Right. Here we are again. The December 2018 edition of Decanter (www.decanter.com) is out today (Friday, 2nd November). Yes, December. Which rather implies Christmas is soon. But let's leave that aside for now...
As ever, we're understandably keen to point out which of the edition's top wines we can supply, generally at the best prices available anywhere in the UK.
The full selection available from this month's edition appears at the foot of this page.
The magazine's main panel (and blind-tasted) review is of Value Champagne. Decanter define "value" as being up to £40 (we might argue that this stretches the definition of the term). It's 18 months since 'our' Pierre Bertrand Brut Premier Cru NV - at just £21.95 - scored rated as Exceptional and landed its mighty 98 points ... and it was not up on test this time.
This edition's review did not produce the stellar results of the summer 2017 one, showing one Outstanding (95 points and above) - albeit just 5p inside the 'value' threshold - and 11 Highly Recommendeds (90+). Of that latter category, only two are priced below £30.
We have four of the Highly Recommendeds, all worthy of attention from the Champagne fans among you and from a variety of producers - some from known, medium-sized houses (NMs, to use the local abbreviation) and some direct from growers (RMs).
We'll say it again - we strongly believe the Pierre Bertrand still to stand above these, hugely so when price is taken into account. Even though the reserve wines have moved on a year in the formulation/assemblage of the Bertrand (we spot a little more citrus and a little less peach compared with this time last year ... as too, we hear, do our customers who have now bought some 5,000 bottles of this), the attack, complexity, depth and finish of the Bertrand remain superb. It's just a shame it didn't come up for review this time.
We started this listing with quality sparkling, and we finish with it: this might well be the pick of the month's wines.
Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition review of Value Champagne (see blue link below).
Gobillard is located in the heart of Champagne just 5km from Epernay. The village of Hautvillers dominates the vineyard with its abbey, where the infamous Dom Pérignon is reported to have created the first champagne bubbles. Passion, dynamism and competence define this family business, from the work in the vineyard to marketing, each step is carried out with respect for the traditions of Champagne.
This Champagne is made up of 50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier. Around 30% of the wine used in the final blend is reserve wine that has been reincorporated during the assemblage to obtain the best quality and consistency each year. The Grand Reserve is made using grapes from Premiers Cru vineyards, mostly from Hautvillers, but also from Cumières and Dizy.
It has a powerful yet elegant nose, is round in the mouth, ample, silky, fruity and fine. This is a Champagne displaying harmony. It spent 3 years ageing in the cellar. Its aromas are redolent of citrus blossom, followed by a delicate and precise palate showing greengages and honey. The long finish is dominated by toasty brioche notes.
Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition review of Value Champagne (see blue link below).
If exceptional had a name, it would be Champagne Alfred Gratien. Alfred Gratien Champagnes are handcrafted for guaranteed quality and consistency. A few miles away from Epernay’s bustling town centre, deep in the heart of a Champagne vineyard, are the Alfred Gratien Champagne cellars. It was here, on Rue Maurice Cerveaux, that Alfred Gratien set up his business and created his first cuvées in 1864. For over a century and a half, Alfred Gratien Champagnes have remained a family affair perpetuated by the expertise and know-how of their founder. For four generations, the Epernay-based Jaeger family have been handing down the trade of cellar master from father to son, ensuring the Alfred Gratien style lives on.
The pale yellow hue of this wine’s colour is complemented by its lively effervescence. The bubbles are small and quick to rise to a fine mousse. The nose is moderately intense yet complex. The sweet pastry, biscuit and orchard fruit notes are followed and enhanced by hints of citrus, white flowers and fresh butter. The initial taste is clean: this is a very silky and sparkling wine whose sugar content works well with its body. There is a certain chalky minerality and the texture is smooth. It is characterful without being overbearing. The finish is crisp, with a slight mineral undertone, and long at 6 to 8 seconds. It leaves an excellently balanced acidic aftertaste, with a sugar component that is undeniably pleasing on the palate.
