Well, look at that. It might still be 2018, but the <choose own indicative term of suprise> February 2019 edition of Decanter (www.decanter.com) is on doormats across the UK and beyond.
It's a busy issue for us. We've some 35 wines listed through its pages, much driven by one particular red wine article (see below) and the big Italy supplement that accompanies each year's February edition.
The wines featured this month - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. For our full compendium of over 400 Decanter-rated wines from the last two years, please click here.
The two, blind-tasted panel reviews this month are Californian Cabernet Sauvignon (2010 vintage) and Western Australian Chardonnay.
We have the utmost respect for the former, but we'd be the first to admit to this not being 'our' category. Many of the bottles in the review comfortably clear three figures and few leave much change from £50. Whilst we have a few NapaCabs and Cabs from across California (Paso Robles, Sonoma Carneros), we tend not to hold or take older vintages. It's just not our price-point, put frankly.
New World (and here, we're almost exclusively talking Margaret River) Chardonnay, on the other hand, has been a strong and popular category. Even here, we must start with an apology: we were scheduled to have one of the three Exceptionals (the Deep Woods), only for the producer and importer to change their allocations after the magazine had gone to press. Honestly, we really do try to keep those super-high-fliers coming to you...
Let this not deter you. Rated at 93 points - and inside the top dozen wines - we offer the excellent Hamelin Bay Five Ashes Vineyard 2014 made doubly attractive by a £18.75 price tag, some way below the average price of the top wines in this review (being from a region which tends to see some quite boutique price tags). On 90 points, we offer the sumptuous 2016 from Marchand & Burch, plus also Recommended wines from Larry Cherubino and Howard Park.
For the second consecutive month, it's one of the magazines major articles - again by Andy Howard MW and featuring some big scores - that most excites us. We probably feel that an article on Claret Alternatives might most gainfully have been targeted at Christmas, but it is welcome nonetheless. Here, it's more a question of which of the top-rated wines (93-96 points) we don't feature than those we do... after all, we offer 11 of the top 18 (it was higher still until a last-minute, post-Xmas, out-of-stock-at-the-importer situation materialised)!
Here, we see:
- some of our favourite wines and producers, many of which we've raved about for a while (it's a great relief when Decanter rave about them, too; you, Dear Customer, take them so much more seriously than you take us...);
- wines from every corner of the New World, interspersed by a few from the Old (Italy, Lebanon);
- wines that are – mainly (and obviously) - some variation on the theme of on the Bordeaux blend, mainly focusing on Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc. There are 100% versions of these varieties, plus wines that are pure Sangiovese and Carmenère for full diversity; and
- aside from the priciest two (and, it must be said, the highest scorers) - from Craggy Range (Sophia 2015) and Cullen (Diana Madeline 2013) - the wines vary from ~£14 to ~£29 and average £21, all very reasonable (when you consider these are alternatives to Bordeaux).
In summary, and assuming you’re a red drinker and (within that) not a Pinot Noir die-hard (we see a few), we defy you not to find something pretty special in amongst these.
In the main magazine, another Craggy Range wine, plus one from Trinity Hill – both are Gimblett Gravels Syrahs - land 93 points apiece in a(n unusual) feature on 'Pepper In Wine'. And one of our biggest-sellers of 2018 – the chunky Tikves Barovo 2015 – repeats its 97-point score from its Platinum Award in the 2018 DWWAs.
In the Italy supplement, we’re loaded with big scorers from Sicily (especially from Planeta (both the Santa Cecilia and Etna Bianco) and Donnafugata, but from across all regions, including such stellar (and hard-to-obtain) names as GD Vajra, Vietti and Isole e Olena.
Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Western Australian Chardonnay panel tasting; (see blue link below).
The Hamelin Bay winery is located at Karridale in the southern point of the region within a few miles of the ocean. The 63 acre `Five Ashes Vineyard` is located on well drained gravel soils and faces north across the valley to gain the sun`s warmth in this cool region. The wines themselves are an expression of the natural beauty and uniqueness of the area, the fruit ripens with an intensity of flavour and richness of character. Owned by the Drake-Brockman family, who have a long association with the area, they have in recent years, achieved great recognition and awards for their range of outstanding wines.
This wine undergoes a barrel fermentation before being matured with fortnightly battonage for 9 months in new and one year old French oak barriques.
