Marchesi di Gresy – Tasting One of the Greatest Icon Barbaresco Producers of Piedmont…

It is not often a Robert Parker Wine Advocate review for a wine begins with… “although the 2010 Barbaresco Martinenga is sold out, Alberto di Gresy and I wanted to make a record of it in the Wine Advocate database.”

Of course they did! This wine was / is one of the most profound, perfumed, opulent, sculpted Barbaresco’s ever produced at the Gresy Estate in modern times. I recently tracked down a parcel of the half bottles from the said vintage and cracked one to remind myself of the greatness of this wine.

I did of course buy, sell and drink many a 75cl bottle of 2010 Martinenga a few years back, but with the unrelenting pace of the fine wine market, these fast selling iconic wines from top vintages can often get forgotten. So cudos to Monica Larner from the Wine Advocate for ensuring that this great wine has an accessible mass market reference note for global collectors.

Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2010, 14 Abv.

2010 will be remembered for the greatest Barolo vintage in decades. But Barbaresco was more variable with some eye wateringly fine wines as well as some less successful wines. But this super Cru in Barbaresco boasts one of the best terroirs in the entire appellation and this 2010 expression has to be one of the best vintages made in recent memory. The nose is super lifted and fragrant boasting complex aromatics of violets, cherry blossom, sweet grilled herbs and cherry tobacco spice interspersed with nuances of dried aniseed root. But it’s the finer details that make this wine so special, the sweet sun dried cherries, red cranberry confit, salty red liquorice and pastis liquor aniseed complexity. The palate is bold and powerful and deliciously intense with the red liquorice intensity coming to the fore intermingled with sweet cherry, salted plums, sweet tobacco and dried tannery leather with a compelling underlay of sultry chalky, earthy, savoury tannins and dried potpourri spice. A triumph of intelligent winemaking that harnesses the true essence of this vineyard’s special terroir. This is a benchmark wine not to be missed. Drink now to 2030 in halves, or age for even longer in bottle. 

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

(95/100 Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)

The Greatest Kumeu River Tasting Ever Held – Tasting 48 Vintages of a World Class Chardonnay…

It would have been almost impossible for anyone who reads my blog to miss the results of The Great Blind Chardonnay Tasting 2018  held earlier this year where the best of the New World were pitched against some of the best of classic Burgundy in an epic blind wine tasting tussle for Chardonnay supremacy.

In this tasting, the Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard 2014 performed astonishingly well, further solidifying the widely held belief that this New Zealand winery makes wines every bit as good as the best white Grand Cru Burgundy houses.

See results here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/06/18/the-great-blind-chardonnay-challenge-2018-new-world-chardonnay-giving-burgundy-a-run-for-its-money/

In the UK market, Farr Vintners have long been one of the leading importers of Kumeu River’s wines over the years, so needless to say I was thrilled to be invited by Farr Vintners owner Stephen Browett to the greatest, most extensive Kumeu River tasting ever held in the UK market. Stephen Browett first visited Kumeu River Winery – and met winemaker Michael Brajkovich – in January 1990 on a visit to Auckland. He’d been tipped off about this new Chardonnay producer (first vintage 1985) by Barry Phillips who had bought the 1987 for the wine list of the legendary White Horse Inn at Chilgrove.

Stephen tasted the 1989 vintage from barrel and placed an order – Farr Vintners has shipped every vintage since then. In 1993 the Estate Chardonnay was joined by “Maté’s Vineyard” and two further single vineyard wines “Hunting Hill” and “Coddington” arrived on the scene in 2006.

After some serious problems with cork closures in the mid / late 1990’s, a decision was taken in 2001 to seal all Kumeu River wines with screwcaps. Michael’s wines now have a world-wide reputation and consistently perform exceptionally well in blind tastings held all around the world.

An illustrious tasting panel included among others Oz Clarke, Steven Spurrier, Jancis Robinson, Neal Martin and Will Lyons .

On the 21st of September 2018, Farr Vintners hosted the most comprehensive tasting ever of the Chardonnays of Kumeu River – with Paul Brajkovich and UK representative Hugh Phillips – at Farr Vintners offices in Battersea Reach, London. The tasting included all vintages of the Estate, Coddington, Hunting Hill and Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay from 2006 to 2017. A total of 48 wines served in 4 flights of 12.

