Vietti’s New Release Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco 2019 Augurs Well for the New Vintages of Barolo Coming Soon…

The 2019 Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco might be an easy-drinking wine but it shows all the sophistication of Nebbiolo fruit that could easily pass for a village Barolo with grapes often sourced from Cru vineyards such as Fiasco, Bussia, Fossati, Bricco delle Viole and Ravera di Monteforte. Indeed, the name “Perbacco” as the story goes, translates into a somewhat entertaining “golly gosh” or “wow” because that was the reported reaction winemaker Luca Currado’s mother made when she first tasted the wine and was told it was not a Barolo!

The grapes for this wine are grown in various selected vineyards sites mostly in the Barolo area and a minor part in Barbaresco. The vineyard’s soils are made up of mostly marl (limestone in combination with clay) and the alcoholic fermentation generally lasts around three to four weeks at controlled temperatures (28°-32°) with the subsequent malolactic fermentation continuing in stainless steel tanks. Each parcel is processed and aged separately until the components are selected to be included for either the final blend of Perbacco or else left to age an extra two years longer to become DOCG Barolo Castiglione. Total ageing time for Perbacco wine components is approximately 16 to 18 months before bottling.

Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2019, 14% Abv.

Deep, dark and richly coloured, there is every suggestion this is going to be a big old wine! On the nose, the Nebbiolo fruit delivers aromatic layers of ripe sweet red cherries, red liquorice, hints of crème de cassis together with sweet herbal notes of freshly chopped parsley. But it’s on the palate where the true power and pedigree of this wine is revealed, showcasing intense concentrated small berry fruits, delicious purity and intensity, compact concentrated tannin extract and plenty of textured glycerol mouthfeel laced with pithy cherry and peppery spice notes. With quality and intensity like this, you can easily see why the Langhe Nebbiolo denomination is one of the fastest growing wine categories in the entire Piedmont region. Drink now with some rich wintery cuisine or else bury in your cellar for 3 to 5+ more years before revisiting.

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

Napa Valley’s Icon Estate Diamond Creek Release their New 2019 Trio of Reds…

Diamond Creek produces Single-Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from their unique terroirs on Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain. Produced with 100% estate-grown fruit, Gravelly Meadow, Red Rock Terrace and Volcanic Hill each express their geologically diverse micro sites whilst creating wonderfully complex and long-lived wines.

The 2019 vintage had a smaller crop than 2018 allowing the wines to perhaps show a little more concentration and depth from the lower resulting yields. The 2019 wines were still made and blended by previous owner Phil Ross but finished off and bottled by current winemaker Graham Wehmeier working under the new ownership.

Zoom tasting with winemaker Graham Wehmeier

The 2019 growing season offered excellent conditions with parallels in quality to the 2018 vintage with one exception – lower than expected yields. 2019 was also the first fully organic vintage for the estate. In 2018, the estate harvested 50 tons of grapes and in 2019, only 40 tons. A mild, wet spring led into a long summer of steady ripening. 2019 saw long hang times and a steady increase in phenolic ripeness. Selective hand picking began in early October followed by careful sorting and winemaking.

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow 2019, Napa Valley, 14.6% Abv.

78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Gravelly sandy based soils with the lowest yields shows a fabulously deep black opaque black cherry colour and seductive aromatics of sweet black berry, black currant, melted liquorice, crushed basalt, graphite and a pinch of sweet cinnamon oak spice.

On the palate, the impressive fruit concentration and depth is matched by stony, grippy mineral tannins, lashings of more salty black liquorice, blueberry spice and a rich vein of black currant and caramel cream intensity. A wine with lovely focused power, a sympathetic harmony, textural symmetry and plenty of generosity. Just Awesome.

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

Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace 2019, Napa Valley, 14.5% Abv.

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Red iron soils yield a rich, opulent expressive nose of blueberry, red plum, mulberry, cassis, salty red liquorice and subtle iron filing wafts. There is a brighter, more fragrant red fruited feel to the steeply terraced fruit which naturally receives less direct sunlight.

The palate too is a picture of elegance and restraint with cool elegant layers of spicy red and black berry fruits, spicy red plum, hints of graphite, crème brûlée and buttered brown toast smothered in red currant jam. The tannins are subtly drying and sophisticated but lifted up by a wonderfully fresh frame of vivacious acids. Another beautiful expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

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

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 2019, Napa Valley, 14.5% Abv.

