, not when you do a job like this. In other news, the first print run of my book has sold out! Yay.

Three notable wines: 2010 Montrachet (Domaine Ramonet), 1952 Corton-Charlemagne (Bouchard Père), 1946 Clos des Lambrays (Domaine des Lambrays)

December – The last month begins in Bordeaux. Everything goes well except for the drunk man who enters my hotel room at 6:22 am and, despite my protestations, curls up in my bed, fast asleep. I didn’t get a proper look at him. I was too angry. I’m sure it was a wine critic, though.

Three notable wines: 1981 Le Pin, 1961 Mouton-Rothschild, 1993 Domaine de Chevalier

Worst Wine of the Year: Austrian natural wine

The only good thing about this Austrian natural wine is that instead of having to order several wines to showcase different aspects of non-sulphité wine that I detest, it combined all of them in one unfortunate bottle. But hey, it’s cool and trendy, so there’s doubtless a few hipsters feigning pleasure. I didn’t score it. No number could translate the horror.

All Things Food

Restaurant of the Year – Gyõkaijin (Kanazawa, Japan)

The dinner in Gyõkaijin in Kanazawa on the north coast of Japan was a serendipitous discovery thanks to a recommendation from our hotel receptionist. We arrived without expectations. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t expensive. Didn’t even drink fermented grape juice. But every dish was exceptional, and a plate of assorted sashimi was possibly the best I’ve ever eaten. Japanese sakés, recommended by the head chef, were a revelation and I just departed feeling euphoric. Vinous Table is scheduled for next year.

The sashimi dish at Gyõkaijin in Kanazawa. Oishiikatta!

I mention two others because, though I have eaten at both countless times, I look forward to visiting just as much as the first time - the true litmus test. First is Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, London, where the aubergine starter tasted as spectacular as it looked. There’s no pretension in chef Bruce Poole’s cooking. He just delivers time after time, the standard better now than ever before. Chapeau! Secondly, La Lune in Beaune for their brilliant take on Japanese cuisine fastidiously cooked by chef Seiichi Hirobe. I have to confess that before booking a single visit during my barrel tastings in the Côte d’Or, the first reservation is here.

Also: Silo, Lorne, Noble Rot Mayfair, Mountain (London); Plucky Pheasant, Hilltop Kitchen (Guildford); Updown Farm (Kent); Wild Flor (Brighton); Pipe of Port (Southend-on-Sea); Aurora (Edinburgh); Solar dos Presentos (Lisbon); La Table du Catusseau (Pomerol), Logis de Cadenne (Saint-Émilion), Moelleuses et Persillées (Bordeaux); Maison du Colombier, Bistro de l’Hôtel and Chez Roy (Beaune); La Jeanette (Gevrey); FYN (Cape Town), Fat Butcher (Stellenbosch); Epure, Gem, Moon Bay (Hong Kong); Takesegawa (Kyoto), Koumoto (Tokyo), Kanazawa Setsuri (Kanazawa)

Worst Restaurant of the Year – Premnord (Premeaux-Prissey)

Feedback had been mixed about this new restaurant on the RN74 in Burgundy that seemed to take years to build. It looked impressive from the outside but failed to deliver where it matters - on the plate. The wine list was disappointing and predictably dictated what kind of winemaking I should be drinking. It had the atmosphere of a deserted airport terminal and wasn’t exactly cheap. Apologies to my friends for dragging them here.

All Things Musical

It has been a strange year for music, directionless in some ways, though that doesn’t mean it yielded a crop of outstanding albums and singles. I’m in the minority that still experiences an endorphin rush upon hearing new music, such as when departing Château Dauzac and I heard Nothing Matters for the first time. I just stopped the car. The depth and beauty of Mitski’s album really became apparent driving up and down the RN74 during the 2022 Burgundy barrel tastings. Music gets under my skin and elicits the same strong emotions as it did when I was a teenager. Judging by the active music thread on the Vinous forum, I’m not alone. Take a listen to my favorites. Support new artists. We need music now more than ever.  

