Gaja Pieve di Santa Restituta Brunello 2014 – A Triumphant Effort in a Difficult Vintage…

One of Angelo Gaja’s two Tuscan properties, is on the site of an old church, Santa Restituta, which dates back to the 4th century. As is the family’s style, their’s is a fusion of modern and traditional winemaking. They too own land on the Buonconvento Northern side of Montalcino and some prestigious lands in the South, a stone’s throw from Sesti.

The Northern sites normally go into the Brunello di Montalcino ‘normale’ with Sugarille and Rennina located around the winery on the Southern side of the town being bottled individually as Crus. These three Brunellos from one of the finest names in Italian wine are impeccably crafted and full of character, finesse and age ability.

 

Gaja Pieve di Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2014, 14 Abv.

In 2012, Gaja blended all three of their top vineyards together to create a single punchy super Brunello cuvee. In 2014 they did the same again due to difficult weather conditions but with one massive difference being that this time, 80% to 90% of the final cuvee’s fruit came from just the two Cru vineyards of Rennina and Sugarille. Bright translucent colour, the 2014 Brunello mimics the delicious 2012 release. The result is a wonderfully fragrant, expressive aromatic nose showing tar, red cherry, Seville oranges, earthy aniseed root, violets, cherry blossom, tannery leather and sweet cedar oak vanilla spice complexity. Deliciously plump and full fruited, this wine is plush and opulent, fleshy, dense and super vibrant with an extra level of stony minerality. What a fabulous success for the vintage. Drink now to 2030+

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

25 Great South African Wines Under £25 Retail – Red and Whites Not to Miss…

Value versus quality. It’s the eternal debate with all New World wine producing nations. Peg your marker in the sand and stand up for top premium quality at the price you think the wine deserves or take perhaps the long view and sell your wine at a more affordable price level with more market accessibility. Who knows what’s right?

All I know is that some of the cracking whites and reds in my 25 for £25 selection could easily sell for a lot more money and no consumers would blink an eye. So does that mean the producers are under pricing themselves? No, not necessarily. Everybody produces different quantities, works from a different cost base and has a different long term business sales vision.

This eclectic collection of reds and whites does not stand alone to make a statement or indeed even seek to provoke discussion but merely serves to illustrate to consumers that South Africa is not only about £35-£75 bottles of white and red from trendy producers. Crack open any of these below wines with absolute confidence!

White Wines 

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, WO Voor-Paardeberg, 11 Abv.

Pithy bramble berry, stalk spice and sap with a zesty tart strawberry pip fruit note, crushed stone minerality and grippy tannin. Class. (£24)

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

Winterhoek 2015, WO Ceres, 13.5 Abv.

Earthy savoury quince, cassis leaf, sweet sour plum and oxidative notes. A different take on Sauvignon more in the Pouilly Fume style. Unique but a bit of a marmite wine. (£8.99)

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

The Foundry Roussanne 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Fragrant white peach, citrus, orange peel zest with a creamy core and yellow pastille fruit finish. Superb! World class. (£15.99)

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

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

White peach, yellow citrus and pithy stony fruits. Juicy to its core. Incredible quality with a nutty marzipan finish. Wow! (£15.99)

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

Naudé White Blend 2009, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc Blend. Packed full of white citrus, white pepper, stalk spice and bruised orchard fruits on a finish with bright acids. Delicious and super classy. (£17.99)

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

Craven Clairette Blanche 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 11.5 Abv.

Quince, wet grass, apple peel, leesy white peach Bon Bon finish. Drinking very well. (£17.99)

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

Hannes Storm Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Quince, tropical yellow fruits, gooseberry and a hint of green mango peel. Creamy, mineral, super concentration. Old World style at its best! (£18.99)

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

Craven Chenin Blanc 2017 Karibib Vineyard, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Dusty, stony mineral fruits, hints of wet bushveld, white peach stone and crushed gravel on the finish. Very youthful. (£20.99)

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

Elgin Ridge Chardonnay 2017, WO Elgin, 13 Abv.

