The Finest Chardonnay in Chile – Tasting the Profound Errazuriz Las Pizarras From Aconcagua Costa…

Chardonnay is a very tricky varietal category. In order to make a wine that will impress, it has to be capable of holding its own against the finest French examples from Burgundy and further afield like Limoux, the Jura and the Bouches du Rhone / Alpilles (think Trevallon Blanc).

But recently, I got the opportunity to taste not only the current release Las Pizarras 2015 Chardonnay, but also the fab 2016 and the future release 2017. As a Chardonnay / white Burgundy aficionado, I would be the first to express my scepticism at the claims that Chilean Chardonnay can be great or even profound. But tasting the Las Pizarras expression from Errazuriz really blew my mind and reset my regional compass for the potential of this varietal.

Errazuriz Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2017, Aconcagua Costa, Chile

Wonderfully vibrant, taut and youthful with an incredible spring in its step, this wine is still embryonic but so expressive, focused and intense. Showing white citrus, green apple and honeydew melon exuberance but with a broody, schisty minerality lurking not far beneath. From a cooler vintage, this 2017 shows piercing acidity, incredible vibrancy and a pristine focus. A rasping dry mineral finish, this is a truly world class Chardonnay unlike anything made in Chile previously. A real eye opener. Drink from 2022 to 2035+

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

Creating A Vinous Stir – Tasting the Impressive New Vintage Releases at Creation Winery…

I recently visited JC Martin and his new right hand man, Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge) at their beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge winery Creation. This was my first, long overdue visit to the winery to taste their current release wines as well as some exciting upcoming new vintages from 2017.

Originally from Switzerland, JC together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Creation is now one of the most successful wineries in the Hemel-en-Aarde / Walker Bay region welcoming over 80,000 visitors per year. A very slick operation with a wonderful restaurant and fabulous wines to match, this winery is now regarded as an absolute “must visit” destination if you are visiting the Cape.

Creation Cool-Climate Chenin Blanc 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful floral fragrance, real eloquent lift packed with peaches, white orchard fruits, and pear fruit with real purity and clarity, only using old oak for maturation. Sleek palate, cool fruited, plenty of pithy minerality, honey suckle and a very long, concentrated but subtle length. Very individual style.

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

Creation Viognier 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful fragrance, blossom and perfume lift. Musk, dusty talc, peach stone fruits and just a touch of pineapple pastille and honeysuckle. Intense, pithy, peppery yellow orchard fruits, and a crushed gravel minerality. Really expressive cooler climate Condrieu old world style.

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

Chardonnay Flight

Creation Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

20% new oak used. Rich opulent expressive nose with lemon bon bons, rich lemon pastille fruits and a youthful kiss of butterscotch. Plenty of core concentration, lemon and white citrus power, green apple and a long expressive length. Really classy effort for 25,000 bottle production.

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

Creation Chardonnay Reserve 2017, 13.5 Abv.

40 % new used. Wonderfully tight, closed and restrained nose with a pronounced stony mineral grey slate depth, lemon rind, limestone, lemon grass and a very precise oak spice lift. The palate shows incredible elegance, finesse and a taut mineral mouthfeel. Very classy and old world in essence.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2016, 13.5 Abv.

50-55% new oak used. Richer, more expressive opulent nose than the younger 2017. Lemon confit, honeysuckle, white peach and pithy yellow stone fruits radiate from the glass. Very plush and complex, this wine exudes class with a very fine use of oak supporting intense concentration and a delicious, mouthwatering acidity that is finely integrated and harmonious. Big but supremely classy.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Using around 40% new oak, the integration is impressively fine and understated. The aromatics scream of white citrus, green apple pastille fruits, lemon-lime marmalade, pithy wood spice and a delicious exotic Madagascar vanilla pod kiss. Big intense concentration, massive density and structure, the mouth coating breath and depth of the fruit is really something to behold.

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

Pinot Noir Flight

Creation Pinot Noir 2017, 14 Abv.

Wow, beautifully elegant lifted fragrance with such expressive purity and precision. This wine captures the upward quality movement that underpins the entire Creation range, white and red. This wine has Cotes de Beaune written all over it. Lush red berry fruits, bramble berry, sour cherry skins, red plum and a hint of pomegranate. Lovely tart, pithy acids underpin spicy, red and black cherry fruits, cranberry and crunchy almost-ripe strawberries. Mineral grippy tannins, superb overall purity and afine intense finish.

