Tasting the Sensational New Release Marchesi Di Gresy Martinenga 2015 with Jeff Chilcott in London…

If the wines of Angelo Gaja are the Domaine de la Romanee Conti of Barbaresco, then in my mind the pure, precise, fragrant, linear expressions from Kiwi winemaker Jeff Chilcott must surely be the Armand Rousseau. Coming from a site famous since ancient Roman times, the Marchesi Di Gresy estate was originally known as ‘Villa Martis’ with its 11 hectares of single vineyard Martinenga Nebbiolo producing some of the best Barbaresco DOCG reds in the region.

Marchesi Di Gresy own the entirety of Martinenga and split it into three cru terroirs – Gaiun (2.3ha south-facing), Camp Gros (2.6ha south-west facing) and Martinenga (6.5ha facing south/south-west). This ideal exposure at an altitude of 250-280m contains a very special soil composition of blue marl (a mix of clay, chalk and limestone) which all help combine to produce wines of exceptional class, structure and finesse.

Tasting with winemaker Jeff Chilcott in London recently.

The owner Alberto is rarely over in London showing his estate’s wines but these days is more often than not ably supported by his daughter Ludovica and son Alessandro. I recently caught up with Jeff on one of his flying visits to London and had the opportunity to taste the range with him including his sensational new Martinenga 2015 Barbaresco.

Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga 2015, 14.5 Abv.

From a warm year in Barbaresco, winemaker Jeff Chillcott recons they managed to make a very decent wine. Piedmont of course prefers the cooler years, but in 2015 they had to pick before the end of September. The wine is fabulously perfumed and precise with a piquant note of dried almonds, sour red cherry, pink musk, exotic cherry blossoms and red currant crumble. On the palate there is the usual impressive precision, purity and linearity you find in all Jeff’s Barbarescos. The entry is very seductive with a sweet pocket of spicy, pithy red cherry confit combined with a gravelly minerality. The texture is oh so fine, like polished marble and the acids fresh but soft and perfectly integrated. Medium bodied in weight, silky smooth and utterly seductive, this wine has enough ripeness, freshness and mineral tannin grip to allow good age ability. Definitely one for the collection!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Garnacha not Guerra – The Creation of a Sardinian Cult Wine…

If you are looking for a Grenache with a difference, Garnacha not Guerra is for you. A fabulous interpretation of Cannonau / Grenache from clay – sand soils over granite in Sardinia. Mick O’Connell MW has basically taken one variable out (picking date is always in the couple of days before 1st September) so the wine can show clearly how the vintage treats Grenache in the two plots he picks each year.

Winemaking is the same each year, using whole bunches, spontaneous fermentation, foot treading, a short maceration, no oak use, no fining or filtration and only a tiny bit of SO2 is used at bottling.

The biggest difference between 2017 and 2018 was that 2017 was ridiculously hot and dry and it shows in the firmness and structure of the wine. But 2018, by Sardinian standards, was cool and wet producing a much prettier, juicy, bright style with a much lighter colour. A short maceration is employed partly because Mick isn’t too concerned about the wine’s colour and also because he tries to avoid any astringency being extracted from the stems.

The story of the label – When Mick had the original idea of making a wine in Sardinia, he really wanted it to be the antithesis of the other red wines he was drinking there, most of which were flabby, oaky and just flat lacking freshness. So the answer was doing the opposite of everything the other producers were doing. He couldn’t go and call it Cannonau then depsite the fact the fruit could all be classed as Cannonau di Sardegna DOC.

There’s a bit of graffiti in a town called Orgosolo near where he sources some of the fruit which says “concimi non proiettili” which means “compost not bullets” – Mick absolutely loved that name but couldn’t say the last word – very tough Italian pronunciation! But it did inspire his wine’s original name.

For the 2017 vintage Mick moved into the corner of a winery where previously he had been in a garage. Since moving in there he’s had to play by their rules which has meant having to adjust the labels a bit. Because he’s only claiming classification as a “table wine” legally there shouldn’t be a vintage on the label, so 2018 is being called V4 or Version 4.

There’s also a bit of funniness around the use of “Garnacha” or not – for Vino Rosso you can use an international variety but because there is a DOC with Cannonau in the name you can’t use synonyms of Cannonau unless you claim the DOC. So the 2017 and 2018 labels have been renamed G not Guerra.

