De Toren Z Blend 2016 ~ and the winner is…

In case you read my below write up of the De Toren Z blending session at 67 Pall Mall recently thinking it was a fun but slightly pointless affair… think again. 

The results are in, announced today and the vote of the people is final. Viva De Toren democracy….


Here is the official announcement released today:

Dear Greg

After months of meticulous crafting, duteous tweaking to the potential blends and the valued input from the tastings, the concluding results of the De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tastings are in…

As an honorary guest of De Toren at the recent De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tasting, we want to use this opportunity to personally inform you of the final results. 

We are proud to announce the outcome of the 2016 vintage of De Toren Z, for the very first time. The winner, i.e. the blend for the De Toren Z 2016 vintage is, blend number 7!

This blend scored exceptionally well in all three rounds of the Blend Tastings and stood out from the overall blend line-up with a stellar 8 more points and the least controversial comments or feedback.

Please see below the varietal breakdown of the De Toren Z 2016:

· Merlot 54%

· Cabernet Sauvignon 12%

· Malbec 12%

· Cabernet Franc 16%

· Petit Verdot 6%

Once again, we would like to thank you for being part of this integral process, in helping us define our De Toren Z blend for the 2016 vintage.

Your input and time are valued a great deal. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the 2016 vintage, after some further ageing, when released in 2018. 

Kind Regards,
The De Toren Team

Read my write up of the blending tasting here:
https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/05/26/making-and-marketing-a-fine-wine-attending-the-inspirational-de-toren-z-blending-session-at-67-pall-mall/

Tasting a Surprise Brace of Lovely Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Rarities…

 Last night I hosted a fantastic California Golden State tasting for 45 clients, in effect recreating my recent trip there in March 2017. There was a multitude of top Sonoma Coast Chardonnays, Russian River Pinot Noirs and Napa Valley Cabernet Blends. But the highlight of the evening had to be the beautiful pair of mature Napa reds from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.


In August 2007, Warren Winiarski sold the winery to Chateau Ste. Michelle and Marchesi Antinori for a reported value of $185 million US dollars. The sale included the winery facilities, as well as the famed SLV and Fay vineyards. Last night we tasted the uber rare and apparently only produced once by Warren for the US market only, Fay Block 5C Merlot 2000 as well as the icon Cask 23 1997. Both wines were tasted along side each other blind.


First up was Wine No.1 (the Cask 23) which was a deep garnet colour with a nose of earthy black berry, forest fruits, tannery leather, cedar spice, dried lavender and a complex herbal espresso note. The palate was stylish and elegant with a solid core of fruit that was showing tertiary development but with a texture that was still quite tight knit and mineral laden. Medium bodied and possessing fine intensity, the fruits were moving to the earthy, red currant, savoury spectrum suggesting this wine is mature and probably needs drinking, though another few years in the cellar will hardly make any difference. Having recently tasted the youthful block-buster Phelps Insignia 1997 (100/100 Robert Parker), the Cask 23 1997 was certainly showing that perhaps the extra elegance in its youth maybe turns to frailty with 20 years in bottle. Nevertheless, a thoroughly charming, mature Napa Cabernet.

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

 

Next, was Wine No.2 (the Fay Block 5C Merlot). Despite being only 3 years younger, it had the most youthful, almost reductive nose of saline cassis, black currant leaf, sea breeze, graphite and cherry cola. Incredible effort for a Merlot from California at 17 years old. The fruit on the palate was super intense, displaying seductive finesse and measured restraint. There were multiple layers of black current fruit interspersed with a sprinkle of Asian spices, damson plums and black bramble fruits. Balanced and harmonious, youthful and intense. A really enjoyable wine to drink. Certainly no rush to drink these up.

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

The joys of blind tasting!  

Iona Winery ~ A Cool Climate Terroir Producing Some Benchmark Whites and Reds…

In early 1997, Andrew Gunn, an engineer by training was contemplating his next career move. A lover of the outdoors, the prospect of farming appealed to him and he was undaunted by starting a second career. After months of searching and 40 farm visits later, Andrew stumbled upon a solitary run down apple farm on a mountain top in Elgin overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. 


Iona’s farm, named “Geelbeksvlei”, is one of the coolest vineyards in the Cape, 420m above sea-level, high above the picturesque Elgin Valley. Iona is surrounded by the Kogelberg Nature Reserve and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean in the South. In a country where cool sites are precious, these vineyards are highly valued — the grapes ripening up to two months later than most other Cape vineyards. 

