A Vinous Exploration into the Old Vine Wines of Campania, Italy – Tasting the Fascinating Wines of Joaquin Winery…

In a small and beautiful town called Montefalcione, located in the Campania region of southern Italy, lies the winery of Joaquin, built in 1999 and known for two of the greatest DOCG wines produced in the area: Fiano di Avellino and Aglianico Taurasi.

Raffaele Pagano, the colourful owner of Joaquin Wines first produced his own “non-family winery” wines in 2006 and ever since has been very clear about what he wants to achieve… “To me, it’s all about finding the right grape that is matched to the right soil. I decided to look for authentic vineyards to grow local grapes, which I think is how everyone should do it.”

According to Raffaele, each of his wines are supposed to be unique with low production volumes resulting in focused, characterful, expressive, individual high end wines with great texture, terroir nuances and complexity.

Owner and winemaker Raffaele Pagano

Originally from a famous Salerno based winemaking family that has more than 250 years of winemaking heritage, Raffaele decided to go it alone and established the Joaquin winery founded on a mission to become the flag bearer for one of the great wines of Campania, the Fiano, starting from a meticulous study and selection of antique, pre-phylloxera vineyards in the area of Lapio and Montefalcione, regarded as the original habitat for this variety. Since 1999, Raffaele has been working tirelessly to create an expression of Fiano which is the quintessence of the terroir of Lapio, with a purebred typicity that is different from the other Fiano wines produced from the local area.

Old vine Fiano vineyards of Joaquin

His winemaking model has also been applied to other varieties, creating a unique production philosophy which has come to characterize the Joaquin brand. With the motto “with each new vintage, a new project,” only the best wines which excel in a given vintage are produced and bottled, a philosophy which can lead to some cuvees not being produced for 2 or 3 consecutive vintages.

Probably the most unique 1.2 hectares of up to 200 year old Aglianico vines used for the Joaquin Taurasi DOCG Riserva.

The Joaquin winery also hand crafts unique wines on the beautiful and prestigious island of Capri, located off the coast of Sorrento. Here they perform what Raffaele likes to call “triage viticulture” … the recovery of indigenous varieties and the meticulous restoration of small, local vineyards, a project in which JOAQUIN DALL’ISOLA (Joaquin from the island) wines strive to safeguard the few vines left on the island, with varietals like Greco, Falanghina, Biancolella and the local “Ciunchesa” (an antique clone of Greco) being bottled, usually together as a white blend.

Over two fascinating days, I trawled many of the multiple vineyard sites Raffaele owns or contracts for the various Joaquin wines. It must be said, I encountered some of the oldest and most fascinating historical vineyards I have seen throughout Europe. With a dry, warm Mediterranean climate, vines in some secluded vineyards have managed to slumber their way past 250 years of age.

It seems only fitting that one of the most passionate, colourful, eccentric and generous winemakers should use these very rare, old vines to craft incredibly unique, boutique but thoroughly authentic natural expressions. While Raffaele remains an unashamed dreamer, the quality he has achieved with his profound Joaquin range of wines is very much a reality. Seek them out and indulge in these fascinating Campania whites and reds.

(Available in the UK from Woodwinters and throughout the EU from Classico)

Tasting at the Joaquin Winery:

Joaquin dall’Isola Bianco 2017, Campania, 12 Abv.

(1,700 bottles) Field blend of Greco, Fananghina, Biancolella and Ciunchesa. A striking, lifted nose showing intense savoury pear purée, tangerine peel, briney maritime notes, banana rock candy and attractive orange blossom complexity. There is a very fine sleek texture, fleshy, creamy round mouthfeel and a very vibrant salinity. Quite light on its feet, but displays impressive acidity and a long savoury, yellow stone fruit finish. Very young but a great terroir expression. Give this time or drink with food.

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

Joaquin dall’Isola Bianco 2009, Campania, 12 Abv. (Produced only in Magnum)

Deep dark yellow straw, the aromatics are exotic and complex, revealing tertiary notes of truffle, grain meal, bruised yellow orchard fruits, baking herbs, waxy green apple and savoury creamy peachy fruits. Round, fleshy and full in the mouth, this wine shows a riper vintage character with softer acids, pithy herbal green tea spice and a long, unctuous finish.

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

Joaquin Iviaggi Aglianico Bianco 2006, Campania, 13.47 Abv. (2,300 bottles)

Aged 5 months in acacia oak, this was the last bottle of Raffaele’s first vintage of Joaquin. Superbly complex nose with herbal candied gooseberry notes, dried Seville oranges, pithy marmalade, orange cordial and exotic peach tea nuances. Similar in many ways to a dry botrytis white with a delicious hard toffee sweets character, peach tea, orange pastille, and grapefruit marmalade, all framed by incredibly vibrant, fresh crunchy green fruit acids. It teases the senses, plays with the palate, enchants and seduces without any trickery, just with its innate complexity and terroir expression embellished by the passage of time.