Pinot Noir 20%, Pinot Meunier 24%, Chardonnay 56%.
Dosage = 9g/litre.
Thi is an exemplary Brut Champagne, which places a great emphasis on the bubbles created in the wine. It has benefitted from its reserve wine content and its maturation in cellars. Superb complexity combines young aromas with notes gained through maturation in cellars.
Its balanced qualities mean it can be paired quite liberally. Avoid anything too salty, sugary, fatty or spicy, opting instead for balance. Ideal for your savoury or sweet-and-sour hors d’œuvre, and for apéritifs.
ABV = 12.5%.
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition review of Value Champagne (see blue link below).
Marc Hébrart and his wife started making Champagne in 1963, adding to the land little by little due to the high price of land in Champagne. In 1983, their son Jean-Paul started his own small production. In 1997, the parents and sons of Champagne Hebrart merged together, making Jean-Paul the director of the company. Their land now covers 15.5 hectares, over 68 plots spread across the two banks of the river Marne. On the right bank (Côtes des Blancs), Hébrart Grand Cru terroirs of Avize, Oiry and Chouilly are producing fine, ripe and mineral Chardonnays. On the left bank (Vallée de la Marne and Montagne de Reims), Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Bisseuil and Avenay-Val-d'Or are Premier Cru villages producing juicy and structured Pinot Noirs. This diversity and owned supply allows Jean-Paul to create very precise cuvées, controlling the grape quality from growing to winemaking. In the vineyard, natural methods are used rather than insecticides. In 2014 Hébrart was quoted as being among the 100 Best Wine Producers in the World by Wine & Spirits Magazine.
The Cuvée Selection is a selection that orignates from the best vineyards belonging to Hébrart and which have benefitted from age. The Chardonnay grapes come from the Grand Cru terroirs of Avize, Oiry and Chouilly, on the right bank, or Côtes des Blancs. These Hébrart plots produce fine, ripe and mineral juice. The Pinot Noir part of this blend comes from the left bank, in the Vallée de la Marne above Mareuil-sur-Ay. Here the old vines grow on steep south facing slopes and the resulting grapes are concentrated and rich, due to the old vines and the clay layers of the soil. Mareuil-sur-Ay is a Premier Cru village (scored 99% in the echelle des crus) and is considered to be one of the very finest of Champagne's Premier Cru villages. Marc Hébrart practices sustainable viticulture. He keeps chemical treatments to a strict minimum on the vines, which have an average age of 36 years.
Each parcel is gently pressed and vinified separately to preserve their individual characteristics. This wine is made from the coeur de cuvée, the heart of the freerun juice. Fermentation takes place in small tanks. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. Dégorgement is carried out approximately six months prior to release. Lees ageing is for a minimum of three years (and is typically four in practice) ie that seen by many vintage Champagnes.
Pinot Noir 70%, Chardonnay 30%.
Residual sugar = 7g/litre.
An elegant, precise and mineral Champagne; hints of pear and plum are underpinned by a salty backbone and a touch of jasmine on the finish.
ABV = 12.0%.
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition review of Value Champagne (see blue link below).
A founding member of Champagne’s prestigious Grandes Marques houses, Champagne Deutz of Aÿ, France, has been making distinctive champagnes marked by finesse, elegance and complexity since 1838. The house has upheld the traditions of fine Champagne making handed down through five generations.
Champagne Deutz owns 42 hectares of vineyards, which supply 20% of its grapes. The rest of the grapes are sourced from growers, many of whom have been working with Deutz for generations. Grapes are harvested from the Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs, and Vallée de la Marne, with over 80% of the grapes coming from vineyards that are rated Premier or Grand Cru. Harvest is usually around mid September and is done by hand, with pickers paid by the hour rather than the kilo, to ensure they do not compromise on the quality of the fruit that they harvest. Deutz farms all its vineyards according to the principals of la lutte raisonnée.
