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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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Hamelin Bay Five Ashes Chardonnay 2014 (1x 75cl)

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)

Hamelin Bay, Five Ashes Vineyard, Chardonnay 2014 - February 2019 Decanter review

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.

£18.90

Marchand and Burch Chardonnay 2016 (1x 75cl)

The 2017 vintage of this wine has been awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Western Australian Chardonnay panel tasting; (see blue link below)

Marchand & Burch, Chardonnay 2017 - February 2019 Decanter review

Please note that this wine (2016 vintage) now has limited availability and the 2017 vintage is not due to arrive in the UK until March 2019 - please call us on 01738 493535 if you would like to order this wine.

Burch Family Wines has been producing quality West Australian wines for over 30 years. Their philosophy is “To create fine wine with expression and individuality that is embracing of tradition, yet adventurous, reflective and respectful of place.” 

Pascal Marchand, Burgundian winemaker and ex-regisseur from De La Vougeraire, and Jeff Burch, vigneron and owner of Burch Family Wines, are the founders of Marchand & Burch. Together they combine centuries of Burgundian experience and the best of West Australian and French fruit sourcing to craft a range of wines that excites the passion in both of these two men. Marchand & Burch is a unique partnership where the old world meets the new world for the production of fine wines. This partnership was formed with the vision of sourcing fruit from specifically identified vineyard blocks in the South-West of Western Australia. They aim to work the natural environment to craft wines that best expresses the soils from which the grapes have come.

Marchand & Burch Chardonnay evolved from the desire of Jeff Burch and Pascal Marchand to make wine of great presence and character by applying the traditional techniques of Burgundy to the unique terroir of the new world. It was in the remote Great Southern region where Pascal felt the nascent vineyards could give the most promising expression to this idea, and our winemakers have taken up this ethos over 10 years to produce a memorable series of wines.

To see an excellent and informative information / technical sheet for this wine that has been produced by the winemakers, please click on the blue link below.

Marchand & Burch Chardonnay 2016 - fiche technique

£30.10

Larry Cherubino Cherubino Chardonnay 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Western Australian Chardonnay panel tasting. "Sweet spice and baked apple pie on the nose. A beautiful fresh spritz on the palate. Complex fruit of Bramley apple, spices and an acid backbone to the finish."

Named ‘Winery of the Year’ by James Halliday and Matt Skinner, Larry Cherubino wants his wines to be distinctive and to speak clearly of their variety and vineyard site. He believes in paying meticulous attention to the vineyard, canopy and water management, picking at the right time and minimal intervention in the winery. Larry also makes wine under the Laissez Faire label, an exquisite range of natural wines which are the ultimate expression of site, made in small batches from hand harvested grapes. From delicate whites to opulent reds, all his wines have pure class and finesse.

Grown in the '24 Vineyard' in the Karridale subregion of southern Margaret River, the vines were planted in 1988 at a density of 1,850 vines per hectare. The vines are clone number 95 and are all grown on their own rootstocks. Situated facing a sunny, northern aspect to maximise sun exposure the vines are influenced by cooling breezes coming from the Southern Ocean, with warmer westerly breezes coming from the Indian Ocean. It is one of the best examples of a maritime climate in Australia.

The fruit was hand-picked and gently pressed directly to both new and one year old French oak barrels. Vinified with minimal intervention, no additions were made to the wine; it was naturally fermented using indigenous yeasts. The wine was rested on its lees for eight months, adding texture and complexity, prior to being bottled.

A focused, powerful and creamy wine. A layered and complex palate of spice, nuts, stone fruit and green apple, which shows great balance and restraint. Complemented by nuances of creamy oak, the elegant palate leads to a clean and refined finish. This wine is a good match for pan fried snapper, scallop risotto or barbecued crayfish.

£28.55

Howard Park Chardonnay 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 88 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Western Australian Chardonnay panel tasting. "A little creamy with apricot, juicy green pineapple, scented apricot skin finish. There's a firm citric backbone too. This would go rather well with shellfish."

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the team at Howard Park.

Howard Park Chardonnay 2017 - fiche technique

Established in 1986, Howard Park is one of the original pioneers of the cool climate Great Southern region known for its rich ancient soils and elevated vineyard sites, and the iconic Margaret River wine region built on a vision of crafting outstanding handcrafted wines with an uncompromising commitment to quality. 