Paul Brajkovich chairing the tasting, the brother of winemaker Michael Brajkovich MW.

Flight 1 – Estate Chardonnay

2017 Estate Chardonnay

Fine restrained nose with plenty of dusty gravel, apple blossom, sweet pear and lemon and lime peel. Sleek, compact palate, quite a gentle, harmonious, fleshy mid palate with rounded acids but a resurgent, pithy, vibrant finish of limestone, lemon peel and white citrus spice.

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

2016 Estate Chardonnay

More dust and gravel with lifted powdery grey slate minerality. Notes of bruised lemon, cassis leaf, lemon cordial and potent intensity. The palate is sleek and finely polished, elegant and positively light on its feet. Middling weight, finely textured, this is open enough to to drink now.

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

2015 Estate Chardonnay

Less dusty minerality on the top notes, more yellow blossom and honey suckle perfume with pithy, grated lemon rind and white citrus notes following close behind. Texturally quite full and fleshy and more crunchy, piquant acids in evidence. Impressive saline vein and a noticeably longer, more intense, concentrated length.

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

2014 Estate Chardonnay

Subtle hints of flint and smokey reduction but with plenty of waxy green apples, white citrus and wet chalk base notes. Definitely extra depth and aromatic definition on this 2014. The palate is polished and sleek, focused and bright with crystalline acids, pithy lime and lemon, white peach, yellow grapefruit and a long, dusty finish with impressive intensity more reminiscent on the single vineyard wines. Delicious.

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

2013 Estate Chardonnay

Lovely deep greengage and white citrus notes with the tell tale liquid minerality and waxy green apple complexity and perhaps just a touch of tertiary yellow orchard fruit nuances appearing. Palate shows a nice pithy grip, some phenolics, again a touch more yellow orchard fruit, pithy limestone bitter lemon and plenty of liquid minerality.

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

2012 Estate Chardonnay

Wonderfully expressive nose of apple pastille, lemon cordial, cassis leaf and wet chalk. Subtle hints of bruised orchard fruits, white peach and honey on white toast. Complex, touch more savoury with crystallised figs, waxy apple, and fine length and intensity.

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

2011 Estate Chardonnay

Complex broody nose of greengage, green apple, wet chalk and pronounced liquid minerality with resinous sappy spice. Plush and fleshy, massive breadth and depth, quite glycerol and packed with white peach but lovely length and depth from bottle development.

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

2010 Estate Chardonnay

Rich, complexity, delicious smokey aromatics mixed with real concentration, power and palate depth. Wonderful power, precision, intensity. Wow. Superb wine.

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

2009 Estate Chardonnay

Cooler, richer, finer texture with citrus Lemon cordial nuances. Vibrant, quite electric, plenty of verve. Another impressive offering.

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

2008 Estate Chardonnay

Coming from a warm year, this wine is creamy, fleshy, quite harmonious with a broad palate. Chalky, pithy peach and liquid chalk notes abound. Expressive in a more mineral style quadrant.

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

2007 Estate Chardonnay

The most tertiary with bruised yellow orchard fruits, root veg and aged yellow plum. Hints of almost botrytis styled dried fruits and savoury, honied breadth. Drinking now.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

2006 Estate Chardonnay

Lovely sweet – sour plum, fine harmony and palate elegance. This wine is in a very comfortable place. Plush, long and beautiful drinking now.

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

Flight 2 – Single Vineyard Coddington
2.4 ha plot with heavyweight clay soils producing only 900 cases. Planted in the mid 1990s, the grapes were pulled out of the Estate blend in 2006. 25% new oak, 11 months on the lees.

2017 Coddington Single Vineyard

Creamy melon and lemon butter exoticism and youthful exuberance. Hint of yellow peach, white pepper and green apple pastille. Full, bold and intense concentration, lovely bright zippy acids, mouth coating lime cordial and sweet lemon confit. Just a baby but really delicious.

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

2016 Coddington Single Vineyard

Fine, harmonious, integrated aromatics suggesting lemon cream biscuits, pithy white citrus and a very fine vein of dusty, gravelly minerality. Rich with hints of sweet and sour, full mid palate flesh and quite a crystalline feel to the wine with impressive purity.

