The Great Blind Chardonnay Challenge 2018 – New World Chardonnay Giving Burgundy a Run For Its Money…

Chardonnay is often called the chameleon of grape varieties, adapting itself to its environment and terroir with impressive ease. Yet for almost all Chardonnay producers around the globe white Burgundy Chardonnay remains the zenith of quality and expression for this variety and understandably so when the region boasts iconic appellations like Chevalier Montrachet and Le Montrachet Grand Cru.

But there is only one problem, well, actually a couple of problems. The first and most obvious one is that Burgundy is a small region in reality and production is greatly outstripped by global demand, hence pushing prices of fairly basic quality wines to astronomical levels. Then, just to rub salt in the consumer’s purchasing wounds, Burgundy has been afflicted, and many argue still is, by the dreaded pox… or premature oxidation (premox).

In the context of this senario, the concept of the Great Blind Chardonnay Challenge was born between obsessive UK based oenophiles Keith Prothero and Paul Day. The idea was simple… Keith Prothero would pitch 10 of the world’s best New World Chardonnays against 10 of Burgundies finest with no price limit set for either camp but with wines being drawn from recent vintages, mostly post-2011, and all commercially available in the UK.

Neal Martin from Vinous assessing the selection of Chardonnays

The assertion was obviously that prices of Burgundy bare no relation to their quality and that the New World has more than enough well priced prime talent to challenge for Burgundy’s unassailable crown. So in effect, consumers were being hood winked and almost ‘conned’ into buying labels and names, not wine quality from Burgundy… ‘drinking the label’ as it’s called in the trade.

Amazing service and excellent food at 1 Michelin Star Restaurant La Trompette in Chiswick, London.

After multiple blind selection tastings by both camps, 20 wines were chosen, served and assessed blind over dinner to 12 tasters made up of experienced Burgundy collectors and several trade professionals, who would be asked to rank the wines by quality and then submit their top 5 before the reveal. As a side show, tasters would be asked to list the blind wines as New World or Old World. Wines were served by the sommelier in two random blind flights of 10 with no group discussion permitted during tasting or before result were collected.

The grand reveal!

Fine Wine Safari Chardonnay Tasting Results for Wines Tasted Blind:

1 Kumeu River Mates Vineyard 2014, NZ

NW – 96/100 ✔️

2 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Rougeots 2009

OW – 94/100 ✔️

3 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard 2012, USA

NW – 96/100 ✔️

4 Dom. Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet 2014

OW – 94+/100 ✔️

5 Sorrenberg Beechworth 2016, Aus

NW – 92+/100 ✔️

6 Le Montrachet 2012 Fontaine Gagnard

OW – 93/100 ✔️

7 Neudorf Moutere 2014, NZ

OW – 96/100 (NW✖️)

8 A Ente Meursault Clos des Ambres 2014

OW – 94+/100 ✔️

9 Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011, USA

NW – 95/100 ✔️

10 Giaconda Beechworth 2015, Aus

NW – 93/100 ✔️

11 Morgen Long Willamette Valley 2015, USA

NW – 92/100 ✔️

12 Arnaud Ente Meursault 2014

OW – 94+/100 ✔️

13 Flametree Margaret River 2016, Aus

NW – 93+/100 ✔️

14 Bernard Moreau Batard Montrachet 2013

NW – 95+/100 (OW✖️)

15 Tissot Arbois Les Clos 2015, Jura

NW – 92+/100 (OW✖️)

16 Le Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 2011

OW – 93+/100 ✔️

17 Littorai BA Thieriot Vineyard 2014, USA

OW – 95/100 (NW✖️)

18 Jules Desjourneys Pouilly Fuisse 2014

OW – 94/100 ✔️

19 Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard 2016, Aus

OW – 94/100 (NW✖️)

20 Le Montrachet 2014 Marc Colin et Fils

OW – 94+/100 ✔️

My Top Five Wines: (Re-tasted for final order where scores were tied)

1 Kumeu River Mates Vineyard 2014 – 96

2 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard 2012 – 96

3 Neudorf Moutere 2014 – 96

4 B Moreau Batard Montrachet 2013 – 95+

5 Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011 – 95

The Group’s Top 5 Wines:

1 Dom. Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet 2014

2 A Ente Meursault Clos des Ambres 2014

3 Kumeu River Mates Vineyard 2014

4 Neudorf Moutere 2014

5 Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011

Conclusions and Observations?

