Benchmark Sauvignon Blanc to Die For – Tasting the Impressive Neil Ellis Amica 2017…

Even though I love a great Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, New Zealand or South Africa, I still need to be in the mood for it whereas a great Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay will tick all my boxes any day of the week and accompanying almost any food. However, acting as host and moderator for a recent 67 Pall Mall Zoom Tasting with Warren Ellis gave me the opportunity to revisit this incredible barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc from the Neil Ellis winery. Wow, what a revelation!

The source of the fruit for this wine is a little single vineyard site from the Jonkershoek Valley. The soil consists of decomposed granite and quartz. Grapes were harvested at 21.8 – 22.4ºB with a total acidity of 8.69 g/ and pH of 3.18. The grapes were whole bunch pressed using a Champagne pressing cycle to ensure only the finest quality juice being used. The fermentation was occurred naturally in 500 litre puncheons of which 20% was new. The wine spent 9 months in barrel. (500l).

Neil Ellis Amica Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 13% Abv.

What a cool. intense, complex glassful. Just brimming with notes of sweet bread fruit, white citrus, white blossom, gooseberry and yellow grapefruit. The wine is rich but exotic evolving slowly in the glass while the palate is power packed, intense and electric with intense, savoury, grassy notes of green quince, green plum, tart yellow grapefruit and savoury, leesy, gooseberry notes. There is oak there but to mention it as a specific descriptive is to deny it’s all encompassing, broad-armed embrace that imbues the wine with extra elegance and grace. This has got to be the most interesting, mouthwatering, juicy, complex Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted in a long time, from anywhere! Superb now, but will age well for another decade or more!

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

Available in the UK from distributor Gonzales Byass.

One From the Cellar – Tasting the Iconic Porseleinberg Syrah 2016 From the Swartland…

When one talks about fine wine in a South African context, several key names instantly spring to mind, none more so than Porseleinberg especially when contemplating world class Syrah expressions. The ever so slightly reclusive, enigmatic brand that hides away in the sleepy Swartland has slowly, quietly but resolutely risen to the top over the past decade.

Porseleinberg is of course the famous Swartland property owned by iconic South African winery Boekenhoutskloof which has always been managed separately allowing it to express its very own individual brilliance, authenticity as well as eccentricities. With the extreme, dry schistous terroir where the Syrah vines of Porseleinberg are planted, comes an exceptional quality that is often only found globally in the most extreme, marginal fine wine vineyards.

This revolutionary long-term project inspired by Rhoneaphile Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, brought Callie Louw in as the vineyard farmer as well as the the winemaker to produce a dense, classical, powerfully tannic, age worthy Northern Rhône inspired red Syrah wine.

Winemaker Callie Louw on his last trip to London.

Now appreciated and revered the world over by collectors and connoisseurs alike who admire Callie Louw’s unwavering old-school commitment to producing powerfully structured terroir driven Syrahs that at the very least demand 5 to 8+ years ageing from release before drinking. After having tasted all their vintage releases since their maiden 2010, all the wines appear to still be on a steady upward maturity curve with years of potential development lying ahead. Having said that, the 2014 and 2016 do seem to be slightly more approachable examples for the impatient.

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

An impressive offering generously loaded with aromatics of black plum, baked earth, molasses, charcoal and savoury black fruits with a piquant black peppercorn hint. The palate is slightly grainy but soft, sumptuous and creamy textured, showing what an opulent, forward, extroverted offering this 2016 is. Far more accessible, overtly hedonistic and plush in the mouth with a broad, expansive mouthfeel, vibrant focused extract and intensity, a subtle but elegantly fresh acidity and a dense, compact mineral-laden olive tapenade tinged finish. Drink this vintage now and over the next 8 to 15+ years. (12,000 bottles produced.)

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

Fine Wine Safari New Release Tasting Notes – Champagne Dom Perignon 2010 Cuvee…

The 2010 harvest in Champagne was a big contrast to the previous two massively successful vintages in 2008 and 2009 released from most major houses in Champagne.

In 2010, big rains hit the region in mid-August leading to some swelling in the berries and even possible botrytis. The crop then ripened very rapidly with serious worries about rot spreading especially among the more susceptible Pinot varieties as damp mild conditions persisted into mid-September. But the saving grace was the change in weather halfway through the harvest with very warm days and cool nights helping to ripen the cooler vineyards as well as restrict any further spread of rot.

