The Age of Serious Cru Beaujolais Has Arrived – Tasting Chateau de Poncie Fleurie 2015…

It’s certainly Beaujolais’ moment in the spotlight with more and more Côte d’Or growers buying vineyards in the top Cru villages. As they invest in vineyards and production, the wines are getting more and more serious.

Chateau de Poncie is the latest reincarnation of Villa Ponciago, the estate in Fleurie bought by Champagne Henriot, who coincidently also own brands like Bouchard Pere et Fils. With Joseph Bouchard now actively involved in the Fleurie operations, quality seems to get better and better every vintage that passes.

The la Salomine vineyard is situated on a sloping hillside with a southeast exposure with very well draining soils composed of a pink granitic crystalline rock and quartz as well as a small proportion of clay. Cultivation of the vines is exclusively manual, due to the steep slope. Heavy natural soil erosion is checked by grassing over and mulching. Yields are naturally limited by the terroir to less than 35hl/ha.

After harvest, cold maceration takes place with one part whole bunches and one part with destalked bunches, followed by a fermentation of 10 to 15 days. Maturation is vintage dependant with 40% to 60% of wine aged in oak barrels, 100% of which are mature oak barrels of 1 to 4 years old. The remainder is matured for 12 to 13 months in small tanks to preserve freshness.

Chateau de Poncie Cru Fleurie 2015 La Salomine, 14 Abv.

Another blockbuster year, this is a bold Beaujolais with Pinot Noir depth and complexity. Gamay stepping up to the plate. Deep, dark dense nose of wood smoke, black berry, bramble fruits and dusty granitic mineral graphite lift. Palate is full, broad, expansive, features big bold concentrated flavours of fraises des bois, black cherry, blue berry crumble and opulent sweet supple tannins. Acids melt into the rich black fruit and just tickle your palate, keeping the finish vibrant, fresh and quite mouth watering. Very polished, accomplished wine making raising Beaujolais quality up a few notches (which will appeal to Pinot Noir lovers struggling with Burgundy’s eye watering red wine prices). Buy now, drink now… or cellar for 3 to 8 years for extra complexity.

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

Fine Wine Friday at Chez Bruce With Some Iconic Wines…

Well, it’s that time of year when we gather to bid farewell to fine wine friend Keith Prothero before he decamps to the Cape for the summer / UK Winter. I volunteered to organise the lunch finale with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce, Keith’s favourite restaurant in London and below is a little snap shot of the epic wines consumed. All wines were tasted blind before they were revealed.

Wine Advocate reviewer Neal Martin (left) with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce

First up, a vibrant, tantalising Clos des Goisses 1996 Champagne from Philipponnat with a fine leesy biscuit lift and a pronounced, creamy citrus note. Beautiful definition, purity, and a salty briney undertone that melts away into dusty lemon, buttered toast and a crisp, vibrant finish with great structure. A good bottle drinking at its peak. (96/100 GS)



The first flight of five whites started with an impressive Niepoort Coche White Blend 2011, briming with creamy peachy yellow fruits, lovely struck match reduction, ample minerality, woodsmoke, cassis leaf, wet slate, and wonderfully fine depth. I loved the tension and profound, subtle, buttery depth. Truly one of Portugal’s finest still white wines. Malcolm Thwaites, who has just recently visited Dirk Niepoort during harvest, actually called the wine amazingly! (95+/100 GS)


Next up, Keith’s Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011 Chardonnay. Initially smokey and seductive, with intense saline notes, lemon and lime cordial richness, huge concentration, this was a complete ringer for an old world Burgundian grand vin. Only after it had sat in the glass for a while, did it finally start to reveal some exotic new world fruit notes. A monumental effort from California and the ultimate ringer capable of fooling even the most talented tasters. (96/100 GS)


