Upfront and Showy – Tasting the New Release Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2019…

It seems almost every year one corner of the Cape winelands or another is touched by bush fires. As a hangover of the long regional drought, wildfires have taken their toll in the Western Cape just as they have in California. Sadly, 2019 was no different and during this harvest, fires managed to wreak havoc across the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

The large wildfires which burnt along the borders of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards estate on January 11th 2019, necessitated the rejecting of almost all the 2019 Pinot Noir grown on site as a result of minor but noticeable smoke taint to the fruit. However, Hamilton Russell were luckily able to harvest their full Chardonnay crop before any smoke damage occurred and produced another very impressive expression.

Extremely warm, hot weather in May, June and July 2019 lead to uneven bud break and resulted in a -44% reduction in yields. Overall the vintage temperature averages were cooler than in both 2017 and 2018 and final quality was high amongst harvested grapes.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.2 Abv.

This wine shows the true pretty, overt appeal of the 2019 vintage without any of the usual youthful reduction and broody mineral austerity. The aromatics are bright, pure and lifted, ultra expressive, offering up seductive notes of Spring flowers, lemon cordial, green apple, yellow grapefruit confit and honeydew melon pastille sweets. The palate mirrors the aromatic succulence and generous fruit forward concentration boasting hallmark notes of sweet citrus fruit intensity, crystalline purity, tangy acids and a fleshy, glycerol harmonious persistence. A little more showy fruit immediacy will surely see this vintage race off the shelves with new and old Hamilton Russell collectors alike. Total production 2812 x 12.

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

Triumph from Tragedy – Tasting the New Release Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2019…

It seems almost every year one corner of the Cape winelands or another is touched by bush fires. As a hangover of the long regional drought, wildfires have taken their toll in the Western Cape just as they have in California. Sadly, 2019 was no different and during this harvest, fires managed to wreak havoc across the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

The large wildfires which burnt along the borders of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards estate on January 11th 2019, necessitated the rejecting of almost all the 2019 Pinot Noir grown on site as a result of minor but noticeable smoke taint to the fruit.

In a testament to the true spirit of the wine trade, local neighbours rallied around Hamilton Russell to offer quality parcels of fruit from unaffected areas to allow a 2019 wine to be produced. Grapes came in from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and were, for the first time ever, blended into a Hamilton Russell WO Walker Bay Pinot Noir cuvee by winemaker Emul Ross.

Those with a sharp eye will notice the subtle label change from Hamilton Russell Vineyards to merely Hamilton Russell together with a Walker Bay branded capsule over the closure. This is a fabulous wine that truly is a triumph forged out of tragedy. Anthony’s only worry is that consumers might enjoy the wine’s extra forward, showy opulence too much and demand more of the same next year. Nevertheless, this is definitely a deliciously pure Pinot Noir wine worth buying!

Tasting the new Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir with Anthony Hamilton Russell in London recently.

47% Ridge (Babylon / Creation)

37% Upper (Sumaridge)

16% Valley (Hamilton Russell)

Winemaking changes involved: Less skin contact; More gentle extraction; Inoculation with Hamilton Russell Sauvage wild yeast strain.

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2019, WO Walker Bay, 13.5 Abv.

Having only been bottled a couple of months ago, this 2019 cuvee is wonderfully generous and opulent with layered aromatics of ripe blood oranges, bruleed wood spice, sun raisined red cherry, red bramble berries and subtle hints of pomegranate spice. The palate is perhaps more fleshy, supple and open than a normal Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir would be at this youthful stage in its life but it is certainly no less juicy, mouth watering and seductive. The bright fruit forward expression, however attractive, does perhaps obscure some of the usual structure and mineral restraint found on most vintages of Hamilton Russell new releases, however as Anthony commented, “it’s almost like we have just changed coopers or barrel toasting as the fruit quality is still exceptional.” There is fabulous earthy red berry fruit complexity bolstered by fine creamy tannins and soft, tangy acids that steer the wine to a long, glycerol, textured finish packed with oodles of sex appeal. This may be a once-off cuvee born out of tragedy but it is certainly a triumphant wine with great character and upfront appeal. Drink from release or cellar for 6 to 8+ years.

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

The End of a Golden Era in Wine – Goodbye Michael Broadbent MW 1927-2020…

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 Michael at Vintners Hall to celebrate his 90th Birthday in London.

Glenelly Estate Prepare to Release their Greatest Creation to Date – Tasting the Epic Lady May 2015 Flagship Red Blend…

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.

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

An Exercise in Opulence and Hedonism – Tasting the New Release Ornellaia 2017…

Hot on the heels of the Sassicaia 2017 release comes the opulent, extroverted Ornellaia expression. From a warm dry vintage, conditions certainly played to the Ornellaia style of richness and opulence.

The vineyards extend 115 hectares and are broken down into 70 different plots, all with slightly different characteristics. There are two main areas, one around the Ornellaia winery itself and another around Bellaria to the north and north-west of Bolgheri, where the land slopes gently down towards the sea some 5 km away. All vineyards within the Bolgheri DO are dedicated to the production of the Ornellaia range with the very best plots being blended into Ornellaia and also the highly respected second wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia.

Ornellaia 2017, DO Bolgheri Superiore, 15 Abv.

