Tasting a Cutting Edge Alentejo Red ~ Herdade de Sao Miguel ART.TERRA Amphora 2015…

There are several countries that never cease to amaze with new vinous expressions… South Africa, Italy, and of course Portugal. Today I tasted a most incredible wine at the Raymond Reynolds importer portfolio tasting. Made by Marta Galamba, oenologist from Herdade de Sao Miguel in the Alentejo, this classy red is one of the most characterful wines I’ve tasted from the Alentejo in a long time.


A blend of 10% indigenous Moreto, 45% Trincadera, and 45% Aragonez… this wine is whole bunch fermented in large 1000 kilo epoxy lined amphora for 3 months, then pressed and racked into smaller unlined 100-200 litre amphora on the 11th November (St Martin’s day). All fruit is co-fermented together with malo completed in small amphora normally.


Herdade de Sao Miguel ART.TERRA Amphora 2015, Alentejo Tinto, 13.5 Abv.

Beautifully complex nose of raisined cranberries, raspberry coulis, freshly cut hedge row, wet tobacco and dusty gravel. So many levels, layers and dimensions reveal themselves. The palate is soft, harmonious and attractively elegant and creamy marrying sweet plum, earthy cherry confit, red bramble berry fruits and smokey tobacco, crushed Granite and dark pithy spicy fruits. So brilliantly complex and showing so much energy. Tannins on the finish are pithy, dry and structured, adding wonderful frame to the fruit. This is a very expressive Alentejo red gem. A real revelation perfected with expertly managed amphora treatment. (Recommended retail £18.99pb. 

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


Tasting the Maiden Release of Carsten Migliarina’s 2015 Single Vineyard Elgin Chardonnay…

South Africa’s Carsten Migliarina has made some superb Chardonnays in the past, so it was with great excitement that I tasted his new single vineyard expression from Elgin. His wine making reputation is growing by the day and so are his awards. He also works masterfully with cool climate terroirs as evidenced in the precision of his Elgin Chenin Blancs, Riesling and of course Chardonnay.


Migliarina Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, W.O. Elgin

At 14 Abv, you’d expect this wine to show some depth and power… and of course it does. The nose is beautifully complex with green apple skins, tart crunchy green pears and dusty minerality. But the oaking is also perfectly judged for the weight of the fruit concentration. On the nose it’s very subtle with bruleed creme caramel hints and lemon pie brightness. The oaking on the palate, at this stage, is a little more obvious, but definitely very high quality. Even with the multiple layers of pithy lemon confit, honeydew melon and caramelised fig notes, Carsten’s signature minerality prevails, dominating the finish with a real classical restraint and dusty, gravelly, Schweppes bitter lemon intensity. A fantastic expression with all the old world minerality of a top Umbrian or Friuli cool climate Chardonnay. Drink from 2018 to 2025.

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


Even Canada Has a Few Wine Legends ~ Tasting Norman Hardie’s Fabulous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir…

Like I’ve said before, almost every wine I seem to write about somehow seems to have a South African link. In this case, big Norm is originally from South Africa but is now making some of the most exciting, “on-trend” cool-climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs on the Niagara Peninsula in Eastern Canada.


Last week I caught up with Norm at the well attended Canadian Tasting at Canada House on Trafalgar Square and was thrilled to taste his new vintage releases. These are spectacular wines that should not be underestimated. The words “Canada” and “fine wine” don’t necessarily role off the tongue in tandem unless one thinks of perhaps ice wine. But that is old news… Canada makes some epic cool climate still wines that deserve some serious attention from a broader, mainstream fine wine market. Find these wines and buy them..


Norman Hardie Niagara Peninsula Chardonnay 2014, 12.7 Abv.

Beguiling waxy lemon citrus nose with fantastic dusty, chalky minerality, lemon and lime cordial, lemon grass spice and subtle melon notes. Such a complex wine that unfurls layers of green apple purée touched with rich, leesy opulence. The acids remain vibrant, bracing, with a TA of 7 post malolactic fermentation. I love this wine’s characterful individuality, piercing intensity and vibrant purity. A real show stopper. Bravo Norm!