So all in all a fantastic tasting, with 3 out of the top 5 wines from the New World illustrating how good some New World Chardonnay can be and how difficult it is for seasoned professionals to tell the two styles apart. I for one was pleased to pick a worthy 15/20 correctly in the New World versus Old World stakes. It would have been 16/20 if I didn’t try and second guess the Tissot as a natural-style Chardonnay from the New World, very similar in style to a wine tasted in one of our preliminary selection blind tastings. Also, the Jura is not technically Burgundy but we will overlook that point.

There was also an impressively high Top 5 consistency for the whole group, with my personal selection including 3 of the 5 winners. Hats off to the Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet 2014 for taking the overall top honours, but then again at around £650 per bottle, you would expect a wine of this price to perform. Impressively, all the New World wines in the Top 5 were sub-£55 per bottle, confirming that there is still some great value and quality out on the market.

The Burghounds at the tasting were very gracious and humble with the surprise results. Many openly admitted their complete surprise and that maybe they should look at drinking more premium New World Chardonnay in the future. This was a fun exercise held in good humour, among friends, but also at great expense. So certainly a big thank you is due to Keith Prothero and Paul Day for their exceptional vinous generosity.

The First “First Growth” of the Languedoc – Tasting the New Release Wines from Mas de Daumas Gassac…

Within half a century, the pioneering winery of Mas de Daumas Gassac has reached the rare status of a “cult wine,” one of the few in the Languedoc region. After being identified in 1971 as a unique terroir by Professor Henri Enjalbert, 50 hectares of vineyards in the Gassac valley were planted on virgin soils using 40 different uncloned grape varieties, laying the foundations for the iconic whites and reds of Daumas Gassac.

It was Professor Emile Peynaud, the genius behind classic French wine making techniques who defined the vinification and maturation procedures at the Domaine, allowing for some truly unique terroir specific wines to be produced. The Noble red wine is made from vines planted on red glacial deposits and incorporates up to 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Tannat, Malbec, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and others.

The domaine’s white is a blend of mainly four noble varieties including Viognier, Petit Manseng, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, but can include up to 20 varieties in the final wine, many picked and co-fermented.

I recently tasted the domaine’s new releases in London with their importer , Les Caves de Pyrennes.

Mas de Daumas Gassac 2016 IGP Saint Guilhem le Desert Blanc, 14 Abv.

The 2016 IGP Saint Guilhem le Desert Blanc is a ripe, opulently fruited white made from a mix of Viognier, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. The nose initially offers up notes of white peach, tangerine peel, stem ginger and waxy green apples. Underneath the fruity fragrance lies a more complex melange of limestone, crushed gravel and dried baking herbs. The palate is full, opulent and quite glycerol, rolling around the tongue with real concentration and intensity. The fleshy weight of white citrus and white peach stone fruit is nicely counter balanced with fresh bright acids and a pithy, spicy minerality. A really delicious glassful of white.

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

Mas de Daumas Gassac 2015 IGP Saint Guilhem le Desert Rouge, 13.5 Abv.

The 2015 was a seriously good vintage in France and this is a seriously good red from Daumas Gassac. The 2015 IGP Saint Guilhem le Désert Rouge is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a smattering of multiple other varieties including Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Dolcetto. The nose is taut and tight, initially quite broody, offering complex notes of graphite, peppercorn spice, tobacco leaf, liquorice, incense and black currant spice before relaxing a little in the glass to show more fragrant, perfumed nuances of lavender, violets and dried garrique. The palate is quite classically proportioned, ripe and opulent yet fairly broody and restrained. Medium bodied, there is a real polish to the ripe mineral tannins that show a piquant grip and gravelly minerality before melting away into a melange of black berry confit, earthy black bramble berry fruits and spicy blueberry that has just the most subtle kiss of vanilla pod oak spice. Wonderfully compact and focused, this is an impressively regal wine from the vineyards of Aniane. Cellar this beauty for a few more years before cracking and then drink comfortably over a decade or two.

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

The Most Hotly Anticipated Red Wine Release from the 2015 Vintage – Tasting Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, South Africa’s Very Own First Growth…

The Kanonkop Estate is situated on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain in the Stellenbosch Region of the Cape and consistently boasts some of South Africa’s most famous premium wines. A fourth generation family estate, Kanonkop was originally purchased by JW Sauer, a cabinet member in the parliament of the Union of South Africa and the estate has been handed down from father to son for over 40 years, now residing in the capable hands of its current owners Paul & Johann Krige.

