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.
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%.
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%.