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

2015 Coddington Single Vineyard

Super old world Burgundian nose with nuances of wet chalk, limestone, apple pastille and lemon and lime lift. Palate is subtle, more restrained, but still steely and fresh, with electric acids, a more linear mouthfeel and again, a very old world, detailed, mineral finish. Impressive.

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

2014 Coddington Single Vineyard

Plenty of exotic lemon cream biscuits, white peach and crystalised figs. Palate surprises the senses with massive, unctuous weight, powerfully fleshy body, seamlessly integrated acids and a slightly sappy, spicy, resinous citrus and apple purée finish. Very harmonious and without doubt an impressive glassful.

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

2013 Coddington Single Vineyard

The most seductive nose of lemon blossom, struck match and fresh rain on dry limestone rocks. Wonderfully well proportioned, saline, tart acids, quite piquant in fact and certainly a more maritime feel to the wine with the most mouth watering long, sweet / sour finish. Wow.

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

2012 Coddington Single Vineyard

Sweet, bruised orchard fruits, sour plum and a subtle citrus under note. Some savoury, earthy, root veg notes developing lending complexity and palate weight. Spicy, honied finish suggests this is ready to pull out the cellar and drink.

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

2011 Coddington Single Vineyard

More complex tertiary notes evident here with bruised orchard fruits, waxy lemons and green apples left in your school bag for a few days. Palate has delicious bright acids, a fine fleshy core of fruit and a harmonious, evolving savoury complexity with a teasing lick of mint leaf. Drinking well now.

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

2010 Coddington Single Vineyard

Youthful and intense, this is a great vintage and the wines are all standing the test of time and showing it boldly. Lovely wet chalk minerality, apple cordial and a subtle hint of bruised lemons and savoury white peach. Wonderful complexity follows to the palate that is harmonious and fresh, seamless and finely textured with smokey, piquant, citrusy length. Delicious.

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

2009 Coddington Single Vineyard

Dusty, liquid mineral nose melting into lemon and lime cordial and hard lime candy. Fine wet chalk and lemon fruit intensity and a peach pastille depth.

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

2008 Coddington Single Vineyard

Exotic, earthy, savoury, fruit notes, with bruised peaches, greengage and aged lemons. Fine, elegant texture, harmonious and quite a suave, relaxed engaging wine.

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

2007 Coddington Single Vineyard

Lashings of savoury quince, honey and buttered toast, ripe peach and subtle root veg make for a very exotic, complex expression. Fleshy, sleek, slightly saline, this has a lot of appeal and allure but is simultaneously so youthful. An exciting wine.

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

2006 Coddington Single Vineyard

Superbly harmonious and round, fleshy yet defined and fresh. Sweet and sour plum, greengage and candied lemon fruits. Drinking beautifully now, perhaps not the most distinguished wine in the flight but certainly a profoundly enjoyable fine wine to drink now.

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

Flight 3 – Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

3ha plot producing 1000 cases. Vines are trained in the Lyre trellis system and the vineyard was owned by Kumeu and replanted in 2000 to Chardonnay Clone15. Only 3kms apart from Coddington. North facing, mostly clay soils. Wines are often tight, limey, more mineral, and linear style. Normally employs Francois Freres barrels, up to 25% new.

2017 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Apple puree and pineapple lead boldly from the front with backing notes of green melon and apple pastille nuances. Taut and focused, very precise acid frame, electric with out being rasping and a most harmonious, delicious, elegant, crystalline finish. Tight in youth but should blossom into another show stopper.

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

2016 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Lovely taught apple and pear phenolic notes which melt wonderfully into the pithy, mineral leanness of struck flint and crushed limestone. Svelt and textured, super precise and focused, this wine has an incredible texture like a polished diamond. Beautiful balance, harmony and mouthwatering precision. Wow.

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

2015 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Rich ripe expression with honeysuckle and lemon blossom. Plenty of restraint and delicate white floral citrus notes. Palate is linear and fresh, vibrant and zesty showing great vigour and energy. Lovely depth, power of fruit, intense concentration and above all, superb drinkability. Very Impressive.

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

2014 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Finally a vintage of Hunting Hill where you feel the vineyard drops its guard and shows you a snippet of its inner heart. Complex and alluring, multi-dimensional with wet chalk, sweet lemon citrus and boxwood spice and resinous green honeydew melon. Palate shows wonderful concentration, crystalline purity, a full and fleshy palate and the most seductive, sweet – sour, saline length. Great expectations for the 2014 and it does not fail to deliver.

