What Does a £10’er Get You In a UK Supermarket…?

I don’t tend to write much about branded supermarket wines primarily because I rarely buy them and rarely drink them. But of course I’m no wine snob, so occasionally I am required to delve into the supermarket aisles … to pick up a bottle of something interesting if at all possible.


With my wife being very partial to a well made Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, I decided to “trade up” from the regular Villa Maria, Brancott Estate and Nautilus brands in favour of a more premium wine who’s label suggested it offered something more complex and sophisticated.


I’m also a big fan of well made Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, regularly drinking Dog Point, Seresin, Cloudy Bay, Mahi, and Jules Taylor just to mention a few names. So today, I was hoping that this branded offering would at least deliver something close to these other, more boutique Sauvignon styles. 


Brancott Estate Terroir Series Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough, 14 Abv. 

I have drunk the regular Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016 on several occasions, and it’s safe to say it does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it well. But for a couple of pounds more, £10 precisely, you get this more distinctive, terroir driven wine. The nose is more expressive, nuanced, bristling with tart green apple, crunchy gooseberry, lemon grass, lime peel, dried basil herbs and crushed gravel mineral lift. The aromatics feature some tropical notes of green melon, guava and passion fruit, but overall the wine has more phenolic complexity, dusty minerality and a complex nettle spice. The palate too is impressively intense and concentrated, with more revealing aromatic grip, intense peppery green fruits, and a fine, palate tingling acidity. Thoroughly refreshing, and very enjoyable to drink. If you are buying a branded Sauvignon Blanc, its very hard to fault this wine and it is probably worth the extra money to trade up. 

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


Accolades: 

Gold – Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2017

Gold – New Zealand International Wine Show 2016

(Both for the 2016 vintage)

Tasting The Highly Lauded Skerpioen 2015 Old Vines Series White From Sadie Family Wines… 

A warm balmy evening in London with a fish braai in prospect called for an appropriate white wine match. With my sea bass marinating away and my prawn skewers primed for the BBQ, a saline, mineral driven white was called for. 


This beauty from Eben Sadie is a field blend of interplanted Chenin Blanc and Palomino vines. These unirrigated old bush vines were planted between the years 1958 to 1967 in extremely chalky soils in one of the coolest locations in the Swartland. 

Tasting with Eben and Rosa Kruger in March 2017

Of all Eben Sadie’s Old Vine Series wines, the Skerpioen white is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. Often austere in youth, this wine is so mineral driven and restrained that it often confounds the critics. As Christian Eedes from South Africa’s Wine Magazine comments…. “a perplexing wine…” with a minerality and austerity that is often “mesmerising”. 


Sadie Family Old Vines Series Skerpioen 2015, Swartland, 14 Abv.

Pale straw yellow, this expressive 2015 has a spicy pithy nose of lime peel, lemon grass, dried herbs, liquid minerals and wet chalk. Very grown up and old-worldy. Layer upon layer of granite, crushed gravel and briney sea breeze salinity notes resonate. But there is a white peach, grassy, aromatic, savoury buttery note riding in tandem with the intense liquid minerality. The nose follows to the palate in a very precise, pin point manner. There is plenty of glycerol depth, pithy, dusty phenolic aromatics, and a rasping dry lemon, apple purée and a mineral austerity finish. From start to finish, the palate is electric and fresh with racy acids and remains thoroughly linear and focused. This wine’s greatness is firmly embedded in the philosophy of ‘less is more’.

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

Attending the London Launch of Bodegas Noemia’s New Releases with Owner ~ Winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers…

I have been buying the impressively individual Patagonian Malbecs from Bodegas Noemia for several years. But unlike the swathes of other Argentinian Malbecs on the market, however well made and enjoyable to drink they may be, many lack that extra individuality, tension, freshness, finesse and complexity. These are all the characteristics that for me, typify the wines made by Hans Vinding-Diers.


Listening to Hans speak is such a privilege as he conveys so animatedly, his passion and determination to make the very best wines possible, very much in the same vein that other winemaking greats do such as Dirk Niepoort in Portugal or indeed his cousin, Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus in Spain.


