Andrea Mullineux Reveals the New Leeu Passant Wine Releases at Roundstone Farm in the Swartland…

With the Mullineux brand more than a decade old now, it has firmly been established as one of South Africa’s top fine wine labels with every new release highly anticipated. Their Leeu Passant brand on the other hand is only three vintages down but also seems to have garnered its own more individual, eclectic wine following among old vine collectors and connoisseurs.

I recently visited the Mullineux’s Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek where Chris Mullineux showed me the ropes and I also got to meet Wade Sander, Andrea Mullineux’s assistant winemaker who works solely on the Leeu Passant wines.

The Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek with assistant winemaker Wade Sander (below).

With the 2015 vintage certainly very famous now, the 2017 releases from all of South Africa’s top producers, look set to once again take local and international markets by storm and fill the cellars of a new thirsty generation of South African fine wine lovers.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Single vineyard on the maritime slopes of the Helderberg where temperatures seldom rise above 28 degrees C. One of the rare sites that the Mullineux’s actually have to wait for the acidity to drop before picking. The aromatics are pure and lifted expressing the usual crystallinity of the style and site. Bottled in October 2018, the wine is still super youthful, taut and fresh but with a touch of creamy malo to take the edge off the electric acidity. Beautifully intense and citrus driven, the wine has a wonderful textural balance and freshness with incredible poise and focus. Long and pin point, superb harmony and purity, this wine has impressive salinity and tart lemon / lime brilliance and brightness to invigorate the palate. A great effort.

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

Leeu Passant Dry Red 2017, 14.5 Abv.

This red blend of 56% Cabernet Suavignon, 26% Cinsautl and 18% Cabernet Franc spent 12 months in 500 litre barrels and around 10 months in neutral foudre. Explosive and expressive, this wine literally leaps out the glass to greet you. Hugely aromatic, it unfurls with intense black berry, red currant, bramble berry and raspberry jam nuances. Such opulence and freshness, on the palate there is an incredible balance and harmony. Fabulous layers of red and black berry, strawberry confit, sweet tobacco, leafy spice and the most alluring foresty bramble berry seduction. A truly beautiful, complex and expressive red blend that changes in the glass continuously. What a super classy red wine that really is worthy of its collectible fine wine status.

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

Mullineux Old Vines White 2018, 14 Abv.

A blend of 69% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clarette Blanche, 9% Grenache Blanc, 7% Viognier and 3% Semillon. Rich and opulent, the nose is broad and ultra aromatic with complex notes of dry grass, wet thatch, soap stone, lemon rind and apple skins. Deliciously ripe and intense, the palate is sleek but fleshy, crystalline and super pure… a feature emerging as a characteristic of the 2018 vintage. The last of the drought vintages, this wine really shows beautiful minerality and dry extract, concentration and intense yellow fruit focus. Really impressive, broad and powerful, this is going to be another super classical white blend for medium to long term ageing.

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

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Straw Wine 2018, 9% Abv.

Liquid gold, this has the classical nose of sweet caramelised orchard fruits, quince preserve, dried guava and a savoury, sweet peach brightness. Glycerol and rich, powerful and intense, it is more in the marmalade and citrus rind character than the tropical passionfruit style. Textural and finely balanced this is an incredibly well honed and focused sweet wine style that is certainly a benchmark for this genre.

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

Acte de Chateau Lafleur by Guinaudeau Vignerons – Tasting 2009 to 2016…

Acte de Chateau Lafleur is a unique wine… “an idea that had been simmering for a few years now in a back corner of our wine-grower’s head. We finally took action in 2009 with the first vintage of this new cru. With Acte we hope to fulfil the dream of creating a new Grand Vin of the right bank. Acte started as a blank sheet, a passionate and ambitious project where everything had to be created from scratch.” – Omri Ram

 

Terroir is clearly the foundation with this new wine and Lafleur embarked on a search for the “ideal” terroir for Acte, taking as reference the best parcels of their Grand Village, and only after preforming profound soil studies, they started acquiring new parcels which corresponded with their rigorous criteria, situated on the poor and shallow soils of the Fronsac region. These new parcels consist of a Saint-Emilion-like clay-limestone terroir, which they compliment with a small proportion of Molasse du Fronsadais soils.