All the grapes in this blend were pressed and vinified at Deutz’s state of the art winery in Aÿ, with each individual parcel being vinified in its own separate tank. Using Coquard presses, only the free-run juice and first pressing was used for this wine. Following alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the vin clairs were tasted and blended in the Spring following the harvest, with the final assemblage happening in June. At Deutz anywhere between 25% and 40% of the blend will be reserve wines. The wine was then aged for a minimum of 3 years on the lees, and a further 6 months following disgorgement before release.
The Brut Classic represents the distinctive house style of elegance and finesse, which has made Deutz one of the most respected of all Champagne houses. The colour of the wine is an intense gold with fine effervescence that signifies long maturation on the lees. On the nose, the wine initially displays notes of hawthorn and white flowers, which are followed by aromas of toast, marzipan and ripe pears. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied and elegant with the freshness of Chardonnay and richness of Pinot Noir. Overall, the wine is well-rounded with a fruity finish. The Brut Classic is an ideal aperitif, served with simple canapés, smoked salmon, crab pâté or Sole a la Meunière.
ABV = 12.0%
Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition review of Value Champagne.
Devaux is a boutique Champagne brand located in Bar-sur-Seine in the southerly Aube region of Champagne, some 60km north of Burgundy. Thanks to this favourable southerly location, Devaux is a Pinot Noir and rosé specialist. The house was founded in 1846, and was family owned for generations. In 1987, in the absence of a family heir, ownership was passed to a united group of winegrower families, known today as the "Groupe Vinicole Champagne Devaux". Thanks to being owned by these growers, Devaux can boast total control over its grape supply which is a rarity in Champagne, a region where growers traditionally sell to the houses who control the brands.
Devaux are Pinot Noir specialists. The majority of their vineyards are located in the Aube where Pinot Noir is the dominant variety. This location, on the slopes of the Côte des Bars, is important; it gives this variety a lovely Pinot Noir richness on the nose and a long finish, yet retains the finesse. Some Chardonnay is included in the blend; this is also grown in the Côte des Bar, with a proportion from the fine chalky soils of the Côte des Blancs to give liveliness and elegance. The high quality of the fruit from these vineyards ensure that the final dosage is low.
The base wine was fermented in stainless steel, followed by malolactic fermentation to give extra suppleness. The blending of wines from different vineyards and from different harvests ensures the consistency of the NV Grande Reserve. The blend comprises 20% reserve wines, half of which are aged in French oak vats. Following bottling, the liqueur de tirage was added and the wine underwent a slow second fermentation in bottle and extended ageing on its lees for 36 months (the legal minimum is 15 months). This resulted in a wine with a finer, more persistent mousse and greater potential for complexity. After disgorgement, the wine received a light Brut dosage of 9g/l.
69% Pinot Noir, 31% Chardonnay.
The wine has a lovely Pinot Noir richness on the nose, with aromas of baked apples and vanilla. On the palate, it is full, rounded and well balanced, with a lively, persistent finish.
The 2013 vintage was Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 panel tasting of Languedoc's cru reds (see blue link below).
This proudly independent family estate owned estate which was bought by the Léonor family in 1956 is located in the renowned Cru La Livinière area of Minervois. Wines are made from blends of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan from the best and oldest plots of the estate. Great care is taken to hand harvest the grapes at optimum ripeness and to express the terroir of the area. The wines have been certified as organic since the 2011 vintage.
The vines are grown on a hillside vineyard which benefits from more than 300 days of sunshine per year. Grown in chalky and clay soils, the vines are over 40 years old and produce an average yield of 30 hectolitres per hectare. Debudding takes place in May and a green harvest in July in order to concentrate the flavours in the berries. The grapes are hand harvested in two tranches in September, when they have reached the optimal maturity and ripeness levels, from the best plots of the vineyard.