“It was a year of contrasts with fragile, painstakingly-sorted Pinots and triumphant Chardonnay.”

Champagne Dom Perignon 2010, 12% Abv.

This fabulous 2010 release is a super complex and intricate expression showing an immediacy and upfront appeal with delicious brioche notes you just wish you could find on every bottle of Champagne you opened. Aromatics are intense and piercing with a real citric, briney sea breeze sour dough immersion followed by a zippy, rich nuanced palate that sings with a well orchestrated performance of pear purée, brioche hints, crisp acidity and a harmonious, comforting apple strudel finish. Leave the 2008 in your cellar and embrace this lovely 2010 Champagne now and over the next 10+ years.

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

Revisiting a Unicorn Red – Tasting the Maiden Savage Wines Girl Next Door Syrah 2014…

Duncan Savage has just released his very impressive 2019 vintages to the market. Yet again he has created an impressive line up of whites and reds that continue to earn him new fine wine followers the world over.

To mark his new releases, I thought I’d pull something special out the cellar and revisit one of his rarest wines… the maiden vintage of the Girl Next Door Syrah 2014. Chatting to Duncan recently during lockdown, I tried to discover a little bit more about this fabled vineyard that produces one of the most profound expressions of Syrah in South Africa.

Tasting the Savage Girl Next Door 2014 along side a Jean-Luc Jamet Syrah 2017.

Running through recent vintages… “2015 was super light and I had to pick early! The birds totally fucked us…” Duncan explains in his own gregarious style. “2017 probably delivered as good as this block gets and 2018 revealed a more black olive, savoury character with a much more overt saline note perhaps due to the smaller water stressed canopy. But in 2019 the vines looked great after a massive mulching exercise, and the finished wine is incredible. Looking ahead, 2020 is probably the best yet and will be released in June/July 2021. In my mind, quality definitely tracks the vineyard health, the vintage and ones overall understanding of the two” says Duncan.

From a vineyard yielding a notoriously tiny production volume of around 2 x 500L barrels, Duncan produced two barrels in 2014, similarly small amounts in 2015, nothing at all in 2016, only 700 bottles in 2017, just over 1000 bottles in 2018, 1400 odd bottles in 2019 and around 1600 bottles in 2020. “It’s slowly getting better with the use of nets to protect the fruit against the birds and as we get to know the block better and better. We also weened the vineyard off water from 2017 and it is completely dry-land grown now” explains Duncan.

Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2014, WO Cape Peninsula, 12.5 % Abv.

A mythical wine in so many ways that creates extra expectations. When freshly opened, it shows a tight concertinaed aromatic profile. Slowly and gently, the wine unfurls to reveal notes of roasted Autumn chestnuts, savoury cured meats, liquorice and stewed winter berries. There’s a creamy, lactic, brûléed black berry compote note with spicy hints of sweet black pepper, olive tapenade, grilled herbs and pureed black berry fruits. The palate is tight knit, taut and supremely composed showing a classical, earthy, restrained fruit concentration and an elegance that only the great Syrah wines of Cote Rotie, Hermitage and the Northern Rhône can offer. With 6 years of age there is very little evolution to speak of and only the most subtle, complex suggestion of secondary tertiary evolution. In my cellar, I’d happily leave extra bottles to slumber for a further 5-8 years with full confidence this wine will continue to age elegantly for 10 to 15+ years or more. A true unicorn wine produced in such small quantities that I can only suppose that very few of the original 1,300 bottles produced are still hiding in collectors’ dark cellars.

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

Fine Wine Safari New Release Review – Tasting the Catherine Marshall Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc 2019…

I first came across Catherine Marshall’s Fermented in Clay Amphorae Chenin Blanc a couple years back with the 2017 example that really impressed me and if I am not mistaken, was one of my favourite whites of the year. I love the expression of authenticity that wines take on when fermented in clay amphorae vessels and Cathy has done a fabulous job on this wine year after year.

The 2019 vintage in the Cape is another exceptional year and for all the wines I have already tasted, not one has not lived up to my high expectations. This specific Chenin Blanc was made from Elgin fruit grown on a combination of deep clay soils and old bush vines on Laterite soils. Once fermentation was completed in the clay amphorae, 500 litres was decanted to oak casks for further maturation.

The wine in the French coopered barrels was partially allowed to go through malolactic fermentation and further matured for 11 months. The clay amphorae portion had no malolactic fermentation so that the fresher flinty characters would be maintained. After 11 months, the two components were blended and lightly filtered before bottling.

