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Decanter Feb 2019

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.

For the wines in the previous month's edition (January 2019), 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...);

- including (the links are to the featured wines themselves) Gabriëlskloof, Giant Steps, Chateau Musar, Kilikanoon, Klein Constantia (the Anwilka)Capezzana, Chateau KsaraChateau Ste Michelle and El Esteco;

- 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.

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Cullen Diana Madeline 2013 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below)

Cullen, Diana Madeline 2013 - February 2019 Decanter review

This wine was also awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in an online article "Part of Australia's finest: Langton's top 40 (www.decanter.com)  (see blue link below).

Cullen Diana Madeline 2013 - Decanter review

Cullen Wines is a certified biodynamic, carbon neutral and naturally powered estate, with their philosophy summed up in three simple words; ‘Quality, Integrity and Sustainability’. It is one of the oldest and most awarded family wineries in Wilyabrup, in Western Australia’s famous Margaret River region. First established in 1971 by Dr Kevin and Diana Cullen and now run by their daughter Vanya, the winery has built an outstanding reputation for fine certified biodynamic wines that receive critical national and international acclaim. All wines produced are sourced from grapes grown on the Cullen and adjoining Mangan Estates. Both are certified biodynamic, to allow the soil to be nurtured and the wines to reflect their sense of place.

The soils at Cullen are old granite and gravelly sandy loam, overlaying lateric subsoils. The fruit is all taken from the Cullen Vineyard, The Cabernet Sauvignon comprises 11.33 hectares and was planted in 1971. The Merlot was planted in 1976 and covers 1.76 hectares. Vanya feels that her conversion to biodynamic viticulture has given her better fruit, the character of which she has preserved during the winemaking process. She is determined to ensure that these characters are retained in the bottle, and feels that this is best done by using a Stelvin closure.

Yields were down in 2013 due to hail and storms at flowering. However, although the weather leading up to and including vintage was warm, the fruit produced by all varieties in 2013 was exceptional. Low yields of 4 tons per hectare produced great concentration of flavour. Indeed, the quality of the harvest was even better than 2012, which was widely regarded as exceptional. Harvest took place on 20th February and 7th March, around the new moon and on flower days, rather than the full moon and on fruit days as in previous vintages. The only problem in 2013 was the shortage of the sensational fruit that was produced.

73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc.

The grapes were grown biodynamically and hand harvested. The fruit was carefully sorted before natural primary and malolactic fermentation. The two varieties were vinified separately. Primary fermentation took an average of 35 days, wtih the average skin contact lasting for 49 days. The wine was then aged for 17 months in French oak barriques, 60% of which were new. No acid or yeast were added, producing a wine which has a great sense of place.

Low yields have produced a concentrated wine bright in colour, pure in fruit flavour concentration with the classic Wilyabrup cassis, violets, chocolate and ironstone. Complex aromas of well ripened dark fruits with nuances of blackcurrants, plums and mulberries dominate the nose. A fruit driven palate of blackcurrant and mulberry fruits finishes with fine grained tannins. Subtle layers of complexity arise from fruit that was harvested at the pinnacle of ripeness.

£87.95

Chateau Musar Red 2011 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below)

Chateau Musar 2011 - February 2019 Decanter review

The wines of Chateau Musar are unique expressions from a country with an ancient wine-making culture, as vines have been cultivated in Lebanon's high altitude Bekaa Valley for over 6000 years. In 1930, at just 20 years old, Gaston Hochar founded Chateau Musar, inspired by Lebanon’s winemaking tradition and his travels in Bordeaux. 

Seven years in the making, Chateau Musar Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault (see fiche technique below for greater detail) from vineyards near the Bekaa Valley villages of Aana and Kefraya on gravelly soils over limestone. Planted from the 1930s onwards, yields are low from these mature bushvines (average age: 40 years).

To see Chateau Musar's excellent tasting note and information on this wine, please click the blue link below.