Cancedda O’Connell Garnacha not Guerra 2018 V4, Sardinia, 12 Abv.

The fourth vintage of this wine harks back to the maiden 2015 with its light 12 percent alcohol and crystalline, translucent purity. Mouthwatering and seductive the 2018 is fabulously pale in colour, almost like a rosato. But there is nothing timid about this wine whatsoever with its superbly lifted aromatics of sun raisined red cherries, cranberries and red plum spice. Delicate notes of dried tangerine peel and wild botanical herbal notes add an extra complex dimension to the wine. The palate is resplendently light, pure and elegant with the texture of a fine Pinot Noir with the mid palate plumped up with sweet sappy cherry fruits, tart cranberry, grilled Mediterranean herbs and a spicy, peppery note on the finish. Seamless and silky, vibrant and deliciously fresh, this wine has a real inner harmony and beauty that will seduce on the first sip. Possibly my favourite vintage yet.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David and Nadia Aristargos – Another Leading Light in the Swartland White Blend Genre…

With the 2018 new releases of the David & Nadia Single Vineyard Chenin Blancs setting the South African industry alight with excitement, it is easy to forget that David has also been producing one of the Swartland’s top white blends for over 10 years with high scoring consistency.

The Aristargos is traditionally a blend of 14 to 16 different vineyards based around Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne which are often picked in over 20 batches such as in 2018. I recently tasted an interesting mini vertical of this superb white blend and was very impressed with the wine’s intensity, balance, structure and complexity.

At a fraction of the single vineyard Chenin Blanc prices, the Aristargos and David & Nadia straight Chenin Blanc are certainly wines collectors should take note of and seek out. They offer impressive value and outstanding quality.

David & Nadia Aristargos 2012, 13.5 Abv.

Six vineyards from the Swartland used in total. Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Chardonnay and Viognier. 100% malolactic employed with regular battonage. Delicious, lifted aromatics of wet thatch, orange peel, peaches and honey on white toast. Rich and creamy with finely toned supporting acids, toffee apple and peach purée. Lovely balance, length and complexity.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia Aristargos 2014, 13.5 Abv.

Six vineyards used in total. Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Viognier, Roussanne and around 5% Paardebosch Semillon. 100% malolactic employed with no battonage. Rich creamy peaches and cream notes, dusty granite, gravel, dry hay and ripe pear. Cool, crystalline, classical palate with taut frame, subtle vanilla pod richness, white peach, pear and lovely focus with purity. Ageing well.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia Aristargos 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Viognier, and Roussanne. Lovely pithy, sappy mineral aromatics with dry thatch, fynbos, sea breeze maritime notes and crunchy white peach. Fabulous length and breadth, creamy glycerol texture, salinity and fabulous fleshy yellow orchard fruit balance with a subtle piquant tangerine peel kiss on the finish. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia Aristargos 2017, 13.5 Abv.

53% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 13% Semillon, 10% Roussanne, 9% Viognier and 2% Marsanne. Complex nose with greengage, lactic yellow fruits, pineapple, crushed gravel, fynbos, granite and crunchy green pear nuances. Harmonious and fabulously luxurious texture that combines fruit concentration, pineapple pastille fruit intensity, vibrant balancing acids and a long, piercing saline finish. A benchmark white blend.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia Aristargos 2018, 13 Abv.

A blend of 53% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 13% Semillon, 10% Roussanne, 9% Viognier and 2% Marsanne from 14 vineyards. The aromatics of this youthful blend are dominated by the Grand Cru intensity of the Chenin Blanc with sweet floral white blossom notes, dried thatch, crunchy white peaches, honey on white toast and delicious pure pineapple pastille nuances. The palate shows wonderful intensity, concentration and fruit purity framed by vibrantly crisp acids, a pithy yellow fruit melange, distinctive salinity and a genuinely superb granitic mineral complexity. Long, focused and very precise. Winemaking par excellence.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The David & Nadia wines are distributed in the UK market by Justerini & Brooks.

