Sassicaia 2019 New Vintage Release Tasting In London…

I have commented before that it’s pure genius that Tenuta San Guido release their new Sassicaia vintage every year along side the next years Guidalberto and Le Difese red blends, enabling tasters to indulge in a unique snapshot of what is in the pipeline for the next Sassicaia release. It builds a full year of excitement and anticipation in the wine trade which counts as priceless promotion in marketing terms!

Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta was due to fly into London recently to present the new 2019 Sassicaia release but was sadly confined to her home office after one of her children tested positive for covid after returning from a family ski break. So, we hooked up by zoom instead and shared Tenuta San Guido’s wonderful new releases together virtually.

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2020, 14% Abv.

A rather challenging, warm vintage especially in the summer that was mitigated by good rains in 2019 and some 2020 Spring showers. With a broad array of vineyards to select fruit from and a percentage of earlier ripening Sangiovese, the blend was assembled to 55% Sangiovese and 45% for the Cabernet Sauvignon, departing from the usual split of 70-30 Cabernet-Sangiovese.

Bight and richly fruited, there are ample layers of black currant, earthy tobacco spice, sweet black plum and bruleed brown toast notes. But the palate is vibrant and electric, full of energy and fresh acids that bring the black and red berry fruits to life while also adding frame and structure in the mouth. The tannins are wonderfully sleek, fine grained and elegant with a subtle minerality and hints of graphite. A deliciously fresh and refined expression of this earlier drinking cuvée.

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

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2020, 14% Abv.

Slightly higher Merlot component rising from 40% to 50%, with the remainder all Cabernet Sauvignon, sticking with the theme of a higher percentage of the earlier ripening variety than normal. 

Deep and darkly coloured, the aromatics are rich and fruity with opulent savoury aromatic layers of bruleed black currant, creme caramel, cut cedar, sweet tobacco and an exotic dusting of youthful cinnamon spice. The palate is fleshy and opulent with a pronounced sweet and sour tangy acidity, a full sleek mid-palate weight and a long, plumy tobacco spice finish. Harmonious, finely balance and offering a great expectation of drinking pleasure for the next 10 to 15 years.

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

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2019, 14% Abv. 

The 2019 is a very classic vintage that follows a perfect pattern through all phases of the season. Grapes were healthy and perfectly mature allowing a long hang time for the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon due marked diurnal temperature shifts and a relaxed, gently paced picking window. Great structure, low pHs and a fresh acidity all point to a long ageing potential.

Deep, dark, broody aromatics that are tight and reserved currently, with a traditional blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The aromatics show layers of violets, damson plum, black currant, blood orange, sweet cedar, grilled herbs, oak spice and black currant infused herbal tea nuances. On the palate the density is clear and present, full, opulent and concentrated, gliding over the tongue with great textural weight but also fleshy fruit power, seamless fine grained creamy tannins and all round finesse and majestic balance. Pure class… profound on so many levels and perhaps, along with the 2016 vintage, one of the most attractive Sassicaia releases in the past 20+ years.

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

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 9: Le Petit Ducru de Ducru-Beaucailloux 2018…

This juicy little newcomer to the world of Bordeaux second wines is a selection derived from the Saint Julien vineyards of Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. Le Petit Ducru portends an introduction to the Borie signature style, lending qualities from its elder siblings, the Ducru-Beaucaillou and the La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou, of plushness, balance and Cabernet Sauvignon elegance and power.

The Petit Ducru sees an equally rigorous grape selection and attention to detail winemaking before being aged in barrel for 12 months with one-third new oak. A traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend, and depending on the vintage, occasionally with a hint of Petit Verdot, this is an appealing addition to the Bordeaux drinkers’ landscape. Le Petit Ducru aims to be a wine of balance and harmony that is enjoyable in its youth while also possessing enough “stuffing” for moderate beneficial ageing.

Le Petit Ducru de Ducru-Beaucailloux 2018, Saint Julien, Bordeaux, 14.5% Abv.

