** THE VILLA DES CROIX PICPOUL BELOW HAS ALAS NOW ALL GONE AND WE CANNOT OBTAIN MORE! **
The April Decanter (www.decanter.com) is out.
And we're pleased to say that we've done it again.
That is, we have the two Outstanding wines (95-points +) that top the month's two tasting panels.
You'll need to move very quickly - or wait a wee while - for one of them. Do press on below for the full details of what they are and how you get hold of them.
The wines featured this month - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. The reviews for each wine from this current Decanter appear on each product page (although they may still be being uploaded as you read!).
For all of that impressive 2017 Southern Rhone banner on the cover (few of which seem to be available just yet, unsurprisingly given their elevage times), the magazine's two big panel reviews attend to Picpoul de Pinet and Chilean Carmenere.
So far as we can see, it's the first ever Picpoul review, but a fairly rapid repeat of the October 2017 Carmenere review.
Neither are classic fine wine regions: let's face it: Burgundy or Barolo, these are not. But both categories, we know from experience, are hugely popular. We clattered through the poll-topping Carmeneres last time out as though they were going out of fashion (they weren't), and Picpoul moves out of here in very large boxes.
The great thing about both categories is that these are well-made, full-flavour wines at great prices - most of the Picpouls are around £10; the Carmeneres ~ £15. So, when it comes to the panel-beaters <am quite pleased with that...>, you're into that great sweet spot of Big Points for Small Prices.
We have the poll-toppers in both reviews, and we've created separate article pages for the two of them that tell you a little more about the review results, the wine category/grape, the producer and the wine:
We should warn that UK stocks of the Carmenere are very low and we only have 120 bottles of this one before we create a waiting list for the next shipment from Chile => move sharpish or be patient!
Alternatively, if you can't be doing with all that info (good as it is...), and you're all about getting these bought asap, then do click the relevant bottle below:
We've 4 other Highly Recommended Picpouls which you can see, read about and select among all the bottles at the bottom. The Caves de L'Ormarine Picpoul - in particular - has quite a lot more about it than your average PdP and the Belle Mare is consistently good.
We typically like to - and do - say we've got loads more beyond the tasting panel, but, this month, that would be a fib.
We do, however, have the exquisite, 97-point Shaw & Smith Lenswood Chardonnay 2016 if you're a £50-a-bottle Chardonnay fan/buyer. I tried this only yesterday and... wow.
At a more manageable price is the almost-as-excellent 94-point Xanadu (Estate) Chardonnay from Margaret River, WA at ~£17, albeit a vintage off (the rated vintage being not due here for some while).
And we've the highly-rated red oddity from Oregon that is the Bow & Arrow Rhinestones (Gamay/Pinot Noir), should such a leftfield, Burgundy-a-like contender appeal.
And we do have a bunch in the kaleidoscope selection of the Weekday Wines pages, including (but not limited to):
The 2016 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their April 2019 panel tasting of Chilean Carmenère (see blue link below).
That 2016 vintage was also awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 tasting/article of/on Top 30 Chilean Wines Under £25 (see blue link below).
"Ah", you may well say, "but is this 2018 as good as the 2016?"
The Matetic family has a history of settling in new territory and making a success of agriculture. In 1892, the current members’ ancestors made the long journey by sea from the Croatian coast to Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile. They soon acquired large haciendas for sheep and dairy farming. It was only in 1999 that the fourth generation of Chilean Matetic made the move into winemaking.
After a detailed study of the terroir, Jorge Matetic Hartard and his relatives decided to plant vineyards in a previously overlooked side valley of the San Antonio appellation - Rosario. Just 15km from the Pacific Ocean, the rolling hills of Rosario Valley benefits from cooling sea breezes and huge swings in temperature - from as much as 27 deg C in the afternoon to 7 deg C at night. Well drained, quartz-sandy soil requires vines to dig their roots deep into the ground (up to four metres) to find water and nutrients, making for low yields and high-quality fruit.
With the additional purchase in 2005 of vineyards in Casablanca Valley, the Matetic vineyard has a phenomenal range of grape varieties planted - Matetic Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, Malbec - but they made their mark early on with the first cold-climate Syrah in 2001.