A selection of my favorite records. Call me old-fashioned, I just like the fact that I own the music.

Song of the Year: My Love Mine All Mine – Mitski

Drips with pathos and longing. Perfect distillation of slide guitar and indie, Mitski’s vocals never sounding better.


Vampire – Olivia Rodriguez

Perfect pop song number 1! Sure, it rips off the chord sequence of Creep, but fantastic vocals, brilliant melody, and I love the way it builds momentum, not unlike Pulp’s Common People.

Nothing Matters – The Last Dinner Party

Perfect pop song number 2! Heard this for the first time as I was exiting Château Dauzac. There is absolutely nothing you could change to make it better. Debut album out in February.

Way Past Three/Mirrors – Nightbus

Channels Joy Division to beautiful effect. Wish there were more bass lines like this.

Teach Me – Holysseus Fly

Thanks to DJ Huey Morgan for dropping this peach of a song from this young female singer with the coolest name since Chaka Khan.

Kill Bill – SZA

This was released at the beginning of the year, but it’s a modern classic with a killer chorus and an equally awesome Tarantino-indebted video.

King of the Slugs – Fat Dog

An outrageous over-the-top indie song that teeters on the brink of falling into a Russian balalaika. Bonkers.  

Blackbox Life Recorder 21f – Aphex Twin

Trust me. Richard D. James’s EP sounds amazing either at 45rpm or 33rpm.

May I Comply - Heartworms

No idea who Heartworms are, but Spotify randomly played this after returning from a hard day at the coalface (i.e. visiting Domaines), and I just loved the slightly dissonant piano/guitar riffs.

Fader – Roisin Murphy ft DJ Koze

Doesn’t quite sound like anything else, but that’s always been Roisin Murphy. The song is uplifting and becomes euphoric (and touching) when you see the promo video filmed in her hometown.

One of Your Girls – Troye Sivan

That slinky bass line. Gobsmacking production. Clever lyrics. Warning: The video might prompt you to question your sexuality.

Come Home to God - Amaarae

Stunning climactic final track from her much-lauded “Fountain Baby” album.

Now and Then – The Beatles

This group from Liverpool is going to be massive. Trust me on this one.

Also of note: The World’s Biggest Paving Slab – English Teacher; Pearls – Jessie Ware; It Must Change – ANOHNI and the Johnsons; Black Earth, Wi – Ratboys; Flowers – Mylie Cyrus; Bitter – Lime Garden; Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is – Sparks; Ghosts Again – Depeche Mode; Beautiful World – Blondes; Touching Yourself – The Japanese House; Nothing Left To Lose – Bleach Lab; Questions – Say She She; New Boyfriend – Lynks

Albums of the Year: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We – Mitski

The only misstep on Mitski’s fifth album is her record company’s decision to release the weakest track as the lead song. Consequently, I approached the album with modest expectations. After a few listens, I was obsessed by her twilit, swooning, country-tinged songs that tug the heartstrings, one gorgeous melody after another. Her voice has attained a deeper resonance with age and a sense of longing, and frankly, it was easy to choose this as my favorite of the year because it just gets me every time.


Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard – Lana del Rey

I must admit that I’d never really gotten into Lana del Rey before this incredible album. What is it with her and Mitski giving the releases such long titles?

Silver – Say She She

A magnum opus that delivers on the promise of the first singles released on Colemine Records in 2022. Funk, soul, R&B, a killer rhythm section, a dab of psychedelia and the girls’ uplifting harmonies. Wonderful.

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You – Caroline Polachek

Polachek expands her musical palette with the follow-up to the lauded Pang! With songs like Billions and Summer Sun, you can’t go wrong. Experimental pop at its finest. I was lucky enough to see her live at Hammersmith Apollo.

False Lankum – Lankum

This album came out of nowhere, and I thank a friend at Rough Trade for sending it to me. It's another long record to really delve into, and it takes a few listens before it all clicks together. “Newcastle” just gets me every time I listen to it.

Hit Parade – Róisín Murphy

A sonically adventurous album where Murphy and DJ Koze apparently sent snippets of songs to create warped, wonky pop music that sounds unique. File together with Caroline Polachek. Surely a duet at some point in the future?

