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Decanter Feb

New Year, New Decanter.

In which are featured some exciting new wines, to us (certainly) and hopefully also to you. It's a month for the Pinot-head, for sure, as the cover is quick to point out...

The wines featured this month in Decanter - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. The reviews for each wine  appear on each product page.

The two panel reviews this month are certainly in at the quality end.

One is of a review of 2010 top-end Northern Rhône reds: that's Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Cornas.

A personal note here: these retrospectives of 2010 have been, at one and the same time, both fascinating and deeply frustrating. Keen readers of Decanter (and this blog) may recall that this tasting time travel has, in the last 12 months, been performed for all of Chianti Classico, RiojaLeft Bank Bordeaux and Californian Cabernet. Fascinating, it is, to see how these fine categories have aged and developed over the decade from such a fine vintage; high scores there are a-plenty. Which is great if you already own these wines. It's deeply frustrating that, in this particular review, none of the top-scorers actually seem to be available: we went hard after those that might be and were at all affordable (mainly the Cornas), only to find that stocks were long since depleted in France. Decanter do, we realise, list suppliers, but these suppliers are those for the more recent/current vintages. If you're looking for these 2010 wines - genuinely - good luck to you. (And if you find any, do let me know, as I'd like some...)

The other panel review is altogether more current-day. It's of New World, single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. Die-hard Burgundy fans may roll their eyeballs at this point, but there are some fine, fine wines here, principally from New Zealand (very principally Martinborough and Central Otago), Chile (especially Leyda), South Africa (the Hemel-en-Ardes) and - to a lesser extent - Oregon, Australia (Victoria and Tasmania) and California. The single-vineyard aspect is interesting. It does, of course, seek to replicate/reflect a structure similar to that of the Burgundian climat and lieu-dit, very much bringing the much-talked-of sense of place/terroir into the equation. As Decanter point out, though, what constitutes a single vineyard can be as long as a piece of string and perhaps the more important aspect here is that the term single-vineyard is largely a synonym for flagship or top-of-range.

What emerges? One Exceptional (98+ points), 6 Outstandings (95+) and 43 Highly Recommendeds (90+). We can offer a handful of these, or close vintage fits to them.

The Exceptional is no surprise, AND IS ALAS SOLD OUT, being Crystallum's Cuvée Cinema 2018 from SA's Hemel-en-Arde valley: this boutique producer have been producing some super-fine Pinots for a decade. Thing is, they're very, very hard to source. We have just a very few bottles to offer, and only one per (very) lucky customer. We see competitors offering this wine in Decanter, but a bit of chasing shows just a handful of bottles actually available for retail, with Crystallum's sole importer directing almost all supply to top-end restaurants (no slight is intended; this is often just how it is with such scarce wines).

We do marginally better with the Outstandings. Two of our favourite, top-end New World producers account for two of them. Alas, Tolpuddle's 2018 from Tasmania is, for now, also all restaurant-bound, and the 96-point, 2017 vintage of Craggy Range's Te Muna Road is not due into the UK for 9 months(+) to ensure the 2016 sells through first (annoying, we know). Believe me, we wanted this one here. Do note, though, that the 2016 is quite excellent, landing, as it did, a Gold medal at DWWA19 and very high praise; how it might have fared in this review we cannot tell as the stipulation of the panel was latest release.

Prime value/best priced among the Outstandings - albeit still £30+ - is the 95-point Schubert Block B 2016 from NZ's Martinborough. Now this, we have in good quantity and it is indeed glorious, rich, concentrated, complex (ie really quite savoury and gamey) and persistent. "A stunning wine" said one panel reviewer. Yup, what he said.

Schubert

Block B Pinot Noir

Wairarapa, 2016

£34.60

If you're really seeking something at less than £20 - and many are - you have to drop to the Highly Recommendeds. From Chile, Viña Leyda's Las Brisas 2018 (92 points) at ~£15 has just arrived in the UK, while Montes' Outer Limits 2017 (also 92 points) - "delicious, classy Pinot" - at £20.20 is a very fine contender.

See also, from NZ, from Marlborough and Otago respectively, Saint Clair's Pioneer Block 14 Doctor's Creek 2017 (92 points, £18.35, "lovely balance of fruit"and the DWWA Gold Wild Earth 2016 (92 points, £21.20, "silky on the palate").

One further addition from us: some may recall the Chilean Pinot review-topper from October - the single-vineyard, Viña Tabali Talinay 2015 - that landed 95 points. We adore this, especially at £17.95. We thought it was all gone in Chile; turns out it isn’t. It didn't get submitted for this New World panel (we surmise owing to the 2015 vintage being almost depleted and the new vintage being not yet on release). We certainly believe it would have fared very well. And we have secured new supplies, now on sale.

Viña Tabali

Talinay Vineyard Pinot Noir

Limari Valley, 2015

£17.95

_

Beyond Pinot Noir, Tandem (of Navarra) produce a great 100% Garnacha at a superb price and it's duly recognised in Weekday Wines.

