** 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 2017 vintage was Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their April 2019 Panel Tasting on the Picpoul de Pinet (see blue link below).
The grapes used for this wine come from one south-facing vineyard 10-30 metres above sea level in the Languedoc Roussillon region of Southern France. The 30 year old vines are planted on a chalky clay plateaux, rich in Cretaceous limestone and loaded with quartz gravel chippings. Grapes are harvested in September at night to retain freshness and acidity.
Grapes are carefully sorted in both the vineyard and winery, with analysis of ripeness being carried out before picking. At the winery, they are destemmed and crushed, with skin contact for 3-4 hours to draw out the aromatics. After pressing, fermentation lasts 10-15 days at 16°C in cement tanks. The wine remains on its lees for 1 month with twice weekly battonage. Malolactic fermentation is prevented so that the wine can retain its crisp acidity and fresh primary fruit characters. The wine is fined, filtered and bottled and released whilst young and fresh.
The Les Prades Picpoul de Pinet has a clear, brilliant yellow colour with green tints. It has fine fresh, fruity and floral aromas. The aromatic persistance is good with overtones of citrus fruit. The flavours are lively, fresh with lemon and floral touches followed by a light refreshing grapefruit finish. Serve with fresh seafood, grilled fish, salads, or drink on its own as an aperitif.
Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their April 2019 Panel Tasting on the Picpoul de Pinet (see blue link below).
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their April 2019 Panel Tasting on 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.
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.
Perez Cruz is a family owned boutique winery located in the Alto Maipo. Their estate covers 250 hectares of vines planted in one of the most sought after areas for growing premium Cabernet Sauvignon. This red wine specialist also produces small parcels of Syrah, Cot (Malbec), Carmenère and Petit Verdot. They also produce an elegant cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca. From the first vintage in 2002, Andres Perez Cruz has seen the estate's speciality red wine amass an impressive array of awards and gold medals. Their eco-friendly winery was built by award winning architect Jose Cruz Ovalle, to fulfil the technical objective of fine wine production. Its wooden roof and natural light allow thermal isolation and free air flow circulation, making it one of the most unique wineries in the world.
The grapes are sourced from low yielding vines from the Liguai Estate. Located in the Maipo Valley’s “Maipo-Andes” subregion, the vineyard is situated in the mountain foothills between 440 and 520 metres elevation. The Double Guyot trained vines are drip irrigated and grown in alluvial soils with low fertility. The harvest takes place manually, once the grapes have reached optimum maturity levels.
2017 was generally a warm year, with a dry summer and high daily temperatures providing excellent conditions for the ripening and maturation of the grapes. Between December and the end of February, the average daily temperatures were above 32°C, enabling the grapes to reach excellent phenolic maturity. The harvest produced average yields of high quality fruit, delivering good varietal typicity and flavour concentration, balanced by an attractive acidity.
The grapes were handpicked and then carefully selected before being crushed into stainless steel tanks where fermentation lasted between seven to 10 days, followed by post fermentation maceration which lasted for seven to 14 days. The wine was racked into French oak barrels where it underwent malolactic fermentation and was matured for 14 months.
This wine is made using Carmenère 91%, Cabernet Sauvignon 9%.
Vibrant notes of ripe black fruits, combine with earthy hints, nut, spice and fine herbal notes that are characteristic of Maipo Alto. Elegant and complex on the palate with supple tannins and a savoury finish. A highly versatile wine, great with spiced meats and curry dishes.
ABV = 14.0%.
Awarded 84 points and Commended status by Decanter in their April 2019 Panel Tasting on Chilean Carmenère.
Château Los Boldos was founded in 1991 and is situated 100km south of Santiago in the foothills of the Cachapoal Andes. Working with a portion of old vines originally planted in 1948, the focus from the onset has been on the production of premium wines. The estate has been transformed since it was purchased by Sogrape in 2008. Renowned soil scientist and viticultural consultant Pedro Parra (of Clos des Fous) was brought in to assess the plots and match the right variety to the different soils around the estate. The type of rootstock, planting density, orientation and the frequency of irrigation were all within Pedro’s remit, and the results are now being seen in the wines, especially since Victor Arce, previously of Perez Cruz, joined as winemaker in 2015.
Los Boldos has 170 hectares of vineyards which benefit from a Mediterranean climate. The clear, bright skies during the summer and the diurnal temperature range are ideal for growing fruit that maintains fresh acidity while ripening to perfection. The nearby Cachapoal river also moderates temperatures, while stony alluvial soils in the vineyard ensure low yields. Los Boldos makes wine exclusively from their own vineyards, thereby controlling everything from grape to bottle.
Much-needed rain in winter replenished water levels in the vineyard. This was followed by a dry period, which prompted slow ripening, allowing for good flavour accumulation and the dry conditions ensured there was little disease pressure. 2018 was a good vintage across most of Chile for both quality and quantity.