Grapefruit Bon Bon concentration, citrus pastille, lime peel and a toffee apple kiss. Vibrant, intense, incredible piercing length. Really very very special and worthy of an upgraded score since my last tasting note! (£22.95)

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

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2016, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Clairette Blanche, Chenin Blanc, and Viura Blend. Creamy, complex and such interwoven intrigue. Flavours melt into one another. Fabulously complex, harmonious effort. (£24.99)

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

Julien Schaal Confluence Chardonnay 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

Pithy, citric, mineral and super energetic. Overtones of expensive fresh white Burgundy. Among South Africa’s best Chardonnays no doubt. (£24.99)

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

Rall Grenache Blanc 2017, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.5 Abv.

Piekenierskloof fruit selection. Deliciously stony with pithy white citrus, peach stone and crushed granite minerality. Very pure and elegant. Lovely subtle yellow sour plum finish. Fabulous. (£23.49)

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

Red Wines

Primordial Soup 2017 Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Light fresh sappy red bramble berry fruits. Bright, savoury stewed strawberry hints and a long juicy finish. Great value for money. (£7.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 86+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Zorgvliet Silver Myn Argentum 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec blend. Shows sweet plum, cassis and tannery leather. Classical notes with sweet black fruited savoury depth. Well-proportioned and great value. (£9.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kaapzicht Cinsault Skuinsberg 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Stewed winter fruits, damson plum and raisined cranberry with a hint of marzipan and rose petals. Soft, sleek with a granitic minerality. Very fine. (£18.99)

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

Bohemian Syrah 2016, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Rich savoury, bramble berry black fruits, sweet cassis, cured meats and crushed coriander and peppercorns. V8 Chevy engine under a Porsche bonnet. Plush, smokey savoury finish. Punchy style. (£18.99)

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

Cricket Pitch Red Blend 2013, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc blend. Super perfumed notes of rose petals, violets, lilies with sweet cassis fruit. Sleek, classical Bordeaux Blend expression with fine pedigree. (£19.99)

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

Hat Trick 2012 Cape Blend, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Pinotage, Merlot, Grenache Blend. Sweet sappy bramble berry savoury black fruited nose. Exotic with hints of peach juice and black currant and a long, musk laden finish. (19.99)

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

La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Savoury bramble berry fruits, pomegranate exoticism, tilled earth and blood orange. Fresh, cool and precise. Lovely. (19.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Crystallum Peter Max Pinot Noir 2016, WO Coastal, 14 Abv.

Starts a bit reductive so give it air. Packed full of cherry stone and cranberry with hints of Victoria plum and pink rock candy. Cool, creamy, sublime balance and delicious depth with typicity. (£24.99)

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

Naude Adoro Red Blend 2007, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz blend showing classic notes of sweet tannery leather, raisined plums, winter stewed compote and earthy black bramble berry fruits with ample spice, salinity and cured meat complexity. A real consumer favourite! (£20.95)

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

David & Nadia Pinotage 2016, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

Deliciously light, lithe and fresh with perfumed, chalky red fruits and luscious, sappy red apple and cranberry intensity on the long, pure finish. Fabulous expression. (£22.99)

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

Thorne & Daughters Wanderer’s Heart 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Stony granitic cranberry and sweet tart red cherry. Super pure and precise with amazing freshness and depth with a light weight texture. (£24.99)

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

Kottabos Grenache Syrah 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Lifted dried rosemary and oregano herbal notes melt into sweet red berry fruits, liquorice, dried mint leaf, peppercorn and a subtle eucalyptus kiss. Delicious. (£24.99)

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

Savage Thief in the Night 2017, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah blend showing wonderfully expressive perfumed nose with crystallised cherries, cranberry, Turkish delight and red bramble berry fruits. Such purity, class and distinction. Just wow! (£24.99)

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

Brunia Pinot Noir From Cold Mountain Vineyards – A New Side Project from Wade Sander…

Wade Sander is the assistant winemaker at the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines cellar in Franschhoek. That snippet you might know. But what you probably didn’t know is that he makes a very accomplished Pinot Noir on the side.