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



Cuvee “L” Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Ontario, 11.2 Abv. (Unfiltered)

Beautifully earthy, dusty bramble fruit laden nose with complex notes of wood smoke, sappy spice, and dusty limestone. There is a tantalising pithy red cherry and earthy picante complexity pervading the palate. Aged in 35% new French oak for 12 months with 30% in 2nd fill and approximate 30% in 3rd fill before blending and 6 to 8 months aging in neutral oak. Such attractive notes of red cherry, incense, and exotic baking spices. Texturally seamless, plush and broad, but with bright acidity fireworks making this wine compellingly juicy. The finish is supremely concentrated with beautiful sour plum, cranberry and tart frais de bois zip. Thoroughly classy and compelling.

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



Like Father Like Son… Warren Ellis Continuing the Neil Ellis Legacy…

When you have to think of one or two words to sum up a winery and it’s wines, it can sometimes be quite difficult… but sometimes not. After tasting through a large swathe of the current Neil Ellis range with Warren Ellis, I felt the wines could all be quite succinctly described as wines with composure and finesse.


Composure and finesse are perhaps traits Warren has inherited from his legendary winemaker father, Neil Ellis. These labels also apply to Neil’s wines from the late 80s and early 90s. Who can forget the early vintages of Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc from Darling, that set the world on fire, or indeed some of Neil’s Cape Independent Winemakers Guild Cabernet Sauvignons, as the CWG was called back then. Epic, age worthy wines. 


Thankfully, Warren’s wines are equally impressive with a quiet, soft spoken elegance and finesse. Don’t miss his impressive Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 available at a bargain price of £25-£26 per bottle in the UK, or indeed his 2014 that only this week was awarded 92 points and top honours in a recent SA Cabernet tasting.


Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Jonkershoek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, W.O. Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

Dense aromatic perfumed nose of small black berry fruits, saline cassis, black currant leaf and dusty graphite. This classical Cabernet is cool, elegant, and fine grained, impressively pure fruited with suave, sleek, polished mineral tannins. There is beautiful balance and finely composed complexity leading to a seamless, exotic, finish packed full of red cherry fruits, parma violets and pink musk. A beautifully individual style of Cabernet aged for 18 months in 300 litre mostly blond and medium toast French oak barrels. Pop this in the cellar for another 5 to 8 years to develop a little more tertiary complexity and drink for 10 to 15+. 

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

Another New Super Impressive White Release From Larger Than Life Winemaker Donovan Rall…

I recently caught up with the Viking giant Donovan Rall to taste his exciting new release whites and reds. I first met Donovan at the White Blend Seminar in 2009 where I co-presented a seminar at Forest44 in Stellenbosch with Eben Sadie. He was attending with a broad who’s who of the younger generation of the South African wine industry. 


He pulled me over at the end and offered up two rare bottles of his sold out first vintage Rall White Blend that had just won 5 stars in the Platter Guide. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Donovan had previously worked at premium London retailer Harvey Nichols with our Handford General Manager, Gavin Deaville. Donovan asked me to take the bottles back to London and enjoy them with Gavin and let him know what I thought of the wine.


Fast forward almost 8 years and Donovan is an established producer of some very fine whites and reds from multiple regions. But it was this unusual, saline, fresh Grenache Blanc 2016 that caught my eye at our recent tasting and made me sit up and pay closer attention.


(The only previous South African Grenache Blanc I’ve enjoyed this much was Chris Williams’s Foundry 2013 that garnered a sizeable amount of praise in the UK media, including very favourable commentary from Tim Atkin MW and Victoria Moore of The Telegraph broadsheet newspaper.)


Rall Grenache Blanc 2016, W.O. Piekenierskloof, 12.5 Abv.