Viticulture and winemaking are carried out with minimal intervention and organic & biodynamic practices employed. Howard Park produces wines of international standing that are noted for their rare balance of elegance and power showing a consistency of style and quality which is the hallmark of enduring great wines.

Howard Park’s award winning Chardonnay is handcrafted from grapes sourced from two vineyards, our Mount Barrow vineyard in Mount Barker and our Allingham vineyard in Margaret River. Mount Barrow is dedicated to growing Chardonnay for still and sparkling wine. The unique attributes of this site include an elevation of 380M and a panorama of vineyard aspects from north to south facing. It is planted to the Chardonnay clones of Dijon origin.

This wine is exquisitly well balanced and has a fantastic balance and flavour perspective. It has citrus and a hint of tropicality on the nose as well as a toasty nutty hint.This wine has a creaminess thanks to the sympathetic barrel fermentation as well as crisp acidity with the aromas carry through to the palate. It has a toast and nut influenced finish.

The Howard Park Chardonnay is a modern style of Australian’ barrel-fermented Chardonnay: elegant, lean and sophisticated. The Howard Park Chardonnay will enormously reward those that are patient enough to cellar this wine. A wine with boundless subtleties of flavour, complexity and style that will age elegantly over the next 5 years.

£21.45

Craggy Range Sophia Red Blend 2014 (1x 75cl)

The 2014 vintage of this wine was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below). The 2014 is in very short supply, so we also offer the excellent 2015 vintage.

Craggy Range, Sophia, Gimblett Gravels 2014 - February 2019 Decanter review

Craggy Range produces a collection of iconic wines from multiple regions in New Zealand. Owner Terry Peabody and his family pursued the single vineyard approach to winemaking, planting on green fields and bare land ensuring a focus on quality from the very beginning. New Zealand, with its diversity of soils types offered the perfect location to plant the vines. From the stony, warm soils of the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke's Bay to the volcanic, clay soils of Te Muna Road in Martinborough, these exceptional vineyards produce wines with amazing aromatics, purity and complexity.

This is a refined and elegant hand-crafted, Merlot dominant blend that represents both the vigneron’s art and inherent understanding of the land, ensuring ‘Sophia’ is the finest expression of the terroir and the people. ‘Sophia’, meaning ‘wisdom’ in greek mythology, pays tribute to the goddess of knowledge and experience, information and understanding - a philosophy adopted by their winemakers and viticulturists when creating this wine.

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

Craggy Range Sophia Red Blend 2014 - fiche technique

61% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc.

The grapes for this wine are hand harvested and are 100% destemmed. Fermentation occurs in closed top French oak cuves using innoculated yeast. The wine then matures over a period of 19 months in French oak barriques, 42% of which are new.

The wine is of the darkest red colour. The aromas brood aromatically with blackcurrant, blackberry, dried red rose and cedar notes emerging. The wine exerts elegance across the palate with a pure red /black fruit core drawn long by layers of fine grained tannins.

£47.00

Craggy Range Sophia Red Blend 2015 (1x75cl)

The 2014 vintage of this wine was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Claret Alternatives article; (see blue link below). The 2014 is in very short supply, so we also offer the excellent 2015 vintage.

Craggy Range, Sophia, Gimblett Gravels 2014 - February 2019 Decanter review

Craggy Range produces a collection of iconic wines from multiple regions in New Zealand. Owner Terry Peabody and his family pursued the single vineyard approach to winemaking, planting on green fields and bare land ensuring a focus on quality from the very beginning. New Zealand, with its diversity of soils types offered the perfect location to plant the vines. From the stony, warm soils of the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke's Bay to the volcanic, clay soils of Te Muna Road in Martinborough, these exceptional vineyards produce wines with amazing aromatics, purity and complexity.

This is a refined and elegant hand-crafted, Merlot dominant blend that represents both the vigneron’s art and inherent understanding of the land, ensuring ‘Sophia’ is the finest expression of the terroir and the people. ‘Sophia’, meaning ‘wisdom’ in greek mythology, pays tribute to the goddess of knowledge and experience, information and understanding - a philosophy adopted by their winemakers and viticulturists when creating this wine.

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

Craggy Range Sophia Red Blend 2015 - fiche technique

73% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc.