In 2017, only 960 bottles were produced from nine year old vines. The wine was then aged 10 months in 228 litre old French oak barrels. The results are impressive for this ‘heart-break variety.’

Cold Mountain Vineyards Brunia Pinot Noir 2017, WO Sondagskloof, 13.5 Abv.

This is definitely a cool, light touch Pinot Noir with a bright, lively cherry ruby red colour. The aromatics are perfumed, lifted and refined showing notes of violets, fresh raspberries, red currant, red cherry combined with a complexing sappy spice. The palate too is equally clean, pure and refined and displays a taught, sappy resinous red cherry and red bramble berry intensity with subtle oak spice notes. There is a lightness and elegance to the texture but also a noticeable core of wound spring tension. This is an eminently classy delicious expression without being profoundly complex in its youth. Effortless to drink, this wine is another fine addition to the ongoing and developing tapestry of Pinot Noir in the new South Africa. Drink now and over the next 10+ years.

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

One of the Finest Semillons On the Market – Tasting the Dark Side of the Vine Semillon 2016 From Jacques Wentzel…

Semillon has always been a grape that has struggled to resonate with the consumer. Yes, fabulous dry versions from Tyrrells and other Hunter Valley producers in Australia have made the headlines globally, but in South Africa, I think it is fair to say that this variety has historically not been very popular.

However, things are changing. A new generation of winemakers has cracked the Semillon code and worked out how to produce styles that show great appeal. What all the top producers’ expressions have in common, from Chris Alheit to John Seccombe, Marc Kent to Eben Sadie, is exceptional fruit from historic old vine vineyards.

 

Jacques Wentzel from Black Elephant Vintners is another producer accessing fruit from one such vineyard for his Dark Side of the Vine cuvee. Basil Landau’s old vine Semillon block in the Bo-Hoek area of the Franschhoek Ward was planted in 1905 and is one of the oldest white wine vineyards in South Africa. The grapes see around 24 hours of skin contact before being fermented with natural indigenous yeasts followed by 12 months ageing in 500 litre French oak barrels. The results are exceptional and this wine now joins the ranks as one of South Africa’s very finest expressions of dry Semillon.

Black Elephant Vintners The Dark Side of the Vine 2016 Semillon, WO Franschhoek, 13 Abv.

The 2016 Semillon leans more towards fruit and flesh and less towards spice and herbal complexity like the 2015 vintage.  The wine displays a wonderfully intense aromatic nose with sensational lemon and lime zest and perfume. It unfurls wave upon wave of lemon confit, fresh peach juice, dried herbs, crushed walnut, nutmeg, tangerine peel, wet stones and dry thatch nuances. The palate is beautifully full and fleshy, almost unctuous but framed with the most delicious piercing, mouth-watering acidity. Super concentrated and broad but profoundly sensual and textural, the wine finishes with pure white citrus, black currant leaf and yellow tropical fruit candy notes. A joy to taste a wine that really does full justice to these centenary old vines from this famous vineyard in Franschhoek. Drink now or age for 8 to 10+ years.

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

Wines are distributed in the UK by Red Squirrel Wines. Approximate retail price £55.99 per bottle.

Gaja Highlights Their New Tuscan Releases at a High Profile Masterclass in London…

In 2019, as Angelo Gaja reaches 78 years old, he has for the first time all his children, Gaia, Roxanna and Giovanni all working together representing the family’s multiple estates. So it was perhaps extra fitting that today Angelo Gaja was awarded the prestigious Institute of Masters of Wines’s Winemakers’ Winemaker Award at Prowein in Dusseldorf.

However, for this tasting in London, Gaia and Giovanni started by profiling the family’s most recent Gaja winery acquisition in 1996, running through the full range of Ca’Marcanda wines produced in Bolgheri, coastal Tuscany, home of legendary neighbours Guado al Tasso, Ornellaia and Sassicaia.

Ca’Marcanda is also the Gaja winery that has seen the most marked increase in quality over the past 5 years as new plantings age and the family slowly learns the true potential of the estate’s terroir that includes 27 different soil types.