The name Kanonkop was derived from a kopje (hillock), from which a cannon was fired in the 17th Century to alert farmers in outlying areas that sailing ships plying the waters between Europe and the Far East had entered Table Bay for a stopover at Cape Town. The Estate is situated on 125 hectares, of which 100 hectares are planted with vines. A small quantity of these red grapes are selected for the production of around 7,000 cases of 6 of the Estate’s flagship red Bordeaux blend Paul Sauer, produced by one of South Africa’s most intelligent winemakers, Abrie Beeslaar.

A traditional blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, the vines are on average 25 years old grown on decomposed Granite, Hutton and Clovelly soils and usually aged around 24 months in new 225 litre French Nevers oak barrels with medium toast.

Kanonkop Wine Estate Paul Sauer 2015, 14 Abv.

The goal with any vintage of Paul Sauer is to find the perfect balance between power and concentration, structure and freshness… allowing a certain amount of tamed accessibility combined with immaculate ageworthy credentials. Indeed, this is the DNA which has allowed a wine like Paul Sauer to become firmly established as one of South Africa’s most respected ‘first growths.’ Given the incredible opulence and concentration of the 2015 vintage, this expression dazzles the senses with the most alluring heady nose of sun dried cherries, black currant pastille sweets, blueberries, plummy hoisin sauce, cedar spice and fragrant violets. There is intensity, an abundance of concentration and impressively integrated wood spice, salted toffee and vanilla pod complexity. The acid-fruit equilibrium is perfectly balanced, wrapped in a velvety cherry kirsch liquor texture and a finely focused blueberry and juniper berry finish. Truly effortless class and so beautifully light on its feet with the most suave, polished tannin symmetry. I cannot think of a better expression of Paul Sauer than this 2015 in the past 25 years of tasting. This is possibly one of the finest South African red wines of my generation. Drink from 2022 to 2055+.

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

Another Block Buster Cabernet Sauvignon From Stellenbosch – Tasting the Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Pre-Release…

The flagship of Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is the expression of the very best barrels produced at the Le Riche winery. From vines grown on decomposed granite and duplex gravels in Raithby, Firgrove and Jonkershoek, the quality of the fruit is often of sensational quality.

Rigorous vineyard selection, multiple micro-vinifications, extended skin contact after fermentation and approximately 60% of new oak is used to compliment the pristine fruit balance ensuring the pedigree of this presitige wine.

Reserve status is only endowed if the grapes and resulting wine measures up to exceptional standards. Hand selected grapes from older, lower yielding vines are used. Fermentation is done with a selected yeast strain under controlled temperatures. Manual plunging during this period ensures optimal colour extraction.

After five days the tanks are closed and allowed to macerate for a further period, normally 10-14 days. Pressing follows and the wine is transferred to barrel for the secondary fermentation. On completion a final quality check and analysis is performed and the Reserve is then prepared for barrel ageing.

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

It was written in the stars, predicted by Nostradamus and also probably a handful of Stellenbosch fortune tellers, that the Le Riche 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was going to be a wine of epic proportions. The generosity of this game-changing vintage has produced a really beautiful expression of pure Cabernet Sauvignon. What is most striking about this wine is its incredible purity and perfume that rises out of the glass imperiously in multiple waves of fragrant cherry blossom, violets, potpourri and rose petals. It possesses copious amounts of mocha, sweet tobacco leaf, lead pencil, cedar spice, black currant leaf and a delicious earthy, brambly, forest floor complexity. The palate shows such sophistication and textural seduction, with classical Cabernet flavours filling every corner of the mouth. Beautifully charming, open-knit and plump, this wine reveals the class of a truly great vintage, with a full bodied fleshy weight, a finely delineated purity and the most charming harmonious balance. Drink this wine on release or over the next 25+ years. It’s a true thing of beauty.

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

Le Lude – The Method Cap Classique Producer Breaking New Quality and Style Barriers in the South African Sparkling Wine Category…

On my most recent trip to Cape Town in April, I took the opportunity to catch up with Paul Gerber, the winemaker of Franschhoek based Method Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine producer extraordinaire. While Le Lude is based in Franschhoek, the grapes for its many unique MCC creations are sourced from a variety of regions around the Cape, many of which are specifically cooler climate in nature.

When Le Lude owner Nic Barrow, an attorney by profession, and his wife Ferda bought their Franschhoek farm, it was based on a dream of producing only the finest Cap Classique possible. Over the past years they have planted it with the classic Champagne varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The first harvest took place in 2012, with the maiden Brut and Rosé releases in September 2015.

