Amiral de Cadiot is produced by Château Tayet which has been owned by the de Schepper family since 1994, the former owner, Mr. Marc Raymond, was director at de Schepper’s Chateau Haut-Breton-Larigaudière until 1993, selling his own estate to his previous employer when he retired. Tayet has an excellent terroir in Macau, very close to the AOC Margaux, which has grown by the acquisition of further high quality plots with a high plant density and today consists of 10 hectares of vines.
The “Amiral de Cadiot” by Château Tayet is considered to be one of the best Bordeaux Superieur and is one of the few wines of this class that ages 12 months in 20% new and 50% second fill barriques. The vines for this particular selection are at least 25 years old.
The Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot offers a whole lot of red Bordeaux magic at a truly excellent price point, something often sorely missing in these days of over ambitious, stratospherically priced icon Cru Classe wines. Wines like this in many ways represent the true heart and soul of authentic, consumer orientated classical Bordeaux. In the post Covid-19 lockdown era, wines like this are going to take on a much greater significance in the market place.
Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011, Bordeaux Superieur, 14 Abv.
A wonderfully classical blend of 60% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot, this wine has the most intricate textured layers of blueberry and cassis fruit, mocha, brown toast, vanilla pod spice and a supple, plush, sweet fruited core with bright refreshing acids, ripe fine grained tannins and complexing peripheral notes of tannery leather, cigar box and graphite spice. A whole lot of wine that will impress the staunchest of discerning wine connoisseurs. Drink now to 2024+
Very sad to hear of the passing of the legend Michael Broadbent MW. One of the people who put fine wine on the global map when wine was an unknown niche category. Feel so privileged to have know him. RIP Michael Broadbent 1927-2020 🍷🙏🏼
Born in Yorkshire in 1927, Michael studied architecture at Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London before joining the Royal Artillery where he was 2nd Lieutenant from 1945 to 1948. He joined Laytons Wine Merchants as a trainee in 1952 where his wine career started. After a two year stint at Saccone & Speed Michael joined John Harvey & Sons Ltd Bristol in 1955. He was initially in charge of the North region both in shops and marketing, before becoming a director and finally the UK sales director.
Michael passed the MW exam in 1960, and a few years later he joined Christie’s in July 1966 where he created their first specialised wine department. He was responsible for starting Christie’s wine auctions, which he conducted worldwide. Until 1992 he was the senior director of Christie’s wine department, and he remained a senior consultant with the firm until 2009.
A wine writer and critic, Michael produced an extraordinary amount of tasting notes from his life in wine which are widely available to read. He published many books, including Michael Broadbent’s Wine Tasting and The Great Vintage Wine Book.
I had the pleasure of celebrating Michael’s 90th birthday with him at the new IMW office opening and again at a private celebration at Vintners’ Hall while many industry friends and colleagues also joined him last year at Vintners’ Hall for the launch of his last book.
With the Union des Grands Crus Bordeaux and its members deciding to suspend the 2019 En-Primeurs week that was scheduled to take place at the end of March in Bordeaux due to the coronavirus restrictions, I thought I would post these two wine reviews from the Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux tasting in London yesterday, 12th March 2020.
Speaking to Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc in the Entre-Deux-Mers, he states “’You’re joking – not another one?’ No, really, Bordeaux 2019 is a very good to excellent vintage. It wasn’t straightforward, with heat waves, drought and a rainy finish along the way, but Bordeaux enjoyed a long, dry summer and harvest with just enough rain, and no disasters like the late spring frost of 2017 or the significant losses to mildew that some growers experienced in 2018.”
At the top end, it’s becoming an embarrassment of riches. 2019 makes it six very good years in a row for the northern Haut-Médoc appellations of St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe, which were largely untouched by the 2017 frost and produced many fine 2014s, and likewise for the top estates on the plateau of Pomerol.
Bordeaux 2019 – 10 observations on the growing season: (Source: Gavin Quinney)
· A dry year with 25% less rain overall than the average up to the end of the harvest.
· A mild winter saw average rainfall in November, December and January, then a dry February and March.
· Spring rainfall (Q2) was close to the norm from April bud break through to June flowering.
· Some localised spring frosts and limited hail damage later on, though relatively small losses.
· Flowering in early June began well but a rainy, chilly spell led to uneven fruit set in many vineyards.