 

The vineyards were planted with equal parts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, favouring above all the Bouchet clone originating from their own massale selection at Lafleur. Clearly, Acte is not a 2nd wine of anything that has come before it or indeed a prestige cuvee. It’s a creation of a new vineyard and a new Cru by the Guinaudeau family who have owned Chateau Lafleur since 1872, with the current family members taking over the reins fully in 1985.

The Guinaudeau family wanted to create a new mythical Cru that in 50 or 80 years time could be another Lafleur. Great terroirs in Fronsac lie on clay-limestone soils. In 2006 they started looking for great parcels with the first vintage released in 2009.

In Fronsac, prime slopes looked good but were too heavy in clay. But they managed to find 10 parcels of shallow clay over limestone on a plateau in the centre of Fronsac. They managed to buy some of these suitable sites that showed great potential.

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2009

60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc

Precise, pure fragrant perfumes nose. Violets, loganberry and pink blossoms with a kiss of vanilla spice, graphite and pink musk. Palate is equally cool and suave, sleek and beautifully balanced with chalky black berry fruits, blueberry hints and a long, opulent, harmonious finish. Seamless and perfectly proportioned and drinking well already.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2010

56% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Franc

Finer, slightly higher tone aromatics with black and blueberry fruit notes, black cherry and a violet and cherry cola complexity. Palate is broad, expansive, silky soft with very finely polished tannins, gentle generous chalky mineral black fruits and a tight core of fruit intensity and concentration. A really impressive show stopper.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2011

56% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Franc

Sweet nutty black fruit notes with a really noticeable liquid chalk mineral note with leafy black fruits and sappy oak spice nicely integrated. Palate is genteel and soft, elegant and medium light weight with creamy dry chalky mineral tannins framing pure black cherry and saline cassis fruit. Very light on its feet with real finesse and balance without any muscle.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2012

51% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Franc

More exotic and wild bramble berry fruit aromatics with spice and sap, charcoal and burnt wood embers. There is an underlying darkness and saline liquorice note with a light fluffy texture, creamy powder-fine tannins and a light bodied finish. No great concentration or depth on this vintage but the flavour are pure, delicate, vibrantly juicy and finely assembled making for a very attractive “restaurant-style” Claret.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2013

70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc

A challenging vintage in the region where Cabernet Franc struggled to ripen. This nose reveals a much more traditional “premium Bordeaux” nose with creamy black fruits, buttered brown toast and mocha oak spice complexity. Palate shows an incredibly fine, pinpoint textural precision and balance, plenty of finesse, delicate black currant and sappy black berry fruits and a focused, sleek delicately long finish. Certainly a triumph for the vintage! Still youthful, ageing gracefully but simultaneously utterly delicious.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2014

50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc

An enticing, complex spicy black bramble berry fruit nose laced with sap and resinous, leafy berry fruit notes with a high note of graphite and limestone minerality. Palate is suave and elegant, still quite youthful and tightly wound with opulence and generosity interwoven with chalky tannins, acid freshness and classical black fruited restraint. A fine effort for the vintage that shows the complexity of 100% massale selection vines after clonal material has been removed.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2015

50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc

The aromatics immediately suggest a serious glassful loaded with chalky sappy spice, resinous black berry hints and a dusty chalky minerality. A wine finally revealing a real affinity to Lafleur with sweet plump tannins, ballerina like elegance and finesse, fruit sweetness and black berry concentration. Plenty of baby fat but with unquestionably fine integrity with a very fine fresh acid balance. Classy effort.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2016

50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc

A vintage that really has risen like a phoenix to become instantly revered and collectible among most top producers. This wine also shows the piercing fruit concentration, intense fragrance and accompanying complexity. Layers of blackberry confit, cherry kirsch liquor and seamless chalky minerality with a confident suave fruit concentration, precise intensity and a very friendly generous opulence. So pure, so delicious but will improve further with age. Top drawer!