Winemaker Paul has travelled to Europe to work and learn more about the fine art of bottle-fermented sparkling wine, working in Franciacorta (Northern Italy), the Côte des Blancs (in Champagne, France) and Germany. Like Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira of Graham Beck, South Africa’s most famous quality proponent of MCC, Paul also travels to Champagne every year to hone his winemaking skills, taking part in research and spending time in the place and among the people, terroir and traditions that inspire his passion.

Le Lude is the first winery in South Africa to produce the artisanal ‘Agrafè’ bottle fermented sparkling wine. Agrafè (Tirage Liège) is the method of fermenting the wine under cork instead of crown cap. This method, in their opinion, results in a wine with a more integrated aroma profile and nuanced texture.

Over the past five years Le Lude have planted and sourced grape varieties dedicated to making only the best Method Cap Classique. Le Lude’s first harvest took place in 2012.

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut NV, South Africa, 12 Abv.

A blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir is matured for a minimum of 36 months on its lees and 6 months on cork, this wine shows delicious creamy savoury red and white fruits. At 6.5 g/l dosage, the palate is taut, pure and linear but with lovely fleshy citrus, honeysuckle and pear fruit length. Lovely purity and a super fine expression with real intensity, vibrant acids and really pinpoint explosive, mouth-filling mouse on the finish. A South African MCC classic!

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Rose NV, South Africa, 12 Abv.

A very classy, distinguished Rosé that is a classic blend of 35% Chardonnay and 65% Pinot Noir. The wine is matured for a minimum of 36 months on its lees before being matured on the final cork for 6 months before release. With a 5 g/l dosage, this Pinot heavy cuvee shows fleshy red fruits, strawberries and cream, an impressively full mousse, crushed rock candy, red pithy cherry depth and a delicious full, long finish.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Agrafè -Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Brut Agrafè is a blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir with 2.8 g/l dosage and only 376 bottles produced. It undergoes traditional cork fermentation and maturation for 36 months. Premium corks are specially imported for this wine. It shows an impressive salty, briney melange of yellow pithy fruits, creamy depth and enticing tertiary complexity. A very impressive wine.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Rose Agrafè -Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Rosé Agrafè is a blend of 35% Chardonnay and 65% Pinot Noir. It undergoes traditional cork fermentation and maturation on cork for 36 months. Only 345 bottles were produced. This expression shows a rich, complex, creamy, structured, super sophisticated style with hints of apricot, lime peel and vanilla pod spice. Super acidity, this cuvee is ready to go now.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage Cuvée 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Vintage Cuvée is a premium blend of specially selected tanks. Careful attention is given to blending the best terroirs. Reserve wines are produced to enhance the base wines. The reserve wines spend another two years in barrel before being stored in magnums under cork. As expected, this wine is rich, brûléed and absolutely delicious with hints of toffee sweets, citrus cordial and impressive tertiary brioche notes. Palate is intense and lean but with plenty of power and focus. There is a lovely pithy, briney depth, superb balance and incredible reserve wine intensity.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Vintage Cuvée Agrafè – Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Prestige Agrafè is the best of the best for the Agrafè cuvee. It is fresh and zesty with briney depth and a pronounced saline white citrus intensity. The palate is extra creamy with brioche nuances and an amazingly textured, full, broad mousse. Very intense and utterly delicious.

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

Tasting the Le Lude range with winemaker Duncan Savage, Ian Naude, and Paul Gerber.

Le Lude Magnum Selection:

Special selections are made for the Le Lude magnum bottlings. The maturation times and dosages change depending on the blend but they currently have releases of Brut, Rosé and Vintage Cuvée magnums.

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv. (Magnum)

Only 251 magnums of this cuvee were produced. Aged for 61 months on crown cap, this amazing expression shows a lifted, dense, creamy white citrus intensity with smokey red apple and a rich focused nose. There are hints of brine, sweet lemon, oyster shell, kelp and maritime complexity. A wine with incredible depth, power and precision. Very impressive indeed.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage Cuvée 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv. (Magnum)

Only 256 magnums of this prestige cuvee were produced. It delivers an exotic melange of yellow orchard fruits, white citrus and saline, alka seltzer briney mineral depth. This magnum is super fresh and animated with a vibrant mousse and an expressive, intense, complex finish. Delicious!

