Masters of Their Terroir – Tasting the Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles 2014…

Jean-Claude and Noël Ramonet are at the head of Domaine Ramonet, the iconic Burgundy producer that delivers exceptional quality wines year in, year out, with international demand insatiable. From lowly Aligote all the way up to Montrachet Grand Cru, the wines always show intense terroir minerality, a measure of restraint and a mouth watering, salty fresh acidity.

Produced in the commune of Pernand-Vergelesses in Cote de Beaune, where red and white wine styles are both permitted, the appellation production consists of a little more than half red wine, and slightly less than half white wine. In 2008, there were 135.32 hectares of vineyard surface in production in total for Pernand-Vergelesses wine at Village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to around 750,000 bottles, including almost 400,000 bottles of red wine and a little over 350,000 bottles of white wine.

In keeping with the exceptionally high quality standards of Domaine Ramonet, they too produce one of the most exceptional Pernand-Vergelesses whites from one of the most famous village level “lieu-dits” single vineyard sites, Les Belles Filles. In the great 2014 vintage, they made an absolute cracker of a wine that was able to rival the best Premier Crus sites for quality. Always sought after, these wines can and often do represent exceptional value for money when seen on restaurant or wine bar lists.

Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles 2014, Burgundy, 13 Abv.

The 2014 Les Belles Filles starts off tight, taut and as linear as physically possible. Liquid rocks, limestone and dusty wet slate notes dominate the aromatics. A few minutes in the glass allows this wine to open its shoulders slightly, revealing a more complex array of white citrus zest, white blossom, crunchy green pears and a hint of hazelnut savoury spice. Although so youthful and tightly wound, you can already feel the wonderful textural weight that coats the palate and unfurls slowly in alternate layers of minerality and tart, saline pithy citrus fruits. Superbly focused and wonderfully precise for this ‘lesser’ Burgundy appellation wine, the finish packs plenty of punch with more liquid minerality, smokey struck match flinty citrus spice and a cool, clean waxy lemon cordial length. A wine that is initially very reticent, blossoms into a lean, complex, well honed, superbly made white Burgundy with fine nuanced complexity and good ageing potential. Drink from 2020 to 2030+.

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

San Lorenzo SW19 Restaurant and Importer Wimbledon Wine Cellars Hosts An Amazing Greek Fine Wine Extravaganza…

18 months after my last epic trip to the Greek Island of Tinos to visit the exciting premium winery of T-Oinos, I recently had another great opportunity to taste a broad selection of offerings from four premium Greek wineries. With some exceptional whites and reds paired with delicious food prepared by Wimbledon Hill restaurant institution San Lorenzo, the scene was set for another Greek fine wine extravaganza in London.

Hosted by their UK importer Wimbledon Wine Cellars, Vassaltis, T-Oinos Clos Stegasta, La Tour Melas and Nopera wineries presented current and new releases to an eager, thirsty audience. While I have never doubted the quality of the wines on show, the occasion served as yet another reminder to reinforce just how world class some of these wines really are.

With Yannis Valambous of Vassaltis.

Greek wines are on the ascendancy, with many nearing a level of mainstream consumer fine wine acceptance on par with other mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain. Plenty of hard work still lies ahead, especially for some of the reds, but overall, the future for premium Greek wineries and wine drinkers is very bright indeed.

Rose Flight

La Tour Melas Idylle D’Achinos Rose 2016

Pristinely pure, dry and mineral with a seductive kiss of strawberry and cherry fruits, taught fresh acids and a delicious liquid minerality on the finish. Just add sunshine!

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

White Flight 1

Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2015 (Magnum), Santorini, 13.5 Abv.

Lovely yellow pithy citrus, white peach, salty sea breeze notes. Impressively dense core of fruit, wonderful concentration and minerality, beautifully embroidered by a fresh, briney acidity. Such class and depth. A real beauty.

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

T-Oinos Assyrtiko (Amphora) 2016, Tinos, 14 Abv.

Taught crisp white blossom, crushed granite and yellow citrus on a restrained, very sophisticated nose. Superbly saline on the palate with tart green apple, bruised white peaches and yellow grapefruit … tasted on a misty, sea spray swept beach. Another sublime pinnacle for the Assyrtiko grape.

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

White Flight 2

Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2016 (Barrel Fermented), Santorini, 13.7 Abv.

Incredibly complex, mineral, yellow stone fruit notes with an expertly judged hint of sappy, resinous oak spice. Beautifully textured palate, pithy, vibrant and saline but with more breadth and creamy depth. Saline, spicy, piquant finish. What a beauty.