Facinating to see how individual and unique the expression of Ornellaia is vintage after vintage. This warm sunshine vintage boasts a ripe, plush opulent nose jam packed full of cherry confit, black plum preserve and blueberry pie laced with a dusting of vanilla pod and brûléed oak spice. Such a dense, dark core with hedonistic notes of mocha and chocolates filled with blueberry reduction, creme de cassis and buttered brown toast. A bold, extroverted, flamboyant expression of Ornellaia that will appeal to those who enjoy riper, more exotic vintages. Drink from release and for 15+ years.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Release Some of their Finest Cru’s for the Past Decade…

The warm 2015 vintage in Barbaresco was considered another excellent year in the region and merited the bottling of the Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Single Vineyard wines. Produttori del Barbaresco only produce the Riserva labels if all nine Cru’s in their co-operative stable meet the same high quality standards, else all the Cru wines are declassified and blended into the village DOCG Barbaresco.

Managing Director Aldo Vacca was recently in London to presents the new releases of Produttori del Barbaresco’s 2015 Barbaresco Riserva Single Vineyard wines from all nine Cru sites; Rio Sordo, Pora, Pajè, Asili, Ovello, Montefico, Muncagota, Rabajà and Montestefano.

Tasting with Aldo Vacca

This was a fantastic opportunity to taste these iconic wines, side by side and learn from one of Piedmont’s greatest ambassadors about the uniqueness of Barbaresco, it’s terroir and the characteristics of the individual Cru sites.

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2018, 14.5 Abv.

Beautifully lifted perfumed nose of red liquorice, violets and macerated red cherries with hints of exotic herbs and spices. Palate shows overt ripeness and a generous fleshy upfront opulence. Tannins are grippy and mineral holding the tarry red and black cherry fruits in check. The finish is long and textured with plenty of four square power, ripeness and complexity.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2016, 14.5 Abv.

Like only the finest vintages, this immaculate Village Barbaresco oozes character and complexity with some of the prettiest aromatics elicited from the Nebbiolo fruits. Seductive perfume of violets, rose petals, cherry blossom, pink musk and cherry rock candy overwhelm the senses. The palate intensity and piercing concentration is also knockout fabulous with tart sweet and sour red cherry, red liquorice and a smokey graphite minerality on the finish. Broad, mouth filling and just an outstanding effort!

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

Lovely broody dark fruited aromatics with black plum, black cherry, tar and black liquorice with lifted hints of dried herbs, thyme, graphite and stony dust. The palate is dense, full and compact with silky fine grained tannins, a solid core of robust black fruits and a creamy, textural black cherry and wood spice finish.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

Another rather dark and broody expression of Nebbiolo with black earthy fruit nuances, black cherry, damson plum and hints of salty black liquorice. The palate is saline and crisp with tarry layers of liquorice, piquant black berries and spicy mineral tannins. Plenty of power, density and frame. Give this a few years in the cellar to open up.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Paje Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This fabulous Paje shows exotic red and black fruit spice with notes of grilled herbs, dried herbs, sun dried red cherries and subtle red bramble berry spice. The tannins are pinpoint precise, fine grained and drying, sleek yet powerful highlighting the incredible precision and balance of this Cru. Very classical and classy indeed.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Muncagota Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This neighbouring vineyard of Paje shows fine aromatics that mixes an exotic array of baking spices with stony minerality, graphite, black liquorice, spiced plums and black cherry pith. The palate is super dense and focused, dark fruited and broody but also revealing massive concentration, creamy textural tannins and seamless harmony. Serious expression.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

The Ovello shows a taut, tight focused aromatic lift with precise notes of red cherry, wood smoke, graphite and kirsch liquor hints. The palate is fleshy and bright, opulently red fruited but also powerfully grippy, structured and intense with tart red cherry, sour red plum and a mineral bite on the vibrant finish. A lively Ovello that’s full of life and energy.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Asili Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This is a very grown up expression of Barbaresco with restrained classical aromatics that suggest there is plenty to come but the wine is just a little bit shy about revealing its soul in its youth. There is subtle red cherry and blood orange spice that melts into notes of graphite, stony minerality and black berry spice. The palate is wonderfully balanced showing a powerful structure, creamy dense drying tannins but also piercingly sweet focused red and black berry fruits. Impressive harmony and textural balance, restraint and classical power, the archetypal Asili.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Montefico Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

The aromatics are slightly muted but manage to squeeze out high toned notes of tart red cherry, kirsch liquor and graphite minerality. Some notes of pink musk, sweet grilled herbs and red cherry rock candy sweetness develop in the glass. Texturally dense and beautifully creamy, the palate shows wonderful vibrancy and energy, bright spicy stony red cherry fruits and a compact, powder tannin finish. Lovely focus and balance.

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Rabaja Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

This is another classy expression with purity and perfume, lift and crystalline focus of red cherry fruits and ruby grapefruit citrus. The palate retains super freshness but is buffered by dense fleshy sweet red cherry pastille fruits, red apple spice and tart sour black plum. Dense and delicious, classically attention grabbing and opulently powerful. Fabulous!

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

Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.

A rather exotic aromatic melange reveals itself on this opulent, ripe Montestefano with pronounced notes of cherry confit, graphite and kirsch liquor. The palate is seductively opulent and powerful, expressive and fleshy with a flamboyant mouth filling intensity, sweet cherry pastille fruits, grilled herbs, wild strawberry and a fleshy, creamy, soft plump finish that caresses the palate on a long persistent length. Bit of a show stopper.

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

Glenelly Estate Starting to Reach Its True Noble Stellenbosch Potential…

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.

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot

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.

74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot

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.

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