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

A very fine selection worth tracking down. Wines represented in the UK by Armit Wines.

The Fine Wine Safari’s South African Wine Stars at the London Wine Fair 2019…

There has been a lot of speculation over the years about the usefulness of the London Wine Fair. I for one am very pleased it moved back to its home in Olympia from Excel, Docklands a couple of years ago. But ultimately, if we want such an institution to succeed, the broader London / UK wine trade needs to support the Fair with its attendance and engagement.

Personally, I found the London Wine Fair 2019 the perfect opportunity to catch up with some of South Africa’s top producers and taste a huge swathe of new releases. By the looks of the below scores, consumers are in for a block busters year of new releases!

London Wine Fair 2019: Highlights…

Cap Maritime Pinot Noir 2017, 14 Abv. – 92/100 GSMW

Rich, creamy and textural. Plenty of foresty bramble berry spice and delicious, ponderous vanilla pod nuances.

Cap Maritime Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Rich, broad and concentrated. Freshness with glycerol mouthfeel. Class written all over it. One to watch in the coming years!

Reyneke Reserve SB 2016, 12.5 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Sweet & sour pineapple pastille, root veg, wet thatch and a long bruised yellow orchard fruit length. The complexity is beguiling!

Reyneke Reserve Syrah 2015, 14 Abv. – 93/100 GSMW

Sweet plummy black berry nose full of peppercorns, wood spice and meaty, blueberry, liquorice length. Young but super impressive.

Boekenhoutskloof Franschhoek Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, 14.5 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Sweet caramelised lick of black berry, cassis and vanilla oak spice. Plush, opulent, finely honed. Classy, pure expression of Cabernet.

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2016, 14 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Brûléed earth, black berry confit and sweet grilled herbs. Impressive concentration, sweet, suave texture and an intense cured meat and barbecue smoke finish. Delicious.

Kanonkop 2009 Pinotage – 92/100 GSMW

Cool, bright fresh tart acids, bramble berry, freshly cut cedar, suave texture, ripe but also quite a chiselled, vibrant expression.

Kanonkop Pinotage 2017, 14 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Piquant and lifted with exotic red fruits, incense, coffee bean and dried potpourri. Oh the perfume! Mesmerising expression.

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 14 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Bright, soft earthy violets, lavendar and freshly tilled earth overlaying savoury spicy black berry fruits. Powder fine tannins, bright acids and superb structure. Classical expression of this cooler vintage.

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2016 – 95+/100 GSMW

Deep and broody full of sweet grilled herbs, cured meats, bloody meat and earthy red currants with bright cherry acids, chalky tannins and a classically dry, mineral finish with just a kiss of blueberry rock candy on the finish. Thoroughly distinguished expression of this South African benchmark classic.

Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Sweet perfumed black berry, incense, coffee bean and black and blue berry spice. Suave and ultra hedonistic, liquid luxury with very fine freshness, great concentration and a super fine, pinpoint long finish. A new world Grand Cru.

Bouchard Finlayson Crocadile’s Lair Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Super bright citrus lemon and lime cordial lift, concentrated sweet lemon pastille, green apple, chalky minerality and super crystalline purity. Classy Chardonnay!

De Morgenzon The Divas Chenin Blanc 2017, 14 Abv. – 97+/100 GSMW

Dusty, pithy crunchy yellow apricot, white peach and baked yellow apples in pastry. Lovely tension, bright acids, stony minerality and a fine linear finish. As serious as a £100 bottle of white wine should be.

Rustenberg Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 94+/100 GSMW

Super lifted chalky lemon and lime complexity with sappy spice, apple cordial and lemon pastille. Lovely concentration, creamy depth and beautiful opulence. Very fine. Best since 2015.

Oldenburg Chardonnay 2018, Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv. – 92+/100 GSMW

Dusty sweet lemon rock candy, wet chalk and spicy wet thatch. Cool, bright lemon cordial fruit, kiss of vanilla oak and a beautifully long, focused finish. Lovely.