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

T-Oinos Assyrtiko (Barrel Fermented) 2016, Tinos, 14 Abv.

Fabulously crystalline and bright, this expression shows such tension, minerality together with bruised orchard fruits, yellow apples and sweet ripe lemon peel notes. Seemlessly cool, fine boned palate with impressive intensity, liquid minerality, green apple pastille fruits and a long, lingering finish.

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

Red Flight 1

La Tour Melas Cyrus One 2016, 14 Abv.

Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Agiorgitiko

Rich ripe expressive nose packed with earthy red berries, sweet red plums, cassis and hints of sour cherry. So pure and attractive, the palate is finely balanced, pitching creamy black berry, vanilla pod spice and buttered brown toast notes dusted with dried herbs and spice. Approachable and accessible. Lovely.

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

La Tour Melas Palies Rizes 2013, 14 Abv.

Rich, plush nose, intoxicating perfume of sweet cherry blossom, violets and red berry liquor notes. Sweet confit, intense and ripe fruit expression from 110 year old ungrafted Agiorgitiko vines. Plush, intense, and texturally very opulent.

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

T-Oinos Mavro 2012, Tinos, 13 Abv.

Sweet raisined black berries, earthy cherry and bruised black plums. Lovely earthy graphite notes, superb lacy tannins and real elegance. Subtle hints of black liquorice and black cherry linger on a long, cool, restrained, elegant finish.

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

Red Flight 2

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Marvrotragano (Magnum) 2013, Tinos

Delicious classical depth of black cherry, graphite, tart black cherry and earthy cassis berries. Creamy, dense, very textural, there are tantalising liquorice hints, black berry, salty graphite notes and a long opulent, luxurious finish. Real character and class.

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

La Tour Melas 2015, 14.5 Abv.

Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Agiorgitiko

Rich dark broody nose full of black cherry, kirsch liquor, blue berry, graphite and a spicy, cedary, dried herb notes. Quite sweet fruited and opulent, very lush, there is an attractive cassis and black plum confit length. Front loaded with fruit, less minerality. Delicious sweet texture with fine length.

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

La Tour Melas 2014 (Magnum), 14.5 Abv.

Finely piquant, laced with violets, cedar and wood spice with an underlay of ripe cassis, black plum, cassis leaf and saline, fresh black cherry spice. Definite classical under tone of graphite and dried herbs, but the tannins are quite resolved, soft and spicy. Drinking well now.

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

Sweet Flight

Nopera Epitome Muscat de Samos, 13.5 Abv.

Sweet bruleed orange peel, tarte tatin, sweet old honey and marmalade. Lifted by orange zest, grapefruit confit and citrus complexity. Rich, finely textured and integrated acids balanced with toffee apple, caramel and sweet, rich opulent concentration from grapes of vines over 100 years old. Delicious, real class.

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

San Lorenzo Restaurant is located at 38 Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19, London.

Tel: 0208 946 8463

Burgundies Most Revered Wineries Championing Aligoté – Tasting Domaine Coche-Dury Bourgogne Aligoté 2011…

Working a 9.43 hectare estate, Jean-François Coche took over his father Georges’ Domaine in 1973 to continue the production of some of the most profound and individual whites and reds in the whole of Burgundy. Officially retiring in 2010, he still makes his presence felt alongside his son Raphaël and wife Charline who have taken over winemaking duties.

The Domaine shows meticulous attention to detail with every stage of picking and winemaking, often resulting in very low yields that produce wines with incredible intensity, precision, and individual character. If Domaine de la Romanee-Conti produces the most sought after reds in Burgundy, Domaine Coche-Dury undoubtedly produces the region’s most sought after whites.

The white Chardonnay vineyards cultivated by the estate include 0.34 hectares of Grand Cru Vineyard Corton-Charlemagne which was acquired in 1986 and three holdings of Premier Cru vineyards in Meursault with 0.20 hectares in Perriéres, 0.07 hectares in Caillerets and 0.08 hectares in Genevriéres. Village classified vineyard holdings consist of 0.05 hectares of Chevalières and 0.29 hectares of Rougeots, both in Meursault, plus 0.20 hectares of the Puligny-Montrachet based Les Enseignières vineyard acquired in 1985.

