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Decanter August 2018

 

The August 2018 edition of Decanter (www.decanter.com) - released 29th June - features the usual bundle of excellent reviews, features and articles. For us, it's a thinner month in terms of volume - we've 'just' 15 wines from its pages this month (see foot of this page for all of their clickable product pages) - but we are delighted to offer three of the very few (five) Outstanding (95-point +) wines from the two panel reviews, including  the standout value (ie <£20) offering in each review.

  • Panel tasting #2 is of Greek reds. If ever there were a category of misunderstood and under-appreciated wines, we'd have to say say it was those of Greece (probably because of all manner of sentiments one sees towards that country, be it food, culture, economy, etc). Finally, the world is waking up to the wonderful white that is Assyrtiko, but Greece's reds are also setting wine audiences alight. Streetwise red afficionados, of course, knew this already.... Here, we offer three wines, all around the £20 mark. The Outstanding Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona 2015 (95 points) is, in Decanter's eyes, the pick of the field, and only half the price of the one other Outstanding. This is an unusual grape (Limniona) from an unusual region (Tyrnavos), but a superb wine in the idiom of Pinot Noir. We realise this is be where the interest will be, but we also offer two excellent (91-point) Xinomavros (= high acidity, long-ageing, 'Greece's Barolo') from Naous(s)a: the Foundi Estate Naoussa 2011 and the interesting/rare, no-added-sulphite alternative, the Oenops Xinomavro Naoussa 2016.

  • There's a regional profile on the enigmatic Jura region (Alpine France, not the Scottish island) ...
  • ... a feature on Provence's Chateau d'Esclans, home of super-popular rosé, Whispering Angel ...
  • ... while our old friend and perennial big-seller, the sumptuous, delicious Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc clocks its traditional , annual 95 points in the review of South African Old Vine Chenin...

And for our full, filterable/searchable compendium of Decanter-recommended wines from the last two years, click here.

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Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition panel tasting of Greek reds (see blue link below). The 2014 vintage is the currently-available release from the UK importer, and we offer this.

Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton 2015 - August 2018 Decanter review

Ktima Gerovassiliou is the brainchild of Evangelos Gerovassiliou. He initiated the revival of the family vineyard by planting the nearly extinct Malagousia in 1981. This state of the art winery is now surrounded by 74 hectares of meticulously well cared vineyards on the slopes of Epanomi. Ktima Gerovassiliou guarantees consistent, high quality wines of international acclaim every year and his Malagousia remains the benchmark to this day.

At Ktima Gerovassiliou, the single, private 74 hectare vineyard is cultivated with great care and enthusiasm, which leads to constant research and experimentation with Greek and international varieties. New technological advances blend well with tradition throughout the vine growing and vinification processes to produce high quality wines that carry all the distinct characteristics of the terroir of Epanomi. The climate in the region of Epanomi is Mediterranean with mild winters and hot summers, tempered by sea breezes. The vineyard is surrounded on three sides by the sea, which is three kilometres away, while its west side faces the Thermaic Gulf, Mount Olympus and the beaches of Pieria. The vines are grown in soils which are mainly sandy with a few clayey substrates and calcareous rocks. It is rich in sea fossils, as the surrounding hilly area was formed by sea deposits.

2016 has been lauded as an excellent vintage. A mild winter was followed by a mild spring, resulting in an early bud-break in March. Warm weather in April and May continued the early growth pattern with flowering on 9th May. The summer was dry and warm, with no rainfall from the end of May until the beginning of August. Rainfall during the first two weeks of August helped to reduce the vine’s water stress, resulting in grapes of full maturity and in good health. The red wines have deep colour and structure; and rich, concentrated fruit flavours.

The Limnio (pronounced LIM-neeo), Mavrotragano (Mavro-TRAH-gano) and Mavroudi (Mav-ROO-dee) grapes were each fermented in small oak casks of 40 hectolitres. The wine went through malolactic fermentation before being aged in French oak barrels for a period of 18 months.

This wine is made using Limnio 60%, Mavrotragano 20%, Mavroudi 20%.

A luscious blend of three Greek indigenous varietals, where ripe dark fruits combine with notes of raisin, coffee, cacao and a hint of spice. Perfumed and polished, this smooth, medium bodied wine delivers sweet and sour notes of black plum, with depth and spice leading to a dry finish. Totally unique. A versatile red which accompanies hearty stews, savoury dishes and full-flavoured game dishes.

ABV = 14.0%.