Oldenburg CL Shiraz – Merlot 2017 – 90+/100 GSMW

Super lush and vibrant, mouth filling and rich with bright acidity, attractive sweet black fruits and an enticing savoury, caramelised, meaty edge. Really superb!

Oldenburg Rondekop Rhodium 2015, 14.5 Abv. – 94+/100 GSMW

Rich, opulent and deep with sweet wet tobacco, brûléed coffee bean, buttered brown toast and sweet black currant reduction. Suave, polished and fleshy, this is a very classy rendition of a Bordeaux blend with all the requisite chalky tannin grip, linear acids and a focused, pin point finish. The class of the vintage shines through without doubt!

Elgin Ridge Chaos White Blend 2017, 14 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Rich and exotic with delicious sweet white peach, green plum and pineapple pastille. Round, fleshy and long. A whole lot of wine.

Newton-Johnson Albariño 2018, 13 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Deliciously fleshy and round, sweet yellow fruit, white peach, green apple, sweet herbs and citrus peel. Very juicy and individual. Just love this wine!

Savage Follow the Line 2017, 13 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Soft pulped strawberry, raspberry pith, sweet cherry confit and an impressively tight, focused, pure finish. Profound expression without doubt.

Illimis Chenin Blanc 2016, 14.5 – 93+/100 GSMW

Creamy and glycerol with dried herbs, lemon biscuits and a vanilla pod finish. Impressive.

Stand Alone Gamay Noir 2018, 13 Abv. – 92+/100 GSMW

38 year old vine Gamay planted in 1981. 30% whole cluster layered in tank. Sweet candied red fruit, red cherry zip and a long red currant confit finish. Very juicy. A wine that wants to be noticed! (Fruit sourced from the Villiera farm)

Blank Bottle Little William Ceres Syrah 2018 – 92+/100 GSMW

Beautifully leafy, sappy, ripe and intense with exotic crushed raspberry, cranberry with a fine grained palate of dried guava roll, marzipan and juicy red fruits. A thoroughly amiable wine.

Oak Valley Groenlandberg Chardonnay 2018, 13.5 Abv. – 93/100 GSMW

White blossom, lemon rock candy, green melon Bon Bons and hints of spearmint. Cool, crystalline and pure fruited, this shows distinguished structure, impressive fruit concentration and a long intense finish.

Oak Valley Groenlandberg Pinot Noir 2018, 13.5 Abv. – 92+/100 GSMW

Rich expressive nose of brûléed bramble berry fruits, blood orange and pomegranate earthy red fruits. Sappy hedgerow spice, creamy concentration and pronounced finesse and harmony. Classy. Something very more’ish about this wine!

Tokara Directors Reserve 2016 White Blend, 14 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

70/30 Sauvignon – Semillon. Creamy and plush, super intense yellow citrus, super glycerol but fresh. Harmonious and elegant texture, this is a very smart blend. Very few vintages of this classy wine I have not fallen in love with.

Tokara Directors Reserve Red Blend 2015, 14.5 Abv. – 93/100 GSMW

71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. Wonderfully suave, creamy and round, saline cassis, wood spice, sappy black berry and sweet tobacco. Another ultra luxurious expression.

Jordan Whole Nine Yards Chardonnay 2016, 13 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Rich and textured, classically pure and punchy with orange blossom, vanilla oak spice and a honied brightness. Lovely classy expression.

Jordan Sophia Red Blend 2014, 14.5 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Freshly rolled tobacco, sweet red currant, tannery hide and sweet bramble berry. Plush, classy and super polished texture. Very smart.

Lowerland Tolbos Tannat 2016, Prieska, 13.5 Abv. – 92/100 GSMW

Another Lukas Van Loggerenberg offering. Ultra plush and sensual, this is full of sappy red and black fruits, freshly cut hedge row and sweet bramble berry confit. Exotic but very fine craftsmanship indeed.