· No major disasters like the frost of April 2017 or the mildew that had a significant impact on multiple growers in 2018.
· A long, hot summer saw over three months of mostly fine weather from mid June to the fourth Sunday of September.
· Heat waves in late June and 40 ˚C (104 °F) in late July put some vines under pressure – though this was pre-ripening.
· Heavy rain on the last Friday in July, just after a heat wave, refreshed many vineyards just in time.
· Light rain in among the hot weather in August and mid September helped the vines.
Chateau La Croizille 2019, St Emilion Grand Cru
Plush, broadly aromatic but beautifully soft toned with dulcet notes pink musk, purple rock candy and black currant with a fabulously generous glycerol concentration, harmonious breadth and depth and a subtle, vanilla dusted, brûléed blueberry muffin finish. Delicious expression. Power with elegance.
(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin Cru Bourgeois 2019, Listrac-Medoc
A complex nose layered with perfumed aromatics drifting from violets to cherry blossom, pink musk to cherry cola and dusty graphite minerality. Super focus and balance, this wine has beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon lines, a chiselled texture and fine mineral, gravelly tannins. The fruit concentration shows a seductive sweet sour mouth watering edge and fabulous black berry fruit persistence. Focused, intense and impressively linear. This should turn into an absolute star!
(Wine Safari Score: 92-93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Tasted along side the superb 2016 for added insight…
Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin Cru Bourgeois 2016, Listrac-Medoc
Beautifully deep dark broody nose with plenty of black cherry, black currant, earthy blueberry and hints of savoury, wild bramble berry fruits. Seamlessly plush concentration is lifted and electrified by bright, tangy acids before the finish melts away in the mouth to leave notes of sour plum, graphite, salty black liquorice and kirsch cherry liquor. Really very impressive wine that certainly lives up to this epic vintage’s top billing.
The Glenelly Estate is a beautiful winery buried in a little corner of the Idas Valley in Stellenbosch. The property was famously bought in 2003 by Madame May de Lencquesaing of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande fame in Pauillac, Bordeaux, with a vision to transform the property into one of the preeminent fine wine producers in Stellenbosch.
In February 2020, I visited the estate for a lengthy and informative tutored tasting with Cellar Master Luke O’Cuinneagain. After a final flight of three vintages of their flagship Lady May red blend, tasting the 2010, 2013 and 2014, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try and also taste the as yet unreleased Lady May 2015. It required a few thumb screws and persuasion, but Luke finally obliged with a sneak peak of this fantastic Bordeaux blend from the iconic 2015 vintage.
You can expect a possible release of this iconic wine hopefully towards the end of 2020.
Glenelly Estate Lady May 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.
79% CS, 8% M, 8% PV, 5% CF
Deep, dark and broody, this wine speaks with all the authority and confidence of a 5 star block buster vintage. Brimming with black menthol cassis, boiled black berry sweets, black cherry and tight grained cedar spice, this wine wears a super hero gown of graphite and stony minerality and whispers quality from the moment it hits the glass. Tight, focused and impressively compact, there is a seamless saline black currant balance with linear polished marble tannins and a super intense concentration. This is the culmination of years of winemaking refinement and is without doubt the finest red wine produced to date at the Glenelly Estate revealing the true terroir quality potential of these groomed, premium Stellenbosch vineyards. Drink from Release with decanting and over the next 20+ years.
The Glenelly Estate is a beautiful winery buried in a little corner of the Idas Valley in Stellenbosch. I have been meaning to visit for many years to understand the essence of the winery and their philosophy but somehow always seemed to cross paths with CEO Nicholas Bureau or else their long time winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain at tastings in London.
The property was famously bought in 2003 by Madame May de Lencquesaing of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande fame in Pauillac, Bordeaux, with a vision to transform the property into one of the preeminent fine wine producers in Stellenbosch.
With vineyards planted on near virgin granitic rich soils, Glenelly Estate had the opportunity to map out a varietal path that completely suited the style of wines they were looking to make. There would certainly be none of the red tape and restrictions Madame May had become so use to in Bordeaux. With sizable plantings of Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, Glenelly have all the building blocks for making some impressive wines.
