Another Blockbuster Vintage Release of Bordeaux Blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon…

Whenever I visit South Africa, my eye is always drawn to the latest vintages of Bordeaux blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon on the Duty Free shelves. They always amazingly seem to be two vintages ahead of us here in the UK. So today I cracked into the 2014 to see what this current release holds in store for drinkers and collectors alike.

Meerlust Rubicon 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

An invitingly youthful, opulent nose bursting with blueberry pie, vanilla pod spice, violets, cedar wood and polished mahogany. Very impressive with lifted black currant and raisined cranberry notes, the complexity of this wine is mesmerising. The palate is wonderfully suave, fleshy and elegant, showing superb harmony and balance combined with Cabernet Sauvignon backbone, power and breadth. There are lashings of delicious sweet cassis, black currant pastille, blueberries, and seductive creamy oak vanillins. Such a polished example, finely tuned, and positively oozes with class and pedigree. This impressive 2014 should drink well now and for another 25+ years if well cellared. Bravo Hannes Myburgh and winemaker Chris Williams. 

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

Verdict: Buy and fill your cellar! 

Bringing New Excitement to the White Burgundy Category ~ Tasting Domaine Heitz-Lochardet Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru La Maltroye…

This is a fantastic little 6 hectare domaine run by winemaker Armand Heitz. I first encountered his new releases at a Flint Wines importer tasting 3 years ago and was blown away by the maiden releases. 
Commencing with the 2013 vintage, Armand patiently waited for some of the family owned vineyards to come to the end of their contracted leases before taking over the growing and production again in the old winery in Chassagne Montrachet. 

Armand has clearly brought a new lease of life to these under-performing vineyards and is now producing some very exciting and accomplished white and red wines focusing on the appellations of Chassagne Montrachet, Meursault, Chevalier Montrachet and Pommard.

As can be seen with this beautiful Chassagne Montrachet, Armand is not interested in making big, rich, fat, oaky, over blown wines styles, rather preferring to focus on achieving tension, nerve, freshness with slightly reductive complexity. The 1er Cru Maltroye sees about 20% of new oak and displays a harmonious mix of wood spice and limey citrus fruit intensity. 

Heitz-Lochardet Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru La Maltroye 2013, 13 Abv.
This is another beauty from Chassagne Montrachet. Just the style I like – steely, taught, reserved, yet intense. Way too much white Burgundy out there is fat, fleshy and overblown at a very early stage when they should still be tightly wound like a coiled spring. There are tantalising aromatics of struck match, smokey lemons, gun flint, yellow grapefruit, and wet chalk. The palate is crystalline and bright, with upfront notes of salinity, tart lemons, yellow citrus, waxy green apples and intense, picante, pithy acids. This is a more linear, limey, mineral expression but still possesses ample mid palate weight and yellow citrus flesh. But it always remains taught, racy, linear and pithy, with the palate persistence growing incrementally as the wine opens up in the glass. Plenty of the 2013 Burgundy vintage typicity make this a classic example from one of my favourite newcomers in Burgundy. 

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

The Enduring Bordeaux Love Affair ~ Tasting Chateau Leoville Barton 2005 Saint Julien…

August 12th signalled the beginning of the shooting season and of course the return of freshly shot grouse and pheasants to dining establishments all over the UK. Over the years, I have decided I am not a massive lover of well hung game but more of fresh ‘new season’ offerings. So with a lunchtime meeting at the famous Andrew Edmunds Restaurant in Soho beckoning, grouse it was!

After some delicious starters and a fantastic bottle of Domaine Ponsot Morey St Denis 1er Cru Cuvees des Alouette 2006 from the Monts Luisants 1er Cru vineyard, we decided to go classical again and order a bottle of Leoville Barton 2005 at a very modest price it must be said. When that decanter arrived on the table, steaming grouse plated in front of us, it did pass through my mind that perhaps the Domaine Fourrier Chambolle Musigny 2006 might have been a better follow up choice.

But one sip of the Barton put that thought well and truly to rest. Delicious! Like an old, sexy ex-girlfriend that keeps popping in to your mind, Bordeaux is a love affair that is well and truly hard to break. There are ups and downs, fall outs and make ups, but always an enduring Bordeaux passion that burns deep within fine wine lovers.

The Leoville Barton 2005 is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc and still possesses a deep dark ruby colour. The nose was absolutely seductive and so perfumed, brimming with sweet red cherry pie, saline cassis, black plums and tart cranberries. Such vibrancy, brightness and complexity. The oak notes were beautifully integrated already with the intense fruit opulence, but with extra layers of minerality, herbs and grilled spice complexity. The palate showed exceptional purity and was impressively ripe, long and full, with great depth of fruit and tremendous intensity on the finish. The tannins had the Margaux’esque suaveness and elegance you so often find on great Saint Juliens, but with a little bit of extra meat and muscle on the bone, like a fine Pauillac. A really mouth watering offering that was absolutely singing and paired gloriously with the grouse. This was such an impressive wine from Anthony Barton, that struck a seductive pose and seemed to reach heights of pleasure that the 2000 Leoville Barton just never seemingly manages to achieve. No great rush for this one, but if you have an accessible case in the cellar, crack a bottle with Sunday lunch and give it a test run.

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

A Winery On Top of Their Game ~ Tasting De Morgenzon DMZ Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

To be clear, 2016 was not an easy vintage, with drought conditions gripping the Western Cape. But any winemaker worth their salt would have watched their grape’s veraison even more carefully than normal in order to preserve that all important acidity. With Carl van der Merwe on top of his game, there is not a lot this fella can do wrong and this wonderful Stellenboschkloof white bears testament to Carl’s skill and precision.