Château Musar 2011 - fiche technique

£29.50

Chateau Ksara Rouge 2015 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below)

Chateau Ksara 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

Château Ksara is Lebanon's oldest winery. Its traditions can be traced back to 1857 when a group of Jesuit monks acquired the property. The Jesuits applied their knowledge of science and agriculture to plant French vines as well as developing two kilometres of Roman caves that proved ideal for the storage of wine. The Jesuits sold the winery to its current owners in 1973. Ksara is now the most modern winery in the region as well as the largest producer in the country. Their annual production is over 2.8 million bottles and they sell their wines in more than 40 countries worldwide. Château Ksara is certified ISO 9001 and ISO 2200.00 for its viticulture, production and sales guaranteeing quality and consistency year on year.

2015 was an exceptional vintage with pronounced temperature variations between the day and night which resulted in a long ripening period. The grapes reached excellent maturity levels, but retained refreshing acidity, resulting in balanced wines which express superb varietal characteristics.

Ksara's vineyards are located in the central and western Bekaa Valley at an average altitude of 1,000 metres. The Bekaa enjoys dry summers and has the advantage of its own natural water table, courtesy of the melting snow that runs off the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges; therefore no irrigation is needed in the vineyards. The slopes on either side of the valley and the valley itself create a unique microclimate in which the cool nights compensate for the hot summer days. The soils are stony with chalk, clay or limestone based. Vines are either double Guyot or cordon trained and their grapes can be considered to be grown organically because of the very limited used of sulphur-based pesticides. Harvesting is manual and the standard yield of the vineyards is between 40 and 45 hectolitres per hectare.

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot.

The grapes were destemmed and each varietal was fermented separately at controlled temperatures of 28 to 30°C. The wines were left to rest for 14 to 20 days before malolactic fermentation took place. The free run and press wine from each variety were kept in separate vats before being racked off the lees and transferred to new oak casks for approximately 12 months. The wines were racked and tasted before blending, fining and bottling. The wine was then bottle-aged for a further two years prior to release.

Vibrant, fruity aromas of raspberries and blackcurrant are supported by a wisp of vanilla. On the palate, it has power and length with balanced and mellow tannins that get softer with time, taking on leathery and cedar characters. Complex and rich with good length. Serve with game, red meat or fish cooked in red wine. This wine should be allowed to settle and be opened a while before serving.

£18.35

El Esteco Finca Notables Cabernet Franc 2015

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below)

El Esteco, Fincas Notables, Cabernet Franc 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

Among the Calchaquí Valley’s lush vegetation, rivers and rocky mountains, there emerges, unexpectedly, a stretch of desert. At an altitude of 1,800 metres, with its radiant sunshine and ideal temperature range hot days and cool nights, the environment is perfect for the vine growing. And it is here, in the heart of this unique valley where El Esteco stands with 1,000 acres of vineyards. French immigrants David and Salvador Michel founded the winery in 1892, taking advantage of this special region to produce distinctive and elegant high-end wines, with great concentration of colour, deep aromas and well-defined flavours.

100% Cabernet Franc.

The grapes for this wine are carefully harvested by hand, after which a second selection process is carried out to ensure that only the best grapes are used. The juice undergoes pre-fermentation maceration at 8°C in French oak vats. Indigenous and selected yeasts are used for alcoholic fermentation, which takes place at controlled temperatures between 26°C- 30°C. Malolactic fermentation occurs in new French oak barrels after which the wine is aged for 15 months. The wine is bottled following a light filtration and is aged for another 6 months before release.

A concentrated and intense wine with notes of black fruits, sweet pepper and hints of menthol The oak is well-balanced and of medium intensity The palate has ripe, juicy tannins with a long, persistent finish

£18.50

Tikves Barovo Tikvesh Povardarje Macedonia, 2015 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 article "Balkan Intrigue" (see blue link below).

Tikveš, Barovo 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

This wine was also awarded a Platinum Medal and 97 points at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2018 DWWA winners, click here.