The grapes were carefully hand harvested, with only the grapes that had reached optimal maturity and from the best plots of the vineyard, being chosen. The wines were traditionally vinified. The Syrah component of the blend was aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels, of which 50 % were new barrels and 25% were second fill. The Grenache was aged in stainless steel tanks, to retain the fruity flavours, prior to the final blend.
Syrah 75%, Grenache 25%.
A rich, full bodied red wine with aromas of dark fruit with spice complemented by elegant oak flavours through to a fine, smooth finish. Great with leg of lamb or a ribeye steak.
ABV = 14.5%.
The 2013 vintage was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition article, Big & Beautiful (reds), by Andrew Jefford;(see blue link below).
"A legend dressed in black" is how Torres themselves describe their flagship Mas La Plana wine.
The first vintage of this wine dates back to 1970. In this small (29 ha.) vineyard only the most select Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown. These are used to make strictly limited quantities of Torres’ most prestigious red wine, now known to connoisseurs all over the world. In the Paris Wine Olympiad, the 1970 vintage triumphed over some of the most famous wines in the world, including some of the best from Bordeaux. This success has since been repeated on several other occasions.
D.O. Penedès has been associated for decades with innovative vineyards and wineries. Ever since it became the first area in Spain to use stainless steel and cold fermentation equipment, the vine growers of the Penedès have been making excellent modern wines from a mix of native and French grape varieties. This has been possible because of the variety of altitudes, lands and micro-climates found in the Penedès which foster the ideal growth of the different grape types.
The Mas La Plana is fermented in stainless steel under controlled temperatures of between 25-28°C for 7 days. It is then aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, 85% of which are new.
It is is made using Cabernet Sauvignon, a red grape that is native to Bordeaux, known for its dense tannins, deep colour, fruity aromas and elegant structure.
This wine's noble and healthy tannins will complement the best meat and game dishes.
Featured in an article by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition, 10 Wines to Try Before You Die (see blue link below).
Stephen Pannell is one of the best and brightest of the new generation of Australian winemakers, having spent a decade working as chief red wine maker at Hardys before striking out on his own in 2004. Steve has worked all over the world, including in Italy with Aldo Vajra in Barolo and in France for Domaine Dujac and Pousse d'Or. His broad experience has helped shape his approach to winemaking and his wines are true expressions of the grapes and vineyards of McLaren Vale. In October 2015, Steve was named Winemaker of the Year by the consumer wine magazine, Gourmet Traveller Wine.
Steve’s interest in Grenache stretches back to the mid 90s upon first arriving in McLaren Vale. A preference for making medium-bodied wines is where his Grenache love affair began. Given the warm, Mediterranean climate, Grenache grows as well in ‘the Vale’ as any of the more revered Grenache regions including France’s Rhône Valley, Priorat in Spain and Italy’s Sardinia. The Grenache grapes for this wine grow on the 75 year old vines from the Old McDonald vineyard in Blewitt Springs. It is unusual to find 100% Grenache wines, as most of the time it is blended. In Steve’s words the 2017 Old McDonald Grenache is “quite possibly the best Grenache I have ever made”.
The 2017 vintage was very cool and mild, which was ideal for the vines. Good winter and spring rains were followed by a very mild, long summer. The results are wines with ample fruit complexity and great natural acidity.
The Grenache grapes were hand harvested on 4th March, which is early for Grenache. The grapes were traditionally vinified in small open-top fermenters with 20% whole bunch. The wine spent 11 days on skins before gentle pressing. It was transferred to a 4,500 litre, eight-year-old French-oak vat for maturation before being bottled without filtration nine months later.
Even though 2017 was a cool year, this Grenache is highly perfumed with an assortment of aromas and flavours including raspberry leaf, pomegranate, Turkish Delight, blood orange and violets. It is succulent, juicy, elegant and light to medium bodied. On the palate, the sandy tannins, that are typical to this varietal, are well integrated and provide a balanced, long finish.
ABV = 14.5%.
Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition vintage report of 2016 Port (see blue link below).
