It’s Nero d’Avola But Not As You Know It – Tasting The Tenuta di Fessina ERO 2013…

Tenuta di Fessina is an winemaking project which took shape based on Silvia Maestrelli’s love of the land. In 2007, with the help of winemaker Federico Curtaz, who had worked as Gaja’s agronomist for twenty years, the Tuscan wine producer purchased an old vineyard of Nerello Mascalese grapes dating back to the past century. In the middle of the vineyard stood a true gem: an eighteenth -century lava millstone with the chianca – the winepress – still intact.

L’vigne di Fessina, as the locals have always called the Rovittello vineyards, located in the town of Castiglione di Sicilia, show all the love and care poured into them by the previous owners over generations. Their ERO is produced from Nero d’Avola fruit sourced in Val di Noto, south west of Syracuse.

In 2013, a dry spring followed a long and not too hot summer. August and September were characterized by abundant and unusual rainfall, favouring a slower and gradual maturation of healthy grapes with an interesting aromatic profile. After a rather cold and wet September, an October of fine dry weather followed, which allowed for a favourable harvest with fully healthy Nero d’Avola grapes.

Tenuta di Fessina ERO Nero d’Avola 2013, DOC Sicilia, 12.5 Abv.

Fantastically expressive nose of ripe red and black berry fruits, sun dried cranberries, bruised black plums, stewed winter fruits, wet straw and subtle peacan pie and molasses hints. While there are ripe, raisined black berry notes, you’d be mistaken for thinking this was just another run of the mill, over-ripe, sun drenched, sweet fruited, simple Nero d’Avola from Sicily. While the fruit for ERO is not from the Etna region where the winery is situated, it is handle in a more delicate Etna’ish manner, showing wonderful freshness, elegance and delicacy on the palate. The palate bristles with fresh acids, suave textured red fruits, cranberries, raspberries and logan berry with a delicious underlay of chalky, mineral tannic grip. So cool, so elegant, so fresh, this wine totally defies the stereotypical style of Nero d’Avola. Already 5 years old, this wine is as fresh as a daisy and should drink very well for another 6 to 8+ years. A really classy expression.

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

Possibly the Greatest Value Red Wine in Piedmont ~ Tasting Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2016…

There are not many certainties in the world of fine wine, but there are some. One is that Cantina Terlaner is the greatest white wine Co-operative in the world. The second is that Produttori del Barbaresco is the greatest red wine Co-operative in the world! It is also one of the most innovative, consistent and highly acclaimed producers in Piedmont, making exquisite traditional Barbarescos that are among the best examples of the appellation.

This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts. Today the cooperative has 56 members and 100+ hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area.

Their Langhe Nebbiolo in particular has long been one of the greatest and most profound value reds on the market, recognised and lauded buy critics far and wide. The 2016 is no exception and once again pushes the boundaries of red wine quality even further.

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2016, 14.5 Abv.

This is a super attractive 100% Nebbiolo wine sourced from DOCG certified Barbaresco vineyards. Grapes were picked from both younger vines, lower aspect sites and vineyard spots that don’t quite meet the high standards of the Produttori Barbaresco co-operative. There are beautiful aromatics of sappy red cherry, red liquorice, star anise and tarry spice. The palate is gorgeously pure, finely poised and elegantly harmonious. It seems almost inconceivable that a wine so attractive can cost less the £20. It possesses such wonderful core focus and finishes with tender, sleek fine grained tannins and deliciously fresh mouth watering acids. Such a pleasure to drink and impressively, you’d never detect the 14.5 alcohol such is it’s cool, polished refinement. A truly tantalising release. Drink now to 2026+

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

Another Superb Giuseppe Rinaldi Red Reviewed ~ Tasting the Barbera d’Alba 2016…

I visited the Gaja estate in Barbaresco just before harvest in 2016 and everything was looking set for another high quality harvest across Barolo and Barbaresco. So now it seems the consensus throughout the Piedmont region is that 2016 stands as a very promising and potentially exceptional high quality vintage.

Most producers in the region felt happy with the final results of the harvest season, reporting a crop both high in quality and quantity, with grapes possessing sugar concentration to rival the richness of 2015 but with greater structure and livelier acidity.

Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba 2016, 14 Abv.

This beautiful 2016 Barbera d’Alba from Giuseppe Rinaldi echoes the above sentiments and is evidence of another very good vintage. The nose is slightly exotic but very alluring. Plenty of black cherry coulis, wood smoke, hints of tar, sweet tobacco, black plum spice, oyster shell and salty cassis. Obviously very youthful still, however there is a silent confidence to this wine. The palate reveals ripe fruit and ample textured roundness but with perhaps a little more mineral grip and piquant tannins than the fleshier, riper 2015 expression. With such opulent bright black and red berry fruits bolstered by a mouth watering refreshing acidity, this wine impresses from start to finish. Wonderful depth and harmonious balance, you get to see the real ability of this great classical Piedmont estate to deliver iconic reds vintage after vintage. Barbera can really be a real thing of beauty when handled with serious intent. Drink now to 2028+.

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

Tasting the Profound Wines of Tenuta San Leonardo in a Three Decade Vertical…

After much anticipation, today I finally attended a fascinating vertical tasting with Marchese Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga and his son Anselmo, owners of the iconic Trentino winery Tenuta San Leonardo. Carlo has been a long time admirer of the great red wines of Bordeaux so perhaps it was inevitable that he would steer his estate in that direction and utilise their special planting’s of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Merlot to produce one of northern Italy’s truly great iconic red wines.

Carlo asserts that the excellence of San Leonardo can also be directly attributed to the rigour and passion of his son Anselmo and the whole winemaking team, as well as their 270 hectare estate and its unique 30 hectares of plantings, terroir and Mediterranean-Alpine climate where the fruit is grown.

Sites are at a relatively low elevation of 150 metres, where the Merlot is planted in gravel-rich soils that were once the bed of a branch of the Adige river. Sandier, pH-neutral soils, at elevations of 150-200 metres host Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Vineyards are mostly planted to 6,600 vines per hectare and trained to the Guyot system except for some of the old vine Carmenere that is still planted at 1,650 vines per hectare on a pergola system.

The average blend consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere and 10% Merlot, all naturally fermented and blended in concrete vats before ageing in barriques, 20-25% of which are new oak. The final blend is then assembled in vats, aged a further 4 months before being bottled and aged in bottle for 2 years before release.

Tenuta San Leonardo Vertical 1986 to 2013

(None of the wines have an Abv greater than 13.5)

San Leonardo 1986

Lovely picante nose of bruleed coffee beans, sappy wood spice, earthy black bramble berries and foresty leafy spice. Plenty of tertiary allure but also superbly vital. Acids are crisp and the earthy, leathery red fruits very juicy. A statesman of a wine, standing bold and tall, with wonderful elegance and mature finesse.

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

San Leonardo 1990 (Magnum)

Beautifully lifted warming nose reminiscent of great Bordeaux. Tea leaf, cedar spice, coffee bean and saddle leather together with a delicious leafy under tone of sweet earthy red currant fruits. Acids are super bright and fresh and the finish incredibly powerful and bold with fine grained tannins adding shape. Lovey fruit depth and intensity. A mature majestic beauty.

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

San Leonardo 1995

Taught lifted nose of graphite, cut steel, blood and iron and tart earthy red plums. Plenty of coffee bean bruleed notes and green leafy spice. Impressively mineral, fleshy and plump textured with a tart, grippy energetic finish. Solid effort but not profound.

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

San Leonardo 1996 (Magnum)

Exotic nose of sweet baking herbs, leafy spice, wet tobacco leaf, coffee bean and crushed gravel. Classical aromatics follow to a cool, super elegant, fine boned palate with feminine elegance, subtlety and ample finesse. Attractive sweet black currant nuances and forest floor complexity on a silky, cool classically restrained finish.

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

San Leonardo 1997

A classical cool climate Bordeaux style with grilled herbs, tannery leather, gun smoke, crashed leaves and earthy black berry fruits with a sizeable dusting of crushed gravel minerality. Palate shows sappy sweet black berry, coffee bean spice, herbaceous allure and picante mineral tannins. Very suave, elegant plump fleshy texture and a long, sweet macerated red currant finish.