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

An amazing line up of wines. Many thanks to Paul Gerber for taking time to show me this impressive array of premium sparkling MCC wines, to Duncan Savage for offering his new winery cellar space to taste in, and Ian Naude for making it all happen. As a Master of Wine who did their dissertation on MCC production in the Cape, this was a real treat of a tasting for me. Cheers boys! 🍾🍾

The End of the Beginning – Tasting the Maiden Release Tokara Telos 2015 in London with Owner G.T.Ferreira…

The Tokara farm was bought by GT Ferreira in 1995 without a single vine on the property, initially with view to being a “gentleman’s residence.” But with such illustrious neighbours as Thelema and Rustenberg, it was always written in the stars that this prime property would be planted and established as a great wine producing estate in its own right. The Tokara winery has also had the exceptionally good fortune to have the same steady hand of Miles Mossop overseeing the wine production for the past 18 years, a factor that has almost certainly helped hasten the dawning of this new super premium wine Tokara Telos. Miles has since announced that 2018 will be his last vintage at Tokara as he leaves to pursue new winemaking projects. We all wish him the best.

I like to think that I have been a close long term observer of the ongoing progress at the Tokara winery, watching over almost two decades as the wines became finer and more accomplished with every subsequent vintage release. However, the Director’s Reserve white blend was undoubtedly the first wine to make international and local critics sit up and genuinely take serious notice of the potential of this winery. But for many years the reds somehow seemed to lag behind the fame of the whites until more recently, when some very smart red wines started to be bottled under the Director’s Reserve red blend label.

Owner of Tokara, GT Ferreira, the successful South African financier who calls Tokara home

The Tokara Telos red blend maiden release can therefore be regarded as the coming of age moment for winery, its vines, and in many ways, the conclusion of a long held vision. Indeed Telos, for those not schooled in classical Greek, is a noun used to describe “the end term of a goal-directed process; especially, the Aristotelian final cause.” So is this the end? No, not at all… it is merely the end of the beginning!

The 2015 vintage saw the driest growing conditions and subsequently the earliest harvest at Tokara in many years. The main Cabernet Sauvignon portion of the wine was harvested on the 5th of March 2015 at 26 degrees balling, the Merlot on the 3rd of February at 24.6 degrees balling and the Malbec on the 24th of February at 24.4 degrees balling. It was one of the smallest crops on record and on average had harvest dates that were two weeks earlier than previous years. At harvest, grapes were placed in a cold room overnight and sorted twice on a Pellene Mechanical sorter and subsequent individual berry sorting on a vibrating table. After a four day cold maceration in tank, with 30% whole berry and 70% crushed berries, natural fermentation was allowed to proceed with wild yeasts.

As has become all the rage with new premium releases in South Africa, the Tokara Telos 2015 was presented ‘sighted’ within an impressive flight of what can only be called ultra-premium Bordeaux reds all rated 100 points by Robert Parker on release. Hell, if you are going to go down the whole comparative benchmarking route, why not do it properly and present your wine alongside the best there is!? Needless to say, this approach needs more than a little confidence and self-belief to be effective. According to the owners, the Telos launch was held in London before South Africa as a nod of acknowledgment to a market that has been one of Tokara’s most supportive and receptive over the past years. A subsequent launch is planned for Johannesburg and then again at the winery in Cape Town.

Tokara Telos 2015, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

A 17 year old single vineyard block making up a 1,000 bottle blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec and 3% Merlot, aged for 22 months in 63% new oak with medium toast and ‘house toast’. 2.1 g/l RS, 6.2 TA, 3.52pH. This young 2015 red blend displays an impressively perfumed nose with subtle potpourri and dried pink flower fragrance, violets and hints of lavender. Dusty graphite and gravelly minerality is tightly interwoven with attractive black berry, dusty bramble berry nuances and subtle fleshly cut hedgerow spice. The palate is sleek, lithe and particularly suave and fine boned with a very polished, sultry, light touch elegance and textural focus. There is already impressive complexity but also a modicum of classical restraint that seems to overtly shy away from elevated ripeness, oakiness or glossy sweet fruit characters. This is a rare South African expression that boasts a vibrant natural acidity and very ripe, fine grained powdery mineral tannins that cushion a beautifully natural sense of balance, harmony and finesse, all elements coming together seamlessly and effortlessly at such an early stage in the wines evolution. A really polished, faultless, old world leaning expression that is undoubtedly a new and impressive tour de force on the South African fine wine scene. Drink this wine from 2020+  onwards and cellar comfortably for over 20+ years.

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

Other Bordeaux Wines Tasted Alongside the Telos 2015:

Chateau Montrose 2010, Saint Estephe, 14 Abv.