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

(2.6 RS g/l, 3.32 pH, 5.8 g/l Acidity)

This beautiful Chenin Blanc really is a gorgeous wine. I loved the 2017 and 2018 but this 2019 seems to reach an even higher, more honed level of quality and purity. The aromatics combine intense notes of crushed gravel, dusty baked granite, dried straw and hints of fynbos and white lilies with nuances of dried pineapple slices, fresh yellow orchard fruits and a delicate pinch of fresh lemon peel. The palate is fabulously broad, glycerol and mouth coating with multi-layers of tart bright pineapple pastille, crunchy green pears, lemon cordial and a subtle hint of tart juicy tangerine fruit. Lovely stone fruit characters resonate on the palate with an incredible intensity, a piercing line of acidity and the most agreeable, integrated liquid minerality on the finish. Undoubtedly a great vintage handle expertly by Cathy with just that extra little je ne said pas added by the fermentation in the clay amphorae. I’m utterly smitten by this delicious, soulful wine. Drink from 2020 to 2030+.

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

Fine Wine Safari New Release Notes – Tasting the Impressive New Gaja Barbaresco 2017…

July 2020 sees the new release of the famed Gaja Barbaresco 2017 vintage produced from 14 vineyards situated in the municipality of Barbaresco. The land, at a height between 250 and 330m above the sea level, covers a surface of 21.4 hectares and vines are between 40 and 45 years old on average.

After the abundance of rainfall at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, a suitable amount of water combined with the warm spring, led to an earlier than anticipated bud break, which occurred 15 days earlier than usual. By mid-April 2017, three days of frost had hit the Barbaresco area, leading to a strict selection in the vineyards which resulted in the loss of -10% of the overall production.

However, the sudden drop in temperatures led to a positive slow-down of the vegetative growth cycle, whereas the summer proved to be one of the warmest in the last 10 years. Overall, 2017 will be remembered for the healthiness of the grapes, due to the dry growing season and for the overall drop in the production which the Gaja estate estimated at up to -20% to -30% by the time of picking. The harvest began on September 13th with the Merlot, followed by the Barbera and ending with the late ripening Nebbiolo grapes on October 20th.

Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2017, 14.2 % Abv.

The 2017 Barbaresco is a vintage of low quantity but undoubtedly high quality. After the warm dry vintage, the final expression is one of concentration of fruit as well as acidity and tannins from grapes with a low juice to skin ratio. The nose is perfumed and inviting from the first pull of the cork, showing a complex bouquet of cherry blossom, rose petals, red liquorice, sour red and black cherries, sun raisined strawberries and a classical, cranberry and aniseed root spice. Powerful in the mouth yet notably fine grained in texture and classically mineral with sweet velvety tannins balancing the fruit concentration of red cherries, sour plums and hints of ripe blood orange. Despite the heat of the vintage, the wine retains impressive linearity and classical restraint more reminiscent of a vintage like 2015 while the fruit of the 2017s are purer, more elegant and harmonious and a little less plump, fleshy and rounded in comparison. A beautifully expressive wine showing fabulous freshness, precise and considerate extraction and a grand Nebbiolo intensity and persistence. Drink from release until the aromatics and palate start to tighten up and then over the next 15+ years.

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

(The Gaja wines are imported and distributed to the UK wine trade by Hatch Mansfield.)

Fine Wine Safari New Release Tasting Notes – Crystallum Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir 2019…

This small boutique winery was established in 2007 by brothers Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson. Their father, Peter, was of course one of the pioneers in the production of cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at Bouchard Finlayson, laying the perfect foundations for Peter-Allan and Andrew to follow in his footsteps but with their own new label, Crystallum.

Crystallum is now regarded as one of the top wineries in South Africa with fruit sourced from some new vineyards. All of the wines are fermented using indigenous yeasts and new oak has gradually been reduced to focus on the wines’ brightness and fruit purity.

The 2019 Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir was produced from fruit grown in a single vineyard – one of the highest in the Hemel-en-Aarde region. This region is characterised by a moderate climate which results in delayed ripening and a late harvest. The soils are clay and shale in composition, which allows optimum fruit development while naturally restricting vigour and keeping crop levels low.

Once a location for a film based on the life of Napoleon, the ‘Cuvée Cinema’ vineyard produces some of the most intense, age worthy Pinot Noir in South Africa from Dijon clones.