A new wine in the Ducru-Beaucaillou portfolio launched with the 2018 vintage, Le Petit Ducru wine was formerly called Lalande-Borie. This can loosely be considered the Chateau’s second wine as the La Croix du Beaucaillou, like examples such as Clos du Marquis and Les Forts de Latour, is not a second wine as such, because it comes from a specifically dedicated part of the Ducru-Beaucaillou vineyard located on the south bank of La Mouline. The Le Petit Ducru grapes are all sourced from vineyards of Ducru-Beaucaillou and the maiden 2018 vintage is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine possesses an impressively deep dark broody opaque colour and shows seductively opulent aromatics of stewed black berries, black currant compote, sweet mulberries, black liquorice, cherry tobacco, grilled herbs and subtle notes of graphite and freshly tilled earth. The palate is plush, bold and opulent with an imposing mouth-filling texture packed with sweet black berry fruits, hints of hoisin plum sauce, burnt brown toast crusts and vanilla pod spice. An impressively opulent and fleshy expression that is kept in check by fresh integrated acids and sweet, creamy tannins which finish with a spicy, dried baking herb piquant twist. Arguably a wine that shows its pedigree and over-delivers for the price. Drink on release and comfortably over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

Klein Constantia Continues to Push the Quality Boundaries with their Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2021…

The assessment of any great winery is surely measured by how well they make their largest and most commercially available estate wine. In the case of Klein Constantia, it has been thrilling to see winemaker Matt Day pushing the boundaries of quality and complexity on the estate’s main white release. Not content to merely make something that is commercially appealing, the team at Klein Constantia have over the past few years doubled their efforts to reclaim premium Sauvignon Blanc as Constantia’s number one global calling card.

While the experimentation and single vineyard expressions are fun to taste and write about, it is most pleasing to see that everything they learn making these micro cuvées gets translated back into plain English when applied to improve the balance, texture and complexity of their estate Sauvignon Blanc, just like the Mercedes formula 1 team uses innovations learnt on the track to improve and enhance their commercial mass market models. With intent and focus behind a wine brand like this, how can you not want to fill your cellar with their offerings!

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Constantia’s Valley, 13.5% Abv.

This 2021 made from over 40 separate parcels employing up to 25% skin contact, is a tantalising expression of pristine cool climate Sauvignon Blanc that combines the most intricate aromatic elements of white lemon blossom, grated lime peel, yellow grapefruit, freshly cut hedgerow and crunchy white peach. There is certainly a nervy saline green fruit crunch to the wine with the palate effortlessly weaving a dusty stony minerality seamlessly together with notes of spicy gooseberry, lemon grass, lime cordial, green apple and lashings of more white citrus and tangerine. This is a very distinguished expression that can be appreciated by serious Loire connoisseurs as well as weekend drinkers looking for a classy fresh glass of premium Sauvignon Blanc to compliment sushi and fresh seafood. This is Constantia Sauvignon Blanc at its versatile best.

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

Margaux Excels Once Again – Tasting the New Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015 Release…

The third wine of the legendary Chateau Margaux, the Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015 arrives on the market with great expectations for a wine from a highly lauded, ripe, warm Bordeaux vintage. The Margaux du Château Margaux 2015 is the result of the most rigorous selection ever made on their 3rd wine with almost a quarter of the production relegated to a 4th wine sold in bulk. Because of this selection, Chateau Margaux probably have today the most charming and open Margaux du Château Margaux that they have ever produced.

The 2015 winter, which was appreciably colder than those of the previous years, caused a late, but perfectly regular blossoming. Dry and sunny weather in the spring made for optimal conditions, so flowering took place very quickly and homogeneously. The hot, dry weather persisted throughout the months of June and July, to a point where Margaux was afraid there could be water stress, or at least in the most sensitive plots. Fortunately a little rain in August arrived just in time to ensure a quick and regular veraison. The drought, which arrived again in September, together with very warm days and cool nights, enabled the grapes to balance their richness in sugar with good acidity, to render their tannins more silky and to make their aromatic potential more complex.

The harvest of the reds took place from September 18th to October 6th. The small size of the grapes and their thicker skins indicated a very high concentration of tannins and the 2015 weather conditions are in fact the feature of very great vintages, like 2005, 2009 and 2010.

Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015, AOC Margaux, 14% Abv.

The 2015 Margaux du Chateau Margaux red is a splendid garnet-purple coloured creation with an incredibly inviting aromatics bursting with seductive notes of black berries, crème de cassis, pressed rose petals, lavender, sappy sandalwood and hints of sweet Cohiba cigar tobacco spice. This vintage has got to be the ripest and most opulent expression of this Margaux Bordeaux since the maiden 2009 release, showing a medium to full–bodied flavour packed mouthful, delivering a lush black berry seduction, hints of black forest gateau and a tight knit vein of finely polished spicy tannins which melt away into a fresh, inviting acidity that somewhat reins in the warm 2015 fruit exuberance. But this wine is certainly not lacking in backbone or classicism, revealing plenty of mid-palate concentration and focused precision as you would expect from one of the greatest Chateau in Bordeaux. Drink now on release and over 10 to 15+ years.

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

Gaja Ca’ Marcanda Bolgheri Estate Releases Some Triumphant 2019 Reds…

As the world gets back to normal after pandemic disruptions, new fine wine releases are also slowly getting back on track and becoming more frequent. Today I was privileged to join one of my favourite wine personalities, Gaia Gaja, for a true celebration of 20 years of Ca’ Marcanda including a tutored tasting and a preview of the fabulous new 2019 releases.

Magari is an Italian expression holding different meanings: “If only it was true…!” or “I wish…!” It is said to carry a sort of irony which usually leads people to smile, and I can tell you this Magari 2019 certainly made me smile with pleasure. Undoubtedly always one of my favourite cuvées in the range that includes the Promis and Ca’ Marcanda flagship Rosso, once again the superb Magari expression delivers something very special indeed.

The entrancing Gaia Gaja resplendent in the London Spring sunshine of Pall Mall.

Made from fruit grown on classic dark Bolgheri soils rich in limestone and clay, the three varieties were fermented and macerated separately for around 15 days before circa 12 months of oak barrel ageing. The maiden release was vintage 2000. Watch out for all the new, incredibly serious but seductive releases from Gaja Ca’ Marcanda Bolgheri.

Ca’ Marcanda Magari 2019, Bolgheri Rosso, 14.5% Abv.

The 2019 Magari is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. Showing taut broody aromatics in its youth, this is a very serious linear Magari that needs coaxing to come out and play. Wonderfully dark fruited with cool limestone minerality, lavender, graphite and subtle oak spice notes, the palate is incredibly fine and polished, super precise and harmonious with a five star balance and intensity. The finish is cool, creamy and beautifully pure with smoky creme de cassis and a pithy black cherry elegance that very slowly melts away on the long, persistent finish. Stern but seductive and very serious! Bravo Gaja! Drink from 2024 to 2044+.

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

The Ultimate Chameleon Brand – Tasting the Diemersdal Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020…

On my recent trip to South Africa, I finally popped my cherry and tasted the much talked about Diemersdal New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from Marlborough. Already the third vintage in the collaboration between this South African estate and New Zealand producer Ben Glover from Glover Family Vineyards, tasting this wine inspired me to write a column for Winemag.co.za on chameleon brands. Read here: https://winemag.co.za/wine/opinion/greg-sherwood-mw-is-there-merit-in-chameleon-wine-brands/

The grapes for the 2020 were machine harvested at 21.2 Balling and crushed and destemmed reductively. The juice was co-inoculated with X5 and VL3 yeast which enhance some of the thiol notes but maintain the vibrant ripe herbaceous notes of the vineyard. The approximate time of fermentation was around 2 weeks, at around 12/13°C. The wine was then left on its lees for 3 to 4 weeks before racking and a small SO2 addition. The wine spent a further two months on its fine lees before bottling.

Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5% Abv.

3.6 g/l RS | 7.8 g/l TA | 3.18 pH

First nosing of this Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc indicates that there is a lot going on in the glass. The aromatics are classical and subtle but equally complex with notes of pithy white citrus, green apple cordial, white peach, dried herbs and savoury tinned petit pois nuances. The palate is taut and crisp with a strict linear structure in the mouth bolstered by cool, clean green crunchy acids and layers of green papaya, crunchy pears, apple pastille and peach fruits. Never too fruity or too pungent, but always cool and crystalline with some lovely limestone minerality on the finish, this is quite a grown-up expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Wairau Valley. Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.