The grapes for this wine are hand harvested and are 100% destemmed. Fermentation occurs in closed top French oak cuves using innoculated yeast. The wine then matures over a period of 19 months in French oak barriques, 42% of which are new.

The wine is of the darkest red colour. The aromas brood aromatically with blackcurrant, blackberry, dried red rose and cedar notes emerging. The wine exerts elegance across the palate with a pure red /black fruit core drawn long by layers of fine grained tannins.

£47.05

Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage of this wine was 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.

Gabriëlskloof, The Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

Gabriëlskloof is a beautiful wine estate located near Bot River in the Overberg region east of Cape Town. It was purchased in 2001 by Bernhard Heyns, who had been on the lookout for the ideal place to plant vines. After planting, his first vintage was in 2009. We felt compelled to add Gabriëlskloof to our list because Peter-Allan Finlayson, Bernhard’s son-in-law, took over as winemaker from the 2015 vintage. The farm has 300 hectares, with 68 hectares planted to vines. The vineyards are farmed sustainably with the aim to move to organic farming in the future.

Gabriëlskloof winery is in the Bot River ward, where prevailing southerly winds from the nearby Atlantic Ocean create a mesoclimate perfectly suited to low-yielding vineyards. The farm and vineyards were established in 2000, with the first vintage made in the cellar in 2009. Gabriëlskloof strives to farm as sustainably as possible, and was recently awarded Championship status for BWI (Biodiversity in wine). There are a variety of different soils on the farm, with the Cabernet Franc being planted on a combination of Bokkeveld Shale and Table Mountain Sandstone.

2016 was a very dry vintage, which led to a smaller crop but the vines were healthy and produced concentrated fruit.

The fruit was hand-picked into small crates and transferred directly into the cool room where it remained overnight. 90% of the crop was destemmed with the remaining 10% left as whole clusters. The wine was fermented with wild yeasts and aged in 500 litre barrels for 18 months, with 30% new French oak used. 

Deep ruby red in colour, this wine has aromas of cherry, blackcurrant and strawberry, with an earthy minerality and hints of tobacco leaf and cedar. This is a medium bodied wine with fine, integrated tannins and long finish.

£27.50

Capezzana Carmignano `Villa di Capezzana` 2015 (1x 75cl)

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

Tenuta di Capezzana, Villa di Capezzana 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

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.

£24.20

Giant Steps - Harrys Monster - Bordeaux Blend 2013 (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)

Giant Steps, Harry's Monster 2013 - February 2019 Decanter review

Giant Steps is a privately owned, estate-based, Yarra Valley grower and winemaker that has forged a reputation for delivering some of Australia’s most consistent, over-performing, varietal wines. The Giant Steps Single Vineyard range is produced from the most site-expressive fruit from the best vineyards, in great years. Their aim is to express in each wine the character of the site, grape and vintage, and this they achieve by meticulous work in the vineyard and minimum intervention in the winery. Head winemaker Steve Flamsteed and his team are making some of the best wines in Australia from these sites.

Located on the steep north facing slopes of the Warramate Ranges, alongside the vineyards of Yarra Yering and Coldstream Hills, the Sexton vineyard is exposed and demanding. Being well up the slopes between 130 and 210 metres, topsoil is thin and root systems have established themselves in shallow gravelly loams above a tough rocky clay base. Vigour and bunch yields set naturally low in this environment, facilitating a low intervention approach to what is otherwise hand tended viticulture. Biodynamic vineyard management principles are being introduced with the purpose of further distinguishing the site and improving grape and wine quality.

2013 was an exciting vintage in the Yarra. The entire vintage lasted a record 35 days. Excellent weather at flowering led into cool, mild growing conditions, with an accelerated final stage of ripening due to some warm nights. The estate vineyards produced small crops with intense flavour and solid natural acidity. The resulting wines are all very strong in primary fruit and possess a generosity and mouth feel not seen since 2010.

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot.

Fruit was hand picked, destemmed and crushed to small open fermenters. An eight-day, warm ferment followed. Fruit was then hand plunged twice daily and underwent a daily rack-and-return (delestage) for two weeks. The pomace cap was submerged for two to three weeks to integrate tannins. The wine was racked off its gross lees to 225-litre French oak barriques for malolactic fermentation. 40% of the barrels were new, with the remainder second- and third-use. After 15 months, the wine was gravity bottled (on the 1st of August 2014).