Partially skin Fermented in a combination of open top wood fermenters (20%) and Eggs (80%), then aged in concrete and old oak, this compelling white has a very pronounced saline, sea breeze, briney salinity mixed with yellow stone fruits, white flowers and crunchy white peaches. The palate is taught, displaying a zippy freshness, and a dusty, granitic, alka seltzer mineral complexity. There are some waxy phenolics adding texture and extra depth, but the wine retains great tension and remains fine and focused from start to finish. A genuinely impressive, high achieving expression of Grenache Blanc. Chapeau Donovan!

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

Tasting the New Zealand Wines of Rising Marlborough Star Jules Taylor…

I don’t seem to write about New Zealand wines enough. Is it perhaps because I don’t often get surprised or stopped in my tracks by an exciting new release Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc? Possibly. Don’t get me wrong, I love all New Zealand wines including commercial supermarket Sauvignon Blanc brands etc. But they don’t necessarily inspire me to wax lyrical and share them with followers of my blog.


But yesterday the lovely Jules Taylor hosted a tasting of her full range of wines for me. Jules launched her own label in 2001 and made her first batch of Jules Taylor wines including 200 cases of Pinot Gris and Riesling. Today those 200 cases have been joined by Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Rose, Gruner Veltliner and Arneis.


Jules produces very smart wines as you’d expect from someone who previously worked at Cloudy Bay and Kim Crawford Wines, both kiwi Icon brands. But her Jukes Taylor wines are much more artisanal and characterful with real complexity and attention to detail. I’m especially a big fan of her Gruner Veltliner but it was her 2016 Pinot Gris that unexpectedly just blew me away.


Made from new clone M2 and 52B Pinot Gris planted in the last 6 years, they produce beautiful little berries which are full of concentrated flavours of spice & stone fruits. The grapes for this Pinot Gris come from the Lower Wairau, Southern Valleys and Lower Dashwood sub regions of Marlborough. A portion has been hand-harvested with the balance picked in the cool of the morning by machine. The machine harvested portion of this fruit was fermented with selected commercial yeast strains chosen to enhance the natural flavours of the variety. The hand-picked portion was whole bunch pressed, then wild fermented with natural yeasts. This also underwent a full malolactic fermentation. Lees stirring in the barrel has also added an extra textural component to the wine. The wine was blended, stabilised and bottled in July 2016.


Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2016, Marlborough, 13.5 Abv. (RRP £16-17pb)

A beautiful textural Pinot Gris with lucious pear, white peach, tangerine peel and aromatic stone fruit flavours. The partial wild ferment imparts extra richness, and exotic complexity while the lees stiring contributes a complimentary nutty, biscuity minerality. There is no flabby fat on this taught, beautiful Pinot Gris with the wine remaining almost bone dry at 1.8 g/l RS. The palate is layered and textured but underpinned throughout by a vibrant crystalline acidity and great fruit intensity. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a kiwis Pinot Gris this much in years! 

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

Celebrating the 325th Anniversary of Taylor’s Port…

So honoured to be invited to the fabulous 325th anniversary celebration of Taylor’s Port at the Tower of London. It’s hard to fathom the history and the achievements of this fabulous Port house over such a lengthy period of time.


The highlight of the evening, other than chatting to Rugby World Cup 2003 winner Lawrence Dallaglio, was tasting the truly individual new anniversary Port blend that was launched tonight. Another gem in the Taylor’s armoury…

Mr Port & Madeira Richard Mayson with Lawrence Dallaglio

Taylor’s 325th Anniversary Limited Edition Tawny Port, Douro

A superbly complex nose of tarte tatin, baked apples, bruleed oranges, botanicals and cognac spice. So opulent and complex that it’s difficult to pin this wine down. Multiple exotic notes develop on the palate as you allow the wine to open up. Rich and focused, there is beautiful concentration, fabulous acids and that nutty, picante, burnt citrus and caramelised apple pie intensity with real glycerol weight and breadth. The finish is super spicy, peppery, with almond skin bitterness balanced by the sweet nutty, caramelised opulence. This is a true tribute to a complex Port style and a supremely premium producer.

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