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

San Leonardo 1999

Dark dusty broody mineral nose of wood spice, crushed gravel, polished oak and earthy black currant fruits. Hints of wood smoke and herbal green tea spice. Palate is bold and fleshy, full and round, dense and creamy, yet retains super elegance and harmony, albeit with a little more fat and flesh. Very youthful still.

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

San Leonardo 2000

Classical nose with lovely dark black berry Cabernet fruits boldly asserting themselves. Seamless aromatics of earthy cassis, forest bramble berries, black plum and sweet caramelised coffee bean hints. Ripe and opulent, there is plenty of flesh on the palate together with dense sweet tannins balanced with soft acids. A ripe high quality vintage, this expression is still youthful and precocious. Give this a few more years in the cellar. Supremely delicious.

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

San Leonardo 2001 (three bottles tasted)

Quite an atypical nose with overt caramelised black berry fruit and creamy oak notes, vanilla pod spice and lactic caramel notes. Texture is very sleek, the acids pin point and fine, but the fruits are little too tertiary for the vitality of the structure. Fruit and tannins are moving at two different evolutionary speeds. Start drinking this one up over the next 3+ years.

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

San Leonardo 2004

Dense dark and smokey with sweet herbs, coffee beans, graphite and wood smoke spice. Hints of leafy spice, green beans, black berry and dusty crushed gravel. Tannins are sweet and taught, the fruits slightly chewy and youthful. But the underlying balance is harmonious if not just a little bit youthfully rustic. Fine length and textural depth, you can comfortably leave this in your cellar for another decade.

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

San Leonardo 2007

Wonderfully harmonious wine with fine complexity with perfume and fruit notes tightly interwoven. Subtle hints of bruleed oak spice, earthy black current, bruleed coffee beans, espresso and cassis berry. Palate is plush, ultra lush, structured and pure, showing the most beautiful black cassis fruits, chalky gravelly tannins, and seamless acidity freshness. While youthfully grippy, this wine looks like the complete package. Really very impressive now, but will be ultra impressive in 8 to 10 years time. Wow.

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

San Leonardo 2010

This powerful wine possesses real dark broody depth, black plums, earthy cassis, polished mahogany and subtle bruleed wood spice complexity. Super cool, elegant and pure fruited, the blueberry and saline black berry fruits are so seductive and creamy, balanced by sweet powdery tannins. This is another classic in the making with knock out intensity and mouth watering length. Very impressive.

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

San Leonardo 2011

Thoroughly classy nose exudes breeding and class. No doubting there is something very serious lurking in the bottle. The nose is dark and black fruited, quite tight and broody with reductive cassis, blueberry and graphite hints. The palate holds no secrets, unleashing waves of saline cassis and opulent blueberry muffin and caramelised fruit notes. So utterly seductive, beautifully polished, and highly accomplished. One to drink now if you can’t resist, and to watch for 10 to 15+ years for future greatness.

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

San Leonardo 2013

Rich dark bruleed nose showing caramelised wood spice, black current and earthy foresty notes. Pretty perfumed red cherry pithy notes lift the whole aromatic profile. The palate is suave, silky and seamlessly soft with plush creamy tannins and a concentration of fruit that treads incredibly lightly. The palate finishes with chalky dry tannins and an understated acid freshness, all in perfect harmony. Definitely a wine where less is more. A real beauty.

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

Baby Unicorns Taste Even Better – Drinking the New Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba 2015…

Sometimes even just mentioning a wine repeatedly is enough to add to the collector feeding frenzy let alone actually tasting and rating a wine. But any Italian or Piedmont follower will already be fully aware of the explosion in demand for the cult wines of Giuseppe Rinaldi over the past 2 to 3 years. Forget trying to buy their Tre Tine Barolo blend let alone his Brunate Cru! Even sourcing the “lesser” Dolcetto, Freisa and Barbera d’Alba have become a major challenge in itself.

But it is only when you taste the wines that you realise why this traditionally leaning producer has acquired the cult following that they have. The wines are beautifully classical, pure, unadulterated, subtly mineral, full of energy and tension and of course, utterly delicious.

