Celebrating Eduardo Chadwick Winning the 2018 Decanter Man of the Year With a Superb Retrospective Tasting in London – Part 2: Vinedo Chadwick Vertical…

Another of the excellent tasting events organised to mark Eduardo Chadwick’s Decanter Man of the Year 2018 award was an exciting and rare Vinedo Chadwick retrospective vertical tasting in London attended by top journalists and the who’s who of the European fine wine trade.

The vineyard around the Chadwick family home had produced outstanding red grapes for decades and it was Eduardo Chadwick that recognised the potential of this unique terroir and persuaded his father to convert his beloved polo field into vineyards, planting Cabernet Sauvignon in 1992.

Located at 650 metres altitude at Puente Alto in the Maipo Valley, this 15 hectare vineyard is considered one of Chile’s best terroirs.

Vinedo Chadwick Vertical 1999 to 2015

Vinedo Chadwick 1999, 14 Abv.

94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Carmenere aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. Supremely old Bordeaux style, this has all the hallmarks of classical Cabernet with sweet tannery hide, tobacco, leather, sweet earthy black currant and complexing clove spice. Lush, meaty and dense, this wine shows wonderful depth, tension and classy Cabernet Sauvignon intensity.

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

Vinedo Chadwick 2003, 14 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. Brûléed, opulent, dense wine with complex notes of polished mahogany, black plum, brûléed black berry and dark cherry kirsch liquor intensity. Super ripe, plush and fleshy, this has the opulence of a warm vintage with a gravelly, mineral edge that confounds the senses. A super block buster.

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

Vinedo Chadwick 2006, 14 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. More evolved and tertiary, the 2006 has pronounced notes of black plum, molasses, sweet chew tobacco and tar. The palate is tarry, saline and focused, but also very much in the riper flavour profile. With a slightly blocky, chunky finish, this wine is still a bit monolithic.

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

Vinedo Chadwick 2009, 14.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 100% new French oak. Dark dusty Cabernet nose with chalky brûléed black berry notes, creamy cassis, lush liquorice depth and opulently hedonistic. Warmer vintage, this has great power and character, but also great harmony and balance. Intense concentration, great silky high quality tannins, lovely expression.

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

Vinedo Chadwick 2010, 14.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 95% new French oak. Chalky dusty gravelly nose, there are multiple aromas of sweet cassis, salty plums, black berry and a slightly rooty edge. The palate is plush, fleshy and fresh, but quite punchy and opulent finishing with a restrained, mineral, graphite, cassis leaf reserve.

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

Vinedo Chadwick 2012, 14 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 90% new French oak. Showing more youthful, brûléed blackberry tones, this wine seems to have a more reserved Cabernet tone with chalky tannins, violets, cedary spice and a ‘lamb and mint sauce’ savoury complexity. The pitch perfect balance is definitely there with the archetypal Vina Chadwick precision. A real beauty.

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

Vinedo Chadwick 2014, 13.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 75% new French oak. Started with a difficult season with big frost damage but with the secondary growth still able to yield around 40% (5000 bottles) of a normal crop, followed by a hot summer and cool ideal Autumn. The nose is plummy, chocolatey and lush with dried herbs, sweet cassis and a really pronounced salinity. Wonderful purity, intensity and precision, this wine oozes class and breeding.

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

Vinedo Chadwick 2015, 13.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 73% new French oak and 15% in Stockinger foudre. Deliciously opulent nose of sweet cassis, roasted herbs, roasted lamb fat, violet perfume and a subtle mineral, graphite edge. Ultra plush and generous on the palate, this wine has no edges but is sublimely harmonious and seamless. Superbly elegant, fine and distinguished, this screams class. Delicious.

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

Celebrating Eduardo Chadwick Winning the 2018 Decanter Man of the Year With a Superb Retrospective Tasting in London – Part 1: Vina Sena Vertical…

2018 will surely go down in history as the year the Chilean wine industry was finally recognised for producing some incredibly profound fine wines, and certainly nobody within their industry has done more to establish the country’s reputation than Eduardo Chadwick from Vina Errazuriz.