The new releases for Bodegas Noemia included the new, never before tasted, 2016 A Lisa in its new style Burgundy bottle, the J.Alberto Malbec 2015, and lastly the hotly anticipated Noemia 2015 old vine Malbec.


Bodegas Noemia A Lisa Malbec 2016, Patagonia, 13 Abv.

The new bottle shape seems to be in recognition that this wine is pulling in a different direction to most Malbecs. Pie Franco vines from selection massale, grown on sandy soils from multiple selected vineyards, yearns to be more Burgundy than Bordeaux. Still in a very youthful posture, the nose is rich and spicy with layers of cedar and sappy spice, stem ginger, clove and boxwood. In its Burgundian guise, the wine is impressively elegant and fragrant, showing violets, incense and waxy red berry fruit lift. The palate possess a wonderful, delineated texture, being formed of a 75% stainless steel portion and a 25% portion aged in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels for 9 months. This new release is superbly suave, elegantly fleshy, and true to its feminine form. A great buy for the price point. 

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


J.Alberto Malbec 2015, Patagonia, 13.5 Abv.

This stalwart of the range is a 95% Malbec and 5% Merlot blend from a 4 hectare vineyard that has been farmed organically and biodynamically since 2006. 30% was aged in cement tank and 70% in second fill French oak. Vines were planted in 1955 on gravel and clay, with alluvial riverbed soils. At 1.8 meters depth, the vines hit the slightly saline water table, anecdotally adding a slight salty twang to the musts. The 2015 is voluptuously rich, dark and broody with notes of incense, spice, bramble berry, cassis and sweet Victoria plum. There is such a dense texture, an opulent fleshy mocha tinged mulberry depth and a beautifully complex breadth. This is a seriously impressive wine with focus, balance and length. 

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


Bodegas Noemia 2015, Patagonia, 14.5 Abv.

I recently reviewed the amazing 2012 from Hans and the wine still lingers in the back of my mind. Again, this is another 100% Malbec from the designated 1.5 hectare old vine Malbec vineyard planted in 1932. Cropped at only 30 hectolitres per hectare, this premium wine displays a rich, intense broody nose of black plum, cassis, and strawberry confit, with a really dense core and intensity. The nose draws you in and holds you transfixed. 33% new French oak in 600 litre barrels is used making the palate seamless, harmonious and creamy but also with such impressive balance and finesse. The wine has a start but no defined finish, with complex, opulent flavours that just linger on, and on, and on! Such subtlety, this wine really shows a happy vineyard made by a happy winemaker. A real beauty. (Bottled December 2016)

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

Weddings and Fine Wine In the Heart of Burgundy’s Cru Beaujolais…

One of the great rewards of working in the wine trade are the diverse international friendships that are formed while tasting, buying and selling fine wine. This past weekend my wife and I packed our bags and boarded the Eurostar to attend the wedding of my Beaujolais buddy, Geoffray Benat. 


I recently wrote a post about Geoffray’s amazing bistro restaurant Cepages in Westbourne Park Road in Nottinghill, which you can read here…

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/11/21/cepages-wine-bistro-a-fantastic-new-addition-to-londons-food-and-wine-scene/

Geoffray and Erika

While Geoffray and his wife Erika now run their successful restaurant together, it was in one of his previous wine sales jobs many years ago that I first made my acquaintance with Geoffray. Of course, the fact that Geoffray’s father owned and ran the excellent Julienas estate of Domaine de Cotoyon was an added extra, and before very long, I was not only buying an array of Languedoc wines from Geoffray but also the superb wines of his father Frederic Benat, produced in Julienas and St Amour. Fast forward 6 or 7 years and finally it was time to visit Geoffray at home in Julienas to celebrate his wedding.

The family winery Domaine de Cotoyon


Vignerons are of course spoiled for choice for wedding wine selections when not only your own family make great wines, but also your best man and several of your close friends also attending the wedding. 

A double rainbow – a fortuitous good luck sign for the couple.
For those travelling from afar, we attended a lovely welcome dinner on the Friday evening at Geoffray’s parent’s house. This was a wonderfully casual family affair gathering outside in a marquee for dinner. The evening proved to be a very useful opportunity to meet all the extended friends and family. 

