The Hills of the Langhe In Piedmont Produce Some of The Best Nebbiolos Yet in 2017…

This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts. Today the cooperative has 56 members and 100+ hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area.

Their Langhe Nebbiolo in particular has long been one of the greatest and most profound value reds on the international wine market, recognised and lauded unanimously by critics far and wide. The 2017 was a much smaller vintage in Piedmont and right across Italy and even before the harvest came in, 2017 was predicted to be -15% to -20% lower than 2016. The 2017 harvest will certainly be remembered for being one of the earliest in 10 years but also with exceptional quality attained specifically in the hills of the Langhe. After Spring frosts kept many a vigneron up at night, a hot dry summer followed with the lack of rain a real worry for many growers. But all the difficult weather did not deter the growers’ efforts in the vineyards and the wineries and final resulting quality was truly excellent and possibly even beyond the growers highest expectations. The legacy of the 2017 vintage will be rich, fresh and fruity wines, thanks to the excellent physiological ripening of the Nebbiolo grapes.

It seems the message of the high quality has travelled around the market place very quickly and after only a couple of months into sales of the Langhe 2017 vintage stock, I was told by the UK importer that they had already sold more than half of their annual allocation. So this wine will sell out well before it normally does and certainly long before the release of the 2018 vintage. So stock up now! It’s a thing of beauty.

Produttori Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2017, Langhe DOC, 14 Abv.

A stunningly complex lifted aromatic bouquet of ripe macerated wild red cherries, potpourri, dried mint leaf, wet granite, aniseed root and salty liquorice stick. The intensity, power and purity is reinforced by a deliciously concentrated, fleshy palate that is full, plump, majestically sweet fruited with comforting nuances of parma violets, red cherry coulis, cherry cola and the most sublime creamy, chalky tannin texture. The density, texture and complexity of this Langhe Nebbiolo go far beyond anything you could reasonably and qualitatively expect from a wine of this classification level. Which probably explains why, according to the producer, it has been one of the fastest selling Langhe Nebbiolos produced to date. I am smitten. Drink this beauty from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

Marchesi Mazzei Launches Its New Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2015 In Arty Style…

It has long been apparent the excellent quality that Tuscan producers managed to harness with the 2013 vintage for wines from Chianti, Bolgheri and the Maremma. Indeed, it was one of the very few European premium wine regions that reached very high quality levels in 2013. While 2014 saw its challenges for Tuscany, 2015 returned with a bang to allow producers to make some astonishingly pretty wines. 

I recently had the opportunity to taste the impressive new Gran Selezione 2015 Chianti Classico from Marchesi Mazzei’s Fonterutoli estate in Tuscany. The success of this new vintage was put into context being tasted alongside the 2008, 2010 and the superb 2013 and paired with excellent food from the acclaimed Petersham Nurseries, a restaurant business owned by Giovanni Mazzei’s wife Lara Boglione’s family.

To complete the perfect setting, the wines were poured at the Petersham Nurseries‘ temporary Pop-Up Restaurant at the 2018 Frieze Art Fair in London... a suitably flamboyant venue for these delicious wines.

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2008, 13.5 Abv.

Layered and opulent, the bouquet is starting to show subtle tertiary notes after 10 years age. Plenty of earthy stewed cherries, herbal spice, black plum, tannery leather, liquorice and aniseed root. Palate is plush and comfortably mellow, showing plenty of piquant sappy spice, cedar and pithy, stewed black berry fruits. Drinking well now, quite traditional in style, maturing nicely. 

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

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010, 14 Abv.

Lovely smokey aromatics of incense, graphite, sweet grilled herbs, polished mahogany, tannery leather and earthy black plummy fruits. Pithy and piquant, there are subtle coffee bean notes, wood spice and creamy brûléed back berry nuances. Evolving nicely, drinking well now, but still plenty of life ahead. 

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

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, 13.5 Abv.

Youthful and vibrant, the 2013 displays beautiful perfume of cherry blossom, violets, dried flowers, black cherry and smokey charcoal embers. Palate is super polished, vibrant and elegant with deliciously fresh acids, soft creamy tannins and a glitteringly pretty, elegant, vibrant textural finish. 

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

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015, 14 Abv.

An altogether more opulent, dense, powerfully ripe expression from a very fine vintage in Tuscany. The aromatics are youthful and intense with lashings of black cherry confit, black plum, kirsch liqueur and salty cassis. The palate follows with a ripe, fleshy, intensely focused palate with high class tannin management, beautifully sweet mid palate fruit weight and a long, vibrant, concentrated finish that fans it’s tail with caramelised red cherry, black currant and sun raisined cranberry nuances. Fabulously delicious and eminently drinkable already.

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

Available to trade in the UK from importer Maison Marques et Domaines. 