One of the several events planned to mark Eduardo’s Decanter Man of the Year 2018 award was an exciting and rare Vina Sena and Vinedo Chadwick retrospective vertical tasting in London attended by top journalists and the who’s who of the European fine wine trade.

Patrick McGrath MW, head of UK importer Hatch Mansfield with Eduardo Chadwick and his daughter.

To give both these incredible tastings their due respect, I will feature the tasting notes of Vina Sena and Vinedo Chadwick in separate write-ups.

Journalist Oz Clarke in attendance

“What Eduardo Chadwick is proving now with his vertical tastings of Sena is that as his wines and similar vintages of Bordeaux age, his wines are still up there, judged equal, if not superior.” ~ Steven Spurrier, October 2013

“It is a terrific red in every regard and contends with the best of the world. All the same, there is so much more to Sena than sheer quality. Put simply, it comes down to two words: provenance and pedigree.” ~ James Suckling

Vina Sena Vertical 1997 to 2015

Vina Sena 1997, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 13.5 Abv.

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Carmenere with 16 months ageing in 43% new French oak. Sweet meat, earthy, red currant and gamey depth, with impressive flesh, texture and mouthfeel. Palate shows hints of tomato purée, sweet macerated plums and stewed winter fruit compote. Pithy strawberry crunch, dry chalky minerality and lovely long tertiary length. Great power and concentration from a warm vintage.

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

Vina Sena 2000, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 6% Carmenere with 18 months ageing in 92% new French oak. A cooler more elegant vintage showing super supple tannins, a cool creamy texture and wonderful classical vibrancy and youthfulness. Ultra polished, super fine, intense, focused wine with great purity and finesse backed by Cabernet structure and power.

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

Vina Sena 2005, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14.5 Abv.

57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Carmenere, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot with 18 months ageing in 100% new French oak. Lush dense and overtly opulent, instantly obvious luxurious nose of sweet plum, creamy oak vanillins, sweet cassis and subtle liquorice stick. A really impressive expression that moves to a more profound level. Wonderful balance, fine chewy tannins, power, intensity and real muscle in wonderful tone and proportion. Wonderfully youthful.

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

Vina Sena 2009, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14.5 Abv.

54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 16% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc with 22 months ageing in 100% new French oak. Dense, dark and broody, with a hint of polished oak, tomato leaf, saline cassis and a real piquant black berry intensity. A really youthful, plush and approachable wine, it certainly lacks no intensity and complexity. At almost 10 years old, it’s still a baby and shows great promise for the future.

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

Tim Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick presenting a signed copy of the history of Vina Sena to a US sommelier.

Vina Sena 2011, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere, 15% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc with 22 months ageing in 77% new French oak barrels. Another cool late season. Plush, dark opulent expression with exotic floral aromatics of chocolate orange, black berry and cherry liquor. The palate is supple, incredibly fresh, yet positively vital, showing beautifully fresh acids, fine detail, elegance, and impressive textural harmony. Pithy, black cherry and blueberry finish, this wine speaks of Sena’s very finest qualities. Lovely fine wine.

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

Sir Colin Hampden-White and Tim Mondavi

Vina Sena 2012, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Carmenere, 12% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot with 22 months ageing in 70% new French oak. A very warm vintage, this big opulent wine shows a dense, hedonistic weight and breadth. The first vintage including Malbec, the nose is spicy, lush, chocolately and full with a wonderful sappy blueberry edge. The palate is equally opulent and luxurious with the most creamy tannins, finely poised elegance and a very long, luxurious, harmonious finish. Youthful, intense, absolutely delicious!

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

Vina Sena 2013, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere, 12% Malbec, 10% Merlot 5% Petit Verdot with 22 months ageing in 75% new French oak. Taut, mineral and saline, this shows very shy, restrained aromatics. From a long cool vintage for the purist connoisseur. With crisp acids, sour cherry, tart Victoria plum, this is the classical style that is leading the way forward for Sena in the long run. Subtly with power, complexity with real focus and freshness. Wonderful restraint, beautifully self-assured style.