76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot.

This south-facing hillside terraced vineyard with its grey ashy volcanic sandy soils yields another big, bold expression with a suitably dark black opaque colour. But there is nothing broody about the wine’s aromatics that burst out the glass with notes of gingerbread, saline black currant, melted tar, stewed black cherries, camphor and hints of graphite.

The palate is focused and powerful with a big concentration of creamy black and blue berry fruits, very fine grained, stern, mineral graphite tannins and an incredibly compact, precise yet generous mouthfeel. Lovely balance and seductive power. A real WOW wine!

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

New Release Tasting – Assessing the New Quinta do Vale Meao Tinto 2019…

The 2019 Douro vintage was among the longest in recent years, lasting up to six weeks, from the first week of September to mid-October. For many wine producers, yields were closer to average following the exceptionally small years of 2017 and 2018. Few estates in the Douro have managed to build up such an impressive reputation as Quinta do Vale Meao and recent vintages have all been received with high critical acclaim.

The grapes for this immense estate wine come from a vineyard steeped in history and with the blending of only the best Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Barroca, and Tinto Cao, winemaker Xito Olazabal has turned this wine into a flag bearer for the Douro and Portugal. The Olazabal family, proud owners and descendants of the founder, Antonia Adelaide Ferreira, are now writing a significant chapter for this iconic estate and the region. Since 1998, Xito Olazabal has been working hard to understand the estate’s complex palette of grapes and terroirs and with his growing experience, skill, and attention to detail, the best out of the estate-grown grapes planted by soil type – alluvial, granite, and schist – are all fermented and aged separately. The resultant wines are then blended together, with different proportions each year, to best represent the estate’s overall terroir and each vintage’s individual character.

Quinto do Vale Meao Tinto 2019, Douro, 14% Abv.

2019 was a lauded vintage across many regions of Europe and this new resplendent expression of the Vale Meao tinto certainly displays wonderfully complex aromatics of pressed violets, sappy black currant, bramble berry spice, vanilla pod and an imposingly pronounced underlying minerality of graphite and crushed granite. The palate is incredibly focused and pinpoint with firm polished marble tannins, yet also weightless layers of black and blueberry fruit concentration all packaged and presented so meticulously. There is a delicious concentration and certainly no over ripe flavours but also a thrilling freshness to keep the whole palate texture glassy and sleek. The finish is stony, mineral and very serious suggesting that this wine could be one of the estate’s more age worthy examples. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Peter-Allan Finlayson Continues to Innovate – Tasting the Exciting New Gabrielskloof Amphora White…

With Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum and Gabrielskloof fame winning Wine Maker of the Year in the Tim Atkin South Africa Report 2021, there has been a lot of extra attention focused on him and the spectacular wines he produces under these two quality focused wine entities.

After a long absence from the UK due to the pandemic, Peter-Allan flew into London for a speedy visit of tastings and lunches before hot footing it up to Scotland to watch the rugby world champion Springboks dismantle a Scottish team that had only just beaten Australia the week before.

At our tasting, not only did we get to try a fabulous selection of Peter-Allan’s new release wines from Gabrielskloof and Crystallum, but he also managed to squeeze in a couple of new project wines from the Gabrielskloof Bot River winery. While South Africa certainly manages to confound the world’s critics on a regular basis with the exciting quality and styles of its Sauvignon Blancs, there is always room for further innovation… and here Peter-Allan has nailed it yet again with this superb new white.

Gabrielskloof Amphora Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

This is a very exciting new addition from the enormously talented Peter-Allan Finlayson. The wine shows an aromatic profile with incredible mineral tension and spice, dried herbs, fynbos, white peach tea and crunchy green pear. On the palate there’s a fabulously textured depth of fruit, tangy acids, layers of tangerine, green apple and a complexing stony minerality on the finish. A minimalist wine in its essence with incredible purity, crystalline depth of fruit and a wonderfully subtle pithy freshness. A real joy to drink and made in a style that will thrill devoted Sauvignon Blanc lovers as well as those preferring a more old world, less pungent expression of the grape. (Only 3,363 bottles produced.)

