An Exercise in Opulence and Hedonism – Tasting the New Release Ornellaia 2017…

Hot on the heels of the Sassicaia 2017 release comes the opulent, extroverted Ornellaia expression. From a warm dry vintage, conditions certainly played to the Ornellaia style of richness and opulence.

The vineyards extend 115 hectares and are broken down into 70 different plots, all with slightly different characteristics. There are two main areas, one around the Ornellaia winery itself and another around Bellaria to the north and north-west of Bolgheri, where the land slopes gently down towards the sea some 5 km away. All vineyards within the Bolgheri DO are dedicated to the production of the Ornellaia range with the very best plots being blended into Ornellaia and also the highly respected second wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia.

Ornellaia 2017, DO Bolgheri Superiore, 15 Abv.

Facinating to see how individual and unique the expression of Ornellaia is vintage after vintage. This warm sunshine vintage boasts a ripe, plush opulent nose jam packed full of cherry confit, black plum preserve and blueberry pie laced with a dusting of vanilla pod and brûléed oak spice. Such a dense, dark core with hedonistic notes of mocha and chocolates filled with blueberry reduction, creme de cassis and buttered brown toast. A bold, extroverted, flamboyant expression of Ornellaia that will appeal to those who enjoy riper, more exotic vintages. Drink from release and for 15+ years.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Release Some of their Finest Cru’s for the Past Decade…

The warm 2015 vintage in Barbaresco was considered another excellent year in the region and merited the bottling of the Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Single Vineyard wines. Produttori del Barbaresco only produce the Riserva labels if all nine Cru’s in their co-operative stable meet the same high quality standards, else all the Cru wines are declassified and blended into the village DOCG Barbaresco.

Managing Director Aldo Vacca was recently in London to presents the new releases of Produttori del Barbaresco’s 2015 Barbaresco Riserva Single Vineyard wines from all nine Cru sites; Rio Sordo, Pora, Pajè, Asili, Ovello, Montefico, Muncagota, Rabajà and Montestefano.

Tasting with Aldo Vacca

This was a fantastic opportunity to taste these iconic wines, side by side and learn from one of Piedmont’s greatest ambassadors about the uniqueness of Barbaresco, it’s terroir and the characteristics of the individual Cru sites.

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2018, 14.5 Abv.

Beautifully lifted perfumed nose of red liquorice, violets and macerated red cherries with hints of exotic herbs and spices. Palate shows overt ripeness and a generous fleshy upfront opulence. Tannins are grippy and mineral holding the tarry red and black cherry fruits in check. The finish is long and textured with plenty of four square power, ripeness and complexity.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2016, 14.5 Abv.

Like only the finest vintages, this immaculate Village Barbaresco oozes character and complexity with some of the prettiest aromatics elicited from the Nebbiolo fruits. Seductive perfume of violets, rose petals, cherry blossom, pink musk and cherry rock candy overwhelm the senses. The palate intensity and piercing concentration is also knockout fabulous with tart sweet and sour red cherry, red liquorice and a smokey graphite minerality on the finish. Broad, mouth filling and just an outstanding effort!

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

Lovely broody dark fruited aromatics with black plum, black cherry, tar and black liquorice with lifted hints of dried herbs, thyme, graphite and stony dust. The palate is dense, full and compact with silky fine grained tannins, a solid core of robust black fruits and a creamy, textural black cherry and wood spice finish.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

Another rather dark and broody expression of Nebbiolo with black earthy fruit nuances, black cherry, damson plum and hints of salty black liquorice. The palate is saline and crisp with tarry layers of liquorice, piquant black berries and spicy mineral tannins. Plenty of power, density and frame. Give this a few years in the cellar to open up.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Paje Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This fabulous Paje shows exotic red and black fruit spice with notes of grilled herbs, dried herbs, sun dried red cherries and subtle red bramble berry spice. The tannins are pinpoint precise, fine grained and drying, sleek yet powerful highlighting the incredible precision and balance of this Cru. Very classical and classy indeed.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Muncagota Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This neighbouring vineyard of Paje shows fine aromatics that mixes an exotic array of baking spices with stony minerality, graphite, black liquorice, spiced plums and black cherry pith. The palate is super dense and focused, dark fruited and broody but also revealing massive concentration, creamy textural tannins and seamless harmony. Serious expression.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