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

Vina Sena 2015, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 13.5 Abv.

57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 12% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc with 22 months ageing in 65% new oak barrique and 12% in new Stockinger foudre. Still so youthful and primary, the 2015 is an elevated, focused, ultra expressive wine. Hedonistic showmanship combined with introverted, introspective depth. Through the exotic blueberry, cassis and black cherry aromatics, the wine reveals an elegance and power with a bridled restraint, classism, and lower alcohol elegance. A real coming of age wine, this wine truly shows the potential of the Vina Sena site. Bravo Eduardo and winemaker Francisco Baettig.

(Wine Safari Score: 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)

Meerlust Estate Previews Probably the Greatest Expression of Their Rubicon Red Blend in 38 Years of Production – Tasting the Meerlust Rubicon 2015 with Hannes Myburgh…

“Alea iacta est. The die is cast,” Julius Caesar is supposed to have said as he led his troops towards Rome in 49BC. The crucial border of the ancient capital was the Rubicon River, and the decision to cross it marked an irrevocable point in history. It would profoundly shift the course of Roman politics – there could be no turning back. On Wednesday the 24th January, Hannes Myburgh and the Meerlust Estate might just have crossed another epic Rubicon with the unveiling of their 2015 Meerlust Rubicon Bordeaux Blend in London.

Not due for release in the South African market for several more months, this is a wine that both owner Hannes Myburgh and winemaker Chris Williams believe could be the greatest expression of Rubicon ever made. As a long time follower of this wine, having tasted every vintage back to the maiden 1980 multiple times, I have to agree with them. Many great vintages of Rubicon have been produced over the past 38 years, but the 2015 vintage release coincides with what is almost certainly the greatest vintage for South African red and white wines in the modern winemaking era.

As if just to cast out any doubts, Hannes Myburgh unveiled the as yet unlabeled 2015 vintage at the end of a fascinating Rubicon vertical masterclass at their UK importer’s 2018 portfolio tasting.

Meerlust Rubicon Bordeaux Blend Vertical Tasting

Meerlust Rubicon 1986, 12.19 Abv.

A really traditional expression, the colour is still dark opaque brick red brown. The nose is classically proportioned revealing English breakfast tea, cedar spice, earthy bramble berries, lactic creamy milk chocolate and sweet tannery leather notes. Palate is super fresh, vibrant, almost tart, with a delicious earthy melange of red currants, tertiary sous bois, bruised red orchard fruits and bruised red plum. So fresh still, incredible purity, classical sweet cedary tannins and a very long brûléed coffee bean finish. Leaves you speechless. Drink now to 2030+.

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

Meerlust Rubicon 1991, 13 Abv.

Very fine wet earth complexity to begin, this wine is perfumed and intense showing saline cassis, iodine, briney oyster shell, sweet boxwood notes and complex hints of grilled herbs. The palate still shows such rich vibrancy, sweet black tea intensity, black current coulis and a suave, creamy sweet tannin finish. So fresh, bright, pure, dense and utterly youthful! Lovely structure balanced by big concentration. Utterly spellbinding. Drink now to 2035+.

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

Meerlust Rubicon 2001, 13.5 Abv.

One of the all time greats from Meerlust, this was one of Giorgio dalla Cia’s last great vintages which won the Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Best Bordeaux Blend Trophy in 2006. Still beautifully vital and intensely coloured showing a crystalline ruby red hue. The nose is jam packed full of black cassis fruit, brûléed coffee beans, violets and sweet dried baking spices. Plush, lush and almost weightless in the mouth, the palate is so broad, concentrated, vibrant and intense, with the most harmonious youthful balance and seamless silky balance with just a hint of salinity and mineral graphite on the finish. So suave, so regal, this is a wine that defines elegance. A true South African icon. Drink now to 2040+.

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

Meerlust Rubicon 2005, 13.94 Abv.