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

2013 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Sweet honey and apple pastille nose, this shows plenty of subtle aromatics of struck flint and tart Granny Smith apples. Palate is lithe and fleshy, vibrantly tart with great intensity, power and concentration. Wow, a vintage that plays into the hands of the vineyard to create a real joy of a wine.

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

2012 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Cool, smokey struck match reduction, very Burgundian with piquant, bitter green lime and lemon, sour plum, grapefruit and gun flint. Massive palate depth, this wine is a real surprise of the flight showing fine pedigree and complexity and the most delicious, mouth watering drinkability.

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

2011 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Slightly muted, earthy savoury nose with limestone and lemon, hairy peaches and wet chalk. Palate is bright and expressive, crystalline and pure, quite saline and maritime with brightness and precision. Beautiful.

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

2010 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Dusty chalky limestone minerality leads from the start with youthful lemon lime citrus, lime and nutty, wet chalk mineral breadth and depth. Quite profound and alluring complexity.

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

2009 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Tight and mineral, very Burgundian in style with layers of struck match, flint and limestone chalky minerality. Fleshy, round, complex and intense. This is another delicious wine.

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

2008 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Savoury yellow blossom and lemon peel with subtle notes of yellow orchard fruits. Plenty of struck flint and spice. Lovely concentrated palate, great intensity, sweet and sour power, vibrant lemons and tart green apples. A super expression.

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

2007 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Lovely melange of wet straw, sappy white citrus, lime peel and waxy yellow orchard fruits, complex and balanced, perfectly fresh and mature but with incredible verve and vigour, brightness and fresh citric kick. Very fine indeed. One of the best.

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

2006 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Rich and savoury, ripe and plush with linear fruit focus, white citrus and a tart white peach finish. Perhaps lacking some stuffing on the mid palate but with this, like all the other older wines, is drinking beautifully with harmony and mature elegance.

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

Flight 4 – Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay

A 2.6ha vineyard planted with Mendoza clone in 1990 with its first vintage being 1993. Soils are classic clay based and are more pliable. Virused vineyards that ripen slightly later than the others. Often affected by hen and chicken berries leading to quite heavy pressing and more phenolics.

2017 Maté’s Vineyard

Beautiful sweet lemon blossom, white peach and honeysuckle notes, waxy green apples and real lift. The palate is intensely concentrated and rich with power, punch and real energy. This is one to watch, possibly the best expression since 2010 and 2014.

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

2016 Maté’s Vineyard

Intricate nose of dried grass, sweet lemon peel, green fig and dusty minerality. Real allure and intrigue, the palate is bright and fresh, linear and vibrant with a real generosity of flavour on the finish.

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

2015 Maté’s Vineyard

Lovely zesty phenolic nose with green apple skins, white peach and grapefruit citrus. Plenty of palate harmony but also a backing granitic, stoney minerality that keeps the wines opulence in check. The finish is linear and taut, vibrant and decidedly saline and maritime.

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

2014 Maté’s Vineyard

An intriguingly dusty, chalky, mineral nose with white peach stone fruits, greengage plum, soft lemon citrus and crystalline yellow apples. Plenty of dusty minerality, crush gravel and linearity with the finish quite saline again, tart and fleshy, full yet nervy. A wine all about contradictions. Very impressive and certainly one for the cellar if you can find any stock.

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

Tasting with Neal Martin from Vinous and Will Lyons from The Sunday Times.

2013 Maté’s Vineyard

The aromatics open up to reveal an array of yellow fruits, savoury hairy peaches and ripe figs. The theme continues to the palate with plush, fleshy depth, yellow peachy fruit and a more opulent, creamy, tinned fruit salad complexity. Very pleasing but slightly atypical?

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

2012 Maté’s Vineyard

Wonderfully austere nose of crushed gravel and wet grey slate. Palate is broad and harmonious with a real powder puff softness and femininity. Dense but light on its feet, this is wonderful to drink now.

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

2011 Maté’s Vineyard

Compelling notes of greengage, lemon and lime, creamy yellow citrus and a real plush, broad, soft harmonious textural expression.