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

The Vilafonte Winery Prepares to Release Another Effusively Modern 2019 Series M Vintage…

2019 represents the first post-drought Series M vintage to be released by the team at the Vilafonte winery in Paarl and the vintage clearly illustrates what is possible when nature decides to co-operate to yield some exceptional raw materials. According to winemaker Chris de Vries, the vintage was really a tale of two seasons. While rains initially remained elusive, there was an upswing in rainfall towards the end of the 2018 winter and continuing into spring and early summer.

Weather fluctuations in the spring did however result in uneven bud-break and berry set. Conditions improved somewhat at the onset of summer with a warmer November being very conducive to healthy vineyard growth. Some uneven ripening was remedied with in-bunch sorting after veraison and by the time harvest arrived at the beginning of February, the fruit quality was looking exceptional.

The Series M 2019 is a blend of 48% Malbec, 34% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 22 months in 22 percent new French oak barriques with the balance in a mixture of older French oak barrels. 51 barrels were produced.

Vilafonte Series M 2019, WO Paarl, 14% Abv.

This excellent vintage has yielded a truly impressive wine for the Vilafonte team displaying a brilliant and intense ruby and red plum hue. The aromatics are expansive and hedonistic sending notes of violets and crushed red cherries, raspberries and pressed rose petals soaring out the glass with confidence and vigour. Fabulously complex and intricate, attractive notes of wild berries and red currant follow to the dense, full bodied palate that boasts a broad seductive array of black liquorice and black plum, cocoa powder and brown toast crust nuances. The Malbec and Merlot are like a marriage made in heaven, offering svelte supple tannins and a texture that wraps its arms around you in the most comforting embrace. With time in the glass, the full fleshy palate shows further layers of baked plums, blue berries and red cherries all underpinned by fresh vital acids. This is most definitely one of the most powerful, potent and heady wines produced in the Series M range to date displaying an impressively ample fine wine self-confident personality. Drink this wine in its youth or cellar for 20+ years.

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

A Vintage Born Out of Adversity – Tasting the Phenomenal Chateau Musar 2015…

When it comes to adversity, there is little that has not been thrown at the people of Lebanon in the past few years. But as expected, resilience has once again become the byword for the tenacious locals in their struggle to resume normal lives after political turmoil, the Syrian refugee crisis, economic difficulties, the Covid pandemic and of course the disastrous Beirut port explosion on the 4th of August 2020. While all this chaos has been going on, the determined winemakers of the Bekaa Valley have soldiered on with their treasured alchemic art of turning grapes into incredibly fine wines.

After an almost 16 month wait, stocks of the highly anticipated 2015 Chateau Musar finally landed in the UK market at the end of 2021 defying ongoing shipping problems and global container shortages. True to the theme of adversity, the 2015 harvest proved to be one of the most challenging in a generation according to Chateau Musar. The start of the year was promising with January and February 2015 offering up plentiful amounts of rain and snow, followed in March by more snow before the weather gave way to warmer conditions in late March. But the optimism was short lived when in mid-April, exceptionally cold nigh time conditions returned with temperatures dropping to as low as -12 degrees C in one instance, damaging the already opening buds. By early May, the vineyards were filled with hectares of blackened vines suggesting a potentially catastrophic vintage ahead.

But miraculously, secondary green shoots emerged from the vines helped by higher temperatures in June and July. Clearly, yields were going to be greatly reduced for this harvest. The Syrah grapes were the first reds to be harvested on the 1st September with reduced yields of between 75% and 80% from the average while fortunately, the Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to be less affected when harvesting started on the 3rd of September. However during September, a heatwave struck the vineyards and while the Cabernet fruit avoided the worst of the frosts, the subsequent heatwave reduced yields by up to 65%. The Cinsault harvest started on the 8th of September with reduction in yields of between 40% and 70% depending on the vineyard location. The Carignan and Grenache were harvested on the 11th September with both varieties experiencing a reduction of 50% in yields before the final bunches of Mourvedre were harvested in early October. 2015 is certainly a year that will be remembered for its climatic difficulties but also hopefully for the final wine quality that reached the bottle.