The Sandhi was followed by one of the truly great white wines of Burgundy, a superb bottle of J-F Coche Dury Meursault 2013. Wow, tasted blind, this was intensely taught, pin point, and precise showing lime, stoney liquid minerals, crushed limestone tension and focus. Very intense with seamless texture, regal mineral complexity, subtle passion fruit hints and great rigour on the finish. “Wines like this should challenge the senses, not entertain them!” was a very poignant comment from Nigel Platts Martin. (96/100 GS)


At these lunches, we always seem to open our “back up bottles” even when not required, and here again, my Didier Dagueneau Buisson Menard Pouilly Fume 1997 was added to the first flight. An interesting bottle, it had tasters scratching their heads endlessly as the wine unfurled in the glass. Plenty of white peach, passion fruit, pineapple and stoney minerality were in evidence. Beautifully exotic with a mercurial dry finish. “A bit of an upstart”… but certainly showed its class in my mind. (93/100 GS)



Just as we were about to move on to the reds, we were treated to another late addition and definite rarity. A fine bottle of Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002. The initial nose was quite lactic, with hints of cottage cheese and cream, yet also full of oyster shell, fennel, pineapple and aniseed. There was a touch of wet dog to the wine combined with great minerality which led many of us to the Loire. But this was classic, elegant, fresh, super fine Grand Cru Chablis at its best and developed wonderfully in the glass. (94/100 GS)



The first three reds revealed a Rhoney theme but with a few twists. First up was Neal Martin’s amazing Jaboulet Cornas 1972 that showed a bouquet of rich brûlée oranges, savoury cured meats, and cherry confit. Rich and textural, this beautifully lifted wine sang a wonderful melody, and while mature, was thoroughly enchanting. So typical of the Northern Rhone, almost all at the table plumped for Hermitage or even perhaps a great vintage of Crozes-Hermitage. La Chapelle was even mentioned. But Cornas it was. I would have expected a little more blood and iron for a Cornas but perhaps the Jaboulet personality was shinning through more than the appellation’s terroir. A real treat. (93+/100 GS)



The wine that followed was younger and required a bit more thought. Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2000. Very complex Mourvèdre dominated wine (60%) loaded with black berry and bramble fruits with saddle leather, cured meats, liquorice, tar and sweet earthy black fruit notes. Dense and concentrated, this was a delicious grand vin wine almost certainly drunk too young. Give this classic another decade at least. (96+/100 GS)


So we were well and truly treading a Rhone path, when the next red from Alex Lake had us all a bit fooled. A Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz 2002 was not to my memory picked out as New World by anyone. Smoky lifted nose with granite dust, aniseed root, and earthy black berries, this was a very compact, focused wine with plenty of tension, crisp acids, and a subtle, restrained, savoury boxwood and pepper corn spice finish. A very smart wine that along with the Mullineux reds, is one of the few new world Syrahs / Shirazes Keith openly admits to drinking! Nice to taste this wine again with more age, but still a long life ahead of it. (95/100 GS)


The next pair of reds charmed some more than others, but as a devout Italian fine wine lover, the next two reds had me weak at the knees, (or was that the previous 10 bottles?). An utterly sublime Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino 1999 was bursting with sweet cherry blossom perfume, savoury earthy notes, saddle leather and wet tobacco, gun smoke, and graphite. Plenty of energy, this really was a superb, seductive hedonistic red full of character. (96+/100 GS)


To partner the Soldera was another real rarity ~ a Valdicava Madonna Del Piano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1990. Not a wine you come across very often anymore, this wine had all the archetypal power and prowess Valdicava’s Riserva’s are so famous for, except this one was finally giving an impression that despite being beautifully fresh and vital, it was approaching peek drinkability after 27 years! Dark and smoky, dense and dusty, it was quite saline, tight and precise, with pithy caramelised cherry fruits, grilled herbs, leather, graphite, aniseed and meaty savoury bramble berry depth. Very fine acids and also a touch of VA just to add more lift and complexity. The Riserva can be a hard wine to understand in its youth, or when James Suckling scores them 100 points, like with the 2010. But after tasting a maturing vintage like this, a lot of puzzle pieces fall into place. (96+/100 GS)