The Ovello shows a taut, tight focused aromatic lift with precise notes of red cherry, wood smoke, graphite and kirsch liquor hints. The palate is fleshy and bright, opulently red fruited but also powerfully grippy, structured and intense with tart red cherry, sour red plum and a mineral bite on the vibrant finish. A lively Ovello that’s full of life and energy.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Asili Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This is a very grown up expression of Barbaresco with restrained classical aromatics that suggest there is plenty to come but the wine is just a little bit shy about revealing its soul in its youth. There is subtle red cherry and blood orange spice that melts into notes of graphite, stony minerality and black berry spice. The palate is wonderfully balanced showing a powerful structure, creamy dense drying tannins but also piercingly sweet focused red and black berry fruits. Impressive harmony and textural balance, restraint and classical power, the archetypal Asili.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Montefico Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

The aromatics are slightly muted but manage to squeeze out high toned notes of tart red cherry, kirsch liquor and graphite minerality. Some notes of pink musk, sweet grilled herbs and red cherry rock candy sweetness develop in the glass. Texturally dense and beautifully creamy, the palate shows wonderful vibrancy and energy, bright spicy stony red cherry fruits and a compact, powder tannin finish. Lovely focus and balance.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Rabaja Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This is another classy expression with purity and perfume, lift and crystalline focus of red cherry fruits and ruby grapefruit citrus. The palate retains super freshness but is buffered by dense fleshy sweet red cherry pastille fruits, red apple spice and tart sour black plum. Dense and delicious, classically attention grabbing and opulently powerful. Fabulous!

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

A rather exotic aromatic melange reveals itself on this opulent, ripe Montestefano with pronounced notes of cherry confit, graphite and kirsch liquor. The palate is seductively opulent and powerful, expressive and fleshy with a flamboyant mouth filling intensity, sweet cherry pastille fruits, grilled herbs, wild strawberry and a fleshy, creamy, soft plump finish that caresses the palate on a long persistent length. Bit of a show stopper.

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

Tasting the Suave and Sophisticated Sassicaia 2017 – A Triumph of Terroir and Winemaking Over Vintage Conditions…

It’s become a bit of a tradition to launch the new vintages of the Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia estate in London. This year’s launch took on even greater significance being the highly anticipated successor vintage to the universally praised 100 point Sassicaia 2016. So no pressure then!

These special vineyards that go into the making of Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia cover only around 97 hectares of the total 2.500 hectare DOCG Sassicaia Bolgheri estate. Far from an easy vintage, 2017 has the structure and character to emphasise how incredibly special Tenuta San Guido’s terroir is and also how skilled their winemaking team have become.

Tasting with Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta in London at the Sassicaia launch.

Despite the sustained higher temperatures throughout the growing season and summer together with very little rainfall, the Sassicaia 2017 has retained a remarkable purity, elegance and precision in bottle.

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2018, IGT Toscana, 14 Abv.

A fabulous entry level expression that is the only wine in the Sassicaia range that incorporates some indigenous Sangiovese. This year the blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% Sangiovese. The nose shows a wonderful, forward, overt fragrance with alluring notes of violets, crushed red cherries, black currant pastille, and salty black damson plums with just the gentlest dusting of vanilla pod spice and bruleed coffee beans. The palate is deliciously mouth watering and fresh, displaying vibrant crunchy acids, intense cranberry, tart red cherry and an all round electric brightness. The palate is medium weight but seamlessly smooth and silky and carries on the tradition of Le Difese’s accessibility twinned with generosity. This is the consummate allrounder that will accompany fine cuisine or suffice as a leisurely evening glass of red on the sofa. Drinking from release, you can expect this wine to show well for 5 to 8 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2018, IGT Toscana, 13.5 Abv.

A wine first created in 2000, this IGT blend has always stuck to a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 40% Merlot. Initially a little bit reticent on the nose, reminds one that this wine is a serous creation in its own right. Often said to show at its peak after around 10 years, there are many examples that drink well after 15 or 20 years such is its pedigree. The aromatics show less overt fruit intensity but a greater array of dark, broody black berry, sweet dusty tobacco and mineral graphite notes. On the palate there is superb attention to detail, impressive focus and a seamless, elegant finesse. The acids are well integrated and the fruit opulence plush but classically balanced. Light on its feet, this sleek, silky Guidalberto caresses the mouth gently and finishes with beautifully textured elegance and powder fine tannin grip. A very harmonious creation with plenty of star quality. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2017, DOCG Bolgheri Sassicaia, 14 Abv. 