Crystallum Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5% Abv.

This wine is always one of the most opulent and expressive wines in the Crystallum line up and this 2019 is another exceptional offering produced from 100% Ridge fruit with 70% whole-bunch fermentation. The bouquet is super fragrant and exotic with notes of Indian spices, violets and rose petals, dried leaves and subtle hints of forest floor and the most attractive melange of red currants, sour cherry and black bramble berries. The signature plushness and elegance of the palate is well measured and beautifully pure with marked notes of pink musk, red cherries, hints of cranberry brightness and a kiss of cinnamon spice on the finish. The tannins are suave and velvety lending enough structure and frame to give this wine a wonderful shape in the mouth. A really fabulous expression of Pinot Noir that could comfortably rub shoulders with some of Burgundy’s finest wines. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (6,744 bottles produced)

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines End an Agonising 5 Year Wait with the Release of Olerasay Segundo…

For many, 2020 will undoubtedly be a year to forget, an annus horribilis of pandemics, economic crises and lockdown blues. But while it might be marked for being a challenging year all-round, it will also hopefully be remembered in fine wine circles for the highly anticipated second release of the famed Mullineux sweet wine, the Olerasay Straw Wine made from air dried Chenin Blanc grapes.

The Olerasay No.1 or “Primiero” as Chris and Andrea call it, was an inspired creation that fractionally blended multiple vintages of their prestigious Chenin Blanc Straw Wine into a mellow, ultra complex multi-vintage blend covering components parts from 2008 to 2014. With the reputation for the Mullineux Straw Wine already well established, the Olerasay Primiero took the wine world by storm and garnered sky high scores such as 99/100 from Neal Martin at Vinous but also a rare 99/100 from the Fine Wine Safari.

A truly incredible wine, the Primiero Olerasay sadly came and went all too quickly in the retail market and by the time many consumers woke up to the greatness of this wine, it was completely unobtainable except at auction. Five years later we are finally being treated to the release of Olerasay No.2 or “Segundo” which is made up of component vintages from 2008 to 2019.

Straw Wine Chenin Blanc before pressing.

Grapes are sourced from the Mullineux’s own vineyards (owned or leased), primarily from the Schist based soils of the Kasteelberg and the decomposed Granite based soils of the Paardeberg. Vineyards are picked at the normal time with around 22-23 Brix sweetness but are then dried outdoors in the shade under nets for three to four weeks allowing the moisture in the grapes to evaporate naturally, concentrating sugars, acids and the natural Chenin Blanc flavours.

However, the vineyards selected every year are always the blocks showing higher acids at full ripeness, very healthy clean bunches of just the right size with grapes not too tightly packed together to avoid any problems with Rot.

Mullineux Olerasay No.2 Straw Wine Chenin Blanc NV, 8.3% Abv.

Always 100% Chenin Blanc, the Segundo was bottled on the 17th of January 2020, producing 6,180 375cl bottles or 515 cases of 6. The total RS at bottling was 331 g/l balanced by a TA of 11.3 g/l and a pH of 3.36. The final blend is bottled unfiltered and unfortified from 225 litre French oak barrels in the solera. Beautiful old gold yellow, the aromatics on this wine are spectacular! Every time you take a sniff, the wine offers up yet another layer of complexity. Always vibrant and fresh, the nose shows truly delicious notes of lemon cordial, passion fruit, sweet white peaches, honey on warm white toast, grapefruit preserve and zesty piquant notes of tangerines and Seville Orange marmalade. Utterly mesmerising, you could easily sit and nose a glassful for an age before even contemplating taking a sip. The rich fruit aromatics are followed by yet more dried fruit characteristics with pronounced nuances of dried apricots and pineapple slices, grilled nuts, dusty granite and blood oranges. The palate too is enthralling and delivers on all the expectations. Dense, creamy and textured, the wine remains fresh to the very end with the help of a razor sharp balancing acidity. This may have 331 g/l residual sugar but at no point does the palate feel clawing or over the top. It really is the luxurious complexity combined with the vibrant freshness and purity of fruit that make this wine a real knockout. No oxidative sherry or toffee notes to speak off, just a beautiful intensity of candied fruit. As this is a solera style sweet wine, you can certainly drink it on release without any guilt but it will of course age practically forever! Drink from 2020 to 2060+. (6,180 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Three Vintages of One of South Africa’s Greatest Icon Cabernet Sauvignons – Reviewing the New Release Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017…

In the words of winemaker Christo le Riche… “2017 was a great vintage!” The stand out factor that links it to 2015, and the possible reason these two vintages are putting up their hands as some of the greatest ever in modern South African winemaking history, is the moderate yet consistent weather the winelands experienced during ripening. Chatting to Christo, he feels confident that “…pre-veraison, the drought worked its magic, but it seems that having few to no heat waves and a long autumn was certainly the key to greatness even though evenings were slightly warmer on average.”