In February 2020, I finally visited the estate for a lengthy tutored tasting with Cellar Master Luke O’Cuinneagain. Nicholas and Luke generously opened an impressive array of older wines to illustrate not only the development of the wines in bottle but also the evolution of the Estate’s winemaking and their ongoing quality improvements. Undoubtedly these are wines made in a more classical, restrained style and the French heritage is undeniable, radiating out of every glass and making all the wines in the range excellent gastronomic friendly expressions.
My conclusions after my tasting remain firmly that the hard yards have been completed and that the best years still lie ahead for this estate and its high quality wines. Glenelly Estate is definitely one to keep a very close eye on in the future.
White Wine Flights:
Glenelly Estate Unwooded Chardonnay 2011, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
Super complex notes of terpenes, bruised yellow citrus and earthy root veg. Bright crunchy tangy acids make for a delicious mouthful that’s evolving beautifully. Very pleasurable glassful.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Unwooded Chardonnay 2012, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.
Dusty wet chalk aromatics melt into struck match, bruised peach, papaya and ripe lemon peel. Lush and layered, plenty of leesy quince, honeysuckle, ripe pear purée and a smokey, glycerol finish. Showing a lovely harmony.
(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Unwooded Chardonnay 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
Youthful and bright, this shows vibrant notes of cream soda, dusty green honeydew melon and dusty crushed limestone. Lovely texture and fleshy mouthfeel, finishing with notes of melon, green apple and subtle minerality. Lovely gourmet wine.
(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2012, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
Like its unoaked sibling, this shows a hit of reduction, dried mint leaf, peppermint and lemongrass. Equally plush and textural, this has a broad glycerol mouthfeel, savoury lemon peel fruit, subtle oak spice and a hint of peppermint crisp on the finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Grand Vin 2013, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
Taut and restrained aromatics, this shows plenty of minerality, wet chalk, white citrus and limestone nuances. But the palate blossoms to show abundantly sweet textured flesh, lemon herbs and a vibrant energetic finish with impressive persistence.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.
Cool and restrained, this displays plenty of stony minerality layered with lemon and herbs, lemon cordial and dried mint leaf. Palate is savoury and fleshy with bruised yellow orchard fruits, ripe papaya and dry fynbos. Concentrated, mouth filling and impressively persistent.
(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
This nose is expressive and exotic with savoury bruised yellow fruits, melted wax and incense notes. The palate shows sweet herby glycerol weight in a more oxidative frame. The texture is sleek and the balance finely poised with plenty of concentration and tangy acids on the finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
This vintage shows hints of ripe lemon and herbs, dry fynbos, honey on white toast and subtle mint leaf complexity. Super focused concentration, bright tangy acids and impressive length, you can see the pedigree potential of this wine. The aromatics are a little reticent but the quality is clearly apparent. Impressive for a hot, dry vintage.
(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
A more steely expression with purity and clarity. Fine notes of lime peel, lemon cordial and wet limestone and lemongrass herbs make for a fresh, vibrant aromatic profile. The hallmark concentration is there with glycerol, textured intensity of lime cordial, green apple and cedar spice on the finish. A lovely mouthful from a good vintage.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.
Lifted and expressive with dried fynbos, peppermint tea and herbal spice mixed with bruised white peaches, lemon iced tea and lemongrass herbs. Bright and zippy, this wine shows plenty of overt energy, crystalline citrus pastille fruits and a seamless creamy balance. Delicious expression.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Red Wine Flights:
Cabernet Sauvignon driven wines with supporting components of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot laced with a small percentage Syrah a la Claret in the good old days of Bordeaux.
Glenelly Estate Reserve 2013, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv. 15%
Syrah in the mix, this smells and tastes of classic old school Bordeaux with sweet tobacco leaves, herbal spice, tannery leather, cigar box and sweet savoury black currant and black berry intensity with a clear vein of graphite. Creamy and cool fruited, this is plush and textured with earthy black orchard fruits, lead pencil, graphite and a sweet piquant cedary finish. Drink now or cellar for a few more years.
(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Reserve 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.