The DMZ range is a more affordable, accessible range from the winery and this Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is very well executed and thoroughly attractive. Such perfumed, multi-dimensional aromatics rise imperiously out of the glass. There are wonderful notes of green Granny Smith apples, freshly cut grass, thatch, green boiled Bon Bon sweets, dusty granite, and cream soda notes. On the palate, there is just enough of the sweet confectionary shop and stick candy notes mingling with dusty chalky minerality to make this a finely poised offering with delicious, vibrant acids and succulent, green melon and green apple zip on the finish. It’s all so tightly packaged, so well put together that I just can’t imagine anyone not finding this bottle an absolute pleasure to quaff. Drink now and over the next 3+ years.

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

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition)…

Since circa 2011, Suertes del Marques has produced a tiny amount of dessert wine from primarily Listan Blanco. The must is drawn off the other white cuvées and fermented to around 8 or 9 Abv before being fortified with spirit to 15% Abv. Only around 100 x 50cl bottles are produced each year and are marked with the date they were drawn from the Solera. They did not have an accurate spec sheet for the wine when I visited, but based on taste, this wine must have an RS of between 80 and 120 g/l residual sugar(?)

Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition), Listan Blanco / Malvasia Aromatica, Valle de la Orotava DO, Tenerife, 15 Abv.

The colour is striking, being a wonderfully translucent shade of old gold and dark straw. On the nose, the senses are assaulted with notes of caramelised nuts, toffee apples, butterscotch, Madagascan vanilla pod, caramelised white peaches and the most vivid Sauternes like notes of dried apricots and bruleed oranges. But this is neither a late harvested wine nor a botrytis wine, and so the fruit aromatics remain pure and intense. The palate reveals great harmony and elegance, superb integration of sweet fruit and vanilla oak spice notes with seamless fresh acids and a long, honied, nutty finish. There are no clawing sugary notes or any tiring jammy fruits. Everything is superbly well proportioned and eminently drinkable. I expressed my dismay that Suertes del Marques don’t commercialise this wine further. It’s so delicious and food friendly (we enjoyed a bottle with Tenerife goats cheese and walnuts) that it would certainly find an instant cult following on the dinner party tables of London. In the past, only a handful of bottles were exported, but hopefully we will see a little more of this wine in London.

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

The Stellenbosch Hills are Alive… Tasting Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016 Blend…

Hot on the heals of the super sexy single clone Syrah, Sons of Sugarland, comes another delicious red from young Reenan Borman of Boschkloof fame. This small project wine called Kottabos is a stunning blend of 87% Grenache and 13% Syrah, both sourced in Stellenbosch from the Polkadraai area. 

The grapes both had 50% whole bunch fermentation and were then aged in used oak for approximately 11 months. Only 1,760 bottles were produced. Reenen describes the Kottabos as “a project of exploration in the Stellenbosch hills, the sole purpose being to showcase what this unique terroir has to offer.”

Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Another micro-vinification offering from the beautiful hills of Stellenbosch. In the glass, this wine has the alluring colour of young red Burgundy and shows a crystalline, translucent ruby glow. The nose offers up incredible perfume lift of cherry bon bons, blood oranges, rose petals, parma violets, pomegranate and subtle cedary, boxwood, marzipan spice. Notes of black pepper and earthy bramble berry sappy spice develop with time in the glass. The palate is very fine boned, precise, and light on its feet with an almost Pinot Noir elegance and finesse, framed beautifully by crunchy, sappy, tart cranberry acids and subtle, fine powdery tannins. The wine is so effortless, brimming full of energy, and really shows off Reenen Borman’s extensive winemaking expertise. Drink this wine now or over 3 to 8 years as it develops more forest floor and savoury bramble berry spice nuances.

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

Tasting Domaine des Miroirs Sonorite du Vent 2013 Chardonnay Les Saugettes, Vin de France, Jura, France, 12.5 Abv.

The popularity of Jura wines has been exploding over the past few years as consumers turn their attentions away from stratospherically priced, impossible to buy Burgundy. However, the problem with this is that many, if not most of the top domaines in the Jura are also tiny and only produce small amounts of wine.

So when it comes to unicorn Jura wines, there are none more rare and sought after than Japanese producer Kenjiro Kagami, who owns 3 hectares  in the Grusse area of Jura. Mentored by the Ganevats and Bruno Schueller, Kenjiro crafts some extraordinarily fine wines that seem nearly impossible to find. This 100% Chardonnay is made from organically grown grapes, which are vinified and then left on their lees for 12 months with no sulphur added during any stages of the winemaking.

A medium dark yellow straw colour that is slightly hazy. The aromatics are explosive, with lemon peel, oranges in cognac, bruised yellow peaches, summer orchard fruits and an intense, liquid minerality of wet limestone and dusty crushed granite. The palate begins with upfront yellow peach, saline alka seltzer zest, yellow citrus notes and waxy apples before shifting into fifth gear and offering up notes of exotic botanicals, incense, dried herbs, white peach, grapefruit and vermouth like complexity. The wine is balanced, harmonious and deliciously fresh, but also intriguing, multi-dimensional and impressively concentrated, all at 12.5 Abv ripeness. The fruit and minerality coat the palate leaving no corner of the mouth untouched. The longer the wine sits in the glass, the more it grows in complexity. The finish is unctuous and vibrantly fresh with sweet / sour peach and sour yellow plum notes melding beautifully with herbs in liquor and exotic botanical spices. A really profound Jura expression, it is easy to see why Kenjiro Kagami’s wines are now some of the most collectable and sought after unicorn wines produced. 

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