Bright, deep crimson; a powerful, intense yet perfectly balanced array of black, blue and red berry fruits interwoven with touches of vanilla, cedar and graphite. A medium to full-bodied wine densely packed with black fruit and spice, with firm, grainy tannins and just enough acid to lift the long finish.

£21.65

Klein Constantia Anwilka 2014 (1x75cl)

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

Anwilka 2014 - February 2019 Decanter review

Anwilka Vineyards is located just 7 kilometres from the ocean in Stellenbosch’s prime Helderberg region. The property was purchased in the late 1990s and extensive replanting of 40ha of vineyards comprising primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and some Merlot followed. The then owners, Lowell Jooste (the former co-owner of Klein Constantia) along with internationally well known Bordeaux wine personalities Hubert de Boüard (co-owner of Chateau Angélus in Saint Emilion) and Bruno Prats (former owner of Chateau Cos d’Estournel in Saint Estèphe) released the eponymous maiden vintage blend of Syrah-Cabernet in 2005. Anwilka has since established a worldwide reputation for this red blend which has been described by Robert Parker as “the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa”.

The vineyards are run by manager Piet Neethling and the wine made by young South African oenologist Jean du Plessis. Much guidance is provided by owner Bruno Prats, who successfully directed Cos d’Estournel, the leading Médoc 2nd growth, for 28 years and Hubert de Boüard who steered Angélus to achieve St-Émilion first-growth status. Anwilka does not have fences so animals can move around freely. With the recent developments and fencing being put up on neighbours’ properties, Anwilka has become a haven for all these animals, particularly owls and bats which help in the vineyards to guard against pests and vine damage.

52% Syrah, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot.

To read Anwilka's own excellent and informative information on this wine, please click on the blue link below.

Anwilka 2014 - fiche technique

£24.50

Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Ste Michelle 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 Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

... and awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in the Weekday Wines feature in the same issue (see blue link below)!

Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

Please click on this link to see a most informative video about this wine which has been made by Ray McKee, red winemaker at Chateau Ste Michelle. Also, please see blue link below for the excellent, 2015 fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Chateau Ste Michelle.

Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 - fiche technique

"Great wine can only come from Italy or California" was the misconception Chateau Ste Michelle’s founding fathers set out to prove wrong when they first broke ground and pioneered the Washington wine region, shortly after the repeal of Prohibition in the USA. They have certainly opened our eyes to some of the wonderful wines that Washington State has to offer.  Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the few premium wineries in the world with two state-of-the-art wineries, one for red and one for white. The whites are made at the Chateau in Woodinville, WA, while the reds are made at their Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington.

“We craft our Columbia Valley Cabernet to highlight concentrated Washington red fruit in an accessible style. This is an inviting Cab with plenty of complexity and structure with silky tannins. It’s also very versatile with food. Enjoy it with beef tenderloin or pasta.” Bob Bertheau, Head Winemaker.

The grapes used to make this wine were sourced from Columbia Valley vineyards throughout eastern Washington including their Cold Creek, Canoe Ridge Estate vineyards. Columbia Valley vineyards lie in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and receive just 6-8 inches of rainfall annually. Warm, sunny days and cool evening temperatures create ideal conditions for intense aroma and flavour development in the ripening grapes.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The ripe grapes were destemmed and inoculated with various strains of yeast to maximize complexity. Gentle pumpovers during fermentation were used to extract colour and flavour and produce soft, supple tannins. The wine was aged for 14 months in American and French oak, 32% of which were new.

The rich, concentrated Washington red fruit for this easy, accessible style of Cabernet Sauvignon is produced by Chateau Ste. Michelle, the founding winery of Washington State. The palate delivers complexity and structure, with its robust blackcurrant and plum flavours, and soft, silky tannins. A wine to savour on its own or with a mouth-watering rare fillet steak.

£15.05

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2015 (1x75cl)

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

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

The Manetti family has owned Fontodi since 1969 but has been in Chianti for centuries. Though they have always made wine, their primary business is still the production of Chianti's finest terracotta at their factory in Ferrone. Giovanni Manetti has run the property since 1980 and ensures the wines are as meticulously made as the vineyards are immaculately tended. Their 90 hectares of vineyard, 90% of which are Sangiovese, are situated in the prime 'Conca d'Oro' (golden shell) of Panzano, and have been converted to organic viticulture. Giovanni is now following biodynamic principles to obtain the best quality fruit.