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Elgin with a dash of Stellenbosch Chenin. 12 months in amphora. Piquant, savoury Chenin Blanc expression with bruised orchard fruits, apple purée and super broad concentration of pineapple and apple pastille. Really very impressive indeed. One for collectors to seek out!

The Iconic Magnificence of Chateau Lafleur – Tasting the 2018 Barrel Blend and Older Vintages with Omri Ram…

I’m very fortunate to meet up with some very gifted and highly talented winemakers who oversee the production of some of the great icon wines of the world. As a bit of pre-En Primeur 2018 campaign orientation, I caught up with Omri Ram from Chateau Lafleur in London to contemplate the true potential of the 2018 vintage and also reflect on some older classics over lunch.

Omri Ram presenting a selection of 2018 Barrel Samples in the Justerini & Brooks cellars

My initial Chateau Lafleur 2018 Barrel sample rating came in at a lofty 97-98/100 GSMW for what almost certainly must rate as one of the top wines of the vintage. But more interestingly, after the 2018 sample we got to drink some older vintages over a superb lunch laid on by Chateau Lafleur’s UK agent, Justerini & Brooks.

Pensees de Lafleur 2009, Pomerol, 14.5 Abv.

A very small vintage for Pensees, the nose is superbly fragrant, perfumed, earthy and expressive with layers of black currant, sweet tobacco, lavendar and earthy cassis. The palate is super polished, elegant and an all round uber suave crowd pleaser with a very sophisticated manner. Does not put a foot out of place. Classical, elegant yet open and overt, this is a wine for Bordeaux lovers looking to start tucking into a very smart, earlier drinking icon wine!

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

Chateau Lafleur 2007, Pomerol (Magnum), 13.5 Abv.

Along with 1999, Omri Ram’s favourite wine to drink. The end of an era where there was more Merlot that Cabernet Franc. An underestimated vintage for sure that in many ways breaks the stigma of the “7s” curse. 67, 77, 87, 97… etc. This wine is now beauty personified. Fragrant ethereal perfume wafts from the glass with intense nuances of cedar spice, caramelised cranberries, plum liquor and black berry depth. Underpinning the whole expression of the wine is dusty, stony minerality with the most incredible elegance, satin soft tannins and sublime harmony. If the Queen was coming for dinner and you knew she loved Claret, this would be the dream ticket to seal the relationship! Benchmark Pomerol.

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

Chateau Lafleur 2000, Pomerol, 13.5 Abv.

This block buster vintage displays a wonderfully expressive nose of gunpowder, struck flint, graphite, piquant black berry and herby grassy spice notes. Quite soft, fleshy and accessible, this wine has density, gravitas, concentration and weight of fruit with a subtle soft rounding acidity with a plush, creamy mineral tannin texture. Still youthful but deliciously opulent and seductive now. Start drinking but no rush at all. An iconic vintage from an iconic winery.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 8: Chateau Montrose La Dame de Montrose 2015 from St Estephe…

Chateau Montrose is synonymous for the finest age worthy reds from St Estephe on the left bank of Bordeaux. But their La Dame de Montrose second wine is also made to the same rigorous standards as their first wine, from grapes grown in the same vineyards. Consistently reliable and reaching maturity sooner, the wine was created in 1986 in tribute to Yvonne Charmolue, who ran Château Montrose single-handedly from 1944 to 1960. Production varies from one year to another but accounts on average for 30% of the total production of the Montrose vineyard. It is matured for 12 months in 30% new oak barrels.

While you often encounter the La Dame with a few more years of age (the 2005 is currently very popular among independent merchants), it was lovely to revisit this 2015 at the J.P.Moueix negociant tasting in London, from a vintage which I almost certainly have not tasted since En-primeur at the Chateau in 2016. Tasting alongside the famous Steven Spurrier, he too was full of praise for this attractive wine.

“A modern left bank vintage full of charm.” Steven Spurrier

In 2015, four months of drought including a hot June and July produced tiny, intense grapes with thick skins that resulted in plenty of tannins. Rain came at exactly the right time to revive vines stressed by temperature and dryness. Then, cooler than normal weather in September and October allowed vignerons to pick most vineyards when the grapes were perfectly ripe. A really superb expression that is both accessible to drink now but has the stuffing for at least 10 to 15+ years of additional cellaring.