At this point, we were all amazed that no Burgundy or Bordeaux had featured in the flights yet! But the next wine broke the drought. A most majestic Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985 from St Emilion. This was a real treat and must be one of my favourite vintages of Cheval Blanc. Loaded with black berry fruits, gun powder, briary, and aniseed notes, it was also so vibrant, energetic and packed full of saline cassis, a touch of ink, leafy spice, sandalwood and buttered brown toast. Drinking in the perfect harmonious mid point between youth and maturity. For me, a top right bank Bordeaux ready to drink does not get much better than this. (98/100 GS) 


The last red was possibly another late addition, hence it was not included in the Rhone flight. But in many ways, it received more deserving attention being served in isolation. A contender for wine of the lunch, the Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire 1990 from Lucien & Andre Brunel was indeed profound. A solid 100 pointer on the Wine Advocate scale, Robert Parker once described this wine as one of the greatest vintages ever made at the estate. This bottle was deliciously saline, rich, intense and dense but never tipping over to heavy in anyway. Sleek, crystalline, and supremely elegantly textured, this wine is still so youthful, fresh and perfumed, showing its true class. A really profound wine. (98/100 GS)



To accompany a most delicious cheese dessert course, two sublime sweet wines were served. The iconic Mullineux Olerasay No.1 Chenin Blanc NV made from a Solera system. The word that encapsulates this wine is effortless harmony. It is neither too sweet nor too unctuous, merely finely balanced and beautifully intense. A lot of effort goes into making straw wines of this quality, and this blend deserves a big score if for no other reason, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Amazing wine. (98/100 GS)



Before we could cross our T’s and dot our I’s, we were treated to another profound dessert wine ~ the Reinhold Heart Ohligsberger 2010 Mosel Eiswein. After a long afternoon of intense, thought provoking fine wines, nothing could possibly refresh the senses better than a delicious, vibrant glass of rapier fresh Eiswein. Packed full of lemon and lime cordial notes, white peaches, and sweet yellow grapefruit, the acidity balanced the sugar brilliantly and was the perfect ending to a fascinating afternoon of fine wine and of course exceptional Michelin starred food.



Bon voyage Keith, I am sure most of us will still be talking about many of these wines by the time you return in 6 months time. 

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 4: Chateau Leoville Barton La Reserve de Leoville Barton, St Julien 2012…

On a cold winter’s night, what could be better than a lovely steak frites dinner and a bottle of Bordeaux! But on a Monday night I hardly feel like pushing the boat out. Well, that sounds like the perfect moment to crack a Bordeaux second wine.


More accessible, less structured and often more elegant, these are delicious wines that match food beautifully but don’t necessarily require a decade or more of ageing before opening. The full Bordeaux hit for a fraction of the price! 


Chateau Leoville Barton La Reserve de Leoville Barton St Julien 2012, Bordeaux, 13 Abv.

An attractive Saint Julien Bordeaux made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, from the moment you pull the cork, the aromatics seduce you with their intensity, perfume and power. Wonderful liquorice edged cassis black berry fruit, sweet cedar, tobacco leaf, vanilla bean spice, coffee bean and creamy mocha richness abound. On the palate, the texture is superbly light and fresh, finely tuned, very precise and super elegant. Tannins are fluffy and light, and the palate packed with all the complex flavours of the Chateau’s first wine, but without any chewy tension, tannic elasticity and chunky fruit density. It’s just a wonderful, lithe, sleek, athletic version with silky soft black cassis fruit, blueberry, mocha spice, and a peppery, vanilla powder dusted finish. So succulent and drinkable, this wine really strikes all the right notes. Drink now to 2026+.

Verdict: One of the most enjoyable second wines I’ve drunk recently. Buying 12 bottles won’t be enough, try 24 instead! 