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

2010 Maté’s Vineyard

Salty fig notes layer a really delicious higher tone of yellow peach, white citrus, creamy pear purée and lime cordial with a lemon biscuit cream finish. Dense, plush and profound. Wow, this is one to track down! Superb and up there with the best in the tasting.

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

2009 Maté’s Vineyard

Quite tight aromatics, restraint, fleshy tropical yellow fruits and a hint of exoticism. Fine silky opulence, plush, textural and very expressive.

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

2008 Maté’s Vineyard

Lemon butter and cream, puréed lemon and piquant spice notes. Broad and plush, fleshy and full with an open knit texture that is certainly drinking well and ready to go now.

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

2007 Maté’s Vineyard

Superb melange of sweet savoury yellow fruited depth, pithy spice, phenolics and sappy intensity. The Lemon – lime cordial note comes through with honey suckle and lemon blossom lift. Super creamy, coating the mouth with amazing plush concentration and a glycerol lacquer. Really delicious with amazing tertiary complexity.

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

2006 Maté’s Vineyard

Citric and spicy, this shows a really complex nose of root veg, bruised orchard fruits and old lemons. Naturally retains a very fleshy texture with hints of sweet and sour quince and an utterly harmonious, mature, pure finish.

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

Neal Martin doing a Johan Berglund …

Conclusions:

An incredibly profound tasting that will serve as a fine historical marker of quality for these superb wines. The oldest were ageing slowly and gracefully with the 2007s being the consistent pick of the older wines. For more recent vintages, the 2010s and 2014s are benchmark great and equal to anything Burgundy can produce with the Chardonnay grape. The 2015s and 2016s make for thoroughly pleasing drinking but it’s the 2017s from the line up of wines that are bold, intense, confident and youthfully intent on following in the footsteps of 2010 and 2014. Fill your cellars if it’s not already too late!

South African Grand Marque Rust en Vrede Estate Back to Its Best Again…

The history of this great estate reads like a classic novel in the same vein as many great Bordeaux chateaux. Highs and lows, controversy and family disputes and changes in winemakers and house style.

Tasting the latest creations of winemaker Coenie Snyman, it can be confirmed with a fair degree of certainty that this famous old South African grand marque is almost back to its very best again. This can only be good news for consumers and collectors alike.

Rust en Vrede Estate 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

The 2015 Estate red is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Syrah and 9% Merlot. This is the flagship wine of the estate and boasts astute winemaking to match. The bouquet offers up a fine perfume of dried potpourri, violets, cinnamon stick and an alluring melange of mulberry, black currant and savoury damson plum with a complexing top note of black Kalamata olives. Subtle mocha and vanilla pod nuances carry to the palate which is eminently refined and elegantly balanced, showing delicious spicy black currant, graphite, black liquorice, salty cassis and a subtle lick of salted caramel. Beautifully plush and textured, this is a seamless vinous package of fine wine enjoyment that speaks volumes about the very fine 2015 vintage twinned with re-energised, ambitious winemaking. A winery returning to its very best potential once again. Drink now or cellar for 10 to 15+ years.

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

Querciabella 2015 Raising The Quality Bar For Premium Chianti Classico…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Summer of Island Wines and Mineral Whites – Tasting the New Release Envinate Benje Blanco 2017…

The white 2017 Envinate Benje Blanco is produced from Listán Blanco (Palomino) grapes from the Santiago del Teide region in the northwest of the island, with old vines grown on the burnt volcanic slopes of Mount Teide at 1000 metres altitude.

Ungrafted and grown in the gobelet system, the vines are sourced from up to 15 different terroirs from 70 to 100+ year old vines, 60% of which were fermented and aged in concrete tanks and 40% fermented and aged in neutral barrels of 228 litres with a portion of the grapes fermented with skin contact. Production is small and demand high, so you’ll need to act quickly to secure a few bottles.