The philosophy at Iona is simply to make wine that expresses the soils and climate as closely as possible, making use of sustainable farming methods and to maximise the use of natural products in farming and winemaking. 


Iona’s talented winemaker Werner Muller recently popped in to show me his new vintage releases from Elgin. One wine in particular caught my eye…


Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Elgin

This is yet another very impressive 2016 white from the drought vintage. But as winemaker Werner pointed out, the 3 farms than now make up Iona, thrive in the hot, dry vintages due to their cool proximity to the sea. This Sauvignon Blanc has 4% Semillon that was barrel fermented. The wine is rich and opulent with lifted aromatics of yellow stone fruits, pineapple pastille sweets, yellow citrus and just a subtle, quincy hint of oak. The palate is textural and broad but also wonderfully fresh and vibrant with a lovely sweet/sour acidity, crystalline yellow grapefruit, a wet straw grassiness and a long concentrated finish of green melon, ripe papaya skins and freshly cut pineapple. A very attractive wine from this quality focused winery. 

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

Niepoort Port Masterclass with Dirk Niepoort to Celebrate the 2015 Vintage Declaration in London…

Few tastings are more fascinating than listening to and tasting with master wine maker Dirk Niepoort. It’s as much fun listening to his philosophy on winemaking and the world of wine as it is tasting his superb wines. Last week, Dirk and his importer Raymond Reynolds hosted an excellent Masterclass to celebrate the declaration of Dirk’s 2015 vintage Ports.


The 2015 viticultural year was the hottest and driest growing season of the last three decades, but abundant late autumn rain in 2014 and crucial spring rain in the Douro Superior, most unusually more than in the Alto Douro, produced exceptional conditions for ripening. 


Niepoort 2015 Vintage Port, Douro

Brilliant purple colour, this vintage is so exceptionally lush and fragrantly expressive. Layer upon layer of ripe plums, mulberries, sweet bramble berries and sweet raisined cranberry aromatics waft out the glass combining with an alluring dusty minerality, smoked spices and primary grapey notes. The palate is very finely knit together showing super elegance. The complete wine is so light on its feet, so focused, so precise with salty liquorice, damson plums, black berry and sweet creamy tannins. The freshness really defines this wine and helps elevate the perfume, fruit and the overall concentration. Real power with sublime harmony. This really is an impressive, very vinous Port, that Dirk considers to be one of his best creations yet. 

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


After tasting the beautiful 2015, Dirk ran through another two famous recent vintages to add extra context. The Niepoort 2011 Vintage Port is a beast of a wine, dense, dark, brooding, almost monolithic. It is a hedonistic journey into one of the most powerful, turbo charged, and structured vintages of recent times. This is one for the long haul. (98/100 GS)

Then, we tasted the Niepoort 2005. A bit of a sleeper, this vintage has a nose full of dark, earthy, bramble berry fruits, prunes, dried leather, raisined cranberries, and chocolate with a tight, dominating mineral finish. Slightly more rustic in style than either the 2011 or 2015. (95+/100 GS)


The Bioma Pisca Single Vineyard Ports

A few years ago, Dirk identified the Pisca Vineyard that continuously produced a unique expression from 80 to 100 year old vines. These 5 hectares of South facing vineyards are certified organic and yield around 12 HL/HA before being aged at Quinta do Napoles in 550 litre Port pipes.


Niepoort Bioma Vinhas Velhas Vintage Port 2015, Douro

Bioma Vinha Velha is a super rich, fleshy wine with an exotic, lifted nose showing savoury black fruits, sake nuances, rice wine, black brambly fruit and forest berries. Palate is massively dense, concentrated and powerful. Very intense black berry, kirsch, and cassis intensity is impressive. Tannins are ripe and sweet and superbly balanced with fresh acids and a creamy, textured minerality. Sweet and intense but finishes dry and long. 

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

The 2015 was certainly head and shoulders ahead in quality, precision and focus when we compared it to both the powerful, mineral Bioma 2013 (95+/100 GS) and the slightly reductive, saline, more rustic Bioma Pisca 2007 (94+/100 GS). But the true highlight of the Masterclass had to be the historic final pair of Ports – the Vintage Port 1970 and the Garrafeira Port 1952.