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

Creation Pinot Noir Reserve 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Opulent, rich cherry kirsch liquor nose, massive intensity with a deft touch of subtle wood spice. Definite notes of sappy, whole bunch character are quite pronounced adding real nuance and complexity. The palate is cool, dense and lush with fleshy, blood orange, pithy red cherry, graphite spice and a long earthy forest berry fruit tartness and pithy spice. Tannins are mineral and expansive suggesting you bury this wine in the cellar for 3 to 5 years before drinking.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2016, 14 Abv.

An impressively complex wine showing great opulence, concentration and depth. The aromatics speak of sun raisined cranberry, red plum, ripe strawberry and sappy red bramble berry fruits. Texturally deep and very expressive, plush and powerful packing a delicious, intense acid – fruit punch. An attractive level of earthy red fruit, blood orange nuances combining with a concentrated frais des boisses finish.

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

Creation E17 2017 (Emma’s Pinot Noir)

Two barrels selected. Spicy, peppery, dark and broody with massive black cherry, dark savoury depth layered with minerality and graphite nuances. Cool, taut, structured and focused, with intensity and forest fruit focus. Finish reveals subtlety, elegance and understated power.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2017 (Barrel Sample)

30% Whole bunch with a 5 to 6 day cold soak in tank pre-fermentation. Another dark broody exotic nose that’s tight and intense. But the flavour profile differs from the norm with enticing layers of saline cassis, sea breeze, root veg earthiness, black cherry and a complexing hint of reduction. Texturally, the palate is dense, elegant and wonderfully salty with beguiling maritime flavours, black currant, powdery tannins and fresh, framing acids. Very impressive effort. Definitely a super luxury wine release to watch out for.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2015, 14 Abv. (The Cat’s Whiskers)

Technically Overberg fruit, this is Gerhard Smith’s own new(ish) project, the 2015 being the second release. Two weeks fermentation on skins, soft press to old barrels, 20% whole bunch used. Lovely spicy intensity and red bramble berry fruits, subtle sweet leafy intensity and an earthy, foresty depth. Fleshy, deep and spicy with fine graphite tannin depth. Drink now.

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

JC Martin’s new right hand man… accomplished winemaker Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2017, +-13.5 Abv.

3 weeks on skins post ferment, 100% whole bunch fruit. Expressive aromatics of crunchy red berry, peppermint crisp, sweet leaf and sappy, resinous black berry. Cool, creamy, earthy fleshy depth, polished tannins, and really accessible already. A very characterful wine with a minimal intervention leaning.

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

Some Additional Wines Opened:

(But reviewed with more brief notes)

Creation Sumac Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

Vibrant, rich, elegant and fresh, with a delicious cherry cranberry twist!

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

Creation Syrah-Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

80/20 blend. Luscious cinnamon and spice melange, fleshy cool black fruits, sweet tannins and a fine plummy, black cherry depth.

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

Creation Syrah 2017 (Barrel Sample)

Wild yeast, 40% whole bunch ferment. Peppery black liquorice spice with saline cassis, black cherry and piquant, grippy oak spice. Delicious purity, fine maritime salinity, and lovely depth. This is quite serious and could be very impressive on release.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Fine Cape Vintage Syrah 2016, 17.5 Abv.

Made in a Port style and fortified with KWV 10 Year Old Brandy spirit. Sweet kirsch liquor and vibrant depth, fresh, sun dried raspberries, black cherry and superb savoury sweet length. Super pure, supremely mouthwatering and impressive depth. One of the best of this style I’ve tasted for some time. The perfect digestive?

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

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)

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)

Not a Plentiful Vintage, But Certainly a Delicious Vintage – Tasting Domaine Ferret’s New 2016 Pouilly Fuisse Release…

Founded in the 1840s, Domaine J.A.Ferret is located in the heart of the most famous “climats” of the Fuissé amphitheatre, and has followed a female line of succession, who cleverly decided to bottle their wines themselves long before the practice became common place in Burgundy. The 18 hectare Domaine was acquired in 2008 by the Louis Jadot empire and encouragingly, the estate has remained unwaveringly quality focused ever since.

The 2014 vintage was produced in good quantities but because it was so exceptionally good, stock evaporated prematurely. The 2015 follow up vintage was rushed through to plug the hole and this supply was met by equally voracious demand. The gods were unkind in 2016, yielding a smaller, more restricted vintage but fortunately of very high quality once again.

Domaine J A Ferret Pouilly Fuisse 2016, Burgundy, 13.5 Abv.

Rich aromatic nose full of limestone, graphite, crushed rocks together with green apple, white citrus and white blossom with a subtle almond skin nuttiness. Less ripe and overtly lush than the 2014 or 2015, the palate carries impressive tightly wound concentration, golden delicious apple purée nuances, bitter lemon rind and a subtle wood spice piquant finish. Lovely classical profile, delicious depth, and impressive liquid minerality on the long finish. Drink now to 2025+.