Bottle in January 2020, this 2017 blend is made up of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and also 15% Cabernet Franc from vines of which 60% to 70% are 20 years or older on the same site up the mountain near the Castello where the original plantings where made in 1942. Using around 33% new French oak again, the 2017 vintage yielded around 200,000 bottles or around -15% less than the 2016 vintage. On the nose, the aromatics speak of a warmer, riper vintage with pronounced notes of black currants, spiced black plums and black orchard fruits. The palate is plush and opulent with all the telltale Sassicaia finesse and elegance coming to the fore. If anything, the tannins are sweeter, softer and flesher than the more masculine 2016 expression. Suave and sophisticated, this 2017 imposes its own character from the start and leads with plenty of dried rosemary and thyme herb complexity, silky cassis intensity and a soft, winter fruit compote finish with a dusting of botanical herbs. But textural harmony, seamless balance and fruit purity remain at the core of this wine’s essence. Another stunning wine delivered. Drink this from release and comfortably over the next 15 to 20 years.

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

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia is distributed to the UK trade by Armit Wines.

Release price for the 2017 is circa +35% up on the 2016 at around £850-£875 IB per 6.

The Bold and the Beautiful – Tasting the New Paolo Conterno Barolo Cru Ginestra 2015…

It all started way back in 1886, when Paolo Conterno founded the Casa della Ginestra winery dedicated to the production of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto wines. A hard worker with a mind of great intuition, he devoted the most favourable parts of the Ginestra hillside to the growing of the best grapes, subdividing them by type, exposure and terrain.

He also had the foresight to predict a growing demand from a market of educated connoisseurs for superior quality red wines, leading to him selling his own wines in wooden casks produced in his own cellar. Succeeded by his son Carlo and his wife Giuseppina, the winery was subsequently run by Paolo and Caterina Conterno and now today by their son, Giorgio Conterno. As in the past, each generation has made its own individual contribution both in the winery and also in the vineyards.

Their 10 hectares of calcareous-clayey loam is favourably situated at an altitude of between 300 and 350 metres on slopes of up to 38 degrees, prevalently exposed to the south and in part to the south east. The Ginestra Cru in Monforte d’Alba is today one of the most important vineyards in Barolo producing iconic age worthy Nebbiolo red wines.

Paolo Conterno Barolo Cru Ginestra 2015, 15 Abv., Piedmont

2015 was a warm and opulent vintage in Barolo producing wines with great breadth, depth, power and concentration. The aromatics on this Ginestra are bold and punchy with layer upon layer of salty red liquorice, sun dried red cherries, pink musk and aniseed root nuances. The palate is ultra compact and powerful, almost muscular with a real intensity of sweet mineral tannins, raisined cranberries, stewed wild strawberries and a subtle, savoury, earthy, creamy textured finish. A very confident, ripe Nebbiolo expression from one of Barolo’s great Cru terroirs. Should drink well in its youth and also perform over the long term.

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

Fattoria Le Pupille Releases Their Impressive New Saffredi 2017 Super Tuscan in London… 

The original Sangiovese based wines of Le Pupille were made under the Morellino di Scansano appellation. So when Elisabetta Geppetti proceeded with her vision to add an international dimension to the estate’s wines, the Maremma’s first quality Super Tuscan was born.

The Cabernet Sauvignon based blend Saffredi was first released in 1989 with the 1987 vintage, made in consultation with Giacomo Tachis, one of the founding fathers of Italy’s Super Tuscan wine style. The Tachis era ended in 1996 and subsequent consultants involved with Saffredi have included Riccardo Cotarella, ex-Chateau Latour winemaker, Christian Le Sommer and currently, Luca del Toma.

As various consulting winemakers have taken the reigns and made their mark, so the Saffredi blend has slowly evolved, starting off initially as a pure Cabernet Sauvignon wine until 1990, after which Merlot, Syrah and Alicante have all played differing supporting roles. Today, the modern expression of Saffredi relies on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all harmoniously blended to produce one of the most highly sought after reds in Tuscany.

Tasting at the London launch with Elisabetta Geppetti’s daughter, Clara Gentili.

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2017, IGT Toscana, 14.5 Abv.

The 2017 marks the 30th vintage of this now iconic wine and is made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. Impressive quality delivered in a warm, challenging vintage. The aromatics are super perfumed, exotic and seductive with layers of cherry sherbet, crushed limestone, tart cassis and sour Victoria plums. The fine grained tannins are sweet and rounded supported by delicious freshness and vibrant acid brightness. Certainly no shortage of intense strawberry and black berry fruits, cherry spice, pomegranate, cola and subtle hints of graphite minerality and wood spice on the finish. A triumph of quality for the vintage and every bit as good as the lauded 2016!

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

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)