But perhaps few grapes have been as scorned in Burgundy in the last 25 years as Aligoté, often being described as thin, acidic and insipid, capable of nothing better than serving as the historical base for a kir, in which white wine is flavoured with creme de cassis. But many of Burgundy’s most revered names, including cherished estates like Coche-Dury, Leroy, Roulot and Ramonet, Lafarge and d’Angerville, de Villaine, Ligier-Belair and Ponsot, persist in growing Aligoté.

Why? Because, when the grapes are farmed conscientiously with intent and the wines are made with precision and attention to detail, they can be deliciously distinctive, full of the energy, salinity and minerality that are the hallmarks of Aligoté.

Domaine Coche-Dury believes strongly that the white wines of Burgundy should have core nerve, and theirs are never amongst the ripest or highest in alcohol. It is their vibrant acidity, often hidden in their opulence that helps them to age so successfully and predictably and that includes their Aligoté.

Domaine Coche-Dury Bourgogne Aligoté 2011, Burgundy, France

Another beautifully expressive white from Domaine Coche-Dury. Made from Aligoté vines located behind the family home, it has a wonderfully fragrant nose of spiced crunchy green pears, white blossoms, buttered pastries and lime pastille sweets. There are some hallmark Coche-Dury struck match reductive notes but they are certainly finely integrated and secondary to the wine’s citrus fruits, green apple and liquid mineral intensity. The palate feels round and opulently textured in the mouth with a fine lemon / lime cordial acid line cutting cleanly through the lovely lemon curd and salty apple purée concentration. Superb depth, intensity and Aligoté varietal personality. I struggle to think of a better example of this variety. Drink now or cellar for another 3 to 5+ years.

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

Elegant and Characterful – Tasting the Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage 2014…

The extensive Bosman Family vineyard holdings are based primarily in the Wellington region although a new winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus was added to the portfolio in the last few years. As well as owning large swathes of vineyards, the Bosman Family are also one of the leading nurseries for vine rootstocks in South Africa. Under the lead of head winemaker Corlea Fourie, they make some fantastic white and red wines.

Jannie Bosman (snr) planted these vines back in 1994, seeing the exceptional quality of the one year old vines being classed and graded in their vine nursery. Since then, many Top 10 Pinotages have been produced from this vineyard.

Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage 2014, WO Wellington, 13.5 Abv.

Wonderfully exotic nose brimming with parma violets, marzipan, brûléed red berries, espresso and pomegranate. The palate is impressively detailed and elegant with a vibrant core of freshness, delicious chocolate raspberry nuances, cherry liquor and pithy blood orange sweetness. Lovely to see how the lower alcohol level and reined in ripeness allows this wine to express all its true Pinotage characteristics while retaining impressive elegance and textural finesse. A smart wine indeed.

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

The New CVNE Monopole Clásico 2015 Released – Reinventing the Past For a Future Generation of Wine Drinkers…

The world of wine is a big place with countless grapes, wine styles and production techniques. Indeed, wine has never been more mainstream and more popular than it is now. However, with this populism has come a growing tendency towards homogenisation, taking the safe option and producers not pushing boundaries any longer. A comment from UK wine journalist Jamie Goode recently sticks in my head… “just because most consumers drink boring commercial rubbish a lot of the time, doesn’t mean they don’t actually want to drink exciting, edgy, innovative wines too.” That’s where wonderful wines like the CVNE Monopole Clásico come into their own.

This Monopole Clásico white was produced from a blend of white varieties, hand harvested in 20kg cases at optimum ripeness. Softy pressed, as in the 1960s, the must went into concrete tanks for their debourbage / settling, then into stainless steel tanks for the alcoholic fermentation. Once completed, the wine was transferred with its fine lees into wooden vats and botas of 300 litres and 500 litres that had previously been used two or three times. The wine was then aged for around 8 months.

The uniqueness of this wine lies in the contribution of a small quantity of Manzanilla sherry, developed by the traditional method of crianza under “velo de flor”. The wines’ ageing contributes to its peculiar organoleptic characteristics, adding aromas of chamomile tea, dried fruits and nuts, and a long and salty aftertaste with a marked acidity.

The 2015 vintage proved to be one of the best in recent years, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Starting slightly early and proceeding at pace, throughout the vegetative cycle the weather conditions displayed classical textbook seasonality. A rainy autumn, a dry winter with heavy frosts, a rainy spring and a summer with large diurnal temperature shifts between day and night. Weather during the harvest was exceptional and allowed for a harvest with great quality, superb ripening and very healthy fruit.

CVNE Monopole Clásico Blanco Seco 2015, Rioja, 13.5 Abv.

