Even Little Unicorns Grow Up One Day ~ Tasting the New Release Ornellaia Bianco 2015 Release…

I have always been a big lover of the exceptional wines of Ornellaia. Their reds offer such delicious opulence, intensity and complexity in youth and with age, while their resurrected whites have titillated the fine wine market and earned this beautiful Bolgheri estate a host of new converts.


I guess for me, it all started in 2010 when I bought the new recreation of a Bolgheri white classic under the Poggio alle Gazze label. Usually a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Vermentino blend, the Poggio label acted as a laboratory for the estate to find and vinify the finest white wine parcels that demonstrate their capacity to express the unique character of Ornellaia’s terroir.


In 2013, winemaker Axel Heinz felt confident enough to select parcels of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to create the estate’s first Ornellaia bianco. A 70/30 blend led by Sauvignon Blanc, this wine birthed a new unicorn wine in Italy and the demand has grown ever since. In the summer of 2017, retailers, including myself, were inundated with allocation requests from wine suppliers to super yachts on the Med for Ornellaia Bianco, the oligarchs chosen summer wine of choice.


Of course this phenomena was a simple reflection of absolute scarcity and sublime quality, not marketing prowess. But needless to say, the birth of the 2015 vintage was highly anticipated. 2015 was a text book vintage after a standard winter. July proved to be very hot and dry with temperatures over 30 degrees C every day of the month. With fears of an early, problematic vintage rising, rain arrived on the 10th August to unblock ripening and healthy white grapes were eventually harvested in the last week of August.


Ornellaia Bianco 2015, IGT Toscana, Bolgheri, 13.5 Abv.

The produce of north facing vineyards planted on sandy clay-rich soils, the 2015 harvest represents an almost perfect vintage. The wine shows a defined mineral laden expression, with crushed granite and wet river pebbles, and plenty of black currant leaf, tart gooseberry, green apple and tart pineapple pastille fruit precision. There are also ample herbal notes punctuated by saffron, dried mint leaf and baking herb spices. The palate is taught and crisp with intense concentration of waxy green apples, cassis, greengage, and boiled green apple bon bons with just an ever so slight lick of honey. The finish is bold, bright and beautifully saline, leaving the wine to impose a thoroughly mineral, “Pouilly Fume’esque” minerality footprint. At 100% Sauvignon Blanc in this vintage, there are ample reminders of the finest Bordeaux whites, which suggests this vintage will age comfortably for 12 to 15+ years. 

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

The True Brilliance of Winemaker Duncan Savage Revealed in His Savage White Blend 2015…

On the eve of the imminent arrival of the 2016 Savage White Blend in the UK, I had the opportunity to present the iconic 2015 White Blend to 25 management consultants at the offices of Boston Consulting Group last night. It went down a storm. In fact, it was so good I bought another bottle to drink at home tonight with my Sicilian style herbed pork caponata. 


Savage White Blend 2015, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

There is no doubt that Duncan Savage is one of the best white wine winemakers in South Africa. His track record speaks for itself. Taming Sauvignon Blanc and more so, Semillon, from cool climate sites on the peninsula, has revealed the real potential of these varietals in a blend to a whole new generation of winemakers and consumers. The 2015 however, was one of Duncan’s most anticipated releases with the vintage lauded as possibly the best ever in SA for red and white wines. This Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon based blend incorporates small amounts of Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc this vintage. This slightly bigger blend perhaps explains the wines broader aromatic profile. There is still the dusty lemon and herb spice, yellow grapefruit and lime peel freshness, but also extra notes of white pear, white pepper, white crunchy peaches and green apple zest. Once again, the pithy minerality of crushed gravel underpins both the nose and palate and there’s an almost German, Pfalz-like strawberries and vanilla ice cream exotism in play. The palate is bold, intense and concentrated with pithy gravelly notes balanced by massive fruit concentration and length. The vintage’s sublime quality is indeed standing up to be counted! Duncan has perfectly captured the essence of 2015’s greatness. But the wine remains classical, measured, restrained and fresh and finally unlocks its hallmark lemon and pineapple pastille fruit character on the long, intense finish. This is a truly grand expression, a wine that will demand its place in your cellar. Could this be Duncan’s greatest white expression to date? Drink now to 2028+ 

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


A Winery On Top of Their Game ~ Tasting De Morgenzon DMZ Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

To be clear, 2016 was not an easy vintage, with drought conditions gripping the Western Cape. But any winemaker worth their salt would have watched their grape’s veraison even more carefully than normal in order to preserve that all important acidity. With Carl van der Merwe on top of his game, there is not a lot this fella can do wrong and this wonderful Stellenboschkloof white bears testament to Carl’s skill and precision.


The DMZ range is a more affordable, accessible range from the winery and this Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is very well executed and thoroughly attractive. Such perfumed, multi-dimensional aromatics rise imperiously out of the glass. There are wonderful notes of green Granny Smith apples, freshly cut grass, thatch, green boiled Bon Bon sweets, dusty granite, and cream soda notes. On the palate, there is just enough of the sweet confectionary shop and stick candy notes mingling with dusty chalky minerality to make this a finely poised offering with delicious, vibrant acids and succulent, green melon and green apple zip on the finish. It’s all so tightly packaged, so well put together that I just can’t imagine anyone not finding this bottle an absolute pleasure to quaff. Drink now and over the next 3+ years.

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

What Does a £10’er Get You In a UK Supermarket…?

I don’t tend to write much about branded supermarket wines primarily because I rarely buy them and rarely drink them. But of course I’m no wine snob, so occasionally I am required to delve into the supermarket aisles … to pick up a bottle of something interesting if at all possible.