Envinate Benje Blanco 2017, DO Ycoden Daute Isora, Santiago del Teide, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

An expressive mineral wine, these old vine grapes are grown on black volcanic soils around Mount Teide which produce pronounced aromatics dominated by crushed gravel, dusty basalt, bruised apples, pear skins and maritime oyster shell salinity. The palate is pinpoint and focused with a very fine textural mouthfeel, crisp pithy white pear, dry white citrus, and freshly sliced Granny Smith apple fruits. The acidity is super bright and mouth watering and reinforces the steely character of this wine. In many ways a wine that challenges the senses and finishes with the sensation of sucking wet river pebbles with metallic pur sang bloody nuances. Perhaps not for novices, but this wine certainly ranks very highly among the world’s most intriguing mineral whites. Drink now till 2024+

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

Tasting Vin de Constance 2015 at the London Launch – Moving Greatness to the Next Level…

For the past 8 years, Matt Day has come to London to launch the new vintages of Vin de Constance, one of the greatest sweet wines in existence. Usually there is a formula of showing a few older rare vintages before revealing the newest release. But after Matt pulled barrel samples 6 months ago from multiple component parts of the 2015 blend… and recently discovered the bottles in the lab, he thought it would be the perfect way to introduce one of the finest expressions of Vin de Constance to date… by showing a deconstructed version with multiple component parts.

This is a wine that needs no introduction, and as Matt pointed out, we all know about the famous historical dignitaries that have consumed this delicious sweet wine over the years. But more important to him and the estate owners now is making great wines that represent their terroir to the fullest and represent the vision of where Vin de Constance is going in the future.

As if there was any need for further compliments, it was the great Steven Spurrier who proclaimed at the tasting that “the 2015 Vin de Constance was every bit as impressive as the 2016 Chateau d’Yquem”… where Matt actually worked a harvest two years ago.

For me, this wine shows a focus, a precision and a clarity of purpose not seen on any recent vintages of Vin de Constance. If you want Chateau d’Yquem buyers to buy your wine, this is what they are going to have to taste like! Bravo Matt!

Component Tasting:

Component I6 – Precision

Wonderfully perfumed and fresh, orange blossom, marmalade on white toast, crushed grapefruit and barley sugar. Very fragrant, pure and precise. Quite full and unctuous on the palate, massive mouth coating depth, creamy and powerful with impressive purity of fruit.

Component I7 – Flesh

Quite neutral, mineral and restrained aromatics, showing more a leafy, sappy, resinous side of Muscat with subtle orange and tangerine peel spice. Texturally full, fleshy and harmonious with a wonderfully plush lemon cream biscuit core of yellow orchard fruits. Soft acids, dreamy harmonious balance.

Component I8 – Harmony

Containing a small part of 2016 Vin de Constance, this wine shows aromatics of an almost more complete wine with fine balance between fruit and sappy resinous notes, minerality and wood spice. Palate is slightly fresher and more ‘teenager gawky’ than the others with plenty of power and depth but unlike the nose, the palate feels much more incomplete and more like a blend component.

MDF Green 2018 Component – Frame

Harvested green end of January 2018. Lean spicy and green with stalky sappy notes, peppered green figs, white pepper, grapefruit confit and waxy green apples. Wine is bone dry, less than 2 g/l RS. Sleek, fresh, very juicy. Could certainly be bottled as a hipster still wine but going to be a perfect component of a blend. Delicious backbone and freshness.

Component Essencia 2015 – Richness

A whopping of 655 g/l RS in the component with next to no alcohol. Fantastically rich and opulent, hedonistic notes of orange marmalade, grapefruit preserve and caramelised hairy yellow peaches. Palate texture is dense with a treacly weight, tasting it akin to sucking on a big teaspoon of honey. An important component piece in the Vin de Constance blend.

Vin de Constance 2012, WO Constantia, 14.3 Abv.

Matt Day’s first vintage in charge of winemaking after taking over from the phenomenal talent of Adam Mason. So no pressure! The RS is 160 g/l, pH 3.6, TA 7 g/l with the wine aged for 2.5 years in a combination of 60% new French oak, Hungarian oak and French acacia before racking out, blending and ageing for a further 6 months in tank before bottling. Aromatics show crystalline white peaches, yellow citrus, orange blossom and subtle tangerine peel spice. Palate is so sleek and taut with an appealing salinity and spicy marmalade, fleshy texture and an intensity that lingers long in the mouth. An exceptional maiden vintage for Matt.

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

Vin de Constance 2015, WO Constantia, 14 Abv.

Very pure crystalline and fragrant nose with a really complex aromatic profile seamlessly knitted together. Beautiful peppered white peaches, honey suckle, yellow grapefruit, pear purée, barley sugar and a most enchanting under vein of chalky minerality. The palate is crystalline and pure, taut and polished with absolute harmony and balance. The incredible blending precision delivers an amazing texture, impressive tension, mid palate restraint and a finished wine that is perfectly proportion and finely chiselled and near faultless. A very grown up Vin de Constance that flirts with lightness, freshness and elegance.