Tasting with Gaia Gaja and Giovanni Gaja at the Lanesborough in London.

75 hectares were bought in Bolgheri in 1996 with another 50 hectares subsequently acquired near Bibbona, outside the DOC Bolgheri appellation, for fruit that goes into the Vistamare white and Sangiovese grapes for some of their non-DOC reds.

Ca’Marcanda Vistamare 2018, 14 Abv.

A blend of Vermentino and Viognier, the wine shows vibrant pithy aromatics loaded with white citrus, salty maritime notes, green apple, ripe pear, sweet blossom and chalky, stony notes. Despite the vintage’s rain, there is a fine stony green apple fruit concentration, rasping white citrus and a delicious fleshy texture.

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

Giovanni, Gaia and UK agent, Patrick McGrath MW from Hatch Mansfield.

Ca’Marcanda Promis 2017, 13.5 Abv.

55% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese blend. An incredibly hot, dry year but not in the mould of 2003. The year started dry and hot so conditions were far more anticipated. Over ripeness has been avoided yielding a fine opulent example with plushness, sweet black berry fruited nose from tiny berries that embraces the subtle chocolatey mocha, nutty, oak notes and chalky, dusty mineral tannin on the finish. Very mineral and powerful, perfectly representing the small, thick skinned grapes vinified in this vintage.

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

Ca’Marcanda Magari 2017, 14 Abv.

A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. The aromatics immediately show ample complex lifted perfume notes with layers of violets, lavender, coastal garrigue and sweet dark black bramble berries. Silky soft elegant texture, there is impressive freshness and generosity framed by chalky mineral graphite tannins, sweet blueberry and black cherry fruit concentration and a delicate concentrated cassis confit length. A wonderfully composed and orchestrated red blend with a lot of class.

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

Ca’Marcanda Camarcanda 2016, 14 Abv.

A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. The flagship Red comes from the “almost perfect” 2016 vintage where Gaia said everything was in perfect balance and harmony. Already very open and “friendly”, the Carmacanda shows dense dark black currant depth, sweet cassis, graphite spice and a very restrained, fresh, crunchy concentrated finish with real verve and nerve, tension and generosity. The 17 degree C diurnal temperature shift between day and night during vintage really shows its imprint through bright, linear, vibrant glassy acids framing the pure, precise black fruits. Sublime precision and pinpoint elegance with substantial power and drive. This wine has class and quality written all over it. Possibly the finest Camarcanda flagship expression produced to date.

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

Gaja Winery owns wine estates in Barbaresco (Piedmont), Pieve Santa Restituta winery in Montalcino (Tuscany) and Ca’ Marcanda winery in Castagneto Carducci (Tuscany). In 2017, the Gaja family undertook a joint venture with the Graci family. Together they purchased vineyard acreage on the southern slope of Sicily’s Mount Etna, where you can find Nerello Mascalese and Carricante varieties. Plans for the new Gaja winery are currently awaiting planning permission in Sicily.

Tasting Hamilton Russell’s 2018 Releases – A Small Concentrated Vintage of Distinguished Power and Depth…

I recently caught up with my favourite Hemel-en-Aarde couple Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in London while en route to Prowein. I always love tasting their new releases because you can rest assured that the quality of both their iconic Chardonnay and their Pinot Noir will be pushed higher every year, vintage permitting, as maestro winemaker Emul Ross spins his magic and learns to harness something extra from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley terroir of the winery.

According to Anthony, the 2017 releases were stylistically considered a very elegant vintage and the subsequent 2018s a very low yielding year primarily due to damaging winds at flowering. But they managed to achieve an impressive fruit intensity at low alcohols using their own propagated Hamilton Russell yeasts developed after 1993. The Chardonnay 2018 was bottled in late December 2018.

Tasting the new 2018 releases with Anthony Hamilton Russell and Steven Spurrier.

The Pinot Noir 2018 release shows a tantalising melange of dark Gevrey Chambertin styled fruit with the structural richness of the 2016 combined with the Chambolle Musigny elegance and purity of the Hamilton Russell 2017. But apparently the 2018 wine continues to divide local opinion. The wine was bottled in late January 2019 unfined and with only the very coarsest of filtration.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.2 Abv.