See this link for a(n albeit promotional) article on Tikves from Decanter, November 2018

Every wine tells a story about the synergy between the soil, sun, grapes and the country of its origin. The Tikveš Winery has been narrating the Republic of Macedonia’s story as a winemaking country since 1885. However, the Republic of Macedonia remains one of Europe’s last undiscovered wine countries: it is a natural paradise of vineyards, mountains, lakes and rivers, with a climate perfectly suited to producing quality grapes. Located in the Tikveš region of central Macedonia, the Tikveš estate sustainably cultivates indigenous varieties such as Smederevka, Vranec and Kratoshija. The grapes are vinified in the state-of-the-art cellar equipped with the latest technology under the watchful eye of illustrious consultant oenologist Philippe Cambie, resulting in a series of authentic and characterful wines.

2015 was characterised by good weather conditions throughout the growing cycle, resulting in an excellent balance between sugar, acidity and flavours. The red wines from 2015 are particularly potent, rich in tannins and flavours; ideal for ageing.

Grapes: Kratoshija 65%, Vranec 35%, being a blend of two indigenous varieties. Kratoshiya (pronounced krat-oss-SHEE-yah) has the same genetic origins as the Italian Primitivo variety. Vranec (pronounced VRANash) translates as 'black stallion' and wine made from this grape variety is associated with strength and opulence. The double Guyot trained vines are grown in a hilly plot with a south eastern orientation. Planted in well drained volcanic soils, the roots extend to a depth of 1.2 metres, where the soil is enriched with carbonates, minerals. This complex nutrition level imparts richness to the resulting wines. The vines are green harvested before véraison in order to further concentrate the flavours within the grapes. Harvest is undertaken manually, in order to ensure the grapes are picked at their optimum maturity.

The grapes were cooled for 12 hours, then destemmed, crushed and cold macerated for three days. Vinification took place over the course of 25 days, with regular pumping-over taking place in order to extract the desired levels of tannins, colour and flavours. Pressing took place in a pneumatic press which was followed by malolactic fermentation. 80% of the wine was aged in new French oak barrels for 15 months, followed by a minimum of six months bottle ageing.

A warm and savoury wine showing raisined black fruits complemented by dark chocolate and elegant toasty oak flavours.

Complex and elegant aromas of blackberries, plums and cherries combine with subtle hints of vanilla and toasty notes. Beautifully textured with a mouth-filling palate of ripe berried fruits against a mineral backdrop and a long lasting finish.

£18.30

Tikves Barovo Tikvesh Povardarje Macedonia, 2016 (1x 75cl)

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 this link for a(n albeit promotional) article on Tikves from Decanter, November 2018

Every wine tells a story about the synergy between the soil, sun, grapes and the country of its origin. The Tikveš Winery has been narrating the Republic of Macedonia’s story as a winemaking country since 1885. However, the Republic of Macedonia remains one of Europe’s last undiscovered wine countries: it is a natural paradise of vineyards, mountains, lakes and rivers, with a climate perfectly suited to producing quality grapes. Located in the Tikveš region of central Macedonia, the Tikveš estate sustainably cultivates indigenous varieties such as Smederevka, Vranec and Kratoshija. The grapes are vinified in the state-of-the-art cellar equipped with the latest technology under the watchful eye of illustrious consultant oenologist Philippe Cambie, resulting in a series of authentic and characterful wines.

Grapes: Kratoshija 65%, Vranec 35%, being a blend of two indigenous varieties. Kratoshiya (pronounced krat-oss-SHEE-yah) has the same genetic origins as the Italian Primitivo variety. Vranec (pronounced VRANash) translates as 'black stallion' and wine made from this grape variety is associated with strength and opulence. The double Guyot trained vines are grown in a hilly plot with a south eastern orientation. Planted in well drained volcanic soils, the roots extend to a depth of 1.2 metres, where the soil is enriched with carbonates, minerals. This complex nutrition level imparts richness to the resulting wines. The vines are green harvested before véraison in order to further concentrate the flavours within the grapes. Harvest is undertaken manually, in order to ensure the grapes are picked at their optimum maturity.