Subject to a 18.5/20 review by Richard Hemming in Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages on the 24th May 2018 (click blue link below).
See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves on both the vintage and the Port/wine itself.
Opaque with an almost black colour the wine has intense, complex aroma. Ripe black fruit, cocoa and chocolate flavours continue on to the palate where some floral notes of rockrose are also apparent in a long, lingering finish. Firm tannins,full-bodied and with fresh acidity it has structure that will allow the wine to age comfortably for decades.
The 2014 vintage was awarded a Platinum medal and 97 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).
2014 vintage was also awarded (under its former name) 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition feature on Quality Cava (see blue link below).
The family-based Pere Ventura Family Wine Estates produces and markets its own wines and cavas (sparkling wines), which are known worldwide for their great quality and prestige. The company works hard every day to guarantee excellence both in the winery and in its wines. The company’s maxim is to remain true to its principles, to its sales commitments and to fulfill all the duties and business challenges the twenty-first century throws at it.
60% Xarel-lo, 40% Chardonnay.
For this wine, see blue link below for the excellent fiche technique / technical and tasting note from the winemakers at Pere Ventura.
ABV = 12.0%.
NB: giftbox shown on the data sheet not available!
The 2016 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 edition sponsored guide of Rosso di Montalcino (see blue link below).
The winery was established in 1980, when Pierluigi Talenti decided to buy the fascinating property and grounds with which he had fallen in love in the fifties, when he had decided to leave the mountains of his native Romagna for the sweet and sunny hills of Montalcino. The Talenti estate is located south of Montalcino, close to the small medieval village of San Angelo in Colle. Ricardo Talenti has overseen plenty of improvements in both the vineyards and cellar since taking over from grandfather Pierluigi.
The Talenti vineyards are situated in the southern hills of Montalcino (220-400m above sea level).
This wine is made in a hands-off, traditional style. Temperature controlled maceration and alcoholic fermentation take place for 20-25 days in stainless steel tanks (24-26°C). After an ageing period of 8 months partially in French oak tonneau and Slavonian oak barrels, the wine spends an additional 4 months in bottle before release.
The Talenti Rosso di Montalcino is ruby red and intense in colour with a violet shimmer. It is medium-bodied with crisp red and black cherry fruit, savoury earthy notes and a sprinkling of spice. The tannins are ripe and firm with fresh acidity.
ABV = 14.5%.
The 2015 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2018 feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below)....
... and was also awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Category (Best Chilean Red Bordeaux Varietals) at the Decanter World Wine Awards (www.decanter.com): see their August 2017 DWWA supplement (see blue link below).
See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from that vintage (2016 sheet expected soon) from the winemakers themselves.
Perez Cruz is a family owned boutique winery located in the Alto Maipo. Their estate covers 250 hectres 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. From the first vintage in 2002, President 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 Liguai Estate is located in the Maipo Andes sub-region and is nestled against the mountain foothills at between 1450 and 1700 feet elevation. Trained on Double Guyot systems with drip irrigation, the vines yield 3.12 tonnes per acre. The rocky soils are of both alluvial and colluvial origins. The cooling influences of the mountain air, along with the Pacific Ocean breezes ensure a long ripening season. Harvested by hand, the grapes are picked once they have reached the perfect ripeness of tannins and flavours.
The grapes were carefully selected. Each block was fermented individually so it could reveal its unique characteristics of every corner of the vineyard. The grapes were gently crushed and macerated at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The skins were pumped over the must during fermentation extracting colour, flavours and fine tannins providing structure in the final wine. The wine was then macerated for a period of 24 days. Ageing took place in American and French oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months.
Cabernet Sauvignon 91%, Syrah 4%, Carmenère 3%, Petit Verdot 2%.
Intense blackcurrant and eucalyptus scents on the nose are echoed on the palate, combined with rich jammy fruits, velvety smooth tannins and a long, intense finish.
ABV = 13.5%.