With Geoffray Benat at home the night before the wedding.
Frederic’s oak aged Julienas 2013
One of the best man’s wines …


Saturday the 1st of July was the big wedding day at the local Mairie or town hall, followed by a most impressively well planned celebratory dinner for 150 people at the local Chateau de Pruzilly.  

But first, an afternoon Vin d’Honneur in the Parc of Chateau Pruzilly followed, where a wider group of friends and family, not just those invited for the dinner, had the opportunity to congratulate the bride and groom with a glass or two of wine… in this case, the lovely Cuvee Reservee Methode Traditionnelle Sparking wine also made by Geoffray’s family. 


6.00pm signalled Champagne, Cocktails, and pre-dinner Canapés in the courtyard of Chateau Pruzilly before the grand banquet officially kicked off at 8pm. Once again, we were plied with never ending amounts of fine Champagne, white Burgundy made by Geoffray’s friends in the Maconnais, and of course magnums of Frederic Benat’s fantastic Cru Julienas 2015 Beaujolais. 

All the tables were named after the Cru’s of Beaujolais

Another prestige Cuvee from the best man.


What a wonderful event celebrating the marriage of a really lovely couple. Also encouraging to see how the whole local vigneron community of friends came out to support the Benat family in celebrating this happy union. 

Friday night quaffing with Frederic Benat
 

All good things must come to an end and so on Sunday we started the long trek back to Paris. A big thank you to Geoffray and Erika and the whole Benat family for your wonderfully welcoming hospitality. I look forward to visiting Beaujolais again soon! 

Another Classic Top Pedigree Chablis From William Fevre…

Another superb highlight from lasts weeks Art of Chablis Tasting comes from a highly renowned producer but from a more modest appellation. The William Fevre Chablis really stood out on the “Village level” tasting table, and in fact was more impressive than many of the 1er Cru Chablis being shown.


Winemakers predicted a good vintage across France in 2015 despite some producers being hit with a hailstorm on the eve of harvest. The Chablis 2015 vintage started off well and it was soon apparent that an early wine harvest was on the cards after the vines flowered in early June, followed by a long, hot and dry July and August. But, dreams of a good vintage were jeopardised by a hailstorm that hit several producers in Chablis on the 1st September, just before the harvest. 


There was a fear of a lack of acidity in 2015’s wines. While all have crystalline purity, some do lack an element of tension and vivacity. The 2015 vintage will however be remembered as a sunny, fruit forward, correct vintage producing very accessible, customer friendly wines.


Domaine William Fevre Chablis 2015

The 2015 village Chablis has a dusty, chalky, austere, wet granite nose with a wonderful crystalline purity and impressive saline notes. Finely poised, the palate is fresh and crisp with a respectable line of acidity framing lovely green apple crunchy fruits, lemongrass, wet straw, pineapple and lime peel nuances. Like all the best 2015s, there is a potent marine, sea breeze influence on the finish of this impressively seamless, harmonious, well balanced wine.

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

The Old Vines Project Goes Live In London With One of the Tastings of the Year…

The 28th of June was a momentous day in the history of South African wine. The Old Vines Tasting at South Africa House in London presented by Andre Morgenthal and Jo Wehring of Wines of South Africa, profiled 77 of the most profound red and white wines produced in South Africa’s diverse winelands. 


The debate surrounding the identification, preservation and promotion of South Africa’s old vines has long been championed by viticulturalist Rosa Kruger, and now with Ex-Wosa marketing specialist Andre Morgenthal on board, the project has moved into a higher gear. 


Most of the top old Vine wines are made in very small quantities, so it was heartening to see the support given to this tasting from South Africa’s top producers, who provided some true rarities and highly sought after fine wines. Only by drinking these gems, and understanding the blood, sweat and tears that go into making these labours of love, can consumers understand why these wines cost more to buy but offer something very special qualitatively.


No, old vines alone don’t guarantee quality. But the producers involved in the Old Vine Project, and the related certification for 35+ year old vines that will follow imminently, will serve as an important seal of authenticity and commitment to both the quality of old vine wine production and the preservation of these historic vineyards. 