So very classical on the nose, you could be sitting on the banks of the Grionde in Bordeaux drinking a classical Pauillac when you taste this wine. Chris Williams’ second solo vintage, he considers this wine possibly one of the best Meerlusts ever made. Still starkly youthful, the nose is packed with black tea, cedar spice, violets, dried herbs and pot pourri complexity with an underlay of saline cassis, oyster shell and slightly drying, powdery grippy tannins. At this embryonic stage, it has all the power, grip and intensity to justify long term aging. Very classy, slightly showy and deliciously fresh with a great long future ahead of it. Drink now to 2045+.

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

Meerlust Rubicon 2010, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot that was matured for 24 months in 60% new oak from Nevers. The 2010 Rubicon has a well defined smokey bouquet showing sweet blackberry mixed with blueberry fruit opulence. Another very classical expression, this wine also has Bordeaux left bank written all over it. Quite dense and youthful, showing grilled herbs, graphite, bold sweet tannins and an elegant, balanced acidity. This is going to continue improving for a good 15+ years. Not quite as eye catching yet as some Rubicon vintages, but you can expect this wine to blossom further and improve in bottle. Drink now to 2040+.

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

Meerlust Rubicon 2015, 14 Abv.

(Bottled in November 2017)

A mesmerizingly dark black purple colour, this youthful wine is wonderfully crystalline, focused and pure, possessing such pretty aromatics of cherry blossom, rose petals, caramelised cranberries, violets, cherry pie, raspberry infused herbal tea and a subtle creamy vanilla pod extravagance. The palate is ultra suave, opulent yet effortlessly fresh and defined, supremely balanced and concentrated. Such gorgeous depth and seamless elegance, a tantalizing brûléed buttered brown toast complexity, creamy filigree tannins and an incredibly long, spellbinding finish. This is going to be a definite future icon vintage on par with the very best Cru Classe wines produced in Bordeaux but at a fraction of the price. Get in early, get in quick, and go long. This is one of the most profound Rubicons of the modern era. Drink from 2020 to 2045+.

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

The Rising Star of Saint Emilion – Tasting a Vertical of Chateau La Croizille…

La Croizille is a wonderfully situated St Emilion Grand Cru Chateau that was acquired by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family in 1996 and whose wines are sold mostly in the Benelux. The 5 hectares of vines belonging to the Château benefit from the same remarkable soils, on the borders of the clay-limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion in the commune of Saint-Laurent des Combes, as Chateaux such as Tetre Roteboeuf and Troplong Mondot.

After 1996, the De Schepper family commenced on a large investment spree, bringing the estate into the modern winemaking era, combining its sought after terroir with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a wine with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality under the watchful eye of head winemaker, Jean-Michel Garcion.

This winery is a real rising star in St Emilion which you will almost certainly read a lot more about in years to come.

La Croizille Vertical Tasting 2007 – 2016

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2007, 13 Abv.

The vineyards on the clay-limestone plateau yielded a spectacularly good offering in 2007. Notes of polished mahogany, earth, tannery leather, cherry kirsch liquer and black current rise out of the glass. Wonderful berry concentration, elegance and subtle evolution are hallmarks on this expertly crafted wine. It will be hard not to finish the bottle once you open this beauty. Drink now to 2025+

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

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2010, 13 Abv.

From this epic vintage, notes of polished mahogany, boot polish, black cherry kirsch liquer and black current confit rise imperiously out of the glass. Wonderful concentration, elegance and freshness are all wrapped together with a most expertly integrated lick of new French oak. This is everything you would want from an iconic vintage and a real testament to winemaker Jean-Michel’s true skills. Drink now to 2035+

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

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2011, 13 Abv.

The 2011 shows attractive floral perfume aromatics, polished oak, cherry confit, cherry liquer and saline black current leaf intensity. Superb concentration, sleek textured elegance and freshness and a smattering of the most attractive French oak vanilla spice notes. A noble and impressive follow up to the 2010 and a wine that will happily grace the tables of the most discerning connoisseurs. Drink now to 2029+

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

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2012, 13 Abv.