This cool climate Chardonnay has aromas of peach, pear and dried banana preceding a lovely toasty and complex palate. It is a full flavoured creamy Chardonnay created to be similar to a Burgundian wine. Fermented and aged on its lees, the stone fruit and toasted palate is balanced with crisp citrus acidity, integrated oak created a luxurious mouthfeel which leads onto a butterscotch finish. Enjoy with spicy Asian dishes, scallops or lobster thermidor and chicken chasseur.
** These are the last few bottles of the Decanter-recommended 2015 vintage. The 2016 is available and, in our view, is quite excellent. **
Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article (see blue link below). The 2015 is no longer available at the UK importer (we have a few bottles remaining); we highly recommend this equally excellent 2016 vintage.
The Landscape Series of wines is an authentic representation of Gabrielskloof's top vineyards, as well as a few old vine treasures. They wanted the labels to reflect this and decided to commission local artist and friend Niël Jonker to capture the spirit of the Overberg landscapes.
The 2015 vintage led to early proclamations that it is a Cape classic, and the wines are certainly backing this up. In his fourth annual guide to South African wines, award-winning wine writer and Master of Wine Tim Atkin says the 2015 is “the best I’ve tasted in 26 years...” A wet 2014 provided ample reserves for the vines to develop happily through the warm and dry summer leading to early, but full ripeness and beautifully balanced wines.
The fruit for this wine comes from a single vineyard, mountainside site on the Gabriëlskloof property. The soil is a combination of Overberg Shale and Table Mountain Sandstone, with this complexity transferred into the wine through a lovely mix of fruit and spice. The vineyard is 15 years old, and this maturity shows in the depth and character of the wine.
100% Cabernet Franc.
The fruit was hand-picked into small crates and transferred directly into their cool room where it remained overnight. 90% of the crop was destemmed with the remaining 10% left as whole clusters. The wine was fermented wild and aged in 500-litre barrels for 18 months, 30% of which were new; all were French oak.
The wine is unmistakably Cabernet Franc, with notes of tobacco leaf, bell pepper and plum leading into an elegant, refined palate with fine tannins and just enough grip to balance the concentrated red fruit.
Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below).
The Capezzana estate, 24 kilometres north west of Florence, is owned by the Contini Bonacossi family. The younger generation is now firmly in charge of the estate's 100 hectares of vineyard, with daughter Benedetta Contini Bonacossi as winemaker and Francesco Bernabei as consultant winemaker. The wines and the olive oil have an elegance which marks this estate out from the crowd.
Grapes are grown on the estate's 104 hectares of vineyard which have been converted to organic production. Vines are situated at approximately 150-200 metres above sea level, facing south, south-east and south-west. Soils are schistous clay with limestone.
Lower temperatures in April 2015 delayed budding by about 10 days. A warm spring was followed by a hot summer with little rain. Luckily the month of September was perfect with the right amount of rain and the right atmospheric humidity. This largely contributed to an extremely healthy crop with excellent maturation throughout.
75% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Cabernet Franc.
Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks for 25 days at temperatures between 18-25°C. At the end of the alcoholic fermentation the wine was put in French oak for the malolactic fermentation and then aged in 3.5 hectolitre tonneaux for 12 months, followed by 12 months in bottle before release.
Ruby red in colour with a restrained, elegant nose. Perfumes of dark cherry and liquorice give way to spice and plums on the palate. Rounded tannins from the Sangiovese are lifted by the cassis concentration of the Cabernet and melt into a long, perfumed finish.
Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below).
Kilikanoon was founded in 1997 when winemaker and proprietor Kevin Mitchell purchased the property of the same name in the hamlet of Penwortham in South Australia's picturesque Clare Valley. Hailing from a long line of wine grape growers, Kevin now had the opportunity to turn the vision of creating his own wine brand into a reality.
Kevin's father Mort Mitchell has been a defining influence, planting and tending to Kilikanoon's Golden Hillside suite of vineyards including the famed Mort's Block, for over 40 years. Kevin's fascination with terroir is a result of years spent playing and eventually working in these vineyards alongside his father. The first Kilikanoon-branded wines from the 1997 vintage were four single vineyard wines, each from Kevin and Mort's vineyards. These were the 'Oracle' Shiraz, 'Prodigal' Grenache, 'Blocks Road' Cabernet and 'Mort's Block' Watervale Riesling.
100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
To see our supplier's fiche technique / information sheet on this wine, please click on the blue link below.