Catena At Hide London – Tasting a Selection of the Catena Winery’s Top Offerings With Laura Catena…

It is always wonderful to catch up with Laura Catena in London to taste through her winery’s fantastic benchmark Argentinean wines. The UK remains one of the Catena’s strongest markets according to Laura, with sales growing both on the high quality end and also on the more affordable value end of the Catena brand range.

But certainly the wineries reputation has come a long way since Laura attended the 1995 Fine Wine Experience in the United States representing the first South American brand to be invited to show their wines at this prestigious tasting event.

Today, the wines remain some of the most respected Argentinean wine brands on the global market with their single vineyard Chardonnays and Malbecs true quality leaders. I joined Laura for another superb London tasting, this time at the excellent Michelin starred Hide restaurant in Piccadilly, where Ollie Dabbous matched courses for a stunning array of Catena wines.

The artistry of Ollie Dabbous at Hide.

White Flight:

Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Vino de Parcela Chardonnay 2015, 13 Abv.

5000ft elevation of the Adriana Vineyard. Dusty lifted aromatic profile with unique notes of dried grass, spearmint, wet pebbles and crushed limestone underpinned by white grapefruit and citrus notes. The palate is lively and energetic packed full of picante lime cordial, freshly squeezed tangerine juice and sleek dry bitter lemon zest. Lovely mineral grip lingers on the long finish. Very grown up style with a real gout de Terroir. Give this wine time in bottle.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Vino de Parcela Chardonnay 2015, 13 Abv.

5000ft elevation of the Adriana Vineyard. Similar to the White Stones Cuvee but with deeper, richer minerality of Wet chalk, limestone, cassis leaf, black currant reduction and subtle cut grass and crushed mint leaf complexity. Palate texture is full and round showing exceptional freshness but impressive gravitas and concentration while retaining its true Terroir feel and mineral restraint. The finish is exotic and long, teasing the palate with clementine pastilles, lemon cordial and orange peel zest. Very fine indeed.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Reds Flight:

Catena Alta Malbec 2015, 13.5 Abv.

Blend of 5 parcels from cuttings from the same parcels but grown on different souls. The nose is very culinary in style, full of dusty chocolate, mocha, cocoa, black currant, brûléed cedar spice and dusty crushed stones. Very Bordeaux’esque in an exotic kind of style, the palate is luxurious and sleek but also tantalisingly fresh, crunchy and pure fruited with a fine cedar and graphite mineral frame and a long, lush sappy finish of bramble berries, black berry confit and damson plum. Wonderful classism and restraint.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Nicolas Catena Zapata 2013, 13.5 Abv.

Beautifully precise fragrant nose brimming with the 70+ percent Cabernet Sauvignon notes of dried violets, tart black cherry, savoury wet tobacco, cassis and sappy spice. Very direct and pure fruited with a fine salinity that melts into fine mineral notes of graphite, black currant pastille and creamy, oak spice. Tannins are powdery and fine grained, the acidity bright and potent. A very polished, suave expression with real intensity. Still so very youthful at 5+ years old.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Catena Zapata Malbec Nicasia Vineyard La Consulta 2014, Mendoza, 14 Abv.

A beautifully fashioned hedonistic red with great subtlety, delicacy, violet perfume and red cherry and piquant wood spice intensity. All finely integrated and seamless, coating the palate with great lush intensity, creamy tannins, concentrated sappy sweet black and red berry fruits and fabulously juicy acidity. Such harmony and balance with a delicious coffee bean, cocoa and mocha finish. Dreamy and very pretty.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Catena Zapata Argentino Malbec 2013, Mendoza, 14 Abv.

Another big, intense, deliciously opulent expression with lifted layers of purple flowers, violets, cherry blossom and pithy crushed blueberries. Quite immediate and upfront, this wine is not only hedonistic, opulent and showy but ultra suave, finely textured, delicately mineral finishing with satin soft black berry confit and graphite spice. A very classy, distinguished expression that is a thoroughly seductive and profound picture of Malbec. Delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Catena Zapata Argentino Malbec 2015, Mendoza, 14 Abv. (En Magnum)

A superbly opulent and expressive red that after one sniff leaves you in no doubt that this is another deliciously hedonistic expression. Nose bursts with a measured intensity of creamy brûléed black berry, black cherry pastille and a touch of blue berry crumble with a dusting of mocha choc spice. This vintage offers up extra layers of textured depth and richness with an opulent glycerol mouthfeel, sweet plump tannins and well integrated acids.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Catena wines are distributed by Bibendum / Walker Wodehouse in the UK market.