The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks for eight days at temperatures between 25-28°C before undergoing malolactic fermentation. The wine was then aged for six months in French oak barrels to soften tannins and add complexity.
This wine is deep ruby red in colour. On the nose, there are aromas of ripe red and black fruits with notes of black pepper and chocolate. It has a rounded texture with powerful tannins and a long, lingering finish.
ABV = 13.5%.
Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article: Decanter buyer's guide: Australian Chardonnay (see blue link below).
Shaw + Smith was established in 1989 by cousins Michael Hill Smith MW and Martin Shaw. They make wines exclusively from the Adelaide Hills, from varieties that suit the cooler climate: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Shaw + Smith own two vineyards, in Lenswood and Balhannah. Balhannah is also home to the winery.
Growing the best possible grapes, managing vineyards sustainably, and valuing vine health, soil health, and low yields are central to the Shaw + Smith approach. In the pursuit of quality, all grapes continue to be hand-picked, and the wines are fermented, aged and bottled on site at Balhannah. The wines are vibrant, medium bodied expressions of their varieties that reflect their sites and region. As the business has grown Michael and Martin have built a formidable team to continue the evolution of Shaw + Smith, including Master of Wine David LeMire, Senior Winemaker Adam Wadewitz, Business Manager Grant Lovelock and Group Viticulturist Murray Leake.
"Our winemaking style isn’t prescriptive: it’s informed by the season, the vineyard and the vineyard sections that we’re working with - it is thoughtful and considered because that’s the way that you get to understand things better and incrementally improve."
To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine, which has been prepared by the team at Shaw + Smith, please click on the blue link below.
An elegant single vineyard Chardonnay, with aromas of blossom, grapefruit and white peach complemented by notes of brioche. The palate is long and flavoursome, with good mid-palate texture and bright acidity to balance the intensity of fruit.
ABV = 13.0%.
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%.
The 2017 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article: Pacific Northwest Reds. (see blue link below).
Husband and wife team Scott and Dana Frank have experience all sides of the wine industry. From working in restaurants, to retail, to wholesale, they’ve gained plenty of knowledge and experience over the years. They recently embarked on a new project producing wines under their own label Bow & Arrow and are taking Oregon wines to new heights!
The Willamette Valley, formed long ago by repeated glacial flooding, is abundant with fertile and rocky vineyard sites. It is also situated along the 45th parallel, which coincidentally runs through Burgundy and the Loire Valley. And despite Oregon’s constant comparisons to Burgundy, it’s the Loire Valley that inspires Scott and Dana’s wines. They only started bottling in 2010 but have quickly earned a reputation for bringing a bit of the Loire to the Pacific Northwest. They source fruit from vineyards planted by some of Oregon’s earliest ‘wine pioneers’ that were planted with grapes like old vine Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Melon de Bourgogne – all typical Loire Valley grapes. These carefully sourced grapes are treated with the greatest care and minimal-intervention winemaking techniques. Their resulting wines are a breath of fresh (French) air from Oregon, lighter in style, lower in alcohol, and extremely food-friendly.
Rhinestones is a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir.
Bow & Arrow Wines say the following of their Rhinestones wine: "To understand Rhinestones we have to talk about the Cheverny region of France’s Loire Valley where, by law, the red wines must be a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir. We follow this structure with all the Pinot and Gamay fruit we source from Johan Vineyard. The blend is determined by nature and vintage. Aged in a mixture of concrete and old barriques, this wine is the flagship of the Bow & Arrow operation and communicates what we’re about as much as anything we make. Effortlessly drinkable but rewards detective work if you’re in the mood."
The 2017 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
The history of Trapiche begins in 1883, in a small vineyard called El Trapiche, in the district of Godoy Cruz, Mendoza, where the grapes for the first fine wines were grown. With more than 130 years of experience, Trapiche has earned its place as a pioneering winery in the introduction of French vines, the production of varietal wines, the import of French oak barrels and the use of stainless steel tanks. True to its origins, today Trapiche is in a continuous quest for the latest best practices. Led by Daniel Pi, Director of Winemaking, Trapiche's winemaking team permanently strives to improve winemaking practices by exchanging experience and knowledge with winemakers from other wine producing countries such as France, the US, Australia and New Zealand
The grapes are hand-harvested in the early hours of the morning, when the sea breeze still rests on the berries. The fruit is carefully selected from the vines that produce highly-concentrated grapes. The juice undergoes cold skin maceration for 24 hours followed by pneumatic pressing. Ageing takes place in French oak barrels for 7 months, achieving a more complex aromatic profile. The wine is clarified, stabilised, filtered and bottled.
An elegant wine, lemon in colour with slight greenish tones. It has notes of green apples, pear, citrus fruits and hints of nuts & broiche. Delicate on the palate with marked minerality and a long, delicious finish.