An expectedly dense, dark, broody expression, that is quite reserved and closed. But it slowly offers up dark earthy black berry, bramble berry, and sweet graphite and cedar spice notes. An attractive sweet tobacco depth and spicy cassis opulence meanders to a finish with steely precision, incredible focus, monolithic structure and pristine depth. Very young but a profound wine nonetheless. One for the cellar!

(Wine Safari Score: 98-99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 2009, Saint Estephe 13.5 Abv.

Sweet leafy cedary red currant fruit notes elucidating a delicious ripe cassis opulence with boxwood hints and a soft, sappy, black fruited core. This wine screams Cabernet Sauvignon and fans it’s aromatic tail with lead pencil, graphite and violet complexity. Still showing a relatively chunky palate with plenty of textural flesh, fine vibrant freshness and an impressively sweet bramble berry and tannery leather length.

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

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre 2009, Saint Julien, 14 Abv.

Dark, deep, spicy, black currant and earthy cassis depth with an incredibly complex nose of graphite, dusty gravel and liquid minerality. A plump, opulent sweet pocket of overt fruit and piquant tannins coat the palate that shows a sweet, glycerol, cinnamon tinged earthy red currant depth. A very smart effort with an incredibly seamless balance. Classy.

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

Chateau Pavie 2009, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe,14.5 Abv.

A more opulent, generous nose with overt, ripe notes of molasses tinged black plum, earthy black berry confit and caramelised plums. The only wine in the flight with obvious sur maturite palate sweetness but almost pleasantly so, showing a more bold and riper side of right Bank Bordeaux. A wine with many merits and a delicious drinkability. Perhaps a little overblown for your classical connoisseur Claret drinker?

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

Chateau Cheval Blanc 2005, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe (A), 14 Abv.

Already 13 years old, the 2005 is starting to show subtle tertiary aromatic hints of sous bois, earthy red currants, bruised red plums, black tea and sweet tannery leather. There is no lack of classism, graphite and gravelly liquid minerality either. A super Bordeaux example with depth, elegance and fine length.

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

Chateau Latour 1996, Pauillac, 12.5 Abv.

A 22 years old expressive, classical Pauillac Claret that reveals sweet roasted herbs, briary, red currant and piquant sweet pipe tobacco spice. Lovely maturity, dusty grainy tannins and fine tertiary complexity. The 1996 is a classic power packed Latour ageing gracefully and showing plenty of pedigree.

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

Steven Spurrier in attendance at 67 Pall Mall

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – The Long Awaited Iconic 2013 Vintage is Finally Released…

A legendary wine from an iconic wine region, the long awaited Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 was released in February 2018. The Napa Valley AVA saw just 50.8cm of rain during the winter months leading up to the 2013 growing season; any meaningful precipitation ceased in December of 2012. The lack of rain and a relatively warm spring led to an early start to the growing season. Summer was remarkably mild. During critical ripening, air temperatures remained stable, creating a long, slow harvest.

The seasonal trifecta of moderate temperatures, low soil moisture and little precipitation led to a vintage that will be remembered for its structured and concentrated wines. Harvest started on September 2nd and on October 4th the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon was arriving at the winery.

The 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. It was blended in early 2014 and aged for 24 months in 85% new American oak and 15% one-passage American oak barrels from Silver Oak’s own Missouri cooperage, The Oak. Early blending assured a balanced core and allowed all components to achieve greater harmony during barrel aging. It was then aged for an additional 20 months in bottle before being released in February of 2018.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California, 13.5 Abv.

Wonderfully dense, opulent and masculine. Where the Alexander Valley 2013 is more pretty… beauty personified, the Napa is a gladiator, full of muscle, density, broody black fruits and then a fine dollop of intrigue. All the classical components are there, dusty cassis, liquid graphite, violets, salty Victoria plums and an alluring cedary wood spice note. On the palate the black fruits melt into a dense melange of black berry confit, taut salty liquorice, graphite, cassis, blueberry pastille and muscular, intense, liquid minerality. The road map of this wine is clear. One can see exactly where this wine is going, an understanding that is integral to the impressive rating of this epic Napa release. Will it appeal fully to customers looking to drink it right now? No, maybe less so. But for pure pedigree, power, opulence and intensity, this wine is nearly unsurpassed. Buy it now and cellar it. It will never ever disappoint such is the long term track record of Silver Oak. This wine offers guaranteed drinking pleasure over 30 to 40+ years if cellared optimally.

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