Niepoort Vintage Port 1970, Douro

Now I’ve tasted the Niepoort Vintage Port 1970 several times with Dirk over the years and every time we’ve drunk it, it has delivered sheer hedonistic pleasure, being a wine embroidered with such complexity and vinous interest. This time was no different and all the hallmark notes were there… sweet stewed red fruit aromatics, hedgerow spice, diesel rag, chocolate and earthy root notes, salty caramel and hints of fungal lift with shiitake mushroom nuances and a long finish of stewed black berries balanced with fresh acids and sweet, soft tannins. A beguiling wine that grows in the glass and unfurls into a multi-layered Port experience. 

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


Then, as if the famed 1970 wasn’t enough, Dirk treated us to a true rarity… the 1952 Garrafeira Port which was bottled into demijohns in 1955 and then re-bottled into 75cl bottles in 1987. Beautifully foresty and earthy, the ’52 has plenty of complex tertiary aromas of mushrooms, damp earth, oil rag, burnt oranges, cognac wood spice and an unctuous, nutty intrigue. Caramelised bruleed notes develop as the wine opens up, finishing with a grippy, mineral, almond skin, picante length. Tantalising! 

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


All that can be said after this amazing tasting is that it is abundantly clear that Vintage Port is undoubtedly one of the world’s truly great fine wines and also currently one of the most affordable. But how much longer will this be the case? Now is certainly a good time to buy!

Tasting Smiley NV v3 ~ A Wine that May Well Define a New Era in South African Winemaking…

Today I met up with Swartland young gun Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons from the Silvervis – Terracura winery. Shaped in many ways by his days working as the assistant winemaker at Reyneke, Ryan still very much has an eye on minimalist, non-intervention winemaking where purity and cleanliness in the wines are never compromised. 


Ryan thrives on pushing boundaries and few wines on the South African, indeed the global market, push the wine making norms like that of the Smiley NV Chenin Blanc. Whether the wine came about by accident or not, it’s third release marks a change where the wines purity, clarity and stylistic confidence come to the fore.


Smiley NV v3 (Version 3) Swartland Chenin Blanc, 12.5 Abv.

Slightly smokey straw yellow, touch opaque. The aromatics are fresh, citric and vibrant, showing saline, sea breeze and oyster shell notes which currently dominate the lemon lime white citrus fruits. Production is now up to 7,500 bottles of this, the 3rd non-vintage release. There’s a fascinating lime pith and red cherry stone fruit exotic note that develops. The palate entry is taught and linear with dusty briney minerality, alka seltzer and granitic wet stone terroir notes. The finish is textured and zippy and continues to unfurl with more and more complexity until it eventually ends with a tangerine pith, dried herbs, and a wet slate punch. What impressive complexity, palate texture and of course value for money. Funky Swartland kit at its very best! 

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


The Chenin Blanc for this wine is sourced from vineyards in the Siebrietskloof and Joubertskloof in the Paardeberg. So basically all on granitic soils. The 2017 blend is made up of 50% of 2017, 35% of 2016, 10% of 2015, with the balance from 2014. The 4 components consist of a barrel fermented portion, a “son wyn” (Sun wine) maderised portion (from 2014), a flor component from demijohns, and a skin contact portion that forms 50% of the final blend.


This truly is one of South Africa’s most profound wines. If you’re a wine merchant, your clients would love to indulge themselves in this wine. For sommeliers… well, this has to be a dream come true wine, with such salinity, fresh vibrant complexity and food friendly options. Either way, it’s a must try wine.

(Recommended Retail from £16-18 per bottle)   

Tasting the G.D.Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo DOCG 2012 with Giuseppe Vajra… 

The Barolo and Barbaresco appellations of Piedmont are riding high on the world stage. Ever since the block-buster 2010 vintage took the region truly mainstream and global, it seems many of the top producers can do no wrong. This week I met up with Giuseppe Vajra to taste the current release 2012 ahead of the imminent 2013 launch.


Bricco delle Viole is a beautiful south-facing promontory in Barolo. Embraced by the Alpine range on the west, at about 400 meters above sea level, it enjoys favourable thermic variations that develop an elegant, perfumed, crystalline style of Barolo and certainly make it one of my favourite sites in most vintages. 


G.D.Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo DOCG 2012, 14 Abv. 