£18.75

Gerard Bertrand Chateau La Sauvageonne La Villa Coteaux du Languedoc 2018 (1x 75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition panel tasting of non-Provencale French rosé (see blue link below).

Gerard Bertrand Chateau La Sauvageonne La Villa Coteaux Du Languedoc 2016 - August 2018 Decanter review

Gérard Bertrand is one of the most outstanding winemakers in the South of France. A biodynamic pioneer, he owns numerous estates among the most prestigious crus of Languedoc-Roussillon. Formerly the IWC Red Winemaker of the Year and winner of Wine Enthusiast‘s European Winery of the Year, Gérard has been cited as the “King of the Languedoc” among critics. Acquired in November 2011, Château la Sauvageonne is located northwest of Montpellier. With a long winemaking history, this Château is a legendary site. The combination of its orientation, its situation on the Larzac terraces at 300 meters altitude and the exceptional volcanic terroir, produces stunning wines of unique character.

The estate is located to the north-west of Montpellier, situated on the terraces of Causse du Larzac at between 150 and 350 metres of altitude. The vineyard's orientation, combined with its exceptional terroir give it a unique character. The soil consists of stones derived from sandstone or schist for the first 30 centimetres and then a layer of clay. Specifically the soil is made up of “Ruffes” which is a thin, filtering soil rich in minerals , such as bauxite, iron, aluminium and uranium; and sandstone with shale, which is deeper and broken up, allowing the creation of a water reserve. The landscape is moulded by the region’s volcanic past. The area is influenced by wide temperature ranges, with warm, sunny days and cooler, fresh summer nights brought about by breezes from the sea and the proximity to the Causse plateaus. These diurnal temperature differences are beneficial and encourage a slow, progressive ripening of the berries.

The grapes were hand picked between sunrise and 10am, in order to retain the freshness in the berries. The Grenache and Mourvèdre came from plots of old vines on the hill sides, which produce small berries with low yields. The Vermentino and Viognier are cultivated on the schist hill sides. The Grenache was co-fermented with the Vermentino and the Viognier. Full bunches of grapes were immediately pressed and only the free run juice and the juice from the first press were used to produce this cuvée. After a cold setting, the fermentation began in vats, followed by a partial fermentation in oak.

Grenache 65%, Mourvèdre 25%, Vermentino 7%, Viognier 3%.

A bouquet of crushed strawberries, sweet spice is complemented by floral notes of violet and hawthorn. Powerful and generous, with a velvety texture and a revitalising freshness, this wine is built on tension and stamped with a brilliant salinity.

ABV = 14.0%.

£40.90

Domaine Joel Delaunay Les Cabotines Touraine Rose 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2017 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition panel tasting of non-Provencale French rosé (see blue link below).

Domaine Joel Delaunay 2017 - August 2018 Decanter review

Domaine Joël Delaunay is a family-owned estate, located in the Touraine AOC. Today, fifth generation owner Thierry Delaunay runs the domaine. Like his forward-thinking father, Joël Delaunay, who insisted on estate bottling in 1970, Thierry was the first Touraine producer to bottle under screwcap in 2004. Domaine Joël Delaunay has 34 hectares of vineyards, practicing sustainable viticulture. 90% of their production is white, with Sauvignon Blanc being the predominant grape variety, and 10% is red, mostly Gamay and Cabernet Franc.

Domaine Joël Delaunay is situated on the bank of the Cher Valley, 50 kilometres east of Tours near the famous Château de Chenonceau. The soil is clay and silex (a mixture of flint and sand) and the pruning method is simple Guyot. The vineyards are planted with grass between the vines to control yields.

The 2018 vintage in Loire was excellent. The vines were spared from hail and frost this year. High temperatures, sun and lack of rain in July and August accelerated the ripening. The quality and quantity of grapes were up compared to the last two vintages.

The grapes were pressed in a pneumatic press with careful selection of the resulting juices to control the colour. Alcoholic fermentation took place over 20 days at a temperature of 14°C. After fermentation, the wine was aged on its fine lees prior to cross flow filtration and bottling.

70% Gamay, 30% Pineau d'Aunis.

This wine is pale salmon-pink in colour. The nose opens with attractive scents of red berries and floral notes. The same fruit recurs on the palate, enhanced by a touch of pepper. The palate is lively and tense with a silky texture. A vibrant, enjoyable rosé.

ABV = 12.5%.

£10.85

Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition expert review of Languedoc whites (see blue link below).

Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris 2015 - August 2018 Decanter review

Named after the street the winery is located on in the village of La Livinière, Minervois, Boulevard Napoléon is the partnership between restaurant owner Trevor Gulliver and winemaker Benjamin Darnault. Seeing the potential in the vineyards located by his holiday home, Trevor started making the wines and then showed them to his other partner, chef Fergus Henderson, who was more than impressed, as were we! Each wine is a classic expression of the varietal grown on the dry, stony slopes of the south of France - yet they retain a vibrancy and definition that marks them out from the crowd.

Fruit is sourced exclusively from a 75-year-old single vineyard situated on stony terraces in the high hills of La Livinière, in the Minervois region. Here, soils are predominantly limestone and clay with the age of vines averaging 70 years. The wines show brightness, ripeness, definition and character - elements which can be largely attributed to these older vines. Grenache grapes are picked in two passes, as both the Noir and Gris grapes are grown in the same plot.

Grapes were all harvested by hand into small cases before undergoing a slow and gentle whole bunch pressing in a bag press. After one day resting on its skins, the juice was racked off into one- and two-year-old, 225 -litre barrels for fermentation. The finished wine was then aged in barrel on its lees for one year without racking. A light filtration occurred just prior to bottling.

100% Grenache Gris.

One of the best examples of white wines from the Languedoc region. Aromatic, with citrus perfumes, this wine is rich and supple on the palate with distinct notes of smoke and liquorice. The finish is fresh, long and lingering.

ABV = 14.5%.

£21.75

Les Bottes Rouges Album Savagnin Ouille 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition regional profile of the Jura (see blue link below).

Les Bottes Rouges Album Savagnin Ouille 2015- August 2018 Decanter review

Jean-Baptiste hails from the town of Pontalierin the high Jura mountains. His primary passion was cross country ski-ing before he became a teacher like his friend Raphael Monnier (Ratapoil). Together, for fun and to learn, they played at making wine. After doing a wine course in Beaune and working for a spell with Stephane Tissot he took on some vineyards naming them “Les Bottes Rouges” (Red Boots” after a song that he particularly liked. These vineyards, which he leases, area mainly mature vines in Arbois AOC and he also has 0.3 ha just outside of the appellation in Grozon. Jean-Baptiste makes wines that he loves to drink and share – simple, fruity and natural.

Album is a cuvée that he makes in minuscule quantities. The vines are planted in limestone soils Once picked the whole bunches are pressed into neutral oak barrels for fermentation. He uses debourbage (a process in which the lees are allowed to settle before racking to minimize the need for filtration) before putting the wine back into the barrels for élevage. It is racked once more before being bottled.

This is 100% Savagnin made in the ouillé style to avoid oxidation. It is creamy in the mid palate with vivid lemon, apricot, minerals & honey. Beautifully rich but with a contained, harmonious concentration.

£33.95

Chateau d Esclans Whispering Angel Rose 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2017 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition interview with Sacha Lichine of Chateau d'Esclans (see blue link below).

Chateau d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rose 2017 - August 2018 Decanter review

Chateau d’Esclans is located on an exceptional site, on elevated land near the Gorges de Pennafort, twenty five kilometers northwest of the ancient Roman city of Frejus on the Mediterranean coast.

As a negociant and vinificateur (winery), Caves d’Esclans identifies vineyards, grapes and wines from Château d’Esclans as well as local growers to make what has reputedly become the world’s greatest rosé. As their objective is to obtain the best quality grapes and wines, they have created good working relationships with the local grape growers, situated beside Caves d’Esclans, whose vineyards are treated with the same high standards of quality as are the vineyards of Château d’Esclans.

The 2018 is the last vintage to be overseen by the great Patrick Léon: "Our beloved and extraordinarily valued Consulting Oenologist, Patrick Léon, passed away on the 11th of December after having finished his final assemblage of the 2018 vintage for our wines. Patrick’s unmatched sense of accumulated detail and attention to it coupled with executing remarkable precision underscore his outstanding contribution to making our wines great. Going forward his enormously talented, confident & passionate son our Technical Director, Bertrand Léon, in addition to his well oriented team will carry out Patrick’s remarkable legacy of crafting among the finest rosés in the world." 

This wine is rapidly becoming an icon rosé...

It is made using a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Syrah, Tibouren.

To see Château d’Esclans' fiche technique for this wine, please click on the blue link below.

Chateau d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rose 2018 - fiche technique

ABV = 13.0%.