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

Clos Saint Jacques 2016 Shoot Out – Domaine Armand Rousseau versus Domaine Jean Marie Fourrier…

Clos Saint Jacques is one of Burgundies most famous Premier Cru vineyards situated in the village of Gevrey Chambertin. The vineyard was named after a statue of Saint James that had been placed in the area, as it was a resting point on the way to Santiago de Compostella, the destination of the ‘Way of St. James’ pilgrimage.

It was split up and sold in 1954 by the Comte de Moucheron to four producers. One of these producers was Henri Esmonin, who at the time of the sale was the metayage for the vineyard and bought 1.6 hectares. The other producers were Armand Rousseau, who purchased 2.20 hectares, the Fourrier family who purchased approximate 1 hectare, and Domaine Clair-Dau who purchased 2 hectares.

Clos Saint Jacques vineyard directly north of the village.

Today, this 6.7 hectare vineyard with five strips running from the top to the bottom of the vineyard, are currently owned by five different producers. Sylvie Esmonin, the granddaughter of Henri Esmonin, holds 1.60 hectares. Bruno Clair and Maison Louis Jadot own 1 hectare each, which was split between them from the land purchased by Domaine Clair-Dau. Domaine Fourrier holds 0.89 hectares.

(Both bottles tasted were barrel samples)

Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint Jacques 2016, Burgundy

A wine that is wonderfully bright, lifted and perfumed, loaded with red cherry, cranberry, pink musk, cherry candy and sappy lipstick spice. Classically proportioned, this profound wine’s palate is dense and concentrated, packed with cherry pith, red plum and red bramble berry depth. Impressive classic finesse and textured, balanced length highlight this wine’s pedigree and signature class that is rarely surpassed within this appellation. Another breathtaking example from this Domaine. Drink from 2022 to 2045+

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine Jean Marie Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint Jacques 2016, Burgundy

Always a dense, fleshy expression, this 2016 retains a more classically weighted style, showing cool graphite, earthy red berries, bruised red plums, cherry coulis and a sweet, saline liquorice spice. The palate has all the hallmark Fourrier concentration, opulence and overt fruit flesh, yet the wine never looses its coiled spring tension and nerve. Lovely balance and a fine tannic core, this is a delicious Clos Saint Jacques expression with impressive depth and breadth. A very impressive wine. Drink from 2020 to 2038+

(Wine Safari Score: 95-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Verdict: Two very impressive wines, both almost as good as any Grand Cru’s tasted from the 2016 vintage. For me the Armand Rousseau remains unsurpassed, combining freshness, precision, structure, and depth. Some how they manage to marry amazing concentration of fruit and classical liquid mineral intensity. Not a cheap wine, but worth every penny. Rousseau takes it by a head…

The Silver Lining of Burgundy’s Rocketing Prices and Shrinking Allocations – The Rise of the Super Aligoté Cuvees…

Thibault Liger-Belair is cousin to the more famous Vicomte Liger-Belair of Vosne Romanée. In 2002 he took over an older family property in Nuits St Georges taking back the vines which had been previously leased out to various other smaller growers. He promptly rented a winery just down the road and now produces an iconic range of wines including sought after wines from Grand Crus Richebourg and Clos de Vougeot to prestigious Nuits St Georges reds like 1er Cru Les Saint Georges.

The domaine’s vines are certified organic and farmed biodynamically, with horses used to plough the vineyards where possible. The fact that Thibault’s Grand Vin reds are increasingly hard to access has lead to a growing following for both his delicious Aligoté whites as well as his bold and impressive Cru Beaujolais reds.

This wine is produced from grapes grown on a parcel located in Nuits St Georges bordering the Village appellation of Nuits Saint Georges “les Argilats”. The vineyards were converted to organics as soon as Thibault took them over. The vines were planted in 1978 and offer some mature and impressively aromatic Aligoté. The limestone soils give this wine great length and certainly greater intensity than would normally be expected from this appellation.

Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Clos des Perrieres La Combe, 13 Abv.

A wonderfully vibrant fresh Aligoté expression showing archetypal pithy aromatics of citrus blossom, pear purée, green apples, pithy yellow grapefruit and seductive crushed limestone and chalky minerality. You just don’t usually expect too much complexity on an Aligoté but this wine is nuanced and beautifully animated. The palate has a wonderful elegance and silky light touch, is precisely fresh but not tart, and well balanced with a fine, elegant line of citric acidity together with delicious notes of orange blossom, tangerine peel and apple pastille sweets. A superb vintage delivering wonderful vibrancy, elegant under spoken concentration and a flavourful, liquid mineral finish. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years.

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