There are 80 hectares of south-facing vineyards, all of which are farmed organically and are found in the Conca d'Oro (the 'golden shell'), an amphitheatre-shaped valley to the south of Panzano. This shape facilitates the full ripening of the grapes. The stony galestro soils allow for excellent drainage and encourage the vines to grow deep roots. The quality of the Sangiovese grapes from the Fontodi vineyards obviates the need for Merlot or other varieties as a remedial blender.

100% Sangiovese (Chianti Classico must be at least 80%).

The very wet winter of 2015 enabled vines to access considerable deep-seated water reserves during the spring, facilitating budding and flowering which lasted until the beginning of June. The particularly favourable climate during the summer ensured that all subsequent phenological stages, from fruit set to maturity, developed evenly. Hot temperatures in July were mitigated by some timely thunderstorms, while a sunny and quite breezy August allowed the grapes to reach a perfect phenolic ripeness. Harvest throughout September and the first week of October was facilitated by numerous sunny days, interspersed with sporadic rainfall. The 2015 wines exhibit balance, great structure and intense aromas.

Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks for two weeks, during which the cap was punched down twice a day. The wine was then racked into 225-litre French oak barriques, both Tronçais and Allier, where it remained for 24 months before bottling. The wine was matured in bottle for six months before release.

The wine is deep ruby red in colour, with perfumes of sour cherry and plums leading to notes of leather and tobacco. It has great depth of flavour, with juicy fruit and supple tannins, giving way to a silky-smooth texture. It has a great structure and finishes with a fine mineral note.

£21.05

Chateaux Ollieux Romanis Corbieres-Boutenac Atal Sia 2015 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 Regional Profile of Corbière; (see blue link below).

Chateaux Ollieux Romanis, Atal Sia 2015 - February 2019 Decanter review

A family owned vineyard for several generations Château Les Ollieux Romanis is in Montseret (an area also renowned for honey flavoured with thyme, rosemary and lavender), situated in the heart of the Boutenac region, an area dedicated to the cultivation vines since Roman times. The vines are located on a sheltered hillside facing south east.

The grapes for the Atal Sia are grown on the pudding stone (over sandstone) terroir of Boutenac. This is a lush confection of Carignan 45%; Grenache 25%; Mourvèdre 25% and a dollop of Syrah for spice. No oak here yet this is still a deep and intense wine with black fruits, orange peel, spice and liquorice and a smooth, silky, almost sweet palate.

The grapes for this wine are harvested manually before undergoing whole cluster maceration. Once the winemaking process is complete, the wine spends a year maturing in the bottle before being released for sale.

This has had no oak influence, yet is still a deep and intense wine with characteristics of black fruits, orange peel, spice and liquorice, as well as a smooth, silky, almost sweet palate.

£20.25

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 article "Rotundone: spice it up" about peppery flavours in wine; (see blue link below).

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah 2016 - February 2019 Decanter review

Craggy Range produces a collection of iconic wines from multiple regions in New Zealand. Owner Terry Peabody and his family pursued the single vineyard approach to winemaking, planting on green fields and bare land ensuring a focus on quality from the very beginning. New Zealand, with its diversity of soils types offered the perfect location to plant the vines. From the stony, warm soils of the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke's Bay to the volcanic, clay soils of Te Muna Road in Martinborough these exceptional vineyards produce wines with amazing aromatics, purity and complexity.

The vines originate from a Heritage clone of Syrah brought to New Zealand around 150 years ago. Gimblett Gravels is a designation encompassing a centuries old dried river bed in Hawke’s Bay that is believed to be the first in the New World where the ultimate boundary is defined by a distinct soil type. The vines are planted in the stoniest parts of the vineyard to a heritage clone of Syrah brought to New Zealand in the 1840s. Matt Stafford, Chief Winemaker says of this wine: "We are excited about the potential for cool climate Syrah in New Zealand, especially grown on the Gimblett Gravels of Hawke's Bay."

The grapes for this wine are harvested buy hand and are destalked prior to fermentation. Open top stainless steel tanks are used in the fermentation of Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Syrah and the yeast is innoculated into the must to start the process. After this the wine is left to mature in French oak barriques (20% are new) for 16 months.