A dark cherry black opaque colour greets the drinker. Initially, the nose is broody and closed. But a little glass swirling and coaxing starts to elicit some of the more classical elements of the bouquet… black berry, black cherry pith, cassis, dusty limestone minerality, hints of graphite and a gloss of buttered brown toast. The oaking is almost imperceptible, revealing a very restrained and quite classical expression from this “drinking” Bordeaux vintage. The palate has all the sleekness, suppleness and accessibility that you’d expect from a 2012. A soft fine grained texture, polished powdery tannins, chalky grip and spicy, plummy, peppery black cherry and black berry fruit. It’s all packed into a very classical, medium bodied parcel, that delivers pleasure now but also suggest it is structured enough to be holding back a few surprises in reserve for drinkers in 5 to 8 years time.

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

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2014, 13 Abv.

This wine is ripe and rich with beautifully plush classical right bank allure and a soft textured, elegant cassis pastille fruit concentration. A complex wine already in its youth, the layers of mocha, cocoa powder spice and sweet damson plum coat the tongue and thrill the palate. This wine has real depth of fruit, vibrant freshness, and superb length. A class act from some of the best terroir in St Emilion.

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

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2015, 13 Abv.

The neighbour of Francois Mitjavile’s Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf, La Croizille is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. True to the vintage, this wine has a spectacularly profound quality, and indeed the 2015 La Croizille could be among their greatest ever vintages produced. Certainly on par with the epic 2005, 2009 and 2010, the 2015 has a nose that is seductively perfumed, lifted out of the ordinary by cherry blossoms and an exotic undertone of cherry kirsch liqueur. The caramelized oak notes tease like sprinkles on a chocolate cake! The palate too is dark, dense, powerful and packed full of opulent exotic flavours of Chinese plum sauce, tart cherry confit, sweet cassis and vanilla pod spice. The balance is exceptional, spreading broad and wide across the palate. This is right bank Bordeaux at its seductive, classical best. Plump yet fresh, dense, sweet fruited and gravelly, yet never losing focus. Oh, and the finish goes on and on like a Duracell bunny! Wow. What an impressive wine.

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

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2016, 13 Abv.

The 2016 Château La Croizille has a dense, opulent profuse blue berry fruited nose, high-toned and showy, with all the mineral limestone complexity of its prestigious neighbours such as Tertre Roteboeuf, Troplong Mondot and Rocheyron. The palate is showing some elegant restraint and class with sweet ripe tannins, surly brambly red and black fruits, and an earthy, foresty, rather masculine, slightly introspective finish. So seductive and noble, this wine speaks of great St Emilion terroir with very intelligent winemaking. Superb effort.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW, Tasted En-primeur in April 2017 from Barrel)

Tasting the Profound Wines of Tenuta San Leonardo in a Three Decade Vertical…

After much anticipation, today I finally attended a fascinating vertical tasting with Marchese Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga and his son Anselmo, owners of the iconic Trentino winery Tenuta San Leonardo. Carlo has been a long time admirer of the great red wines of Bordeaux so perhaps it was inevitable that he would steer his estate in that direction and utilise their special planting’s of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Merlot to produce one of northern Italy’s truly great iconic red wines.

Carlo asserts that the excellence of San Leonardo can also be directly attributed to the rigour and passion of his son Anselmo and the whole winemaking team, as well as their 270 hectare estate and its unique 30 hectares of plantings, terroir and Mediterranean-Alpine climate where the fruit is grown.

Sites are at a relatively low elevation of 150 metres, where the Merlot is planted in gravel-rich soils that were once the bed of a branch of the Adige river. Sandier, pH-neutral soils, at elevations of 150-200 metres host Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Vineyards are mostly planted to 6,600 vines per hectare and trained to the Guyot system except for some of the old vine Carmenere that is still planted at 1,650 vines per hectare on a pergola system.

The average blend consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere and 10% Merlot, all naturally fermented and blended in concrete vats before ageing in barriques, 20-25% of which are new oak. The final blend is then assembled in vats, aged a further 4 months before being bottled and aged in bottle for 2 years before release.