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

Joaquin Piante A Lapio Fiano Bianco 2012, IGT Campania, 13.5 Abv.

100% Fiano from 80 to 100+ year old vines. Natural yeast ferment, then aged in chestnut oak for 10 months with a natural flor cap developing as barrels are not topped up. The nose is exotic and complex with aromatics of grilled herbs, fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, savoury pork fat with youthful pithy yellow orchard fruits peeking out from beneath. The palate follows suit with incredible intensity and concentration with massive saline, peppery honied lemon peel depth, baking herbs and orange pastille sweets. A very profound expression with inspired winemaking and exceptional Old Vine fruit. A wine that pushes boundaries and challenges the mind and palate.

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

Joaquin Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2010, Campania, 15.10 Abv.

100% Aglianico grapes with 30 days post fermentation maceration on skins in 500 litre barrels. The colour is comparable to a 2010 Gevrey Chambertin with a fine translucent garnet character on the rim. The nose is multi-faceted and complex with enticing notes of coffee granules, salty liquorice, stewed black berries, black cherry and subtle savoury notes of balsamic drizzled over bresaola. On the palate there is incredible power, freshness and definition with textural layers of brûléed coffee beans, black liquorice, grilled herbs and baking spices merging synergistically, underpinned by gravelly, basalt mineral tannins. A whole lot of wine packed into a bottle. Fabulous with food, perfect for ageing and drinking beautifully with 8 years of age… and it’s only the estate’s current release.

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

The unique unicorn wine that is the Buona Morte Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2009 red, as yet unlabelled.

Joaquin Taurasi Riserva DOCG Buona Morte 2009, Campania, 15.3 Abv.

100% Aglianico fruit from vines up to 200+ years old from the village of Paternopoli. Aged 30 days on skins post fermentation and then aged for 8 years in one 225 litre barrique without any topping up. The wine has the colour of a 10 year old Barolo and the complex, tertiary aromatics of blood oranges, cognac spice, grilled herbs and a bold lick of raspberry balsamic savoury depth. There is VA lift in a Chateau Musar meets traditional Cru Barolo style but the wine’s stability keeps its integrity in check. As Raffaele says, ‘there is no power without control’, and this wine exemplifies his philosophy of long ageing of terroir-driven old vine fruit combined with winemaking knowhow. The finish is unctuous, glycerol and almost sweet, with seductive length and power. Profound on so many levels. Only 150 bottles due for first release in 2019.

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

Church of the Venerabile Confraternita della Buona Morte that lends its name to the Joaquin Taurasi Riserva Prestige Cuvee red DOCG.

http://www.joaquinwines.com

An Attractive Brunello di Montalcino Made Using Biodynamic Principles – Tasting Piombaia 2013…

It is always a pleasure to visit Montalcino, especially when the region is riding high in popularity. This trip, I was fortunate to visit Francesco Cantini, the winemaker at Piombaia winery.

Created out of the union of the Rossi and Cantini families, the estate has always been run in a sympathetic way but it was only in 2009, after decades of ‘Lutte raisonnees’ that the winery turned to organic and biodynamic principles.

Francesco Cantini discussing biodynamics

The terrain of Piombaia Estate covers an area of about 210 hectares at an altitude of between 400 and 600 metres, with the 12 hectares of vineyard plantings divided into 12 separate 1 hectare plots, ensuring the best quality grapes can be managed and harvested separately.

From a cooler, more classical vintage, the weather was perfect until August with just a little refreshing rain in June and July, before the weather became noticeably cooler. Harvesting started on the 10th October and the natural yeast +-10 day non-temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation commenced with an additional 28 days skin maceration post fermentation before ageing 3 years in 70% Slovenian oak, 25% large French oak and 5% in large tonneau.

Rossi.Cantini Soc. Agricola Piombaia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, 13.5 Abv.

The nose is precise and intense with attractive aromatics of cherry blossom, red cherry skins, red apple and sour red plums. The oak is beautifully integrated lending the most subtle earthy, savoury, foresty wood spice notes and is almost imperceptible on the palate which is dominated by bruised sour plums, chalky pithy red cherry and vibrant fresh acids. So delicious, cool, harmonious and elegant, with a really classical mineral graphite slant and a piquant, saline, crisp energetic finish. An impressive and slightly alternative expression of Brunello. Drink now or cellar for 10+ years.