While many wineries are super proud of the final in-bottle quality of their wines, it was by no means an easy vintage. Christo explains… “In the winery it was a complete nightmare. All the Cabs, except one block, ripened within eight days. In 2020 we picked over 29 days in comparison. In 2017 we ran out of tank space, forcing me to become creative with fermentation vessels. But luckily, everything worked out in the end and the quality is exceptional. The IPT (total tannin levels) on the wines were the highest I have seen. It was also the year I met my wife!” In many ways, Christo reminded me of the comments from Bordeaux winemakers during both the 2009 and 2010 harvests, two of the greatest vintages in the region since the epic 1989-1990 duo. All that the winemakers could talk about was the highest IPT readings they had ever recorded, yet the wines were still silky, smooth and soft with delicious balancing ripeness and fabulous finesse.

So when it came to tasting and reviewing the exciting new Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, I thought I would do my tasting a little bit differently. Christo kindly sent me a bottle of the 2016, which I had not tasted yet either, along with the new 2017 which is only due for release towards the end of the year, and then I added one of my last 2015s to the line up. Finally, inspired by Christo’s comments about the wines IPTs, I decided to add a top bottle of Bordeaux red from a similar vintage into the line up to help calibrate all the scores. I chose the classic Leoville Barton 2016 because not only is it unquestionably a benchmark winery, but the wine has been scored 95+/100 from The Wine Advocate and 97/100 from the Wine Spectator magazine and was also crowned their Number 1 Wine of the Year in 2019! Big kudos indeed.

The Mini Le Riche Vertical Tasting

Wine 1:

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

The generosity of the epic 2015 vintage has without question of doubt produced a really beautiful expression of pure Cabernet Sauvignon… as well as possibly one of the greatest red wine vintages ever in South Africa. What is most striking about this wine is its incredible purity and perfume that rises out of the glass imperiously in multiple waves of fragrant cherry blossom, violets, potpourri and crushed rose petals. It possesses copious amounts of mocha, sweet tobacco leaf, dried herbs, cedar spice, black currant coulis and a delicious earthy, brambly, wild forest berry complexity. The palate continues to show such sophistication and textural seduction with classical Cabernet flavours filling every corner of the mouth. Still beautifully charming, but a little less open-knit and expressive than it was even last year as it starts to perhaps enter its slumber and shut down a little. Undoubtedly, this wine reveals the class of a truly great vintage with a full bodied fleshy weight, a finely delineated purity and the most charming harmonious balance and intensity. Start drinking this wine in 3-5 years time and over the next 25+ years. It’s a true thing of beauty.

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

Wine 2:

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

The 2016 Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was always going to be a highly scrutinised creation following the incredible 2015. But hats off to Christo Le Riche, he has conjured up another exceptional effort. When you are talking about one of the leading proponents of Cabernet Sauvignon in the country, I guess there aren’t really “off vintages” in any real sense. Where the 2016 departs from the 2015 is in its plumper, rounder, fleshier texture and palate weight. Still fabulously pure fruited and approachable, the nose boasts wonderful overt aromatics of cedar spice, plumy richness, violets and vanilla pod, exotic blackberry preserve, sweet tobacco leaf and complexing mineral graphite notes. Full bodied, plump and showy, the palate has very attractive curves and stands out as an exceptional effort in a hot, dry vintage. The tannins are svelte, soft and silky and the mouthfeel fleshy, creamy but intense, with an admirable salinity and freshness on the long, pure black fruited finish. The wine is not as strict or linear as the 2015 but more generous already at this young age. It’s an exceptionally attractive pure Cabernet nevertheless. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (Le Riche has created only 4,500 bottles of this particular reserve, marking their second smallest vintage to date.)

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

Wine 3:

Chateau Leoville Barton 2016, Deuxieme Cru Classe Saint Julien, 13% Abv.