Raats Family Wines Releases Their Benchmark Eden High Density Cabernet Franc from the Epic 2017 Vintage…

It is rather refreshing to engage with the master winemaker Bruwer Raats for many reasons but primarily because of his obsessive and unerring quality focused approach to making wines from two specific varieties – Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. With his skills and expertise he could undoubtedly pull rabbits out of any varietal hat but instead he has always gone about resolutely trying to make the greatest wines he can from these two Loire Valley premium varieties. An admirable quest indeed.

 

No two single wines in South Africa signal a higher quality striving than the production of the Raats Family Wines’ Eden high density red and white. Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8,000 vines per hectare) meticulously planned and planted 8 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, the grapes were fermented in tank and then aged for 9 months in new French oak followed by a further 9 months elevage in older oak barrels. The 2017 Eden Cabernet Franc is due for release on the 28th August 2019 in South Africa.

 

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

While the 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc was undoubtedly an awesome thing of beauty, the 2017 release feels intuitively like the fruit comes from a vintage even more suited to this variety. Perfume, elegance, purity, intensity and freshness are the calling cards of this wine. Lifted high toned perfume notes waft endlessly from the glass confounding the senses with a complex aromatic offering of saline cassis, sour black cherry, cedar and cinnamon spice, wet thatch and the most mouth watering notes of granny’s freshly baked blue berry pie newly out the oven. Fabulous varietal purity and typicity follow to a pristinely focused, vibrant, electric palate that shows incredible concentration, piercing intensity and high voltage acidity. The linearity and tension on the wine are classic hallmarks of the decomposed granitic soils of the vineyard with the 2017 vintage lending an extra tart brightness, precision and finesse. Cabernet Franc is never about brute force and while the 2015 certainly carried a bigger arsenal of tannin fire power, this wine is understated and supremely classical in construction but also finely chiselled and delineated. Finishing with dusty graphite, sweet baking spices and satin mineral tannins, this wine has to stand alongside the greatest Cabernet Francs ever produced in South Africa to date. Drink this incredible wine at as many points of its evolution as possible over the next 25+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Wines Cracking The Enigma Code of Great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in South Africa…

Let’s be honest, South Africa is not the easiest place in the world to make great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While Pinot Noir is the original heart break variety, Chardonnay too has hit some pretty solid glass ceilings quality wise in the various cool climate regions that have had a degree of success with these two varieties.

So much more it seems is required to make great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than merely a ‘suitable terroir.’ Clonal material, soil types, careful canopy management, picking dates, type of cooperage, length of oaking etc., and so the list goes on. Even with all of the above done correctly, you still need a massive amount of winemaking knowhow, plenty of luck, a forgiving vintage and then a whole bunch more luck. Cracking the secrets of these two varieties has not come easy – not in South Africa nor in other “New World” producing nations.

But a handful of producers seem to be on the cusp of producing wines that can be considered “next level” when tasted along side top international benchmarks from France, New Zealand or California. One such producer is Creation Wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Originally from Switzerland, JC Martin together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

JC Martin was back in London recently to show off his new release 2018s along side some impressive 2017 reds and whites.

Creation Reserve Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Made from a 18 year old single vineyard and aged 11 months in oak and then blended together before spending 6 months in stainless steel before bottling. The aromatics show subtle wood spice, boxwood, stemmy sap, biscuity lees and fabulous lemon peel notes. Such beautiful linear tension, white citrus zest, crisp crystalline acids and a really harmonious, balanced fruit length. Superb vitality.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Guests attending JC’s masterclass tasting at 67 Pall Mall.

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Also from a 18 year old single vineyard but from plants that show the most balanced growth. A much more creamy, deep, broody nose with leesy biscuit notes, green melon preserve, grapefruit zest and lemon cordial. Incredible subtlety, freshness, and a low pH 3.3 feel with super taut acidity, plump fleshy mid palate and a suave, stylish length punctuated by a spicy vanilla pod and oak spice kiss. A very Grand Vin.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2018, 13.3 Abv.