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

Naude Family Wines Releases the Follow-up Vintage of the Ground-Breaking Langpad Old Vine Colombard 2021…

Sometimes, consumer trends are set by the new kids on the block… like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. But when you learn that varieties like Colombard have been planted in the Cape since the early 1700’s, you realise that maybe we should all be taking another look at the potential of some of these latter-day unsung hero varieties. This is exactly what Ian Naude has been doing with a wonderful old vine Colombard vineyard planted in the Vredendal area in 1983.

Grown on soils that are almost 100% sand where flood irrigation is still the order of the day, the grapes were picked into small crates and then whole bunch pressed before undergoing natural fermentation after around three days maceration. Thereafter, the wine was kept on its fine lees for as long as possible to develop extra aromatic and textural complexity before being bottled as naturally as possible.

Picking up the reins of an established variety is one thing, but doing so with a complete outsider grape that has hardly ever been considered good enough for anything other than brandy distillation is another. Yet again, the maverick old vine innovator Ian Naude has struck a rich seam of vinous gold with his mouth-watering Langpad Colomard.

Naude Family Wines Old Vines Langpad Colombard 2021, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

1.3 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.3 pH

This second vintage of Naude’s old vine Colombard is something very special. Whether it’s all down to vintage quality or Ian’s swift mastering of this new grape in his repertoire I don’t know. The aromatics are positively explosive with rich intense notes of green apple pastille, crunchy white peaches, pear puree, dried herbs, wet hay and a seductive rich seam of cream soda. On the palate, there seems to be even more concentration and flavour intensity than the impressive maiden 2020 with these happy old vines spinning their spellbinding magic and delivering a wine with layer upon layer of enchanting peachy fruit, seductive hints of ripe guava, pear, quince and an underlying basaltic stony minerality that combines with a pronounced maritime salinity and a bright tart freshness. It is perhaps the almost volcanic feel to the minerality that makes many fans suggest that this wine reminds them of an old vine Assyrtiko wine from the Greek island of Santorini. Cool, crystalline and intense, this pristine white leaves little to the imagination and smothers the senses in pure, crystalline West Coast pleasure. Drink now on release or age for 5 to 8+ years.

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

Wines available in the UK from Museum Wines, Handford Wines and Vino SA.

Samantha Suddons Hits the Big Time with Her New VineVenom Cap Classique Thriller…

The world of wine, like life itself, can be a topsy turvy world of highs and lows. Perhaps it’s simply the yin and yang of life? So, after a few tumultuous years of change, Samantha Suddons, the once partner and shareholder in the now temporarily mothballed Terracura Wines project, has finally released her very own labour of love – a Method Cap Classique sparkling wine aged for over 5 years on its lees before disgorgement.

I met up with Samantha in London recently to unpick the mystery behind her new VineVenom label that was launched recently in South Africa. Her first wine under the brand is a killer Cap Classique sparkler from the 2015 vintage that she has labelled Serenade. 2015 you may ask? Well, if you know anything about Sam, you will know she is a Champagne and sparkling wine obsessive and while some have questioned how she managed to suddenly release a six year old MCC, the answer is simply that this was a passion project that was never really meant for commercial day of light, producing a wine made from the 2015 vintage which was originally intended for home consumption and sharing with friends.

But having recently disinvested from the Terracura Wines business, and looking for a new project, the VineVenom brand seemed the obvious next step. The maiden wine, a MCC blend of 68% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir and 14% Pinot Meunier from grapes bought in cool climate Elgin, the wine spent five years on its lees and received zero dosage. The wine was disgorged in November 2020, saw no malolactic fermentation and no oak treatment and was bottled with a 2.5 g/l RS.

VineVenom Serenade 2015 Cap Classique, WO Elgin, 12.3% Abv.

The wine shows a lovely creamy explosive mousse with a fine bubble, lovely bright tangy acids and a complex bouquet of green apple skins, grilled almonds, cardamom and spicy white citrus. The palate is full and expansive, tangy and fresh with sweet and sour acids, layers of citrus, yellow grapefruit, lemon cream biscuits, crunchy green apples and a long, dry, saline picante finish. Very impressive depth of fruit but also beautiful complexity, electric vibrancy and a stony cool climate minerality on the finish. A thoroughly accomplished wine that will titillate fellow Champagne and sparking wine devotees. (1,600 bottles produced.)