Tenuta San Leonardo Vertical 1986 to 2013

(None of the wines have an Abv greater than 13.5)

San Leonardo 1986

Lovely picante nose of bruleed coffee beans, sappy wood spice, earthy black bramble berries and foresty leafy spice. Plenty of tertiary allure but also superbly vital. Acids are crisp and the earthy, leathery red fruits very juicy. A statesman of a wine, standing bold and tall, with wonderful elegance and mature finesse.

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

San Leonardo 1990 (Magnum)

Beautifully lifted warming nose reminiscent of great Bordeaux. Tea leaf, cedar spice, coffee bean and saddle leather together with a delicious leafy under tone of sweet earthy red currant fruits. Acids are super bright and fresh and the finish incredibly powerful and bold with fine grained tannins adding shape. Lovey fruit depth and intensity. A mature majestic beauty.

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

San Leonardo 1995

Taught lifted nose of graphite, cut steel, blood and iron and tart earthy red plums. Plenty of coffee bean bruleed notes and green leafy spice. Impressively mineral, fleshy and plump textured with a tart, grippy energetic finish. Solid effort but not profound.

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

San Leonardo 1996 (Magnum)

Exotic nose of sweet baking herbs, leafy spice, wet tobacco leaf, coffee bean and crushed gravel. Classical aromatics follow to a cool, super elegant, fine boned palate with feminine elegance, subtlety and ample finesse. Attractive sweet black currant nuances and forest floor complexity on a silky, cool classically restrained finish.

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

San Leonardo 1997

A classical cool climate Bordeaux style with grilled herbs, tannery leather, gun smoke, crashed leaves and earthy black berry fruits with a sizeable dusting of crushed gravel minerality. Palate shows sappy sweet black berry, coffee bean spice, herbaceous allure and picante mineral tannins. Very suave, elegant plump fleshy texture and a long, sweet macerated red currant finish.

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

San Leonardo 1999

Dark dusty broody mineral nose of wood spice, crushed gravel, polished oak and earthy black currant fruits. Hints of wood smoke and herbal green tea spice. Palate is bold and fleshy, full and round, dense and creamy, yet retains super elegance and harmony, albeit with a little more fat and flesh. Very youthful still.

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

San Leonardo 2000

Classical nose with lovely dark black berry Cabernet fruits boldly asserting themselves. Seamless aromatics of earthy cassis, forest bramble berries, black plum and sweet caramelised coffee bean hints. Ripe and opulent, there is plenty of flesh on the palate together with dense sweet tannins balanced with soft acids. A ripe high quality vintage, this expression is still youthful and precocious. Give this a few more years in the cellar. Supremely delicious.

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

San Leonardo 2001 (three bottles tasted)

Quite an atypical nose with overt caramelised black berry fruit and creamy oak notes, vanilla pod spice and lactic caramel notes. Texture is very sleek, the acids pin point and fine, but the fruits are little too tertiary for the vitality of the structure. Fruit and tannins are moving at two different evolutionary speeds. Start drinking this one up over the next 3+ years.

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

San Leonardo 2004

Dense dark and smokey with sweet herbs, coffee beans, graphite and wood smoke spice. Hints of leafy spice, green beans, black berry and dusty crushed gravel. Tannins are sweet and taught, the fruits slightly chewy and youthful. But the underlying balance is harmonious if not just a little bit youthfully rustic. Fine length and textural depth, you can comfortably leave this in your cellar for another decade.

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

San Leonardo 2007

Wonderfully harmonious wine with fine complexity with perfume and fruit notes tightly interwoven. Subtle hints of bruleed oak spice, earthy black current, bruleed coffee beans, espresso and cassis berry. Palate is plush, ultra lush, structured and pure, showing the most beautiful black cassis fruits, chalky gravelly tannins, and seamless acidity freshness. While youthfully grippy, this wine looks like the complete package. Really very impressive now, but will be ultra impressive in 8 to 10 years time. Wow.

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

San Leonardo 2010

This powerful wine possesses real dark broody depth, black plums, earthy cassis, polished mahogany and subtle bruleed wood spice complexity. Super cool, elegant and pure fruited, the blueberry and saline black berry fruits are so seductive and creamy, balanced by sweet powdery tannins. This is another classic in the making with knock out intensity and mouth watering length. Very impressive.