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Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2016 (1x75cl)

** FOR THOSE SEEKING THE 2017 VERSION OF THIS WINE (THAT FARED WELL IN THE FEBRUARY EDITION OF DECANTER), WE HAVE LEARNED THAT CRAGGY RANGE ARE NOW NOT RELEASING THIS WINE IN THE UK UNTIL LATE 2020. LIKE YOU, WE'RE PRETTY DISAPPOINTED.

The forthcoming (not on release in the UK yet) 2017 vintage was awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their February 2020 edition panel tasting of New World, single-vineyard Pinot Noir (see blue link below).

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2017 - February 2020 Decanter review

THAT SAID, THIS, THE 2016, AS ATTESTED TO HERE - AND FULLY AVAILABLE - IS RATHER FINE. **

Awarded a Gold medal and 95 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Craggy Range.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2016 - fiche technique

The grapes for this wine are picked by hand.  The wine is fermented in a combination of stainless steel vats and oak, then is matured for 10 months prior to bottling.

Matt Stafford, the chief winemaker at Craggy range describes the Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir as "a dark and brooding Pinot Noir, grown at our secret place in Martinborough, with a wonderful depth and beauty."

100% Pinot Noir.

The wine has a bright red cherry colour with a crimson hue. Seductive aromas of dark cherry, dried rose petals, thyme and damp earth. Beautifully varietal, elegant and long on the palate. Medium weight red fruit richness and fine-grained tannins are drawn out long across the palate by acidity to create a finish which is savoury and dry.

This wine matches perfectly with duck dishes. It can be cellared for 5-7 years from vintage but only if you can resist opening it before then!

ABV = 14.0%.

£28.10

Schubert Block B Pinot Noir 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their February 2020 edition panel tasting of New World, single-vineyard Pinot Noir (see blue link below).

Schubert Block B Pinot Noir 2016 - February 2020 Decanter review

Schubert Wines was established by Kai Schubert, a graduate from the Viticulture and Oenology University in Geisenheim, Germany. Working with eminent winemaker Erni Loosen of Bernkastel, Kai gained huge experience working in Europe, the US and South America. In 1998, he acquired a small, established vineyard at Dakins Road, Martinborough. 

Schubert’s philosophy is to craft wines of uncompromising quality that would stand out alongside the finest in the world. Fourteen hectares of vines are closely planted in the traditional, European style and the unique cool climate and long dry autumns help to produce low yields.

Predominantly focused on Pinot Noir, Schubert has expanded plantings to include Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. Small quantities of white grapes are also planted, including Sauvignon Blanc and Müller-Thurgau used to add aromas to the Tribianco blend and a classic late harvest wine. The estate concentrates on ecologically and environmentally friendly organic viticulture. Respect for the terroir results in wines of outstanding character, complexity, balance and grace.

Located within the Wairarapa Valley of Martinborough, the region is cooler and drier than any other on the North Island, and like Marlborough across the Cook Strait, it is exposed to cold winds that funnel in from the southern ocean. 

For this wine, see the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Block B Schubert Pinot Noir 2016 - fiche technique

100% Pinot Noir.

Fruit aromas of blackcurrant, dark cherries and plums are unfolding from the glass, combined with hints of dried herbs. Marvellously complex and seductive with a beautiful, smooth texture but firm structure with very ripe fruit, minerals, subtle leafiness and rosewood. The supporting role of the oak intensifies the underlying dark chocolate and toasty characters.

ABV = 14.5%.

£34.60

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctors Creek Pinot Noir 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2020 edition panel tasting of New World, single-vineyard Pinot Noir (see blue link below).

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctors Creek Pinot Noir 2017 - February 2020 Decanter review

Neal and Judy Ibbotson were pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry, first planting vineyards in the valley in 1978 and then establishing Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. They own 160 hectares of vineyard in 10 different Marlborough locations chosen specifically for the attributes of their individual "terroir" and ability to produce top quality grapes. Neal Ibbotson combines his extensive expertise in viticulture with the talent of one of New Zealand's leading winemaking teams led by Hamish Clark. Since 1994, when wines from the first vintage all won medals including gold, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality and its award-winning record continues today. This is a sentiment shared by Bob Campbell MW, who says “Saint Clair now makes the country’s and perhaps the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc”.

The grapes are selected from the single vineyard "Doctor's Creek" block, named after the small stream which runs through the centre. Situated south-west of Blenheim. The soils are made up of clay and are rich, vigour moderating soils.

2017 wines are looking very good, despite Saint Clair navigating challenging weather conditions during véraison and the harvest period. Flavours came into the fruit early and although the wines are a little lighter in alcohol, they are still appreciably full flavoured. 2017 was a good year for the early ripening varieties; Pinot Noir had beautiful small bunches and berries of very good quality and Chardonnay also stands out with full flavours.

The fruit was harvested when it had reached full physiological ripeness and maximum flavour maturity. At the winery the fruit was cold macerated for five days. Cultured yeasts were used to ferment the wine and during fermentation, the must was hand plunged up to six times daily. Once dry, each batch was pressed to tank and then racked off gross lees to a mix of new and used French oak. The wine then underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 10 months in barrel before being carefully prepared for bottling.