With my wife being very partial to a well made Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, I decided to “trade up” from the regular Villa Maria, Brancott Estate and Nautilus brands in favour of a more premium wine who’s label suggested it offered something more complex and sophisticated.


I’m also a big fan of well made Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, regularly drinking Dog Point, Seresin, Cloudy Bay, Mahi, and Jules Taylor just to mention a few names. So today, I was hoping that this branded offering would at least deliver something close to these other, more boutique Sauvignon styles. 


Brancott Estate Terroir Series Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough, 14 Abv. 

I have drunk the regular Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016 on several occasions, and it’s safe to say it does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it well. But for a couple of pounds more, £10 precisely, you get this more distinctive, terroir driven wine. The nose is more expressive, nuanced, bristling with tart green apple, crunchy gooseberry, lemon grass, lime peel, dried basil herbs and crushed gravel mineral lift. The aromatics feature some tropical notes of green melon, guava and passion fruit, but overall the wine has more phenolic complexity, dusty minerality and a complex nettle spice. The palate too is impressively intense and concentrated, with more revealing aromatic grip, intense peppery green fruits, and a fine, palate tingling acidity. Thoroughly refreshing, and very enjoyable to drink. If you are buying a branded Sauvignon Blanc, its very hard to fault this wine and it is probably worth the extra money to trade up. 

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


Accolades: 

Gold – Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2017

Gold – New Zealand International Wine Show 2016

(Both for the 2016 vintage)

Tasting the Noble de Ladoucette Pouilly Fume 2014, 12.5 Abv, Loire…

Pouilly-Fumé and the other Central Loire Vineyards were very fortunate in 2014. Not only did they have a good vintage but they had a fairly generous vintage unlike other parts of the Loire where many producers had their third successive short vintage. In Pouilly quality producers harvested around 60 hl/ha and the quality was high. Indeed, 2014 appears to be similar to a vintage such as 1990 where both the yields and quality were high. 


The colour of this vibrant wine bristles with a lime green tinge to a brilliant bright pale straw yellow. The super complex nose drifts between hints of cut grass, green pepper corns, capsicum, lemon grass, lime peel and crunchy white citrus fruit. Then more nuances of gun flint, struck flint, dusty limestone and wet chalk. Wow, a lot going on here and I haven’t even tasted the wine yet. Every time you return to the glass the wine has revealed another aromatic layer, the sign of true pedigree. The last tangerine aromas becon the first sip. Crisp and crunchy, this wine is harmonious and beautifully balanced, but simultaneously crunchy and bright with tart green apple acidity, cut grass, gooseberry fruits, and a lemon – lime marmalade concentration. The finish is pithy, spicy, and cool with a grassy, herby verve. A seriously complex, accomplished wine from one of the best white vintages in the Loire valley in over a decade. Buy this beauty while you can!

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


Michel Redde et Fils Barre à Mine Blanc Fume de Pouilly 2014…

In 2009, Loire boutique producer Michel Redde began a titanic and unique project in an old disused flint quarry called Les Champs des Froids in the Village of Tracy-sur-Loire. 


The site, which has a beautiful south west exposure, was cleared by the domaine, prepared and planted with 4 hectares of vines on the rocky flint soils. The vines were planted with the aid of a crowbar (barre à mine) and 2014, the first harvest, yielded an unexpectedly exceptional level of fruit quality.


Vines are grown on Kimmeridgian Marl and Cretaceous Flint soils, that yield on average 40 to 45 hl/hectare. Vinification takes place in large barrels and demi-muids with 16 to 18 months of aging. Bottling takes place after a light bentonite fining. The wine has an impressively low pH of 3.14 but also a low(ish) total acidity of 4.4 g/l, at a 13 Abv.


Tasting Note: Michel Redde et Fils Barre à Mine Blanc Fume de Pouilly 2014 – This is top drawer Sauvignon Blanc. It has an explosive nose of gooseberries, white pepper, tangerines, orange peel, passion fruit confit and apple purée. Beautifully exotic and seductive. The palate follows the nose exactly with turbo charged flavours of white flint, stone fruits, tangerines, passion fruit and green apples and a subtle saline bite on the finish. Such lovely mid palate fleshy fruit and vibrant, bristling acidity. You don’t get this sort of concentration and flavour complexity from average vineyards… only the best sites. 2014 was an excellent vintage in the Loire and this exotic, impressive expression of Sauvignon Blanc bears testament to the fact. (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Yet Another Epic Wine from Hannes Storm…

It’s always an amazing privilege to be able to taste and buy new, small production wines from producers located all over the world.


More recently, I assumed tasting Hannes Storm’s Chardonnay 2015 was an exciting privilege, but today I got a sneak preview of one of the most exciting new releases I’ve tasted this year so far… the Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from Hemel en Aarde Valley at 12.5 Abv.


This is a joint venture between Ben Henshaw of Indigo Wines and Hannes Storm, to produce a seriously complex, wine of substance, something the Cape loving Henshaw has done previously with his Johan Meyer joint venture making Chenin Blanc and top red blends.

This is an epic wine of substance. Seek it out, buy it, drink it. There, I’ve said it. I love Hannes and everything he touches. Apparently this phenomenon is catching!


Tasting Note: Seductive, rich, opulent, exotic lifted nose of white blossoms, gooseberries, honey suckle and green apple purée. Palate is so pure and fine with crunchy green pear, a rich textural, sensual, seamless broad flavour spectrum. Such alluring, seductive notes. Top show stopper for the first release! (Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)