The Corralillo label is a nod to an old winery on a corral which had once produced wines from the native País grape. These wines - Gewurztraminer, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and the Winemakers Blend (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc) express this frontier-pushing terroir with great individuality and draw from plots in Maipo, near Santiago, and Colchagua further south, as well as San Antonio.
Biodynamic viticulture one of the key eco-friendly practices the Matetic Vineyard follows in its winemaking - it is certified organic and sustainable as well as biodynamic. Regarding the Rosario Valley as a single organism, the team works hard to maintain the health of the ground (using Rudolf Steiner’s preparations of quartz, manure, herbs etc in cow horns but only using indigenous materials), the crops and the varied animal life in the ecosystem. Grape pomace is added to compost from the restaurant to be reused in the Matetic vineyards, as is water which has been used to clean barrels. And in human terms, local people make up the majority of staff, and the winery sells woollen and other craft goods made by artisans nearby. It’s all part of a philosophy that aims to make winemaking a venture which will benefit the family and its neighbours for generations to come.
The 2018 Corralillo Carmenere is sourced from the sub-valley of Colchagua Valley, Apalta. The vineyards are located on slopes that receive great sun exposure. The soil's parent material is highly mixed - dominantly colluvial and of granitic origin - but very complex due to the presence of clays, lime and organic matter. These solils have have low fertility - perfect for viticulture - and excellent drainage.
For more detail, especially on winemaking, see the blue link below for the technical note from the winemakers themselves.
95%+ Carmenere, <5% Syrah.
Deep dark violet color with red hues. Very intense on the nose, with a blend of black fruits, cocoa, spices and a piquant hint that characterize this grape variety. On the palate the wine shows great balance between weight and freshness, with a long, lingering finish developing to great volume and structure. An ideal companion for mature cheeses, red meat, charcuterie etc.
ABV = 13.5%.
Exel note: Honestly, we're not massive fans of Picpoul. There's a lot of very iffy Picpoul out there: oily, acidic and poorly made. This one we really liked - it has density/body, concentration of flavour and drinkability even without food: it's really rather likeable.
The 2018 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their April 2019 panel tasting of the Picpoul de Pinet (see blue link below).
Along the Mediterranean, at the bottom of the Gulf of Lion, the Picpoul de Pinet terroir extends around the Thau Basin, in the middle of the Agde-Pézenas-Sète triangle over 1300 hectares. This is the largest white wine region in Languedoc. Their plot is located in the south of the appellation, bordering Lake Thau, on rather poor soil covered with lime concretions.
The climate here is tempered by marine mists and breezes. This marine influence is extremely important as it plays the role of a heat accumulator that limits daily temperature swings, namely the temperature rising during the day and falling at night. Picpoul is an old Languedoc grape variety that has been found on the banks of Lake Thau for many hundreds of years; this late-ripening grape variety, planted in a dry climate, takes advantage of the humidity of the late season to complete its maturation.
For a little more detail, see the data sheet from the producers themselves.
Picpoul matures very slowly. It is usually picked in late September/early October, after the red varieties. This wine has a brilliant, pale yellow colour with green hues. The aromas are very fresh on the nose, with delicate white flowers (aubepine). The palate is lively and fresh with zesty lemon flavours. It then finishes on a mineral and salty note. An ideal partner to shellfish, grilled fish and sushi.
ABV = 13.5%.
Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, The Most Exciting Wines of 2019 (see blue link below).
NB: previously called the Xanadu Estate Chardonnay, recently renamed by the producer!
Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article: Decanter buyer's guide: Australian Chardonnay (see blue link below).
See the link below for the full set of awards the Xanadu Estate Chardonnay 2017 has (so far) received (it has only just reached the UK!).
Xanadu was established by Dr John Lagan, an Irishman, who arrived in Margaret River in 1968 and was inspired by the pioneering spirit of the region. At the time, the potential of Margaret River as one of the world’s finest wine-producing regions was only just being considered. So less than a decade on, Dr Lagan with his wife Eithne established one of the region’s earlier vineyards, planting his first vines in 1977. Lovers of literature will remember Xanadu as Samuel Coleridge’s mysterious, idyllic, exotic city; home of Kubla Khan. Dr Lagan, himself a great literature enthusiast, drew parallels between Coleridge’s visions of utopia and his newly adopted home, and thus the name Xanadu was born.
To see Xanadu's excellent information sheet for this wine, please click on the blue link below.
ABV = 13.0%.