The 2015 growing season in Piedmont included the region’s hottest July since 1880. That might have endangered grape quality but plentiful reserves of water after a wet winter kept vines from shutting down, and growers were better adapted to managing leaf canopies this time compared to the torrid 2003 vintage, thus being able to keep the vines healthy and promote more even grape ripening.

July and August were also windy, keeping air circulating through the leaves and avoiding excessive heat under the canopies. Vineyards higher on the slopes may have enjoyed a slight advantage over warmer, less breezy downhill spots, enjoying longer ripening periods. In addition, higher diurnal temperature swings in September provided the right conditions for ripening both sugars and tannins in not only Nebbiolo but also Barbera.

Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba 2015, Piedmont, 14 Abv.

From a super opulent ripe vintage in Piedmont comes yet another profound expression of Barbera from Giuseppe Rinaldi. The aromatics are so rich and exotic with sweet baking spices, black berry fruits tinged with brûléed oak spice notes and buttered brown toast. This wine is very expressive but also beautifully complex with fine palate weight and superb intense fruit concentration. Multi layered and textural, the brûléed black berry fruits reach all corners of the mouth with creamy blueberry and black cherry depth and such delicious fleshy, harmonious elegance and power. Certainly a facet of this superb vintage, this wine has a definite feel of more modernity and purity of fruit than previously vintages. Really lush, attractive, and so mouth watering and drinkable. You wouldn’t expect anything less from this iconic cult producer. Drink now to 2028+

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

Make Guerra not War – Tasting the New Garnacha not Guerra 2016 Cult Red From Sardinia…

Seems fitting to review this wine on the same day its winemaker Mick O’Connell is coming over from Dublin, Ireland, to launch it to 150 private clients in the heart of London. What started out as a hobby project in Sardinia (where is wife is from) during his Master of Wine studies, has grown steadily into a proper business with rented premises and leased vineyards.

Production was basically doubled from 360 bottles for the maiden 2015 release to over 600 bottles for the 2016 vintage. Needless to say, lessons were learnt and Mick’s experience augmented ever so slightly to ensure that the follow up effort is even more impressive than the first. This is a wonderful, “smashable” style of wine as wine journalist Jamie Goode called the 2015, that has silent aspirations, but in essence, is an honest, vibrant, refreshing wine that goes wonderfully with almost any Mediterranean food. At £24.95, this is one little cult wine you won’t want to miss out on.

Garnacha not Guerra 2016, Vino Rosso, Sardinia, 13 Abv.

This follow up vintage to the maiden 2015 Garnacha not Guerra is a high achiever, leaping out the starting blocks with an exotic perfumed bouquet of cherry blossom, crushed black pepper corns, strawberry confit, cranberry coulis and red cherry sweets. On the periphery there are notes of iron, blood, fresh bresaola and cured meats mingling with spicy red bramble berry fruit nuances. The palate is showy and confident with an upfront exotic medley of red fruits that gives one a sense that this Garnacha is altogether more serious, mineral, spicy and structured than its predecessor. Texturally however, the wine remains very focused and deliciously accessible showing delicate dry lacy tannins, harmonious fresh acids and an intriguing pithy, peppery cherry skin grip on the finish. Drink this cracker jack wine now, preferably with food, and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

(93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Mick O’Connell MW, based between Dublin and Sardinia.

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi Masterclass with Elisabetta Geppetti…

Elisabetta Geppetti was only 20 years old when, in 1985 she first took the reigns at her family’s tiny 2 hectare property near Pereta in the Scansano zone. At this time, Tuscan wines were often seen as being of underwhelming quality and fine wines in the Maremma itself were practically non existent.

The original Sangiovese based wines of Le Pupille were made under the Morellino di Scansano appellation. So when Elisabetta proceeded with her vision to add an international dimension to the estates wines, the Maremma’s first quality Super Tuscan was born.

The Cabernet Sauvignon based blend Saffredi was first released in 1989 with the 1987 vintage, made in consultation with Giacomo Tachis, one of the founding fathers of Italy’s Super Tuscan wine style. The Tachis era ended in 1996 and subsequent consultants involved with Saffredi have included Riccardo Cotarella, ex-Chateau Latour winemaker, Christian Le Sommer and currently, Luca del Toma.