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

Sadly, as yet, there is no follow up Cap Classique to the 2015 maiden vintage. But fear not! Samantha has been busy at work producing an impressive dry Carignan / Touriga Nacional 2020 Rose, a rather premium tasting Swartland Flor Contact Chenin Blanc 2020 as well as a delicious, Vin de Soif styled Swartland 60% Syrah / 40% Touriga Nacional Rosado 2021. I tasted newly bottled samples of all of the above and they were seriously impressive. I look forward to reviewing them properly in due course closer to release. The empire building has begun in earnest.

The Ancient Vilafonte Soils Yield Another Blockbuster Series C Cabernet Sauvignon Red Blend in 2019…

The first post-drought vintage is about to be released by the team at the Vilafonte winery in Paarl and the 2019 vintage clearly illustrates what is possible when nature decides to co-operate to help yield some exceptional raw materials to make another iconic Cabernet Sauvignon based red blend. The discussions are already starting as to whether this blockbuster 2019 vintage will join other great historic vintages like 2003, 2009, 2015 and 2017 in redefining premium South African fine wine quality.

Speaking to winemaker Chris de Vries, the vintage was really a tale of two seasons. While rains initially remained elusive, there was an upswing in rainfall towards the end of the 2018 winter and continuing into spring and early summer. Weather fluctuations in the spring did however result in uneven bud-break and berry set. Conditions improved somewhat at the onset of summer with a warmer November being very conducive to healthy vineyard growth. Some uneven ripening was remedied with in-bunch sorting after veraison and by the time harvest arrived at the beginning of February, the fruit quality was looking exceptional.

Vilafonte Series C 2019, WO Paarl, 14.5% Abv.

The Series C 2019 is a blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 22 months in 74% new French oak barriques with the remainder aged in older, multiple passage barrels. A deep ruby-purple colour, this really is an impressively intense and striking blend that is seductive and alluring from the moment the cork is pulled. The aromatics offer glimpses of black cherries, earthy stewed black plums, black currants, fertile loam, tilled earth, freshly cut hedgerow together with hints of hoisin plum sauce and melted chocolate nuances. The palate is medium to full bodied but incredibly pure and polished with a confident, approachable accessibility, sleek rounded tannins and layer upon layer of seamless creamy black berry fruits, saline liquorice, sweet cedar spice and a subtle blueberry accent on the vibrant fresh finish. This wine does not try and hide its sweet seductive black fruits yet there is certainly a subtle subtext of earthy, stony minerality that runs in unison with all the vivid fruit concentration. But beware all the seductive sex appeal on this wine because only the foolish would drink all their bottles on release before allowing this serious blend to hit its straps after 8 to 10+ years ageing. A deliciously accomplished wine.

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

Another Sutherland Vineyards Stunner – Tasting their 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Release…

It’s when you taste wines like this that you realise that Elgin can do no wrong. Whether Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah or Petit Verdot, this little cool climate pocket is just simply a viticultural garden of Eden. Unfortunately for the grape vines, this cool microclimate oasis also produces some of the most incredibly high-quality apples that I have tasted from anywhere in the world, making vineyards compete for space and economics.

If vitis vinifera is going to fight back, it is going to be with wines like this Sutherland Cabernet Sauvignon that hearts and minds will be converted. Grown on classic Tukulu-Glenrosa soils, these 12-year-old vines seem to be in a very happy stage of development yielding 9.7 tons per hectare. The fruit was destemmed, hand sorted and fermented in stainless steel tanks with a pump over one a day. After fermentation, the wine was racked into 30% new French oak barrels and aged for 18 months before bottling.

Sutherland Cab Sauvignon 2017, WO Elgin, 13.98% Abv.

2.1 g/l RS | 3.56 pH | 5.3 g/l TA

Elgin always seems capable of producing some of the most beguiling expressions of wine whether made from Pinot Noir, Syrah, Petit Verdot or Cabernet Sauvignon. The aromatics of this beauty show a nuanced complexity of pressed violets, sweet black tea, saline black currant, sweet herbs, wet tobacco and subtle hints of black cherry preserve. True to the vintage, the palate is fabulously elegant with silky tannins, a fine-grained crushed stone minerality, a weightless intensity and a long, cool, fresh finish that is simply mouth-watering, all delivered in such an effortless style. This is surely one of the most enjoyable Cabernet Sauvignon reds you will experience from the 2017 vintage. Drink now and over the next 10 to 12+ years.