Chatting to Anthony before tasting the 2018, he warned there might still be a hint of reduction on this young white wine. But to be honest, I found it very fresh, pure and delightfully fragrant, though perhaps aromatically a little more restrained and mineral at the moment, showing more yellow citrus, lemon pastille and wet chalk rather than struck match reduction. There is still a very subtle juvenile lick of salted caramel and vanilla spice from the oak barrel ageing, but on the palate, this is where the real pedigree of this wine is revealed. An ultra tight, pinpoint textural finesse, plenty of core energy and a classically restrained Burgundian dry lemon and limestone finish. Wonderfully intense and focused but simultaneously a suave and supremely balanced Chardonnay from the Walker Bay. Give this wine another 6 months in bottle after release and then indulge at will.

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

Enjoying some fine red and white Burgundy with Olive and Anthony while exploring the nuances of the 2018 vintage in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.4 Abv.

Every new release reveals a vintage of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir that is again purer, finer and more distinguished than the previous vintage. The 2018 is no exception showing a broody dark fruited nose with lashings of black cherry, black currant and salted black plums. At this young stage, the oak is incredibly well integrated allowing both the purity of black berry fruit and the limestone minerality to really shine through. On the palate, alluring hints of blueberry and mulberry dance a tightly choreographed routine supported by a well drilled accompaniment of mineral tannins finishing with a long, sappy, black bramble berry finish. This must surely rank as one of the finest young Pinot Noirs produced at the winery to date. Drink from 2020 until 2035+

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

A wine that divides opinion? Well, if the 2016 Pinot Noir can be considered more structured and Gevrey in style, the 2017s certainly earned an instant following with their feminine Chambolle styled elegance. For me, the 2018 Pinot is a dead ringer for a 1er Cru Nuits St Georges displaying depth and power, concentration and intensity of fruit with an artisanal workman-like Pinot Noir rusticity showing it’s hand. Classicists will be bowled over, novices might initially be slightly more challenged. Either way, the 2018 represents one of the highest quality “new era” Pinot Noir releases from the winery yet.

Marelise Niemann Making Waves in the Bot River – Tasting the Anysbos Maiden Releases…

Marelise Niemann officially launched her own Momento label in 2013 when she was still working for Beaumont winery in the Bot River region. She has recently taken up wine making duties at Anysbos Winery in the Bot River owned by Peter-Allan Finlayson’s uncle-in-law. Marelise has been making her Momento wines at Gabrielskloof along side Peter-Allan and John Seccombe (Thorne & Daughters) but will move production of these to Anysbos as well.

I recently tasted the two new releases from Anysbos here in London with their newly appointed importers Woodwinters and was totally blown away by the very high quality of both the white and red. There is no doubting Marelise’s expert winemaking skills, but you do need good fruit to make great wines and judging from these new releases, this is definitely a winery to follow if you are a wine connoisseur!

Tasting with Marelise in London in 2018.

Anysbos Disdit 2017, WO Bot River, 13.5 Abv.

A Chenin Blanc 61%, Roussanne 21% and Grenache Blanc 18% blend fermented with natural yeasts and aged 10 months in old oak barrels. Wonderfully opulent and expressive from the first pour over flowing with aromatic notes of tangerine, sweet pineapple pastille and green apple peel. So voluptuous, generous and fleshy with superb textural balance, impressive fruit concentration and a singing blood orange and mango flesh finish! Very impressive.

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

Anysbos Grenache Noir 2017, WO Bot River,13.5 Abv.

Super complex and expressive nose that is very precise, detailed and perfumed with notes of cherry confit, botanicals, vermouth spice and a striking line of blood orange and pomegranate spice. The balance and weight is super fine, concentrated and harmonious, quite discreet and feminine in its own kind of way. If this is the quality Marelise has achieved with her maiden Anysbos vintages, it makes the mind boggle at the end game potential. Really delicious!

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