The grapes were cooled for 12 hours, then destemmed, crushed and cold macerated for three days. Vinification took place over the course of 25 days, with regular pumping-over taking place in order to extract the desired levels of tannins, colour and flavours. Pressing took place in a pneumatic press which was followed by malolactic fermentation. 80% of the wine was aged in new French oak barrels for 15 months, followed by a minimum of six months bottle ageing.

A warm and savoury wine showing raisined black fruits complemented by dark chocolate and elegant toasty oak flavours.

Complex and elegant aromas of blackberries, plums and cherries combine with subtle hints of vanilla and toasty notes. Beautifully textured with a mouth-filling palate of ripe berried fruits against a mineral backdrop and a long lasting finish.

Thsi wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

£18.30

Planeta Etna Bianco DOCG 2017 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their Italy 2019 supplement as part of an article on Sicily (see blue link below).

Planeta Etna Bianco 2017 - February 2019 Decanter review

In Planeta’s early years, expertise came from a surprising source: Australia. The winemaker brought in by Diego Planeta was an Italian – Carlo Corino – but one who had soaked in the latest warm-climate winemaking secrets during a stint in New South Wales. Ever since, Planeta has managed to captured the intrinsic perfume and fresh flavours of Sicily’s grapes in their wines.  The island estate pursued an unconventional approach to winemaking, with Planeta establishing a cult following for its barrel-aged Chardonnay, at a time when most other Italian whites were typically consumed straight out of the fermenter. This early success gave Planeta the credibility it needed to open the world’s eyes to the charms of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, ushering in a broad range of wines that today owes as much to Grecanico and Nero d’Avola as it does to the winery’s signature Chardonnay.

See blue link below for the excellent, 2017 fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Planeta.

Planeta Etna Bianco 2017 - fiche technique

£16.35

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their Italy 2019 supplement as part of an article on Sicily (see blue link below).

Planeta, Santa Cecilia 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

In Planeta’s early years, expertise came from a surprising source: Australia. The winemaker brought in by Diego Planeta was an Italian – Carlo Corino – but one who had soaked in the latest warm-climate winemaking secrets during a stint in New South Wales. Ever since, Planeta has managed to captured the intrinsic perfume and fresh flavours of Sicily’s grapes in their wines.  The island estate pursued an unconventional approach to winemaking, with Planeta establishing a cult following for its barrel-aged Chardonnay, at a time when most other Italian whites were typically consumed straight out of the fermenter. This early success gave Planeta the credibility it needed to open the world’s eyes to the charms of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, ushering in a broad range of wines that today owes as much to Grecanico and Nero d’Avola as it does to the winery’s signature Chardonnay.

As sampled at Exel Wines' November 2018 tasting. See here for the report of that evening.

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

Planeta Santa Cecilia D.O.C Noto 2015 - fiche technique

£23.05

COS Cerasuolo Di Vittoria 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their Italy 2019 supplement as part of an article on Sicily (see blue link below).

COS, Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

The south-eastern province of Ragusa, around the town of Vittoria, is home to the revived Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a red wine made from 60 percent Nero d’Avola and 40 percent Frappato. The Italian government has granted it DOCG status (the strictest appellation in Italy), which makes Cerasuolo di Vittoria the first Sicilian wine to enjoy this prestigious designation. It was Giusto Occhipinti, who started the COS winery with two classmates back in the early 1980s. On a shoestring budget, the three friends vinified the grapes from their parents’ vineyards. They even bought Angelo Gaja’s used French barrels back in 1983 to age the wine.

Since then the journey has taken them away from oak to cement and finally into amphora in order to obtain the most aromatic expression of the wines. They are also keen to note that COS does not use selected yeasts and has never used chemicals in the vineyards. “Our goal isn’t to make wines that impress wine critics, but to make wine that expresses our great terroir. Here, Nero d’Avola is more elegant than in other regions, and has these great mineral notes from the soil. This is what gives the Cerasuolo di Vittoria its rich fruit, while the Frappato gives the wine its floral components and freshness,” Occhipinti says.

