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Perhaps the most fascinating thing about wine for me (and I suspect most other wine enthusiasts) is the way each bottle tells a romantic novella of flavor, culture, weather, science and history. As intimidating as the vast world of wine may seem, at the end of the day it’s all about taste and that’s a subjective opinion you can hold boldly as your own—eclipsing any reviews, points or awards a vintage might boast.

Over the years, in my quest to demystify the delightful world of wine I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid any wine snobbery, which is why I was quick to adopt the label ‘cork dork.’ At a recent private wine tasting our Epic Wines tasting guide announced it was Cork Dork day and presented us with eight of his top-picks. “Those special bottles somm’s get excited about and geek out on,” he explained. So, like eager students we swirled, sipped and took notes

1. Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne 2007, $21.99

Situated in the Nagambie Lakes of Victoria, Australia, Tahbilk winery’s location is one of six in existence to have a meso-climate heavily influenced by inland waters. They also share a unique, red soil type (duplex 2.2), which is high in Ferric-oxide (something grapes seem to like) with only one other winery in the region. Combined, the two distinguishing factors create a cooler than expected climate and a uniquely regional character of wines. The Museum Release Marsanne is a fresh white wine with a floral nose, crisp apple on the palate and a long, creamy finish. Pair with clams, mussels or sushi. tahbilk.com.au

2. Tahbilk ’1927 Vines’ Marsanne 2002, $31.99

Limited to 300-cases, this special release is produced from the estate’s Marsanne grapes planted in 1927—possibly the oldest in the world. Winemaker Alister Purbrick harvests the 1927 plantings separately and earlier than usual to maintain their higher natural acidity. His plan was to create a wine that would find its true flavors after six or seven years and shine at its best 30-40 years deep. “The ugly duckling emerges as a beautiful swan; a lovely, complex, textural wine with terrific minerality,” Purbrick muses. It’s clean and crisp with an intriguing toasty depth—an ideal  bottle to break open with friends while hosting a casual weekend luncheon. tahbilk.com.au

3. Esporão Reserva White, Alentejo 2012, $15.99

Portugal has an estimated 250-280 different grape varietals and Esporão winery has 194 of them planted in their vineyards. This clean, dry white wine has fresh, fruity flavors of grapefruit, tangerine and peach with a subtle oak finish. Perfect with scallops and bacon. esporao.com/en/

4. Valcantara Old Vine Garnacha (Cariñena) 2011, $9

Last summer we discovered Cotton Candy grapes at Gelson’s and they actually taste like their name suggests. This everyday Spanish refreshment has aromas of pepper, but tastes just like cotton candy grapes and caramel apple. A surprisingly complex wine for its price; at $9 consider yourself lucky if you can snatch up any stray bottles—we couldn’t.

5. Barboursville Cab Franc Reserve 2011, $28.59

This is the only American-made bottle on our list and it hails from the unexpected region of eastern United States. Virginia’s Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve is intense and smooth with notes of ripe, dark fruits and has a long, soft finish. We’re dreaming of pairing this with pork chops drizzled with cherry reduction sauce or Rosemary roasted lamb with garlic polenta. barboursvillecellar.com

6. Saint Cosme Saint-Joseph 2011, $39.99

Château de Saint Cosme’s rich history dates as far back as the second century and hosts monuments of roman art, including an original chapel built in the 11th and 12th centuries. The family-owned winery began in 1490 and has hosted 14 generations of winemakers. Wine Spectator gives this northern Rhône Syrah 92-points and we like to call it ‘naughty sauce;’ notes of leather, pepper, wild cherry, tobacco and toasted bread. saintcosme.com/en/

 7. Bodegas Weinert Malbec Lujan de Cuyo 2006, $21.99

I have never really taken a liking to Malbecs (they always seem too bitter for my palate), but this Argentine version is a game changer; a light and fresh bouquet of berries that tastes more like a great Pinot. bodegaweinert.com

8. Bodega y Cavas de Weinert Gran Vino 2004, $24.99

Naturally, our fine wine pourer always saves the best for last. This luscious red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot is Bodega Weinert’s flagship wine with intense aromas of anise, liquor and earth—and it slips down like silky jam. I can’t wait to serve this the next time I make a big pot of paella. bodegaweinert.com

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