Soft freshly baked white bread, green mango, lemon cordial, honey drizzled brioche and ground vanilla pod spice. Super tight and reserved but ultimately one of Creation’s most expressive, characterful wines. Less is almost always more! Fabulous sweet – sour acidity, green citrus crunch and a long, linear, focused finish. Really very regal expression of South African Chardonnay.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2018, 13.4 Abv.

Wonderful brightness, lift and exotic pomegranate wildness that is so suave, elegant and super complex with bramble berry, stem sap, plum skins and blueberry reduction. The palate is very tight, creamy, virtually seamless and ultra polished with a superb harmony and equilibrium. Really love this wine and it’s incredible value for money equation.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Aromatics of savoury earthy black cherry, blueberry and bramble berry spice. Very serious, focused and compact wine displaying sappy dusty mineral notes, black olive and pithy black cherry power. A delicious, quality, punchy Pinot Noir with incredible finesse and great regional and varietal typicity.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2017, 13.5 Abv.

A barrel selection by Emma, JC and Caroline’s 17 year old daughter from the Art of Pinot Noir vineyard barrels. A deliciously dark, broody, somber nose of sappy black berry, black cherry, spicy pithy plum and structured depth that aspires to red Burgundy as it’s raison d’être. Definitely more restrained and reserved than the Art but also quite seductive.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2018, 13.3 Abv.

First impressions are lasting impressions and this one is an absolute gem! Emma has done good and this selection is going to put a bit of pressure on Dad! Pure, dense and much more complete than the 2017, this wine is deliciously opulent, expressive, complex and silky with pomegranate, blood orange, red plum and the most seamless balance and focused length. I love this wine and it’s precision. Very very smart! Certainly one of the best Pinot Noirs produced in South Africa.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

These wines are distributed by Bibendum Wines in the UK. Art Series available in UK direct from Creation Wines.

David Sadie Makes His Annual Pilgrimage to London to Unveil His New 2018 Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Releases…

Few white wines from South Africa have emerged from the vinous landscape to stake a greater claim to Grand Cru quality status than the single vineyard Chenin Blanc expressions from David and Nadia Sadie. With a formidable track record being established for the Hoe Steen and Skaliekop bottlings, these wines have found a strong following among collectors and connoisseurs and are now joined by the excellent Plat’Bos single vineyard cuvée.

These wines just seem to tick all the requisite boxes… exceptional quality, consistency, age ability, limited production, old vines, site specific and international critical acclaim… making these annual new releases an important feature of the South African fine wine landscape.

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv.

Single vineyard planted in 1985 on brown shale soils with a north west facing aspect. Picked in the last week of January over two or three passes through the vineyard. Instantly taut, restrained and mineral driven with gravel, green apple pastille, crunchy pear and dry bush veld spice nuances. Palate shows a sleek texture, fabulous intensity and balance, fresh electric acids, salinity and an impressively long, white peach and pear purée finish. Nice coiled tension and eminently age worthy without any doubt.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv.

Planted in 1968 with a massale selection of grapes with at least two clones of Chenin Blanc. A south facing vineyard with little terraces, the soils are clay rich with lots of coffee klip. Aromatics are very dusty, spicy and gravelly with perhaps hints of the other aromatic varieties like False Pedro, Semillon, Palomino and Crouchen Blanc interplanted shining through. Fabulously spicy and saline with dried herbs, pear purée, apple pastille and crunchy pineapple. Incredible Grand Cru palate weight and breadth, coating concentration and length without ever losing poise and finesse. Wow, what a wine. The ultimate Grand Cru Chenin!

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia Plat’Bos Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard 2018, WO Swartland, 13 Abv.

Little bush vines planted in 1981 next to the Skaliekop vineyard but on 100% granitic soils. Nose shows a lovely balance between minerality, pithy spicy yellow orchard fruits, crushed granite and dry fynbos and thatch herbal spice. Cool, clean, crystalline, powerful and linear, this cuvée shows the classic tension of Chenin Blanc grown on granite soils, an entrancing saline crisp acidity and a sleek, polished marble textural harmony and finesse. Really quite impressive now but this is most certainly a wine for medium to long term cellaring. One for the collectors!?

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia wines are distributed to the trade in the UK by Justerini & Brooks.