The 2017 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
This producer has not only the highest winery in Europe situated at 1,140 metres, but also the highest vineyards at over 1,400 metres above sea level. Located at Kyperounda, in the Pitsilia area of the Troodos mountain range, the Kyperounda Winery sits in an idyllic setting, with correspondingly spectacular views. The winery was designed to the specifications of experienced winemakers and uses gravity to produce wine in the gentlest possible way. They have been producing wine since 2003 and already made quite a splash on the international stage.
The Xynisteri variety is as delicious as it is difficult to pronounce (Sin-ees-ter-ee). The indigenous grapes are grown on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains, in some of the highest vineyards in Europe at altitudes of 1,400 metres above sea level. The plots sit on rocky terraces, where the soils are made up of sandy clay. Due to the altitude of the vineyards, Kyperounda invariably harvests approximately one month later than vineyards at half their elevation and the long hang time results in concentrated fruit.
The gravity fed winery is built on three levels and is designed for the gentlest possible handling of the grapes and wine. The vinification took place in stainless steel tanks to maximise the purity of the fruit. 20% of the wine was then matured in one year old barriques for two months, adding subtle oak complexity to the final blend.
This wine is made using Xynesteri 100%.
Delicious aromas of citrus fruits, candied lime, lychee and a touch of spice and vanilla. A medium bodied yet refreshing wine with a long, persistent finish. A great partner to linguine with lemon and black pepper, salt and pepper squid or delicately spiced Asian cuisine.
ABV = 13.5%.
Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
Jane Eyre-Renard is originally from Melbourne. In 1998, she was working as a hairdresser when she asked a customer, who happened to be the wife of wine writer Jeremy Oliver, if she knew of any wineries where she could do work experience. The Olivers recommended Burgundy, which has since been an inextricable part of Jane’s life. She went on to gain experience working with Cullen in the Margaret River, Felton Road and Ata Rangi in New Zealand and Ernie Loosen in the Mosel. She finally moved to Burgundy in 2004, and started working at Domaine des Comtes Lafon. Since then, Jane has developed her own micro-négociant and rents a space in a small winery in Bligny-lès-Beaune which she shares with Dominique Lafon.
One of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais, the vineyards of Chénas can be found on the slopes of Mont Remont, sandwiched between the borders of Juliénas and Moulin-à-Vent. The vines are planted on sandy soils and are made up of weathered granite, making it highly compatible with the Gamay grape variety. On these low-fertility soils, the vines are forced to grow deep root systems into the ground in search of nutrients, and the rapid drainage afforded by the slopes lessens the water intake of the vines. As a result, small, concentrated berries with thick skins are produced, resulting in a more structured and age-worthy style of wine.
Unfortunately 2017 was another difficult vintage for producers in the Beaujolais. Spring frost struck again and violent hailstorms during July severely impacted volumes across the region. Drought during the summer months posed further risk, until welcome rain fell just before harvest, bringing freshness to the resulting wines.
The Gamay grapes were 100% destemmed upon arrival at the winery. Fermentation took place in stainless-steel tanks and the cap was pumped over twice. The wine remained on its skins for three weeks, resulting in a beautiful, rich colour and finely structured tannins. After pressing, the wine remained in stainless steel to retain its hallmark freshness. It was not fined but was lightly filtered before bottling.
This wine is 100% Gamay.
The nose boasts aromas of candied fruits, red cherries, lavender and bramble fruit. On the palate, it has a lovely structure, with rounded tannins and bright acidity. The flavours are concentrated and layered, leading to a long finish on the palate.
ABV = 13.5%.
The 2017 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
Brought up on a farm in Beaujolais, Frédéric Berne has always had a natural connection with the land around him. Encouraged by his parents to do something different, and attracted by wine’s ability to express its surroundings, he decided to become a winemaker. After a few years working across southern Burgundy, Frédéric finally set up on his own in 2013. Inspired by the diversity of the granite soils in Lantignié (close to Régnié and Chiroubles), Frédéric established himself in the grounds of Château de Vergers, in the heart of the village.
Frédéric has six hectares between Beaujolais Villages, Morgon and Chiroubles, and is currently converting all his vineyards to organic viticulture. The Lantignié Granit Rose is a blend of different parcels grown on granite soil in Lantignié, a tiny town in west Beaujolais. The vineyards mainly sit on variations of granite bedrock with mineral components of quartz, which lend elegance and purity to the wines.
All the grapes were hand-harvested. Upon arrival at the winery, the grapes were pressed in a traditional wooden, vertical press and maceration lasted between 5 and 15 days, depending on the fruit. Frédéric follows a policy of minimal intervention in his winemaking and uses only natural yeasts. The Lantignié Granit Rose was made with 100% whole -bunch fermentation in stainless steel tanks, resulting in an exuberant red fruit character and fine tannins.
The Beaujolais Lantignié Granit Rose is perfumed with floral notes and red and black cherries. The palate is posied and well-balanced with fine tannins and lifted acidity.