Dark and broody, this wine shows plush opulence with aromatics of coffee beans, black plum, cedar spice and pronounced graphite intensity. Soft and sumptuous, this has plenty of overt early drinking generosity laced with black chocolate and piquant spicy tobacco notes. Ready to go now, but certainly no rush.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Lady May 2010, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot
Rasping dusty chalky aromatics of classic Cabernet Sauvignon, crushed gravel, graphite, tannery leather and grilled herb spice. Super youthful at 10 years old, this wine speaks of pedigree. Polished and finely balanced, this has oodles of old world classicism, spicy cedar, piquant black berry and silky suave focus. Very impressive but will certainly get better with further ageing.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Lady May 2013, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.
Again, plenty of classicism and mineral driven tension, but this lovely wine shows more energy, greater linearity and superb focus. Saline cassis, tart black cherry confit and earthy damson plum complexity shows this is a serious fine wine. Sleek, pure and generous but retaining elegance and restraint, seamless blissful harmony and pin point focus. Beautifully complex and integrated, this is definite Grand Cru Classe quality!
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Glenelly Estate Lady May 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.
Intricate yet generous, this youthful expression shows creme de cassis, violets, peppermint crisp milk chocolate and dark spicy plum. Plush and sweet fruited, the 2014 is forward and showy, revealing the plushness achieved at Glenelly in all of their reds. With its sweet tannins, fleshy glycerol mouthfeel, fruit concentration and bruleed earthy coffee bean finish, this fine wine is ready to go now however, extra tertiary development will only elevate this wine further.
What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am in such a fortunate position to be able to no only taste the greatest wines of the world in a regular basis here in London and on my travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while retaining a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where they really fit in the pecking order of international fine wine.
For my red top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be a little bit predictable, but I have selected wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable and thrilling to drink.
Also, I’d like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them who are very good friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated!
Happy New Year 2019. I believe 2020 is going to be an exceptional year of success.
Top 10 Reds (in no particular order):
Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Oupa Willem 2018 – 96/100 GSMW
MR de Compostella Red Blend 2017- 98/100 GSMW
Vilafonte Series C Red Blend 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW
Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Iron Syrah 2017 – 97/100 GSMW
Raats Family Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2017 – 98/100 GSMW
Thelema Mountain Vineyards is a true Cape icon estate, located high on the slopes of the picturesque Simonsberg Mountain in the heart of Stellenbosch, the true South African Kingdom of Cabernet. With vineyards grown at elevations of between 370m and 530m above sea level, Thelema is one of the highest and coolest estates in the area with 100 percent of the fruit used coming from their own vineyards.
After the numerous block buster releases from the incredible 2015 vintage, including probably their greatest ever wine produced, the Thelema Rabelais 2015 Bordeaux blend, predictably all eyes have been on this estate as they prepare to offer their highly anticipated offerings from the lauded 2017 vintage. My recent review of the Merlot Reserve 2017 gave a snap shot view into the quality that connoisseurs and collectors have been expecting to see from this fine vintage.
But whatever heights South African Merlot can reach, it pales in comparison to the classic benchmark quality expected from the very best Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux blends. Make space in your cellar now – You are going to need it for this new release!
This is a fabulous expression of pure Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon in a style true to the 2017 vintage. The aromatics are perfumed and seductive showing nuances of tart black cherries, crushed black berries and warm brown toast spread with black currant jam. But it’s the saline cassis lift that melts into notes of kelp, graphite, sweet cedar, cigar box, crushed violet petals and iodine that really add some thrilling complexity. Like many 2017s, the palate fruit and concentration is sleek, elegant and super light on its feet without compromising any focus or intensity. The tannins are powder soft, sweet and ripe leaving the crisp bright acids to act as the main backbone and frame to the wine. Lovely cool fresh tart black berry preserve and black cherry fruits are so vital and pure, lingering long on a truly classical, Bordeaux-styled left bank leaning Cabernet finish. A very impressive wine in its youth that will undoubtedly age with great harmony and finesse if cellared for 15-20+ years.
There is no doubt what so ever that when you taste a new vintage of Thelema, whatever the cuvee, you just know that the estate is on the ascendancy again with wine quality rising to match its historical reputation as one of South Africa’s most famous and revered producers. This wine certainly is a real surprise for a South African Merlot and exhibits a taut, fresh palate texture and classism that has more in common with the great old Thelema Merlots from 1994 and 1995 than with more recent expressions from the early 2000s.