But as Andre Morgenthal pointed out, the the Old Vine Project’s work will also extend to the greater protection, preservation and healthy vine husbandry promotion of 20 to 30 year old vineyards that will be the old vines of the future. This can surely only be a good thing for the industry as a whole.

Some of the Fine Wine Safari highlights of the tasting are illustrated below. This was certainly one of the most exciting array of South African wines presented in London in our generation. High praise indeed, but the scores speak for themselves.
Old Vine Tasting:

Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94+/100 GS


Kaapzicht Wine Estate 1947 Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95/100 GS


David & Nadia Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94/100 GS


Thistle & Weed Duwweltjie Chenin Blanc 2016 – 93+/100 GS

Hogan Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94+/100 GS

DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94+/100 GS

AA Badenhorst Golden Slopes Steen 2016 – 95/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards Radio Lazarus Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95+/100

Simonsig Estate Chenin Avec Chene 2015 – 94/100 GS

Gabrielskloof Elodie Chenin Blanc 2015 – 93+/100 GS


Botanica Wines Mary Delany Collection Chenin Blanc 2015 – 95/100 GS


Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95+/100 GS

Dewaldt Heyns Family Wines Weathered Hands Chenin Blanc 2013 – 94/100 GS


Adoro Wines Naude Chenin Blanc 2013 – 96+/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards Cartology Chenin Blanc Semillon 2015 – 95/100 GS

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Chenin Blanc Semillon 2011 – 96/100 GS

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vines White Blend 2014 – 95+/100 GS


Sadie Family Wines t’Voetpad White Blend 2016 – 97/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96+/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards La Colline Vineyard Semillon 2016 – 97+/100 GS

Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Semillon 2016 – 95+/100 GS


Rickety Bridge Landau du Val Semillon 2014 – 95/100 GS

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2015 – 95/100 GS


Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2004 – 96/100 GS


Adoro Wines Naude Cinsaut 2014 – 95/100 GS


AA Badenhorst Raaigras Grenache 2016 – 93+/100 GS

Elemental Bob Cosmic Flower Tinta Barocca 2017 – 93+/100 GS


Sadie Family Wines Treinspoor Tinta Barocca 2016 – 96+/100 GS

Dewaldt Heyns Family Wines Weathered Hands Pinotage 2012 – 93+/100 GS

Seek these wines out and buy with confidence! 

Attending The Art of Chablis Trade Tasting in London ~ The Star Wine Revealed…

This week I attended the “Art of Chablis Trade Tasting” in London to catch up on the latest happenings in one of the wine world’s great classical regions. Billed as a discovery of the various appellation styles, from Petit Chablis to Grand Cru, there was a fairly mixed bag of wines on show, some represented in the UK, some seeking representation.


After a pretty indifferent “restaurant vintage” in Chablis in 2015, and then a crop reduced by 60-70% in 2016, like much of Burgundy, this is a region in flux with many concerns for its future commercial path.


The last serious quality vintage in Chablis was certainly 2014, producing wines with taught acidity, tension and rasping chalky minerality. But despite its slightly lacklustre reputation, the 2015s on taste (the majority of wines), were encouragingly impressive and seemed to have grown in stature, and showed plenty of mineral classism and steely freshness despite lacking some visceral thrill.

But of course there were some real stand out wines, none more so than JP Droin’s incredible 2014 Grand Cru. From grapes grown on Kimmeridgian marls, this wine was clarified straight after vinification. The musts were then placed partly in stainless steel tanks, and partly in barrels. The malolactic fermentation was done systematically. Ageing is for around 10 months in partly new barrels.


Jean Paul et Benoit Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, 13 Abv. 

The 2014 Chablis Valmur is one of the most impressive wines in the lineup. The aromatics are very exotic with a tantalising nose of quince, green fruits, pineapple pastille, bruleed figs and subtle tarte tatin notes from the oak aging. The palate is broad, expressive and fresh, with a beautifully creamy, textured palate. This wine has everything… a complex nose, a youthful, dense expressive structure, and a long, exotic, nuanced finish and plenty of classical dusty, pineapple intense, Chablis notes. Such a beautiful, creamy palate texture, seductive fruits and a crystalline finish. Supremely vibrant, pithy, chalky, this wine is almost overpowering in intensity. I could drink this all day.

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