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

Laura Lorenzo and Daterra Viticultores Creating Breath-Taking Wines in the Val do Bibei, North West Spain…

Hailing from Allariz in the province of Ourense, Laura Lorenzo enrolled in the local enology school at the tender age of 16 with definite ambition to become a winemaker. Upon graduation, she worked at the nearby Adega Cachín, and then overseas with Eben Sadie in South Africa and Achaval Ferrer in Argentina. After her various apprenticeships, Laura took over the reins at Dominio do Bibei, a dynamic, pioneering producer of fine wine in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra.

Laura worked there for 10 years developing an attractive style of winemaking that was fine-tuned and focused on the hillsides of the region, specifically to the terruño around the village of Manzaneda. In 2014 Laura and her partner, chef & artist partner Alvaro Dominguez, branched out on their own and formed Daterra Viticultores to cultivate the mountainside vineyards of the Bibei Valley.

Gavela da Vila is comprised of 100% old vine Palomino organically farmed at a variety of elevations, expositions, and soil types in the Val do Bibei. 90% of the grapes were destemmed, with the must seeing just a few hours of skin contact before pressing.

The wine was fermented with wild yeast in used 225 liter French oak barrels, and then raised on the lees in the same barrels for 6 months. Small amounts of sulfur were added after fermentation and at bottling. The wine was not clarified, cold stabilized or filtered.

Daterra Viticultores Gavela da Vila Palomino 2015, Manzaneda, Val do Bibei, 12.5 Abv.

A bright pale gold straw colour, there are plenty of tell tale signs of the wine’s short skin contact. The nose is rich and very expressive with complex notes of savoury pithy yellow citrus, yellow blossom, hazelnut and walnuts, dried orange peel and the most seductive saline, baked apple, aldehydic and oxidative Sherry-Manzanilla notes. The palate entry is electric and vibrant challenging the palate and provoking thought, but most certainly makes your mouth salivate with a saline briney zest, fresh zippy acids and a delicious spicy oxidative leaning yellow fruited finish laced with baked pears and vermouth spices. A really tantalising effort from an incredible new talent in Spain. Only 1,590 bottles produced. Drink now to 2026+.

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

The Unicorn Slayer Came to Town Today ~ The Tenerife Odyssey Resurrected Tasting Vidueno 2016…

I make no secret that I enjoy drinking (slaying) unicorn wines! Some people get annoyed by even the mention of the term but I just love how evocative the word is. Of all Roberto Envinate and his team’s wines, this has got to be the rarest. Only 3 barrels of 228l were produced, all of which went to the USA and Mexico. The fruit all came from one unique terroir and is a blend of all the varieties (vidueno) that are planted in that vineyard, which is how wine was traditionally made.

This is a superb blend of 50% Listan Blanco, 45% Listan Prieto, and 5% Tintilla from vines of over 100 years old. This was bottled in July 2017 with no Sulphur additions.

Vidueno de Santiago del Teide 2016, A Chingao Vineyards & Envinate, DO Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

When you know you are drinking a rarity, a wine does perhaps taste even better, or does the anticipation just awaken your taste buds a little? This beautiful blend is an alluring crushed cherry red with a smokey ruby depth. The nose is fairly reserved and restrained at first, even reductive, as you’d expect on an old vine 2016 wine from Tenerife. You do catch glimpses of the volcanic terroir with a dusty sweet cherry nose, crushed basalt and subtle peppery bramble berry spice. The palate is tantalisingly fresh and energetic, like a young tea total yoga instructor ready to put you through your paces at 6.30am in the morning. The texture is sleek, taught, vibrant and slightly lean, but all the better for it. Lovely layers of basalt and crushed gravel minerality melt into a complex pithy cranberry fruit medley with yet more red cherry and sour red plum fruit notes. This wine tastes like summer, even in the depths of winter. It’s so delicious, mouth watering and cool fruited, finishing with a lovely dry powdery chalky tannin grip. Long last since I tasted a wine that excited me this much, not because of its grandeur and flamboyance, but perhaps because of the lack there of. This wine challenges you, asks you questions… and the answers are all positive. Really, really lovely Roberto!

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

Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc 2016 ~ Quite Simply One of the Best Chenin Blancs Tasted in 2017…

Natural wines do sometimes struggle to preserve purity and varietal typicity on the finished product. However, this superb Chenin Blanc from Reyneke Wines not only combines minimalist natural zero sulphur winemaking with great organic and biodynamic certified fruit but also conjures up a wine with wonderful purity, expression and energy.