The Cerasuolo shows a brilliant ruby red colour and nuances of ruby red. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of black cherry, blackberry and plum followed by aromas of raspberry, blueberry, carob, violet, tobacco and vanilla. The flavours have good balance with the aromas, this wine is slightly tannic with a pleasing crispness, however the alcohol, body and intense flavours remain balanced. The finish is persistent with flavours of black cherry, plum and blackberry.

£22.75

Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2016 - half bottle (1x37.5cl)

Awarded a Platinum medal and 98 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details)

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 article  on producer Donnafugata (see blue link below).

Donnafugata, Ben Rye 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

This wine was also awarded a Platinum Medal, 97 points and Best in Show status at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2018 DWWA winners, click here.

The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region's native varieties. Today, Donnafugata has three estates in Sicily. Donnafugata means 'fleeing woman' and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th Century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon's troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the 'Mille e Una Notte' label.

Brilliant amber in colour, Ben Ryé is wonderfully fresh and complex. The bouquet is intense and fragrant - aromas of apricots and candied citrus zest combine with notes of Mediterranean thyme and rosemary. The palate is well-defined and intense, with pleasant sweetness well balanced by fresh acidity and great minerality. The finish is long and persistent - a captivating Passito di Pantelleria.

To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine produced by the team at Donnafugata, please click on the blue link below.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2016 - fiche technique

£31.25

Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito Di Pantelleria 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded a Platinum medal and 98 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details)

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 article  on producer Donnafugata (see blue link below).

Donnafugata, Ben Rye 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

This wine was also awarded a Platinum Medal, 97 points and Best in Show status at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2018 DWWA winners, click here.

The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region's native varieties. Today, Donnafugata has three estates in Sicily. Donnafugata means 'fleeing woman' and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th Century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon's troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the 'Mille e Una Notte' label.

Brilliant amber in colour, Ben Ryé is wonderfully fresh and complex. The bouquet is intense and fragrant - aromas of apricots and candied citrus zest combine with notes of Mediterranean thyme and rosemary. The palate is well-defined and intense, with pleasant sweetness well balanced by fresh acidity and great minerality. The finish is long and persistent - a captivating Passito di Pantelleria.

To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine produced by the team at Donnafugata, please click on the blue link below.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2016 - fiche technique

£58.05

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico 2015 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their Italy 2019 supplement as part of an article on Chianti Classico (see blue link below).

Isole e Olena, Chianti Classico 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

The name 'Isole e Olena' came about in the 1950s when two adjoining estates, 'Isole' and 'Olena', were purchased by the De Marchi family and combined to form one. The history of both estates dates back many hundreds of years, and the earliest documentation of the village of Olena goes as far back as the 12th century. During the 1950s, the De Marchi family planted specialised vineyards and expanded the cellars. Today, the estate is run by Paolo De Marchi and his wife Marta. Paolo comes from a family with three generations of winemaking experience in the northern part of Piemonte and his older son, Luca, now runs the family estate there, Proprietà Sperino.

The Isole e Olena estate covers 290 hectares, of which 49 are planted with vines and 45 with olives. The vineyards are approximately 400 metres above sea level and face south-west. The oldest vines on the estate were planted in 1958 and the youngest in 2007. Paolo was one of the first producers in Chianti Classico to plant high density vineyards with new lower yielding clones of Sangiovese in the 1980s. In many cases he returned to the poor soils on hillside sites that had been abandoned when quantity took precedent over quality. As a result of these changes, Paolo gets better grapes, and hence better wines.

Lower temperatures in April 2015 delayed budding by about ten 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.

Fermentation took place in tank with 15 days of maceration, délestage (or 'rack and return') and pumping-over twice a day. De Marchi first experimented with the délestage method in 1996 and subsequently began using it for all red wines from the 1997 vintage. Maturation lasted one year and took place in barrel (of which 5% was new oak) and 4,000 litre oak casks.