Querciabella 2015 Raising The Quality Bar For Premium Chianti Classico…

South African winemaker Manfred Ing continues to make waves in Chianti’shire as he continually pushes the level of quality upwards across the entire range. But of course it’s the Chianti Classico red that is the main Estate wine and therefore the offering that receives the most close and critical assessment from wine reviewers and commentators with the release of each new vintage.

A 100% Sangiovese cuvee, the grapes used have been biodynamic since 2000 and organic since 1988. Averaged yields are approaching 35 hl/ha and the oak use is 100% French, 5% new with the remainder normally consisting of 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.

Agricola Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, 14 Abv. 

Wonderfully bright ruby hue, this is a power packed, super distinguished juicy effort from a fantastic vintage in Gaiole, Tuscany. The aromatics are packed with sun raisined cranberries, aniseed root, sweet wood spice, wet tobacco, black cherry and dusty earthy clay notes. The palate ups the ante with an ultra generous texture, wonderful ripe red cherry fruit concentration, suave sweet tannins and an incredibly focused, creamy mineral laden finish. True class, impeccable proportions and fantastic balance. Drink from release or cellar for 8-10+ years.

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

The 2015 is an exceptional wine from an exceptional Tuscan vintage and probably the best new release Chianti Classico I can remember tasting from this winery. The signals are all looking good for the 2016s as well, so I look forward with great interest to see what young talent Manfred Ing can conjure up.

Joaquin Aglianico – Still Amazingly One of the Best Kept Fine Wine Secrets of Campania…

One of my most interesting winery visits of 2018 was a trip in June to Campania producer Joaquin Wines located in Montefalcione, Avellino, Italy. Whilst there, I tasted through owner / winemaker Raffaele Pagano’s entire current release range of vinous wonders as well as some true back vintage unicorns.

However, one wine that slipped the net and wasn’t reviewed in my winery report was the incredible new release red I Viaggiatori 2016 made from pure Aglianico. In fact the wine was tasted over dinner at our amazing outing with Raffaele to Pepe i Grani, the number one rated pizza restaurant in the world. So it’s time to revisit this superb Aglianico red expression …

Joaquin Aziende Agricole I Viaggiatori Aglianico 2016, Campania IGT, 13.5 Abv.

The wine is dark and impenetrable with a slight black cherry rim. But this is not a wild, untamed Campania expression of Aglianico, to the contrary, it has the most pure, intriguingly perfumed aromatics of violets, black cherry, saline cassis, maritime oyster shell nuances, black currant and striking salty liquorice. Like the nose, the hallmarks of the palate are incredible purity, salinity and an expertly crafted structure with tart mouth watering electric acids, tart boiled black currant pastille fruits expertly balanced by seamless sweet tannins and a searing black berry concentration with a hint of cherry cola, smokey reduction and ashy complexity on the persistent finish. An incredible interpretation of old vine Aglianico from a top vintage with a harmony and finesse rarely seen with this variety. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

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

The Gaja Barbaresco 2015 – Quite Simply the Most Impressive New Release Gaja Barbaresco Expression Tasted in Over a Decade….

Gaja’s Barbaresco is a truly magnificent wine and needs no introduction. A firm favourite amongst collectors, it is produced from fourteen unique vineyard sites in the commune of Barbaresco and offers an incredible insight into the brilliance of Gaja’s Nebbiolo wines. Extremely complex and refined, it is aged in barrels for twelve months before being blended together and matured for a further twelve months in large oak casks. A wine which is normally approachable relatively young, the 2015 will definitely improve for 10+ years and age well over two decades.

Antonio Galloni says that the “warm growing season yielded supple, radiant Barbarescos.” Following a mild winter and a protracted and damp spring, which replenished the water tables, temperatures rose steadily in July and August. The vines responded well, a result in part of the many innovations introduced in the vineyards in recent years by the Gaja family. Ideal weather conditions before the harvest allowed the grapes to ripen quickly and evenly producing perfectly ripe fruit with exceptionally regular bunches.

Widely regarded as an outstanding vintage with great promise, 2015 has broader shoulders with richer flavours than the previous vintage combined with “intense aromas and lovely energetic fruit” according to Gaia Gaja.

Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2015, 14 Abv.

This has always been one of Gaja’s greatest wines as well as greatest value wines. But dispensing with commercial intricacies, this wine has also always been the perennial over performer out punching many Crus (even from Gaja) in blind tastings. The aromatics suggest something grand and complex, something more profound than your average year, and in 2015, that is exactly what this wine delivers. Elegantly perfumed, very precise and pure, with a beautifully perfumed bouquet of crunchy red cherry, freshly plucked rose petals, violets and exotic spices. Quite reticent and restrained, more in the mould of knowing it is great without having to shout about it. On the palate, there is power and depth, concentration and density of fruit, with layers of red cherry, blueberry, sour red plum and piquant, grippy chalky natural grape tannins. There is plenty of energy here, power and intensity, all as you’d expect from a warm powerful vintage in Piedmont. This is an a impressive addition to the Gaja Barbaresco archive and one you should probably look to start drinking in 3 to 5 years and cellar for 20+. A very impressive wine indeed.