100% Pinot Noir.

A rounded luscious Pinot Noir with a soft full palate and well balanced acidity. Good length of fruit with flavours dominated by redcurrant and cherries, complemented by hints of plums. Oak ageing has lent warm savoury notes to the palate.

This Pioneer Block Pinot Noir is perfectly matched with spring lamb, sweet potatoes and roast vegetables.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians.

ABV = 13.5%.

£18.35

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctors Creek Pinot Noir 2018 (1x75cl)

2017 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2020 edition panel tasting of New World, single-vineyard Pinot Noir (see blue link below).

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctors Creek Pinot Noir 2017 - February 2020 Decanter review

Neal and Judy Ibbotson were pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry, first planting vineyards in the valley in 1978 and then establishing Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. They own 160 hectares of vineyard in 10 different Marlborough locations chosen specifically for the attributes of their individual "terroir" and ability to produce top quality grapes. Neal Ibbotson combines his extensive expertise in viticulture with the talent of one of New Zealand's leading winemaking teams led by Hamish Clark. Since 1994, when wines from the first vintage all won medals including gold, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality and its award-winning record continues today. This is a sentiment shared by Bob Campbell MW, who says “Saint Clair now makes the country’s and perhaps the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc”.

The grapes are selected from the single vineyard "Doctor's Creek" block, named after the small stream which runs through the centre. Situated south-west of Blenheim. The soils are made up of clay and are rich, vigour moderating soils.

Flowering conditions in December were perfect, followed by the hottest temperatures Marlborough has experienced in January. February produced a month of rainfall. Despite these challenging weather conditions, the fruit ripened well - 10 days earlier than usual. Effective methods of canopy management and cropping levels; and extended dry periods in March kept the vines healthy. Lower yields produced ripe and intensely flavoured fruit in 2018.

The fruit was harvested when it had reached full physiological ripeness and maximum flavour maturity. At the winery the fruit was cold macerated for five days. Cultured yeasts were used to ferment the wine and during fermentation, the must was hand plunged up to six times daily. Once dry, each batch was pressed to tank and then racked off gross lees to a mix of new and used French oak. The wine then underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 10 months in barrel before being carefully prepared for bottling.

100% Pinot Noir.

A rounded luscious Pinot Noir with a soft full palate and well balanced acidity. Good length of fruit with flavours dominated by redcurrant and cherries, complemented by hints of plums. Oak ageing has lent warm savoury notes to the palate.

This Pioneer Block Pinot Noir is perfectly matched with spring lamb, sweet potatoes and roast vegetables.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians.

ABV = 13.5%.

£18.35

Wild Earth Pinot Noir 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2020 edition panel tasting of New World, single-vineyard Pinot Noir (see blue link below).

Wild Earth Pinot Noir 2016 - February 2020 Decanter review

The 2016 vintage was also awarded a Gold medal and 95 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details)

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Other awards and reviews

Platinum BEST IN SHOW, 97 points, Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2018
Gold - Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2019
Gold - Sydney International Wine Competition, Nov 2018
Silver - International Wine and Spirit Competition, UK, 2018
Silver - International Wine Challenge, London UK, 2019
5 Stars, Winestate’s May June 2019 
5 Stars, 18.5-/20 - Raymond Chan Wine Reviews, Nov 2018
5 Stars, 95 points - Sam Kim, Wine Orbit, Nov 2018
4.5 Stars, 94 points - Bob Campbell MW, Aug 2018
4 Stars - Wine NZ Magazine March 2019

Wild Earth founder Quintin Quider is an expatriate Californian who has spent many years living on the South Island. He has gathered a small, dedicated team to produce his Wild Earth range in Central Otago. Established in 1998, Wild Earth Wines owns 35 hectares of vineyards in two of the region's finest locations - at the end of Felton Road overlooking the Kawarau River and in the North Lowburn district beneath the imposing Pisa Range.

The grapes for this wine come from the 'Terraces' vineyard in Felton Road, Bannockburn. It is planted with predominantly Dijon clones (777,115 ,114 and 667).

A cooler growing season with more spring frosts than normal meant the vines produced lower crop levels and smaller bunches. These cool conditions and the relatively dry harvest period ensured the grapes were kept disease free and ripened evenly with highly concentrated flavours and good acidity.

The grapes were hand harvested at optimal ripeness throughout April. Seven separate ferments went into the blend, which used on average 25% whole clusters. The total time on skins was between three and four weeks to boost the tannic structure and aromatics of the wine. Maturation took place in fine grained French oak barriques (27% new, 33% year old and the remainder between two and five years old), for approximately 12 months.

100% Pinot Noir.

This wine is deep garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, blackberry, cedar, wild thyme, mushroom and an underlying earthiness. The palate is rich in texture and complemented by red and black berry, wild herb and earthy flavours. This Pinot Noir is well structured with silky tannins and enticing layers of fruit.

ABV = 14.0%.

£21.75
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