This Chianti Classico is crimson in colour with typical sour cherry and bramble notes. The palate has a supple, lithe character full of perfumed fruit and is given depth by a mineral vein. Structure comes from the taut acidity and tannin structure.

£25.75

Vietti Barolo Lazzarito 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their Italy 2019 supplement as part of an article on Barolo (see blue link below).

Vietti Lazzarito Barolo 2014 - February 2019 Decanter review

The history of the Vietti winery traces its roots back to the 19th Century. Only at the beginning of the 20th century, however, did the Vietti name become a winery offering its own wines in bottle. Vietti wines come from Castiglione Falletto wineyards, in the heart of the Barolo zone. The qualities of sandy-calcareous soil in this area gives a unique tannic heritage with very elegant olfactory sensations.

To see the winemakers notes / information sheet for this wine, please click on the blue link below.

Vietti Barolo Lazzarito 2014 - fiche technique

£139.15

Vietti Barolo Lazzarito 2015 (1x75cl)

The 2014 was awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their Italy 2019 supplement as part of an article on Barolo (see blue link below).

Vietti Lazzarito Barolo 2014 - February 2019 Decanter review

The history of the Vietti winery traces its roots back to the 19th Century. Only at the beginning of the 20th century, however, did the Vietti name become a winery offering its own wines in bottle. Vietti wines come from Castiglione Falletto wineyards, in the heart of the Barolo zone. The qualities of sandy-calcareous soil in this area gives a unique tannic heritage with very elegant olfactory sensations.

To see the winemakers notes / information sheet for this wine, please click on the blue link below.

Vietti Barolo Lazzarito 2014 - fiche technique

£139.15

Michele Chiarlo, La Court, Barbera d'Asti Superiore Nizza 2015 (1x 75cl)

The 2013 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their Italy 2019 supplement as part of an article on Barbera (see blue link below).

Michele Chiarlo, La Court 2013 - February 2019 Decanter review

A richly textured wine with nuances of coffee and chocolate together with red fruit flavours, elegant and beautifully balanced.

Michele Chiarlo is one of Piedmont's truly great winemakers. The family owns 60 hectares of vineyard in three of the classic growing areas - Langhe, Monferrato and Gavi and have access to a further 50 hectares through long-term relationships with their growers. Michele has insisted on total quality since his first vintage in 1956, an ethos which his sons Stefano and Alberto adopt today. The Chiarlo style is highly elegant, they make complex wines that can age for decades but above all reflect their provenance - some of the finest vineyard sites in Piedmont.

A not-excessively-cold winter, but heavy rain and snow created an abundant water reserve. A mild spring led into a warm summer with a complete absence of rain from mid-June until 10th August, which contributed to the grapes' perfect ripeness. September saw excellent diurnal temperature differences leading to the development of vibrant aromas and excellent phenological ripening of the red grapes. 2015 is being hailed as one of the greatest vintages of the last two decades.

The grapes come from the La Court vineyard. A prestigious site originating from the 1800s, the single parcel covers three hectares. The vineyard has a southeast to south western exposures at 240 metres above sea-level and produces very low yields. The vines are Guyot trained. The soils are designated as ‘Artisane Sands’ which consist of calcareous clay marl of sedimentary marine origin with high lime and sand content. They produce ample, intense and elegant wines with good structure and longevity. Manually harvested.

100% Barbera.

The grapes were fermented on the skins in 55 hectolitre oak barrels for 15 days at controlled temperatures of between 27° to 30°C. A gentle shower system of submerging the cap was used to extract flavour, colour and structure. Malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. The wine was refined for 30 months. Oak maturation lasted for 12 months: 50% in 55 hectolitre French oak barrels and 50% in Allier oak barriques, followed by a further 18 months in bottle prior to release.

An appealing and structured wine, which is complex and elegant with layers of black cherry, cocoa and coffee. Harmoniously balanced, it has a velvety palate and a long, silky finish. Its richness and elegance places it amongst the finest wines in Chiarlo's portfolio.

£40.10
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