£16.95

Chateau d Esclans Whispering Angel Rose 2019 (1x75cl)

The 2017 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition interview with Sacha Lichine of Chateau d'Esclans (see blue link below).

Chateau d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rose 2017 - August 2018 Decanter review

Chateau d’Esclans is located on an exceptional site, on elevated land near the Gorges de Pennafort, twenty five kilometers northwest of the ancient Roman city of Frejus on the Mediterranean coast.

As a negociant and vinificateur (winery), Caves d’Esclans identifies vineyards, grapes and wines from Château d’Esclans as well as local growers to make what has reputedly become the world’s greatest rosé. As their objective is to obtain the best quality grapes and wines, they have created good working relationships with the local grape growers, situated beside Caves d’Esclans, whose vineyards are treated with the same high standards of quality as are the vineyards of Château d’Esclans.

This wine is rapidly becoming an icon rosé...

It is made using a blend of Grenache 20%, Cinsault 20%, Rolle 20%, Syrah 20% and Tibouren 20%.

To see Château d’Esclans' fiche technique for this wine, please click on the blue link below.

Chateau d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rose 2019 - fiche technique

ABV = 13.5%.

£17.65

Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin 2018 (1x75cl)

Click here for a one-minute intro video to - and tasting note for - the Chenin Blanc Reserve from Ken Forrester himself (in classic Ken fashion).

Situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, in the heart of South Africa's most famous wine region Stellenbosch, Ken Forrester's vineyards are commonly referred to as the home of Chenin Blanc and other premium award-winning wines. Over the years, this range of top quality wines has received massive national and international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades. The wines are broadly available in reputable restaurants and exported around the globe. Ken Forrester’s philosophy has always been to create a range of handcrafted, individually made wines that suitably complement a wide variety of food styles and provide excellent value.

The 2015 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition expert review of South African old-vine Chenin Blanc (see blue link below). Pretty much every other vintage of the FMC has done similarly!

Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin 2015 - August 2018 Decanter review

The pinnacle of what Ken considers to be the finest expression of the grapes of this varietal, an icon Chenin and a challenge to the world! Rich, layered with dried apricot, vanilla and honey. Will gain additional complexity with cellaring.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from Ken.

Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin 2018 - fiche technique

Residual sugar = 7.6 g/litre, so on the margin between dry and off-dry; as The FMC always is!

We at Exel like this because it's amazing. Full stop, period, end of. See also our Ken Forrester tasting blog for details of this wine in action.

ABV = 13.0%.

£28.60

Altos Las Hormigas Appellation Gualtallary Valle de Uco Malbec 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2014 vintage was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition's "Steven Spurrier's Fine Wine World" (see blue link below).

Altos Las Hormigas Appellation Gualtallary Valle De Uco Malbec 2014 - August 2018 Decanter review

Altos Las Hormigas is based in Luján de Cuyo, the only officially recognised appellation in Mendoza and one of the region's premium vine growing areas. The estate is known as a Malbec specialist with a reputation as one of the country's top five producers of this particular variety. Alberto Antonini and fellow Tuscan, Antonio Morescalchi, were so impressed with the vineyards in the area around Mendoza, following their first trip to Argentina in 1995, that they persuaded a few friends to join with them in buying this estate. The estate covers 88 hectares with 56 in production.

100% of this Malbec was grown on the loamy soils of Gualtallary, lying at 1,300 metres above sea level. There, limestone-covered pebbles and gravels occupy 50-60% of the soil volume, with a high percentage of free calcium carbonate giving the wine a chalky, fresh minerality. A small percentage of clay (3%) allows the Malbec to express fresh fruit flavours.

2016 began with an unusually cool and rainy spring with temperatures well below average Mendoza standards. This caused some difficulties during flowering and fruit set and led to lower than normal yields. Nevertheless, this reduction in quantity meant that the grapes which did successfully ripen were very high in quality and incredibly concentrated in flavour.

The grapes went through a double selection process and into small stainless steel tanks for pre-fermentation maceration at 5°C for seven days. The alcoholic fermentation began with indigenous yeasts at 24°C and continued for 15 days. In total, the wine spent three weeks on its skins. Pumping over was not carried out in order to minimise over-extraction of grape skin compounds. Instead, the cap was rotated by manual pigeage (punching down) throughout the fermentation. Once this was completed, post-fermentation maceration began for four days. The wine was matured in 3,500 litre untoasted foudres for 18 months followed by 12 months in bottle.