(Greg Sherwood MW –  95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting with the great Angelo Gaia at the winery.

Ornellaia Delivers One of Their Greatest Vintages Ever on Their 30th Anniversary – Tasting the Ornellaia 2015 Bolgheri Superiore…

Ornellaia is a Super Tuscan of international acclaim that is arguably one of the world’s most collectible wines. An uncompromising attention to detail is a mantra by which wine maker Axel Heinz lives. Where Sassicaia often tends to reflect a character of greater minerality and elegant restraint, coming across almost Pinot Noir-like in some years, Ornellaia is boldly more opulent and hedonistic without ever over stepping the mark.

The 2015 vintage of Ornellaia, which marks its 30th vintage anniversary, is without doubt one of the great Ornellaia vintages. I thought I would repost my specific Ornellaia 2015 note on this epic wine as it was perhaps a bit lost in my longer post featuring the Vendemia d’Artista banquet in London.

After the unusual 2014, the 2015 vintage proved to be very regular, almost “textbook” like. After a normal, rainy, mild winter, with just a couple of days with temperatures below zero, the budding arrived on time in the first days of April. Spring was characterized by dry and sunny weather, ideal conditions for a regular vegetative development that culminated in a fast and complete blooming at the end of May.

Winemaker Axel Heinz describing the vintage

Starting in June, water stress gradually became an issue. July will be remembered as particularly scorching and dry, with maximum temperatures that exceeded 30°C every single day of the month. The heat, combined with the absence of rains, raised the spectre of an interruption in the ripening process and possibly an early harvest. Luckily rain came around the 10th of August, with abundant precipitation allowed the grapes to continue ripening, also bringing a much cooler weather during the final stages.

This cool yet sunny weather persisted throughout the harvest, allowing Ornellaia to pick very slowly, waiting for every vineyard to arrive at the perfect point of ripeness, combining a fresh and lively aromatic quality with a perfect phenolic maturation with abundant yet silky and soft tannins. Harvest began on the 29th of August with the Merlot, and ended on the 12th of October with the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

Tenuta dell Ornellaia 2015, Bolgheri Superiore, Toscana, 14 Abv.

Intense broody dark fruited nose brimming with black cherry, crushed gravel and graphite spice. But the minerality of this superb, glamorous, opulent vintage does not outweigh or over power the incredibly intense perfume of lavender, violets and cherry blossom. The underlying note on the palate is dark fruited, powerful and structured with vibrant black tart cherry acidity, suave fleshy textural concentration and the most seductive, complex finish of pithy black cherry, liquorice stick, graphite and chalky tannin spice. A very serious effort, showing great generosity, power, intensity and gravitas. This has the credentials to age for 2 to 3 decades, and the potential to be a future Bolgheri Ornellaia legend.

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

One of the Great Names of Chianti Producing Some Very Impressive Wines – Tasting with Francesco Ricasoli…

Having just returned from Tuscany and Campania, it was lovely to have Francesco Ricasoli pop in and show me his new vintages. The Ricasoli family has been linked with winemaking since 1141, with the original “blending recipe” for making wines in the Chianti region invented by Baron Bettino Ricasoli or the Iron Baron.

From the estate’s 5 main soil types, grapes are harvested for 230 micro-vinifications, with my favourite often being the Colledilà. Together with their own vineyard yeasts which they have just had isolated and cultured, Ricasoli is making some very expressive wines from around Gaiole.

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledilà 2015, Tuscany, 14 Abv.

After the excellent 2013 from Baron Ricasoli, the Colledilà 2015 ups the intensity somewhat being even more exciting and impressive. The fruit from this 7.5 hectare vineyard plot was not bottled into Colledilà in 2012 or 2014. On the nose, the 2015 shows a wonderful exotic perfume of cranberry cordial, red crystallised maraschino cherries, lavender, parma violets and a delicate pink musk fragrance. Thoroughly seductive and alluring. The palate expresses a brisk steely linearity and precision, revealing the true characteristics of the vineyard’s marl limestone soils, bringing extra brightness, fresh acidity and an intense minerality. The texture is ultra sleek and harmonious, pin point and taut with delicious red cherry and black currant fruit nuances, aniseed root, fennel seeds and a pronounced piquant graphite spice on the finish. Superbly balanced and focused in the mouth, this wine shows class with power, intensity and purity. Already drinking so beautifully, a few more years in bottle will bring added tertiary complexity and allow this pure Sangiovese to unwind a little.

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