The maiden 2016 Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc comes from a vineyard parcel almost 70 years old next to Johan Reyneke’s house in Stellenbosch. Another recently acquired adjacent vineyard that also contains Chenin Blanc of around 38 years old was also used in this release.

The grapes were fermented in French barriques with no lees stirring and with a pH of approximately 2.9 and an alcohol of 12.5 Abv, no sulphur additions were required, making this a Bona Fide natural wine.

Reyneke Wines Natural Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

On the nose there are complex notes of pithy yellow peach stone fruit, honey, bruleed oranges, tangerine peel and seductive salty briney notes. Positively bursting with energy and vibrancy, the palate is the near perfect portrait of mouth watering yellow citrus and pithy summer orchard fruit intensity with delicious crystalline acids, citrus peel zest, spicy ginger and a stony granitic minerality on the finish. This wine is beautifully conceived and expertly executed. Natural or not, this is one of the most enjoyable Chenin Blancs I have drunk in 2017.

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

Tasting Domaine des Miroirs Sonorite du Vent 2013 Chardonnay Les Saugettes, Vin de France, Jura, France, 12.5 Abv.

The popularity of Jura wines has been exploding over the past few years as consumers turn their attentions away from stratospherically priced, impossible to buy Burgundy. However, the problem with this is that many, if not most of the top domaines in the Jura are also tiny and only produce small amounts of wine.


So when it comes to unicorn Jura wines, there are none more rare and sought after than Japanese producer Kenjiro Kagami, who owns 3 hectares  in the Grusse area of Jura. Mentored by the Ganevats and Bruno Schueller, Kenjiro crafts some extraordinarily fine wines that seem nearly impossible to find. This 100% Chardonnay is made from organically grown grapes, which are vinified and then left on their lees for 12 months with no sulphur added during any stages of the winemaking.


A medium dark yellow straw colour that is slightly hazy. The aromatics are explosive, with lemon peel, oranges in cognac, bruised yellow peaches, summer orchard fruits and an intense, liquid minerality of wet limestone and dusty crushed granite. The palate begins with upfront yellow peach, saline alka seltzer zest, yellow citrus notes and waxy apples before shifting into fifth gear and offering up notes of exotic botanicals, incense, dried herbs, white peach, grapefruit and vermouth like complexity. The wine is balanced, harmonious and deliciously fresh, but also intriguing, multi-dimensional and impressively concentrated, all at 12.5 Abv ripeness. The fruit and minerality coat the palate leaving no corner of the mouth untouched. The longer the wine sits in the glass, the more it grows in complexity. The finish is unctuous and vibrantly fresh with sweet / sour peach and sour yellow plum notes melding beautifully with herbs in liquor and exotic botanical spices. A really profound Jura expression, it is easy to see why Kenjiro Kagami’s wines are now some of the most collectable and sought after unicorn wines produced. 

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


The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Second Vintage of Cult Wine Envinate Benje Tinto 2016 Ahead of Its Release…

This is only the second release of the Benje Tinto, made from grapes assembled from 15 growers on the same terroir as the Benje Blanco, in the vineyards of Santiago del Teide. The vineyards have both white and red varieties interplanted, so they are picked separately at optimal ripeness. The red varieties in the vineyards are mostly Listan Prieto (90%) otherwise known as Pais in Chile or Mission in California. The rest of the grapes are Tintilla (aka Maturana de Navarrete in Rioja). 


The grapes from 15 terroirs are vinified separately in concrete tanks and small open top fermenters. The wine is then aged for 8 months in neutral 228 litre barrels and the 2016 was only just bottled in July 2017.



Envinate Benje Tinto 2016, Ycoden-Daute-Isora DO, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

What strikes you instantaneously about this wine is how opulent and expressive it is on both the nose and palate, showing the real generosity of the 2016 vintage. The Taganan 2016 Tinto was also a thoroughly attractive expression, however, the Benje Tinto 2016 is an altogether more serious affair. The nose is rich and opulent with raspberry confit and sweet red cherries personified. Everything about this wine indicates the volume turned up to 10. Such pretty fragrance of violets, sweet cherry blossom and cherry kirsch liquor notes abound. The palate is so noble, elegant, supremely balanced and fresh, with such sour red plum vibrancy, red cranberry and sappy bramble berry red fruit nuances. The wine is both linear, tart, intense and severe, and yet so deliciously attractive and seductive, willing you back constantly for another sip. Probably slightly less crunchy than the 2015, lighter weight but more fleshy and finessed in style, thoroughly ageable and certainly collectable. Drink now to 2030+

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


Will be available to the UK trade from Indigo Wines and from selected fine wine stockists.