A wonderfully tangy saline nose full of crunchy pear, sea breeze, oyster shell, almond skins, nutty Manzanilla flor spice and caramelised orange peel. Plenty of tension and coiled spring energy, this wine is known to flesh out further with an extra 6 to 8 months in bottle. The palate revels in its nutty, saline Intensity with oxidative Manzanilla sherry nuances whispering in the background, all the while tempered by pithy gooseberry and white stone fruits, chamomile and a dusty, chalky texture. So characterful and deliciously mouth watering, this is an admirably unique wine style that everyone should experience. Drink now to 2035+

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

The New Fine Wine Benchmark For White Wines From Portugal – Tasting the New Release Niepoort Vinhas Velhas 2015 Bairrada with Dirk Niepoort…

Few wines have redefined the meaning of fine wine in Portugal quite like the red and white offerings from Dirk Niepoort’s Quinta de Baixo estate. Philosophically rooted in the past, these wine’s are illuminating the future possibilities of fine wine in Bairrada. Today I caught up with Dirk Niepoort in London to taste and talk new vintages.

Quinta de Baixo Vinhas Velhas is the result of combining the varieties Maria Gomes and Bical from century-old vineyards situated on a wonderful limestone terroir.

These exceptional old vine vineyards give rise to wines naturally very high in acidity with a pH below 3.0. The wines are fermented in 1000 litres Mosel fuders that are over 60 years old. The wine is then bottled with very low sulphur additions and no filtration or fining.

Quinta de Baixo Vinhas Velhas 2015, Bairrada, 11.5 Abv.

Sophistication personified, but this is also a wine made with the most honest, natural intensions possible. Perhaps that is the root of its greatness. Beautifully expressive and intense, unfurling delicious aromatic notes of pear purée, nutty almond skins, green apple, dried baking herbs and a wonderful underlay of white citrus, lemon rind and pithy, stony, gravelly limestone minerality. The palate is very finely poised, perfectly balanced, where the incredible concentration and acid intensity is balanced by piecing stone fruits and a saline, briney depth. This is undoubtedly a profound Bairrada white wine, which based on this showing, it has acquired an extra confidence and complexity, but most impressively, a sense of true vinous grandeur. It stimulates the senses and leaves you quite speechless. A massive vinous triumph for Dirk Niepoort.

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

Ridge Monte Bello: One of The World’s Most Legendary Red Wines – Tasting the New Release 2014…

In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the first Monte Bello vineyards were planted, and winery construction begun. A first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; some vines survived into the late 30’s, but by the 1940s they were effectively abandoned. Eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were replanted in 1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962) and subsequent vintages until 1974 when younger blocks replanted in the 1960’s were considered for inclusion. Since then, the historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.

Vintage 2014

Lack of winter rain affected both vines and cover crops, limiting available nutrients. Still, the vines carried a decent-size crop, which ripened in September. Fermentations progressed slowly; extraction was decided by careful tasting. Malolactic fermentations started in tank and finished by February. Merlot, which suffered in 2013, was strong in 2014. Petit Verdot remained challenged by drought.

Winemaking : Grapes were harvested between the 2nd and 24th of September. Fermentation on the native yeasts proceeded with grapes destemmed and 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting was followed by hand sorting. Pressed at ten days with natural malolactic fermentation taking place. In 2014, nineteen of twenty-six Monte Bello parcels were selected for blending, after which the wine was aged in oak barrels: 100% new air-dried oak, 97% American oak, 2% French oak; 1% Hungarian oak, for 17 months.

Ridge Monte Bello 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, 13.5 Abv.

Always exciting to taste a new vintage of Monte Bello. It is truly one of the world’s great icon wines that never disappoints. What is so wonderful about this wine is the ultra intelligent path it treads between new world opulence and old world classical restraint. In 2014, the Monte Bello is a delicious blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. There is a wonderful Cabernet laden nose of blueberry crumble, cassis, black plum, buttered brown toast and a piquant note of cedar wood spice, walnut skins, graphite and vanilla pod spice. The palate conveys such wonderful concentration and depth yet remains so elegantly poised, harmonious and finely balanced. A multi layered wine that is supremely seamless, revealing more saline black current, blue berries, black cherry , vanilla bean, salty liquorice hints and a very long, polished finish. Certainly a very well honed, muscular athlete that is a wonder to behold. The tannins will hold this beautiful wine in pole position for many years to come but should be good to start drinking in the next 2 to 3 years and over the next 30+ years.

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