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

Putting South Africa’s Finest Wine Offerings Into Perspective – Tasting Australia’s Penfold’s Bin 620 Cabernet Shiraz 2008….

I had a wonderful time in Cape Town at Cape Wine 2018 and before that at the Nederburg Auction of older South African wines. Of course Cape Wine 2018 will be remembered for Tim Atkin MW’s first personal 100 point SA wine score, an active debate surrounding scoring and score inflation both in South Africa and globally and also the prickly pear issue of where to price South Africa’s premium wines, many made from old vine heritage vineyards around the Western Cape that are super expensive to farm. Serious questions indeed.

Some of these questions were brought into a new perspective when I returned to my office to find a bottle of Penfold’s Bin 620 Cabernet Shiraz from Coonawarra freshly opened on a colleagues desk courtesy of a private client. This is a Wine Advocate 98/100 point wine as scored by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW and retails currently in the UK market for £850 per bottle inc taxes (R16,575 pb). So we are talking serious kit here… and amazingly a wine that makes even the Penfold’s Grange look positively cheap!

Tasting the wine, it is a blend that pays homage to the 1966 Bin 620, a legendary Penfold’s show wine from a great vintage. Crafted from the uniquely Australian Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz blend, this wine is considered to be the personification of the Penfold’s house style and worthy of a Special Bin status. The wine was bottled by Penfold’s Wines at Nuriootpa, South Australia in July 2009. The 2008 vintage was produced from the low yielding Coonawarra Blocks 5, 10 and 20 and is considered to be made in a very similar style to the famous 1966 vintage. The wine was barrel fermented in new French and America oak and is classically structured and considered worthy of extended cellar aging for several decades.

Penfold’s Bin 620 Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz 2008, Coonawarra, 14 Abv.

The wine has a wonderfully deep ruby garnet opaque core and is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49% Shiraz. Rich, lifted and hedonistic, the nose is brimming with earthy black berry, freshly torn mint leaf, camphor leaves, wood spice, dried tree bark, cassis and black cherry kirsch liquor notes with nuances of milk chocolate, bruleed coffee beans and exotic botanical herbal spices. The palate is dense, creamy and unctuous but retains a certain poise and posture supported by gravelly mineral tannins, graphite spice, crème de cassis and a fine vein of palate refreshing acidity. The finish is super long and intense with just the faintest hints of cherry cola, salty liquorice, black berry confit and freshly baked raspberry crumble. The vinous adjectives and descriptives positively drip out of ones mouth with this complex offering. It is a big wine that walks a very neat, classical line and will impress most fine wine connoisseurs.

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

So how does this wine compare to some of South Africa’s finest? In wine terms, however delicious this wine is, it still  has the taste of a lot of sunshine on the fruit and the creamy unctuous glycerol mouthfeel is perhaps not as conducive to matching with food other than perhaps with meaty barbeques. This is a micro-cuvee of only 900 cases so merits attention to detail and probably a big price tag. But I would argue there are many equally impressive South African benchmark reds every bit as alluring and complex and which are much more classically proportioned and suitable for a true gourmands palate. As for the price, well, the mind boggles. R16,000 Rand can buy quite a lot of very fine wine.

As I questioned at the Cape Wine 2018 Old Vine Seminar, the problem with South Africa’s premium wine offering is not their quality and certainly not their styles but more the fact that the wines are more appreciated overseas than they are in the local home market. South Africa’s finest crown jewels are all being exported because the local market, unlike Australia, USA or New Zealand is not comfortable paying the prices that these fine wines inevitably will need to sell for. Locals shy away from buying wines over R250 Rand (£12.99) a bottle let alone R16,000 Rand a bottle. The result is a two speed market where all the best offerings are exported to an appreciative, thirsty European audience while the home market scrapes the barrel like a fishy bottom feeder in a muddy pond trying to find the last undiscovered bargains. This needs to change before we can set about bringing better profitability to the local wine industry. A healthy fine wine market inevitably has to be driven primarily by strong local demand… then the rest will follow… a la Penfold’s top cuvees.