This wine is of the deepest red colour with a vibrant purple hue. There are beautiful aromatics of violet, dark rose, freshly cracked pepper and boysenberry. Wonderful fruit purity on the palate is perfectly balanced with precise acidity and fine, dusty tannins for a long, elegant finish. This wine goes particularly well with lamb and venison dishes.

To see Craggy Range's information sheet for this wine please click on the blue link below.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016 - fiche technique

£21.75

Marco De Bartoli Vecchio Samperi Perpetuo Marsala NV - no added sulphites - (1x 75cl)

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

Marco de Bartoli, Vecchio Samperi - February 2019 Decanter review

Vecchio Samperi was Marco De Bartoli’s first wine, his homage to the oldest form of Marsala wine as was encountered by Brit John Woodhouse when he landed in Marsala in 1773. This old, original style was made by a method called il perpetuum - essentially a form of solera aging, in which younger wine was used to replace older wine that had evaporated or been drawn off for drinking - and was the starting point for what become known worldwide as traditional Marsala wine (fortification came later as the techniques of Port, Madeira and Sherry found their way across the ocean to Sicily).

While the modern Marsala industry got away from this time-and-labor-intensive method as it was industrialized, De Bartoli's priority was to restore this method, along with the reputation of Marsala wine. Marco named his for the Contrada Samperi,the winegrowing area on the on the outskirts of Marsala where his estate vines are planted and whose hot, dry, sandy-loam soils, rich in limestone and minerals, are well suited to Grillo-growing; as the family puts it, the Vecchio Samperi "was the starting point to develop and communicate Marco's concept of 'terroir' ". Hewing to the original il perpetuum style, the De Bartoli Vecchio Samperi is not fortified, which is unusual for modern Marsala; and in fact, as pure and elemental a Marsala as this wine is, it is not recognized by the local authorities as DOC Marsala.

As with all of De Bartoli's Marsala-style wines, the only grape used is Grillo, grown organically and harvested by hand on the De Bartoli estate. The wine is fermented with natural yeasts and aged in oak and chestnut vats; about 5% of the total volume of wine is replaced with wine from the new vintage each year. The average age of wine in this solera is 20 years minimum. As noted above, the Vecchio Samperi is emphatically not fortified at any point. Vecchio Samperi's fine acidity balances the bit of RS beautifully, rendering it basically dry. It is relatively light in body, with floral and candied-orange aromas and flavours, with a gently nutty, seaspray-tinged finish.

£34.60

GD Vajra Barolo Bricco Delle Viole 2014 (1x75cl)

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

GD Vajra, Bricco delle Viole 2014 - February 2019 Decanter review

Aldo Vaira's wines are characterised by pristine flavours and clearly defined perfumes. These characters are attributable to the position of his vineyards at about 400 metres above sea level in the village of Vergne in the commune of Barolo. GD Vajra was established in 1972 and named after Aldo's father, Giuseppe Domenico. Aldo has been gradually increasing the area under vine to 60 hectares, of which 10 are Nebbiolo for Barolo, located in such strategic spots as Bricco delle Viole, Fossati, La Volta and Coste di Vergne. A traditionalist, Aldo adheres to old-style winemaking methods, though blends these with new techniques, such as temperature controlled fermentation, to produce such superbly elegant wines.

The 'Bricco delle Viole' vineyard is located at altitudes of 380-470 metres above sea level in the commune of Barolo and covers 4.79 hectares. One part of the vineyard is planted with vines which are now over 60 years old and yield less than 30 hectolitres per hectare. Its high altitude and long ripening season gives the wine an aromatic complexity and richness that is lacking in lower vineyards.

In Piemonte, 2014 was a surprising year. It was cool and wet, so work in the vineyard was the key. Hail hit some vineyards and those who cropped too high or didn't work hard enough in the vineyard will have produced pretty poor wines. Those who did - including the team at GD Vajra - have made good wines with good colour and perfume and good levels of acidity.

Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks at temperatures up to 31°C and lasted four weeks, with regular pumping over. The wine was then matured for 42-48 months in Slavonian oak barrels.

Brilliant ruby red, this Barolo has aromas of cherries, dark berries, violets and dried roses with nuances of citrus fruits and mint. On the palate, there are silky tannins. The wine is well balanced with a long delicately spiced finish.

£69.55
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