When I speak of Thelema on the ascendancy, I speak purely from a UK centric stand point as I am confident to say that in the home market, the Thelema brand has never been more revered or admired. This Merlot is yet another step in the right direction for Thelema as they strive to cement their rightful place in the international world of fine wine.
This wine exhibits alluring aromatics of dark pithy black plum, black berry spice, sweet leaf, earthy red currants, plum sauce and a cornucopia of led pencil wood spice, dried herbs and sweet cedar notes. Texturally, the palate weight is super sleek and taut harking back to the classical styles from the mid 1990s despite the elevated alcohol level at 14 abv. The tension, verve and stony minerality wash across the palate finishing with a long lingering note of sweet black bramble berry spice and a subtle cedar complexity. I love the linearity, precision and focus that is often absent in the majority of other South African single varietal Merlots. This wine’s crystalline acids bring an energy and crispness that frame the wine in such a classical manner. While I have never claimed to be a massive fan of single varietal Merlot unless from California, the Right Bank of Bordeaux or from pockets of Tuscany, I fail to see how much better this variety can perform solo in a South African context unless you blend in other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot. This 2017 Reserve certainly tastes like a keeper. For the record, the 1994 and 1995 Thelema Merlots are still going strong! Maybe it’s time to drink up and replace with a few bottles of this impressive new wine?
I have to admit that I have a love – hate relationship with Bordeaux. On the one hand I am intoxicated by the history, the grandeur and the incredible quality this amazing region is capable of producing. Yet on the other hand, I often find the mentality and commercial strategies of so many Chateaux owners and their chosen négociant channels infuriatingly difficult to comprehend. As a result, buying from Bordeaux has really started to evolve and over the past years, I find myself buying more and more wines directly from the Chateaux themselves, from genuine, rational, modest people who are just trying to run honest businesses making the very best wines their terroirs can deliver.
So when a good friend in Bordeaux recommended Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin, I stopped and took notice as most of the best buying decisions I have ever made have been as a result of friendly producers recommending the wines of friends, neighbours or colleagues. Château Cap Léon Veyrin has been family-owned since 1810 when the Château Cap Léon and the Veyrin estates were joined together. The word ‘Cap’ originally meant ‘head’. The vineyard of Cap Veyrin actually lies on the higher grounds of Listrac Médoc on Gravelly marl soils to the north and thus boasts ideal natural drainage and sun exposure.
With Julien in the Cap Ferret tasting wine and enjoying the Bordeaux summer sunshine.
Nathalie and Julien Meyre are now the 6th generation of this Médoc family of winegrowers to manage the property where family traditions are perpetuated with care. Their Chateau wines are dominated by an indicative blend of 60 % Merlot, 35 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 % Petit Verdot with ageing for 12 months in French oak barrels, 60% of which are normally new barrels. In addition to Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin, the Meyre family also own a fine little 15 hectare property in the Haut-Medoc near Cussac Fort Medoc called Chateau Julien where the average age of the vines are 40 years old.
The fabulous beaches of the Cap Ferret.
Over the summer, I managed to meet up with Julien Meyre on a sunny day in Cap Ferret on the Bordeaux coast where I tried to learn more about his family, the wines they produce and their future ambitions. The evolution of their wines is now happening at a swift pace with the more recent vintages receiving added guidance and fine tuning with the help of Michel Rolland, certainly one of the greatest tasters and blenders in the whole of Bordeaux. Just when I thought I was starting to lose faith in the “Bordeaux Project” then I meet another wonderful vigneron like Julien Meyre and taste some beautiful, characterful wines that serve to rekindle my love affair with one of the greatest wine regions in the world.
Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin 2015, Listrac Medoc, 13.5 Abv.
A fabulously serious expression from this up and coming Cru Bourgeois Chateau. The powerful 2015 blend shows an attractive nose of dark bramble berry fruits, blackberries infused with wood smoke, briary and dark black chocolate notes. The palate reveals fine structure and delineation, a cool medium body and lovely gravelly mineral tannins. Dense, compact and youthfully grippy, this wine shows a fine pedigree, an impressive tobacco-tinged length and a spicy, grainy textured finish. Drinking well now or cellar for 8 to 10 years.
(Wine Safari Score: 92 /100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin 2016, Listrac Medoc, 14 Abv.