Chateau Montrose La Dame de Montrose 2015, St Estephe, Bordeaux, 13 Abv.

Out the traps with speed. This super second wine shows wonderful aromatic complexity to dazzle and tease the drinker with fine perfumed violet and cedar spice notes, tilled earth, cured meats, black bramble berries and the faintest hints of eucalyptus menthol lift. The palate is super generous and fresh with a noticeably piercing intensity, saline cassis purity, bright crystalline acidity and a fine long classical finish with linearity and sufficient structural frame. The sweet pockets of black berry fruit on the mid palate are super delicious and really make this wine stand out from its neighbours. As ever, what not to love about Chateau Montrose, whether it’s their iconic first wine or this super attractive second wine. Buy now while it’s still affordable. Drink now to 2030+

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

Tasting the New Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2017 Pre-Release…

You wait for a bus for hours and then suddenly a whole tranche of them come along all at once. This is what the past few days have felt like with Cabernet Franc from South Africa. Within a matter of days, I had tasted the new Warwick Cabernet Franc 2015, the iconic Raats Family Cabernet Franc 2015, the Raats Dolomite 2016 (and sensational 5 Star Platter winner), and also the delicious new 2017 vintage from Gabrielskloof in the Bot River … due for release on the 1st April 2019.

I vividly remember reviewing the 2015 vintage a couple of years back after winemaker Peter-Allan Finlayson had given me a “clean skin” sample to taste. Of course it was a very impressive wine from a stellar red vintage and many months later, unsurprisingly, the 2015 Gabrielskloof Cabernet Franc made it into Tim Atkin MW’s South Africa Report as his “Red Wine Discovery of the Year.” The 2017 comes from the same Cabernet Franc vineyard in the Bot River region.

Tasting with Peter-Allan recently in London.

In this third consecutive drought vintage, Peter-Allan decided to do less extraction during fermentation with 20% whole bunches, so using only three pump overs (remontage) during active fermentation and thereafter a longer 23 day post-fermentation maceration followed by ageing the wine in larger 500 litre oak barrels to retain freshness and fruit expression.

Gabrielskloof The Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2017, WO Bot River, 14.1 Abv.

Made using fruit from 16 year old vines, the 2017 has a very attractive nose displaying a super complex perfumery of black berry, tart cassis, milk chocolate and cherry liquor. Beautifully complex wine expertly balancing piercing violet fragrance and sweet sappy cedar spice with hints of boxwood, spiced meats, melted wax and eastern incense. On the palate one is struck by the wine’s lithe, sleek mid-weight silky balance, delicious blueberry and oak spice harmony together with nuances of sweet dried herbs, plum spice, another last dusting of mocha choc spice and a very fine, long, fresh lingering piquant finish. A thoroughly confident, vibrant expression of Cabernet Franc expertly delivered in a vintage shaping up to be another very impressive high quality year for both reds and whites. Drink from 2019 to 2030+.

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

(Wines are distributed to the trade in the UK by Liberty Wines)

Sassicaia 2016 – A Legendary Red Wine in the Making…

One of the great things about Sassicaia new releases is that every year you get to taste the new wine alongside the estate’s Guidalberto and the Le Difese cuvees, both from the subsequent vintage. Last year, while tasting the incredibly fine Sassicaia 2015, it was the Guidalberto 2016 that really turned heads and got tongues wagging. If the unofficial second wine is this good, what could we expect from Sassicaia 2016 itself!?

 

So after 12 months of waiting, we recently got to taste the new Sassicaia 2016 release in London. Rather unusually, the wine had already been tasted and rated 100 points by The Wine Advocate’s Italian reviewer, Monica Larner, which as can be expected, set the fine wine trade fully ablaze and sent merchants into a vinous frenzy as they ventured to secure precious allocations. Also, the fact that Monica Larner had scored the 2015 Sassicaia the same as I had at 97/100 merely served to further increase my own personal interest in the new release.