100% Malbec.

See also the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Altos Las Hormigas Appellation Gualtallary Valle De Uco Malbec 2016 - fiche technique

Fresh red fruit notes, cranberries and wild strawberries are followed by layers of spice and herbs. On the palate, fruit is intensely concentrated intensifying through the mid-palate to the finish. The limestone tannins and calcareous soils build a firm but balanced structure in the mouth, with elegant minerality and a long finish.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 14.0%.

£32.55

Dopff au Moulin Cremant d'Alsace, Cuvee Julien Brut NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition expert review of French Cremant(s) (see blue link below).

Dopff Au Moulin Cremant D'Alsace, Cuvee Julien Brut NV - August 2018 Decanter review

The Dopff family has been winegrowers since 1574 and still manage the 70 hectare estate near the charming medieval town of Riquewihr. The vineyards are more than 300 metres above sea level, nestled in the foothills of the lower Vosges. As a family of pioneers, they were responsible for the use of the stemmed wine bottles, which today distinguish Alsace wines from other regions. In 1900, tenth generation Julien Dopff was so impressed by the Champagne tastings held in Paris' World Exhibition, he learnt the art of winemaking in Champagne for two years before returning to Alsace. After WW II Julien Dopff strongly believed that a Crémant made from local grape varieties and reflecting the terroir of Alsace should be produced and protected. In 1976, together with five other producers, he finally obtained official recognition for Crémant d'Alsace as an AOC.

Made from 50% Auxerrois, which is a sibling grape variety of Chardonnay, mainly grown in Alsace. It is an earlier ripener, added to the blend for its low acidity and body. The grapes are mainly sourced from vineyards in the Colmar area. Grown in a light sandy soil, with good drainage, the vines are trained according to the Guyot method. Green harvesting takes place along with meticulous canopy management to ensure good light penetration and air flow. Rest of blend not specified by Dopff.

The grapes are gently crushed and pressing is limited to 100 litres of must per 150kg of grapes. The first fermentation is carried out in stainless steel and glass tanks, while the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, using the traditional Champagne method. The wine is aged for 18 months in bottle on its lees with automatic riddlings using gyropallets. This Crémant D'Alsace is mostly based on a single vintage, currently being 2012 crop.

Dry and elegant Crémant, showing hints of quince and white flowers, fine bubbles with good length and weight. Ideal as an apéritif or excellent white fish, sushi, oysters or fresh fruit.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 12.0%.

£17.05

Chambers Rosewood Rutherglen Muscat NV (1x37.5cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition's "Weekday Wines (25 under £25)" (see blue link below)...

Chambers Rosewood Rutherglen Muscat NV - August 2018 Decanter review

The 6th generation of the Chambers family to make wine in the Rosewood winery, Stephen, took over the winemaking in 2001. This venerable winery, started in 1858 by William Chambers, is one of the most fabled in Rutherglen. This charming, northeastern Victorian town, the sort of place that time forgot, still speaks of the gold rush that led to the town's foundation, and the development of the wine industry, in the 1850s. 

The vineyards are located on the fringes of the Rutherglen Township, slightly to the North West, where Chambers produce drier style Muscats which express rose petal characters. The vines are hand pruned to a rod and spur system which allows each vine to be viewed on an individual basis. The trellising system is a single wire with a sprawling canopy.

Harvest of the grapes for this wine commences once the fruit reaches a ripeness of 16 Baumé. At this stage the grapes will have some variation throughout the bunches, with some being plump, while others showing signs of grape shrivel. Once a parcel of grape is harvested, it is destemmed and the must placed into a closed stainless steel fermentation tank. The amount of fermentation is dependent upon the final baumé level of the parcel, and it occurs around 24 hours after harvest and a soak on skins. Once fermentation has commenced and the sugar level has fallen to between 14 and 15 baumé the grapes are pressed with the fermenting juice and fortified with neutral grape wine spirit (95.8 to 96.2%). The resultant wine is then settled in stainless steel tanks and then racked into old oak casks, which range in size between 220 to 5500 litres. The wines are kept as single vintage and vineyard parcels until blending.

100% Muscat à Petits Grains Rouge.

The Rutherglen Muscat is typically tawny red in colour with aromas of rose petals, raisins and dried fruit. These characters carry through to the palate, balanced with fresh acidity. The wine is unctuous and rich yet zesty and balanced.

ABV = 18.0%.

£12.10
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