The 2016 vintage is one of the greatest vintages in Bordeaux in 2 or 3 decades. With a little air, this wine starts to unwind and reveal a great aromatic presence with lifted layers of sweet violets and purple lavender perfume. The palate is rich, linear and super classical with an initially taut, powerful structure which relents with around 30 minutes of air to reveal a most suave, polished graphite mineral complexity with incredibly fine grained tannins, sleek fresh acids and a wonderful overall harmony. Grace and power for sure. The sweet black and blueberry fruits are opulent and fleshy yet held in perfect posture by the wine’s crisp acids and regal structure. A really beautiful expression of classical, mineral laden Listrac. Drink from 2021 to 2030+
(93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Chateau Julien 2015, Haut Medoc, 13.5 Abv.
This petit chateau is a real work of brilliance offering up the most seductive, fleshy, fragrant blueberry scented aromatics with a subtle kiss of vanilla pod and mocha spice. Medium to deep garnet purple, this wine is packed with fleshy bramble berry fruits, baked plums, blueberry crumble and a dusty, dried baking spice complexity. The tannins are soft and generous, plump and inviting adding extra ballast to the long, creamy, dense length. A very impressive wine for the price. Great to see that Bordeaux can still make wines that over deliver at a price point. Bravo Julien!
While I received a sample of the 2017 Series C to taste a number of weeks ago, I had already heard rumours via the grape vine that the Vilafonte Series C 2016 had won the best red blend at the Six Nations Trophy competition. But of course I knew the incredible quality Vilafonte had achieved with their Series C 2016, having reviewed it way back in October 2018, would be an incredibly hard act to follow. Such was the quality focus at this precision viticulture winery that even the second wine, Seriously Old Dirt 2016 has become something of a collectable commodity in Europe of late.
But after the incredibly dry and hot 2016, the 2017 harvest presented an abundant crop of sterling quality. Yields rose by fifty-seven percent, despite the fourth year in a sequence of below-average rainfall for the Western Cape Province. This follows Vilafonte’s smallest per-hectare crop (2016) and moves back to long-term average yields. Welcome post-harvest rains in the preceding year before leaf fall, coupled with well-timed nutrient applications, allowed the vines to build up reserves before going into winter dormancy.
Winter rains in 2016 approached normal levels, but fell below average in late winter to spring. Bud-break in the spring was very even, with rapid shoot growth which ceased well before bloom, allowing excellent fruit-set. Weather leading up to harvest was warm and fair – perfect ripening conditions according to owner Mike Ratcliffe. Harvest commenced on the 6th of February with a few short pauses, and concluded on the 1st of March2017.
Mike Ratcliffe states that “at time of blending, varietal components were very expressive, showing a classical elegance rather than an intensity and power”. Aged for 22 months in 70% new French oak barrique, with the balance in older French oak barriques, the Series C 2017 consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (57%), Merlot (21%), Cabernet Franc (13%) and Malbec (9%) with a total of 46 barrels being produced.
Vilafonte Series C 2017, WO Paarl, 14.5 Abv.
After the drought of 2016, all producers can honestly admit to being amazed by the quality both the white and red wines realised in 2017. But for Vilafonte, the pressure would have been incrementally higher after defying the vintage odds in 2016 to produced arguably the finest South African red blend of the vintage with their Series C 2016. But great vintages are all about taking the opportunities nature presents and Vilafonte seems to have been equally ready to make the most of this exceptional vintage. The Series C 2017 certainly displays an incredibly deep, dark broody garnet-purple colour with imposing extract and concentration. On the nose, this youthful release is a little closed to begin with but opens up in the glass offering alluring notes of incense, sweet vanilla pod, caramelised cashew nuts, black berry reduction, juniper berry and dusty, graphite tinged black chocolate exoticism. The palate is velvety and supple with a most generous, multi-layered mouthfeel of blueberry, black cherries, saline cassis and a charcoal tinged buttered brown toasty finish. Where the 2015 release showed a more masculine power, the 2017 is the personification of intensity with elegance, finesse and grace. A producer can wait decades to realise a vintage like this that possesses this degree of poise, intensity and weightless concentration combined with a decadently fruited complexity and composure. A spellbinding new release from Vilafonte. Indulge yourself by drinking a few bottles in its youth, however the 2017 is certainly worthy of over a decade or more of cellaring to realise its full potential.