 

What can be confirmed is that both 2015 and 2016 are certainly two of the best back to back vintages anyone can remember in Tuscany. The 2010 Bolgheri reds were fantastically good and the 2013’s were also very memorable, but neither vintage was as highly anticipated as either the 2015 or 2016 releases. Hype can make vintages seem even better than they are, but in this case, these two back to back 5 star vintages seem to be fully grounded around their exceptional quality in the bottle.

 

Tasting the Sassicaia 2016 with Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta in London.

Both vintages saw long hot summers that encouraged vigorous vine growth. In 2015, a cold and rainy winter preceded an irregular spring followed by exceptionally hot, dry summer weather, creating small bunches of grapes, leading to reduced yields across the region, exacerbated by several violent August hailstorms, although concentration levels are very good. 2016 was another very good vintage in Tuscany which produced wines with deep colour, piercing freshness and impressive fragrance. However, yields across the region were again down by up to -20% compared to the average and at Sassicaia, their own yields were down at least -10%, which was reflected in merchant’s final bottle wine allocations.

 

Will the 2016 with is sublime fruit purity, linear tension and taught acid freshness live up to the legendary status of the 1985? Who knows? All that is certain is that it is an incredibly fine Sassicaia expression and possibly one of the best young Sassicaia releases I have ever tasted. Buy some, age it and if you are lucky, it will turn out to be a wine to rival the 1985 in cult status.

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese de Sassicaia 2017, IGT Toscana

As usual, the le Difese blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese delivers an incredible level of complexity and vinous pleasure for the price. The 2017 is a slightly opaque plum ruby red and offers up a fine aromatic melange of red cherries, melted tar, sweet baking spices, red plum confit, red liquorice and a piquant high note. Texturally the palate is bold and full, deliciously fleshy and plump with a glycerol weight that rolls around the mouth. Acids are sappy and fresh enlivening the sweet red fruit flavours of sun raisined red plum, sweet red cherry, aniseed and liquorice stick. Another classy, thoroughly delicious, opulent rendition of this Tuscan favourite. Drink now to 2025+.  

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

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2017, IGT Toscana (Barrel Sample)

T he 2017 Guidalberto blend is made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot and has an alluring dark black plum colour. Like the le Difese 2017, there are attractive aromatic nuances of exotic grilled herbs and sweet dried spices that flow from the glass in a most seductive manner with layers of spicy red plum, pithy red cherry, incense, lipstick, graphite and a fabulous mineral undertone. The palate is super precise and sleek with a creamy, fleshy, harmonious concentration of sweet red cherries, bramble berries, plum skins and crushed limestone that is neatly and concisely supported by suave chalky dry tannins and a sappy, leafy sweet and sour acidity. The noteworthy power and intensity is offered up in a very approachable style but as always, suggests ageing this wine further will bring even greater textural harmony and with it enhanced drinking pleasure. Drink now to 2030+.  

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

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2016, DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, Toscana

After tasting the super impressive Guidalberto 2016 last year, the anticipation for the release of the 2016 Sassicaia started building from that point for a full 12 months! The wine sticks to the classical blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc and offers up a cornucopia of perfumed aromatics of sweet red crystallised cherries, red bramble berries, dried herbs, sage, sweet cedar and a subtle menthol red peppercorn exoticism. Fabulously complex, the 2016 unfurls in the glass in the manner of a young Grand Cru Cotes de Nuits Burgundy overpowering the senses with a seamless, integrated harmonious concentration. Effortlessly classy, sublimely opulent and intense but also treads so lightly. The 2016 picks up precisely where the epic 2015 let off but adds a few extra dimensions of textural finesse and intensity without ever being overtly glossy. Very impressive effort indeed. Another expression that will undoubtedly be compared to the now iconic 1985 Sassicaia. Will it live up to those proven 100 point heights? Only time will tell but it looks a sure bet if ever there was one! Drink from 2022 to 2045+.  

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines distributed to the UK trade through Armit Wines.