The Château Léoville Barton comprises 48 hectares of vines on the north side of Saint Julien, with south-facing hillsides with elevation. The 2016 is a classic blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest of the blend made up by Merlot. The result is a wine that displays all the classic Left Bank Bordeaux notes with a strong graphite core but also vivid notes of dried violets, rose petals and potpourri spice. Regarded as one of the top wines in a vintage that is now considered benchmark on the Left Bank, the palate is a little tight and subdued to start but once you warm up the engine, this wine reveals a lot of horse power of blue and blackberry fruit flavours, dusty graphite and liquid minerality, salty oyster shell nuances and an intense, saline, crème de cassis finish with just the finest hint of liquorice candy. The tannins are still bold and powerful as you would expect on a young Bordeaux of this quality, but the whole package is tight, compact and super impressive. Opened for the purpose of benchmarking the quality of the Le Riche Reserve Cabernets, but otherwise, its certainly not a wine I would anticipate drinking for another 10+ years at least. (Technically speaking, at 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, this could be labelled a varietal Cabernet.)

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

Wine 4:

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

Tasted alongside the 2015 and 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for added perspective reveals a wine that is quite simply drop dead gorgeous. While 2017 is of course another excellent vintage for reds in the Cape and the quality of this icon was always expected to be high, I was not anticipating it being this good! The aromatics are super fragrant and exuberant, showing intricate perfumed notes of violets and lilacs, cinnamon stick, cedar and sandalwood, cigar box and wonderfully complex herbal hints of thyme, dried fennel seeds and Chinese five spice. There is an impressive elegance and gravitas to the silky, finely textured palate which boasts all the classical Cabernet notes of black currants and black plum, crème de cassis, graphite and savoury, earthy nuances of freshly tilled earth. A beautifully proportioned, multi-dimensional wine that shows such a harmonious balance and sophisticated composure reserved for only the finest red wines around the world. Medium bodied, super elegant and weightlessly intense, the fruit flavours are perfectly ripe and precise, growing in the mouth and energised by an exhilarating freshness that holds everything in place so effortlessly. Certainly one of the most ‘complete’ wines I have tasted from the 2017 vintage so far. Drink this beauty on release but be sure to hold back a couple of cases for long term cellaring of 10, 15 or 20+ years.

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

The 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is scheduled for release at the end of 2020.

Fine Wine Safari New Release Review – Tasting the IDDA Etna Rosso From Angelo Gaja and Alberto Graci…

Sicilian wines are now super trendy undoubtedly helped in no small part by the fabulous tourism industry on the island and the incredible gastronomic feasts tourists enjoy on their visits. Sicilian food is some of the very best! Wine too is part of the life blood of Sicily, just as it is on the mainland, but the wines of Etna are cut from a totally different cloth. They are not the usual ripe, plush sunshine offerings of Nero d’Avola but far more intricate, earthy, ethereal mineral expressions that have more in common with Burgundy than the Mediterranean.

So IDDA is an exciting new joint venture winery project between Angelo Gaja of Piedmontese fame and Alberto Graci. Together they own 20 hectares of vineyards in the villages of Belpasso and Biancavilla which are currently planted with Nerello Mascalese and Carricante. 2017 is the first vintage of the IDDA Etna Rosso red and a pretty smart effort it is as well.

Gaja Idda 2017 Etna Rosso, 14.5% Abv.

A lot of expectations are built around tasting this maiden release of Gaja’s Etna Rosso, the first from Angelo and Gaia Gaja’s new project on the island of Sicily. This is an archetypal Nerello Mascalese expression with fabulous savoury earthy berry aromatics, overt sous bois, hedge row spice, volcanic minerality and a high toned basaltic, stony dustiness that attempts to court the subtle fragrant herbal notes and dried potpourri sapidity lurking beneath. Unmistakably Sicilian … until one starts to imagine sleek Nebbiolo notes lurking in the glass. The texture is certainly classic Nerello Mascalese and teases the palate with the lighter, sleeker more supple notes similar to glass of Pinot Noir cut with a slug of Langhe Nebbiolo and its accompanying tannin rusticity. All in all, this is a very precise wine, expertly crafted and moulded with vibrantly fresh acids and a seamlessly polished accessibility. Never easy launching a maiden vintage of any wine, but this expression certainly shows the incredible potential for future, more finely honed releases. Drink and enjoy this wine now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.

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