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

Duncan Savage’s Follow-up Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021 Release Hits the Thirsty UK Market…

Last year Duncan Savage agreed to produce a special release single varietal Sauvignon Blanc made from 32-year-old vines from a Stellenbosch vineyard that was originally destined primarily for on-trade by the glass wine sales. Of course, the pandemic and lockdown hit and much of the wine found alternative routes to market through select independent wine merchants as well as some restaurants in London, New York and across the US East Coast. The small production wine was an instant hit, appealing to all the most committed and fervent of Savage wine fans. So, it was inevitable that a follow up vintage would be forthcoming for this growing brand.

The 2021 vintage is another cracker of a wine with an increased production coming from roughly 50% Stellenbosch fruit and 50% Stanford fruit. This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless-steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Approximately 30,000 bottles were produced for export to the UK and USA.

Speaking to Duncan Savage, he tells me that the project has simply taken on a life of its own and in 2022, he plans to incorporate addition fruit material into the blend sourced from Danie Carinus’s vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills and also some fruit from the Karibib vineyards where producers like Bernard Bredell and Mick & Jeanine Craven source much of their fruit.

Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

Due to the increased production, the bottling of the 2021 Salt River Sauvignon Blanc will necessitate multiple bottling runs. The sample I tasted was from the initial bottling while additional stock will be released from slightly later bottled wine which has spent additional beneficial time on its fine lees in tank. But already, the wine shows a wonderfully expressive textural balance with attractive aromatics of honey suckle, green pear, camomile iced tea, pineapple pastille and crunchy white peaches. The palate is soft, fresh and seamless with a caressing mouthfeel, tangy tangerine citrus acids, notes of white peaches, yellow grapefruit and pithy, stony mineral tannins. Another beautiful creation that benefits from being open and given plenty of air. Drink this delicious Sauvignon Blanc on release but don’t be shy to age a few sneaky bottles for 3 to 5 years.

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

Lokaia Wines – A Project Exploring the Exotic Side of the Franschhoek Ward…

The great thing about the wine trade is that whatever side of the fence you work, whether producing, buying or selling, everyday beckons new discoveries and new experiences. Clayton Reabow and Craig McNaught are the winemakers behind this new innovative Franschhoek-based label and for the owners of the Lokaia brand, it was exactly this driving force that led them to believe that there was more to explore in the potential of the Franschhoek Valley with varieties like Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc at the forefront of their endeavours.

Clayton has been behind the wheel of Franschhoek’s Moreson winery for fourteen years and counts both the Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year and Winemaker of the Year awards among his many accolades. Craig on the other hand is the second-generation winemaker and co-owner of Stony Brook Vineyards in Franschhoek’s Bo-Hoek region and his focus for many years has been on producing traditional, old-world influenced wines with the Lokaia project affording him the opportunity “to delve in to the postmodern.”

The Lokaia range includes a Semillon from Franschhoek’s Bo-Hoek, a Chardonnay from the Franschhoek Valley Floor and a Cabernet Franc from the Dutoitskop Peak grown on sandstone and clay soils. All three wines are vinified with a strong emphasis on the use of Terracotta amphora that allow the wines to breath and evolve slowly with out any oak influence. Each wine also has a varying degree of skin contact during and post fermentation.

Lokaia Call of the Void Dutoitskop Peak Amphora Cabernet Franc 2020, WO Franschhoek, 11.98% Abv.

1.1 g/l RS | 5.9 g/l TA | 3.24 pH

This unique Cabernet Franc expression was fermented and matured on its skins for four months in amphora yielding a meagre production of a mere 530 bottles. Produced in a more natural leaning style that is unfined and unfiltered, the aromatics yield an intriguing expression of crushed leaves, grey slate, green coffee beans, black tea, spicy green peppercorns, sweet cedar and a freshly cut hedgerow spice. On the palate, the theme of cool sapidity and minerality continues with notes of wet river pebble minerality, tart black currants, sweet and sour black berries, crunchy bright acids and a long, tangy fresh finish that is deliciously mouth-watering. The energetic freshness makes this an attractively easy to drink red, yet beneath the wine’s slightly obvious, linear, fruity veneer lie multiple layers that genuinely challenge the senses. Despite the super low alcohol, the wine possesses an impressively fleshy, glycerol texture, soft powdery stony tannins and a long glassy, crystalline finish. Drink on release and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

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