Chateau Musar 2015, Bekaa Valley, 14% Abv.

Another seductive vintage of Musar with expressive aromatics of sweet red cherries, plum liquor, cinnamon spice, sweet cedar, cherry tobacco and balsamic reduction. The palate shows wonderful textural precision with polished sleek tannins, stewed cherries, hints of cola, pithy black currant and sweet sappy spice and a suave, super elegant finish that possesses an impressively pure, weightless intensity. This is a seriously classy Musar that has more in common with harmoniously elegant vintages like the 2010 than higher horsepower years like 1995 or 1999. Simply beautiful to drink now but exhibits a vibrant freshness that will keep this wine singing for many years to come. Drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

KWV’s Roodeberg Brand is Riding High With An Impressive 2020 Red Blend Release…

High quality volume brands made with attention to detail are required by all wine industries around the world. Often we just expect that one or another large wine corporation will step into the breach with its branded offerings and simply supply the goods. Well, in South Africa that has not always been the case. Fortunately, times are changing and the fabric of the South African wine industry is changing, allowing new and old players to step up once again and present the world’s consumers with some quality wine brands that do the country proud.

The Roodeberg label is just one such iconic brand that rose to fame in the 1950’s and 1960’s and then icon status in the 1970s and early 1980s before mysteriously losing its way with the changing of the guard post 1994. But the Roodeberg brand is back and with each of the last few vintages, quality has been paramount. With a 90/100 point score awarded for the excellent 2019 red blend by Winemag.co.za, all eyes were always going to be on the new release 2020 to see if the consistency of quality could be maintained. I tasted the 2020 recently and was pleasantly impressed.

KWV Roodeberg Red Blend 2020, WO Western Cape

An unspecified blend of red varieties, this delicious wine looks to tick as many boxes as possible for the consumer and the expressive 2020 certainly does the trick. On the nose the fruits are rich, opulent and pure, loaded with red currant, blue berry and black currant nuances, a real triumphant berry melange that is dusted with subtle brûléed oak notes, roasted coffee beans and vanilla pod spice. The acids are sleek, integrated but fresh and vibrant in the mouth, the fruit concentration textured and expressive showing a real generosity, notable complexity but also plenty of mainstream commercial appeal. Hats off to the Roodeberg winemaking team with this effort. Drink now and over the next 6-8+ years. (Tasted from magnum)

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

The Old Vine White Blend, Always One of the Mullineux’s Favourite Wines Reaches New Quality Heights with the 2021 Release…

Whether you have tasted this wine with Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Swartland estate Roundstone or somewhere else around the world, you always get the impression that the Old Vine white holds a very special place close to their hearts perhaps because it’s a wine that encapsulates their 15 year Mullineux fine wine journey to date.

Tasted with Chris and Andrea pre-release, this is a wine that quite obviously fills them both with incredible confidence and pride, as they reflect on the long journey to reach this special point in time. While Chris still waxes lyrical about the exceptional 2010 Old Vine White, which coincidentally “won” the tasters’ top vote at the 10 year white blend vertical a few years back in London, both agree the 2021 possesses characteristics and quality traits not seen before on this specific cuvée, making it a ‘must buy’ later in 2022 on release!

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Old Vine White Blend 2021, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Bottled after 12 months, this is a very, very pretty vintage with lower yields but also beautiful fruit purity, precision and a wonderful fruit – acid balance. The aromatics are ripe, succulent and opulent showing honeysuckle, white blossom, lemon cordial, dried herbs and lovely white peach and pineapple pastille notes. Nevertheless, the stand out feature on the palate is undoubtedly the textural sophistication, harmony and chalky minerality combined with super tangy acids bursting with lemon rock candy, white peach and crystalline citrus flavours. Simply an incredible intensity with a harmoniously weightless balance combined with a long, piercing finish. This is definitely a noticeable step up on previous vintages and an incredible achievement for the Mullineuxs! Drink now to 2034+.

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