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


White Burgundy Producers Making Great Red Wines ~ Tasting Jean-Claude Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge…

Domaine Ramonet is one of the quality reference points of the Côte de Beaune in Burgundy. Even before the First World War, their wines were being enjoyed in high society and in some of the finest restaurants in France. Today, brothers Jean Claude and Noël Ramonet are at the head of the Domaine that delivers exceptional quality wines year in, year out, with international demand insatiable, not just for their famous white wines but also increasingly for their highly focused, precise, pure fruited red wines.


They currently own 17 hectares of mostly prime Chassagne-Montrachet vineyards plus a small amount of three grands crus in Puligny-Montrachet. The reds have traditionally played second fiddle to their masterful whites, but like many white focused domaines also making reds, like Bonneau du Martray or Roulot, their reds have definitely benefited from a touch of global warming (and improved vinification techniques), and have been quite impressive in recent vintages.


Jean-Claude Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 2014, Burgundy, 13.5 Abv.

An alluring dark ruby red with wonderful clarity, this wine has very pretty aromatics that waft from the glass effortlessly. Beautiful perfumed notes of cherry blossom, sweet jasmine, rose petals and pink musk mix with notes of caramelised red cherries, roasted cashew nuts, sun dried cranberries, and fraises des bois wild strawberry. One of the best vintages for white Burgundy in many years, it wasn’t that bad for the reds either. More classically modelled, the palate is crystalline, pure and very precise with finely polished chalky mineral tannins, a medium bodied weight, plenty of red strawberry, cranberry and red cherry flesh, and an attractive sappy, spicy complexity on the finish. The acids are finely poised, the wine beautifully balanced, and shows an accessible, supple textured style that has all the hallmarks of a top quality producer. A pretty distinguished effort not just for a village Chassagne rouge, but also within the context of the whole Cotes de Beaune.

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

Reintroducing the Wines of Azay-le-Rideau Near Chinon in the Loire…

In 2013, longtime friends Nicolas Grosbois and Philippe Mesnier purchased 12 hectares of vines in Azay-le-Rideau, an excellent, though relatively unknown terroir a few kilometers east of Chinon. They immediately began farming all the vines organically, and set about on an ambitious project to reintroduce the wines of Azay-le-Rideau. Traditionally, Azay le Rideau is famous for white wines made from Chenin Blanc, and rosé wines made from Grolleau and Gamay.


Most of the vineyards are located in Azay-le-Rideau on the lieu-dit  “Hauts Baigneux”. The domaine also owns a two hectare plot in Saché, close to the former studio of Alexander Calder, the famous American artist. This great flint-heavy terroir produces the two top cuvées of the domaine: Le Clos des Brancs and Blanc Chenin. In addition to resurrecting the tradition of great wines from these vineyards, the domaine produces excellent reds, and a small amount of white and rosé Petillant Naturel.


The wines of Domaine des Hauts Baigneux are all produced with natural yeast, and bottled with minimal intervention. The cuvées Les Chenes and Les Pentes are delicious vins de soif that showcase the best of Loire Valley. The sparkling wines are fantastic bottles of everyday bubbles, and the single vineyard Chenin Blancs are a testament to the towering quality of this terroir.

Nicolas Grosbois & Philippe Mesnier Grolleau 2016, Domaine des Hauts Baigneux, Vin de France, 12.5 Abv.

Rich, dark fruited, lifted and spicy with hints of incense, candle wax, pot pourri spice and exotic lavender and garrigue herbal notes. Palate is direct and crisp, crunchy and fresh with vibrant cranberry, raspberry and dark sour plum. Plenty of spicy, grippy, wet chalk complexity, this really is an energetic, intense expression offering very enjoyable drinkability. Zero added sulphur and only 600 bottles produced in this, the maiden vintage. 