The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte – Sparks

Name another band whose 36th album is possibly their best? There’s none. Ron and Russell Mael have never stopped looking forward, which is why Hollywood A-listers are happy to appear in their videos and why I was bopping around to the duo at the Royal Albert Hall last May.

The Ballad of Darren – Blur

A mighty strong comeback for Damon & Co, high points the singles The Narcissist and Barbaric. The only error was leaving a pair of very strong songs on their 7-inch bonus single (though both are available on streaming services).

Javelin – Sufjan Stevens

I put Sufjan in the same category as Mitski. Another gifted artist who released his best work since 2016s Carrie & Lowell. A bit like Mitski; I do hope he’s happier than he sounds on record.

Also: Stereo Mind Game – Daughter; The Record – Boygenius; Cracker Island – Gorillaz; I Don’t Know – bdrmm; With A Hammer – Yaeji

Björk concert in Bordeaux.

Gig of the Year – Björk – Arkéa Arena (Bordeaux)

Habitually, I am visiting estates on evenings in Bordeaux. For a change, I clocked out of work so that I could see an artist I’ve admired since a teenager. I’ve never witnessed a concert like Björk. Bordeaux was the final date of her Cornucopia tour that visited Europe, but notably not the UK, I suspect due to Brexit. It was a banquet for the senses with eye-popping visuals and bewitching faerie-like costumes. The music was predictably celestial. At its core is Viibra, a choreographed Icelandic flute septet (yes, you read that correctly) who created an otherworldly sound. Some sounds were created by a man pouring water from a jug, another from twirling torch-lite cables. Above it all, a singular artist whose genre-defying music inhabits a liminal point between the avant-garde and pop, a voice like nothing else. The more I reflect upon this concert, the more I become affected by it.

All Things Watched or Read

Film of the Year – Plan 75 (Chie Hayakawa)

A Japanese film about government-sanctioned mass euthanasia for the over-75s in order to control its aging population doesn’t sound like a Saturday night popcorn movie. And it’s not. But Plan 75 is definitely not depressing from start to finish, interspersed with moments of levity and, well, an unexpected denouement. Its genius lies in normalizing the scenario, blurring the boundaries between genocide and benevolence, the story always just one small step from reality. Chieko Baisho is magnificent as the 78-year-old woman resisting the 100,000 Yen sweetener and a peaceful, pain-free death. Watch it. You’ll think about the sanctity of life in a slightly different way.  

Worst Film of the Year – Barbie (Greta Gerwig)

Look, I love all the actors in Barbie. I’m a huge fan of Greta Gerwig. The idea was so outlandish and had so much potential. But it was a film that just kept bashing me over the head, saying: “Men suck”. Hey, we know that already. The songs were ordinary. The storyline is wafer-thin. Of course, it’s not the worst film. But it is the most overhyped. Still love Margot, though.

TV of the Year – The Reckoning (BBC)

It takes some guts to put your career on the line to play a reviled pedophile, but comedian Steve Coogan did just that with a faultless, creepy, and, at times, disturbing performance. It’s not perfect. The BBC should be congratulated for airing it, but their culpability in turning a blind eye for many years was glossed over. Should it have been made at all? That is a debate elsewhere. But it’s only by confronting the fact that people like Savile exist and sometimes lurk in plain sight that we can do something about it instead of appropriating blame posthumously when justice cannot be carried out. This year’s toughest viewing as it made its audience realize that they were fans of a depraved individual.

Also: Succession (Series 4), Beef and Happy Valley (Series 3).

Wine Book of the Year (Apart from My Own)

A toss-up between my colleague Rebecca Gibb’s page-turning Vintage Crime (hopefully, the second edition will include a chapter entitled “Rudy K Part II”) and Laurent Gotti’s Grand Crus of Burgundy because finally, we have maps of who owns what and where in the Côte d’Or, albeit limited to Grand Crus and it’s already out of date thanks to recent “rejigging” within the Gros family.

© 2023, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.

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