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

San Leonardo 2011

Thoroughly classy nose exudes breeding and class. No doubting there is something very serious lurking in the bottle. The nose is dark and black fruited, quite tight and broody with reductive cassis, blueberry and graphite hints. The palate holds no secrets, unleashing waves of saline cassis and opulent blueberry muffin and caramelised fruit notes. So utterly seductive, beautifully polished, and highly accomplished. One to drink now if you can’t resist, and to watch for 10 to 15+ years for future greatness.

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

San Leonardo 2013

Rich dark bruleed nose showing caramelised wood spice, black current and earthy foresty notes. Pretty perfumed red cherry pithy notes lift the whole aromatic profile. The palate is suave, silky and seamlessly soft with plush creamy tannins and a concentration of fruit that treads incredibly lightly. The palate finishes with chalky dry tannins and an understated acid freshness, all in perfect harmony. Definitely a wine where less is more. A real beauty.

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

Ngakirikiri The Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ~ Tasting Villa Maria’s Maiden Icon Red Release…

New Zealand’s Villa Maria has been making wines for over 50 years from many of the North and South Island’s best appellations. But to mark Villa Maria’s 54th Anniversary, the company decided to release a new flagship red to commemorate the occasion. Called Ngakirikiri, the Maori word for Gravels, the 2013 vintage was chosen to showcase Villa Maria’s first ultra premium red.

2013 will go down in Hawkes Bay as one of the best red wine vintages in this regions history, presenting an unmissable opportunity to launch this new wine. Villa Maria owner, Sir George Fistonitch, described it as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to create and launch a flagship wine marking all the winemaking achievements of Villa Maria’s 54 year history.

The Ngakirikiri Vineyard is sited on what was an ancient riverbed in the a Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawkes Bay. Over 25 years ago, the site was blessed by Maori elders before vines were planted. Growing conditions can be extreme with the alluvial gravels providing a very stony, free draining environment for the vines. As a result, vines tend to be less vigorous in canopy growth with their roots delving deeper into the soils resulting in intense, deeply flavoured grapes.

Villa Maria Ngakirikiri The Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Gimblett Gravels, 14 Abv.

Although this wine is almost 5 years old, it still possesses a youthful deep plummy purple colour. A flagship red wine deserves to have an exulted, opulent, complex bouquet and this Gimblett Gravels blend does not disappoint. With 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and only 3% Merlot, the nose is lifted and elegantly perfumed with aromatic layers of intense cassis, black cherry, blueberries, damson plums and wonderful violet, dried rose petals and lavender perfume. The palate is dense and textured with opulent layers that are classically proportioned and seductive showing black cassis fruit concentration that would not look out of place on a young super premium Pauillac or St Julien Bordeaux. The supportive cedary oak is beautifully integrated and the tannins while youthful, are very fine grained lending just the right amount of Old World styled restraint. True to all great reds from New Zealand, this wine has super vibrant freshness that enhance and emphasise the majestic gravelly minerality and saline picante black liquorice finish. A truly impressive, sensually stimulating wine that deserves further ageing in the cellar for at least another 20+ years. But drinking this truly fine red now will equally bring great pleasure and enjoyment to consumers, collectors and connoisseurs alike.

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

So what is my overall verdict? Well, my original interest in this wine started when I commented on social media that it seemed slightly incongruous that this new(ish) release could be scored by professionals with such a wide disparity … 92+/100 from the Wine Advocate, 94/100 from James Suckling and 98/100 from Bob Campbell MW. I did subsequently find out that the scores were compiled over a three year spread. Tasting the wine now, almost 5 years after production, it becomes plainly clear that this wine is both the real deal, superb premium quality and is undoubtedly improving in bottle with time.

While this wine won’t be widely available, it does seem that the £99 (R1850) per bottle price tag is more than justified. This is a supremely well made wine that deserves all the positive media attention it has received. I look forward to tasting a bottle of this wine in maybe 10 or 15 years time, when it should be realising it’s full potential.