The 2012 Barolo Bricco Delle Viole is a dark dense broody wine with perhaps more regional weight of fruit than is typical for this site which normally resembles an ethereal, crystalline red Burgundy. The bouquet is a little fuller and riper with a definite gravitas. The aromatics point to liquorice, tar, musk, rose petals, black cherries and strawberry confit. While the core of fruit is dense and dark, the palate displays a most attractive plush sweet cherry fruit concentration, juicy fresh vibrant acids and fine grained, soft mineral tannins. 2012 is a more tricky vintage in Piedmont but you would be wrong to assume that this means the wines aren’t every bit as drinkable as 2010, 11 or 13. Crack your case now and drink over 8 to 15 years. 

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


The Changing Face of Prunotto, the Antinori Piedmont Gem in Barolo…

Prunotto has always been the one Antinori single estate that has continued to baffle me. After producing iconic wines in the 60’s and 70’s, and then many gems in the 80’s under Beppe Colla, the fortunes of the winery seemed to wane in the 90’s and early 2000’s. But I recently attended a fascinating retrospective tasting at the 2 Michelin star Greenhouse restaurant with their commercial manager, Emanuel Baldi, to taste some very impressive wines.


After a few glasses of the lovely Tenuta Montenisa Franciacorta Cuvee Royale from Antinori (91+/100 GS) to freshen the palate, we dived straight into their reds.


The Marchesi Antinori family first began its collaboration with the Prunotto Company, at first handling distribution, in 1989, and later, in 1994, when the Colla brothers retired, became directly involved in the production, attempting to maintain the excellent level of quality which Alfredo Prunotto had always insisted upon.


Prunotto Barbera d’Alba Pian Romualdo 2011, 14 Abv.

Opulent and vibrant, showing sweet cherry and strawberry fruits, liquorice, and earthy aniseed root. There is a beautiful fragrance too, with resounding rose petal, potpourri, and wood smoke complexity. The palate is elegant with suave powdery tannins, bright acids and a long black cherry, graphite and cherry pip finish. 

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


Prunotto Barolo Bussia 2011, 13.5 Abv.

An impressively taught, lifted, fragrant intensity with a pretty perfume of rose petals, red cherry skins, and tart red plum. Plenty of liquorice, aniseed, and dusty, earthy red cherry mixed with smokey charcoal embers. The palate is cool, linear and focused with classic notes of cherry cola, sweet strawberry confit, exotic opulence and a seductive dried guava fruit complexity. Pristine freshness, vibrant acids and a saline cassis, fennel seed and liquorice finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 
Prunotto Barolo Riserva Vigna Colonnello 2010, 14 Abv. 

A highly anticipated wine from this epic vintage, the palate shows sweet cherry liquor, strawberry purée, plum jus, and pithy frais de bois. There is a tantalising sweet / Sour tart cherry note, fine linear acids with intense fruit concentration. Plenty of elegance with power and depth of fruit. 30% stems kept macerating for 2 weeks adds a sweet, sappy, pithy, tart red cherry character and creamy mineral tannins on a chiselled finish. Class and power abound. 

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


Prunotto Barolo Bussia 2005, 14 Abv. 

The 2005 Bussia is a gorgeous, opulent wine interwoven with scents of dried mint leaf, wood spices and dusty minerals that complement a generous core of fruit. The high quality French oak is beautifully integrated and the wine possesses exceptional overall balance, with a round, concentrated, harmonious finish. Plenty of textural flesh and depth of fruit with a saline, pithy, sweet tannined finish. Very nice.

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

Towards the end of the evening, we were treated to a few bottles of older Prunotto Bussia Barolo. The 1989 was perhaps not the best condition bottle (89+/100) and the 1982 sadly had a hint of cork taint. But it was the glorious 1986 from magnum that stole the show! A tremendous wine drinking very well indeed.


Prunotto Barolo Bussia 1986 (Magnum)

Complex aromatics emerge with hints of cherry, leather, tar, salty liquorice and a vital fruit balance. Plenty of cured meats and smokey spice, peach tea, herbs, and potpourri fragrance. Creamy fruit opulence gives way to layers of complex earthy spice. Sweetly concentrated, fresh, youthful and opulent, this is a very fine complex classical Barolo example at 31 years old. So vibrant, balanced and succulent. Wow! 

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


Clearly, Antinori are proud of the illustrious Prunotto past, but also now seem primed to redouble their efforts to make this estate every bit as grand and quality focused as Tignanello, Guado al Tasso or Solaia. Definitely wines to watch! 

The Slendour of 2 Michelin stars…