As various consulting winemakers have taken the reigns and made their mark, so the Saffredi blend has slowly evolved, starting off initially as a pure Cabernet Sauvignon wine until 1990, after which Merlot, Syrah and Alicante have all played differing supporting roles. Today, the modern expression of Saffredi relies on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all harmoniously blended to produce one of the most highly sought after reds in Tuscany.

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 1992, 12 Abv. (Giacometti Tachis)

78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 5% Alicante (Cannonau or Garnacha)

Real depth and allure from this small vintage, the nose is a perfect melange of tertiary and creamy savoury red berry fruits. Plenty of graphite, woodsmoke, diesel rag, blood orange, liquorice stick and sweet earthy bramble berry confit notes. Cool and fine, this is really classy, the work of a master, with a tender touch and soft chalky tannins, stony minerality and spicy, macerated black berries and rooibos tea notes on the long finish. A real rarity.

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

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 1998, 13.5 Abv. (Riccardo Cotarella, brother of Renzo)

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Alicante (Cannonau or Garnacha)

Rich, aromatics, with sweet leather, savoury plums, liquorice stick and sweet herbal pot pourri notes. Quite lactic and chocolaty, very sleek, elegant and fine boned, this has powdery pithy tannins, and a wonderfully fine texture. So seamless, complex yet vibrant with beguiling leather, aniseed root, creamy strawberries and raisined savoury black cherries on the long, cool, finish. Really grows on you.

(Wine Safari: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2004, 14 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Syrah

First thing that strikes you about this wine is its purity, clarity and modernity. Perhaps the intensity of the superb 2004 vintage helps shape its character. The nose is dark and seductive, vital, brimming with black cherry, kirsch liquor, saline cassis and black current leaf notes with a subtle backing of graphite, herbs and liquorice. Seamless balance, vibrant acids, a creamy intense palate breadth and wonderful harmony reinforce this wines pedigree. Very fine indeed.

(Wine Safari: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2007, 14.5 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 10% Syrah

The aromatics are laden with dark black fruits, black cherry spice, Kirsch liquor and creamy black current, cassis, pastille confectionary notes. Another superb vintage in Tuscany, the palate of the 2007 shows more coffee bean, bruleed cherry and a hint of molasses and liquorice spice. A complex, animated expression, with layers of graphite, crush gravel and subtle savoury Syrah black pepper seasoning. Plenty of life ahead of this wine.

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

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2010, 14 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Syrah

Another lifted nose with plenty of youthful fragrance. There is a dark broody depth suggesting both a higher alcohol and ripeness level. Aromatics of sweet raisined cherry, black berry, tar, graphite and liquorice tease the palate with subtle layers of caramelised cherry, and vanilla pod spice. Deep, dark, fleshy depth shows some alcohol lift, picante, sweet black berry Syrah spice, but remains compact, full bodied and elegant with admittedly more muscle and ripeness.

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

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2013, 14.5 Abv. (Luca del Toma)

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot

A wine that shows its Cabernet base from the start. Violets, cedar, graphite and wood spice mix with liquorice, black current leaf and bramble berry spice. Still youthfully taught, the minerality rises to the fore without too much coaxing out the glass. Like the 2004, the purity and clarity of the crystalline black current and cassis fruit is so impressive and mouth watering, but lacks none of the flesh, density, and earthy power of previous vintages. Another excellent vintage in Tuscany, 2013 combines the best characteristics of fresh acids, harmonious fruit depth and all round complexity.

(Wine Safari: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2015, Toscana, 14.5 Abv. (Luca del Toma)

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot

Opulent classical Tuscan aromatics of sweet cherry, tannery leather, tobacco, aniseed root, and pot pourri. Complex notes of wood smoke, liquorice stick, graphite and saline sweet black berry develop. There is plenty of intense concentration and the palate is fine and suave showing fleshy red cherry and salty earthy red current fruits that drift across the palate lubricated by fine, creamy, polished tannins. Like all great Tuscan 2015s, the palate is under pinned by vibrant fresh acids, adding to the wonderful harmony and palate impact of this impressive wine. Drink now or keep for 20+ years.

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