(Wine safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Great White Burgundy Continues to Offer Unbeatable Drinking Pleasure ~ Tasting Faiveley Bienvenue Batard Montrachet Grand Cru… 

The Faiveley Bienvenue Batard Montrachet Grand Cru is made from a 0.5 hectare plot of vines planted in 1980. The area was a quarry until the 12th century but the wine only started to achieve fame in the 17th century thanks to the Cistercian Abbey of Maizieres and the Lords of Chagny. The Faiveley family purchased the plot in 2008 along with another 0.5 hectares of Batard Montrachet Grand Cru right next door. 


A wonderful east facing exposition, the vines are grown on fine brown soils over hard limestone. Vinification lasts 4 weeks and takes place in French oak barrels, 50 to 60 percent of which are new each year. The lees is regularly stirred while the wines are aged for 18 months before bottling.


Domaine Faiveley Bienvenue-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2011, Burgundy, 13 Abv.

Going on six years old, this Grand Cru white is super fine, showing an intense nose of white citrus, acacia, lime peel, lemon zest, and custard pie. Subtle new oak spice and lovely vanilla pod allure with just a slight suggestion of bottle development starting adding an earthy wet chalk, mineral nuance. The palate is bristling with flavour in a super concentrated expression brimming with brûléed lemons, baked brioche, toffee apple, lemon confit and tart yellow grapefruit marmalade and a creamy, pithy, long candied citrus finish. Super power, beautifully vibrant acids and such energy. Drink this beauty now or keep for another 3 to 8 years. A majestic beauty.

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


Is There a Silver Lining in the 2013 Bordeaux Vintage Cloud? Tasting Tertre Roteboeuf 2013…

Is there ever a modern vintage from a premium global wine region that can be written off as totally unsaleable!? When you think of the 2013 Bordeaux harvest, it is not exactly a vintage many collectors and connoisseurs can envisage buying and cellaring. Indeed, the 2013 vintage was one of the coldest and wettest growing seasons in the past 40 years. 


In a normal vintage, Bordeaux would be expected to produce 5.5 million hectoliters of red wine. In 2013, this figure was closer to 3.9 million hectolitres, one of the lowest yields since 1970. But was the quality of the wines produced so horrendously below par as wine critics have made out? Personally, I remember returning from Bordeaux after tasting the En-primeur 2013 wines thinking what a delicious, elegant, light, fresh, “bistro vintage” this was going to be and how easy the wines would be to sell if the Bordelais priced them low “to move”. 


But of course, the Bordelais never do what is expected and the 2013 pricing was unreasonably high, out of touch generally, and the wines remained predictably unsold. Fast forward 4 years and it’s a sorry tale hearing of the large, unsold, unsaleable mountains of 2013 Bordeaux clogging up the balance sheets of negociants and Chateaux alike.


So when the opportunity arose for me to drink a bottle of 2013 Tertre Roteboeuf Grand Cru St Emilion, I approached the prospect with a fair amount of circumspection. What should I expect?

Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf St Emilion Grand Cru, 13.5 Abv.

The 2013 has a seductively perfumed nose that shows a wonderfully expressive bouquet of red cherries, red plums, red salty liquorice stick, cedar oak spice and sweet jasmine blossom. The typical Tertre Roteboeuf tasting note always alludes to the wine’s Burgundian characteristics. But with the 2013 Grand Vin, there is not only the pretty fragrant aromatics, but also the lighter, more ethereal texture more reminiscent of a Cotes de Nuits Burgundy than St Emilion Grand Cru. The palate shows beautiful balance and great depth of flavour with nuances of raisined cranberries, strawberry confit, dried figs, earthy red currant and pithy, spicy, picante tannins. Acids are fresh, slightly angular, taught and vibrant, lifting the palate concentration and highlighting its front palate opulence and immediacy before finishing with slightly peppery, spicy, chalky tannin drip. A very pretty wine, yet there is no frivolity in evidence, only focused, elegant, precise winemaking. Drink now to 2027+.

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