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Decanter Jan

According to Decanter (www.decanter.com), the New Year is already upon us. Which is to say, the new - January 2020 - edition is out. (I'll avoid making any of the "2020 vision" jokes which we should all be expecting in the coming weeks).

And we have some of its top wines.

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.

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You've probably already heard the big new of this issue: that is, of the Fairmile Vineyards Classic Cuvee NV, the 'English Fizz' that tops the English Sparkling Wine (ESW) panel review with an Outstanding, 95-point score.

We - among a small handul of stockists - offer this wine in quantity and at a great price of £27.50. Being the feature that it is, we've created a much more detailed page all about English Fizz, that panel test and (specifically) the Fairmile (click here or the image below).

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As you can see, Decanter's cover story is pretty clear - their Wines of The Year. There are (oddly) 59 of them. Some, we've seen in panels and tests this year ... some we haven't. It can't be their absolute toppers of the year, as many we've featured - such as the Talinay, the Cerro Anon, the Five Bells - don't feature and quite a few "lesser" ones do. That said, these are clearly all great wines, and we offer 9 of them.

Highest scorer (97 points) of all 59 wines is Charles Heidsieck's Blanc des Millenaires 2004 super-Champagne. Thing is, at £150 a bottle, it's (very much) not for everyone.

Much more for everyone is the 96-point Xanadu (Estate) Chardonnay 2017 from Western Australia's Margaret River, which we offer att a great £18.40. Of the wines here, it's definitely the pick of the bunch, the only real top-scorer at a lowish price, not to mention a real personal favourite Chardonnay. Xanadu's top-end Chardonnays are world-beaters, but you get all the expertise and skill here for less than £20. It's painstakingly made (barrel- and wild fermented, lees-aged, oak aged etc) for a wine of its price-point, and really should not be missed. There's not much stock in the UK, so do move quickly.

Xanadu

(Estate) Chardonnay 2017

Margaret River, Western Australia

£18.40

 

Klein Constantia's Vin de Constance 2015 makes its first of two appearances in this edition on 94 points, and !ATTENTION SHERRY FANS! there are two superb (and amazing-value) sherries from Hidalgo: the Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada (94) and the La Gitana Manzanilla (92). See also great offerings from Zorah, Akarua, Gusbourne and Craggy Range.

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There's a super article on dessert wines (as there often is at Christmas), Top 10 New World Sweet Wines. We make no secret of being dessert wine fans (see our ever-growing compendium), and we offer 5 of the 10 that are reviewed and score well. Some are pricey (esp the icewines - but not as pricey as the icewine being marketed by an ex-Apprentice candidate - we're not allowed that), but there's some superb value to be had with the Greywacke, Seifried and Framingham offerings, all from New Zealand. Again, our old friend, the Vin de Constance 2015 appears...

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There's a feature on the wines of Washington State. It's probably not fair to say that this region is forgotten, but it definitely doesn't see the praise it deserves. Impressive - and attractively priced - are Chateau Ste. Michelle's Eroica Riesling and Charles Smith's excellent Kung Fu Girl Riesling (£14.75). There are some plush, luxury reds from Betz and a great Cab Sauv, also from Chateau Ste Michelle.

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A fascinating, beautifully made, Chablis-style Chardonnay from NZ's Yealands - their State of Flux 2018 - appears among Steven Spurrier's top-end choices (but isn't a top-end price).

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Finally, there's an unusual Extremadura (Spain) red from Palacio Quemado (92 points) at £18.20. Pretty fascinating, this.

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Fairmile Vineyard Classic Cuvee NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

 

Fairmile Vineyard Classic Cuvee NV - January 2020 Decanter review

In 2011, local couple Jan and Anthea Mirkowski recognised that the foothills of the Chilterns on the outskirts of Henley-on-Thames would provide the ideal terrain and microclimate for viticulture. The steep, south-facing slopes help vines capture the most sunlight: in fact, 30% more sunlight during October, when the grapes are in berry, and the sun low on the horizon, than if the vines were planted on level ground. The slope also causes spring frosts (cold air being denser than warm air) to fall downhill and away from the delicate buds, whilst sufficient air movements along the valley carry away excess humidity, reducing the chance of fungal attack by mildew. Vines prefer well-drained soil, and Fairmile Vineyard lies on the same flinty chalky marl that stretches across South-East England to the white cliffs of Dover, then under the Channel into Northern France. Henley-on-Thames has a similar climate to Northern France, whose capital of the Champagne Region, Epernay, lies just 150 miles south in latitude. The relatively cool nights enable grapes to retain the acidity essential for sparkling wines.

In 2013, they planted the same three grape varieties which traditionally go into Champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. 12,000 rootstocks were established across 3 hectares using GPS-guided machinery for accuracy and optimum spacing. Three great summers helped the plants establish strong root systems; they then picked their first harvest in 2015 to make white and rosé sparkling wines which reflect the character of Henley's terroir.

Fairmile is a family-owned business committed to promoting the Chilterns’ quality of life, tourism, and the local community. Their logo depicts a rowing oar, which Henley’s Royal Regatta has made famous, crossed with an opened bottle of sparkling wine.

This sparkling wine is (obviously) made using the traditional method/methode champenoise of secondary fermentation in-bottle from base wines of all three classic 'Champagne grapes', picked (so far) only in 2015 (later production will blend in later vintages in classic NV fashion, to form a multi-year wine). Before that secondary fermentation, a very small proportion (1.25%) of the Chardonnay is aged in new oak barrels for 9 months to add texture/body and (some say) a soft, very minor vanilla element. The time en tirage (ie of that secondary fermentation on the lees) is a full three years, making it the same as the entry standard for vintage Champagne. This time adds considerable complexity to the wine, harnesses some of the wine's acidity and lends it the classic brioche/pastry flavours and aromas of the traditional method. A very low level of dosage (as below) is added to the resulting sparkling wine.

35% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier 18%.

Dosage/residual sugar = 3.5g/litre (ie Extra Brut and only a fraction above Brut Nature levels).

This white English sparkling wine carries the biscuity aroma associated with lying on the lees (yeast), mellow caramel undertones from a little oak-barrel ageing, and a citrus aftertaste which lingers so well on the palate because of the remarkably low dosage.

ABV = 12.0%.

£27.50

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee (1x 75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 95 points and Gold status at the 2019 IWC (International Wine Challenge) in May 2019 (see blue link below for review and their tasting note).

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV - IWC 2019 award and review

Winemaker, Cherie Spriggs, is central to every decision that gets made at Nyetimber. She assesses each and every handpicked vineyard individually. This means choosing the optimal time to harvest the grapes, supervising their gentle pressing and their eventual vinification in stainless steel tanks. This level of knowledge allows her to make informed decisions about blending wines the following spring.

Southern England is perfect for the production of sparkling wine. The chalk seam that supplies Champagne grapes with the perfect green sand and chalky soil to flourish is the very same that runs under the lee of the South Downs. This is where, sheltered from the coastal winds, Nyetimber's vines are planted across eight separate sites. The climate here allows for the slow ripening of their grapes, allowing them to achieve the optimum level of acidity for the wine, as well as the complexity and finesse that they strive for. At Nyetimber they only use grapes from their own vineyards. Prior to harvest, the grapes are tasted to ensure the best flavour development before picking. And if they aren’t up to standard? They simply won’t use them.

All Nyetimber's wines are made according to the traditional méthode champenoise, ageing them for extended periods of time and giving the bottles sufficient post-disgorgement time before release.

See the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note (including grape variety proportions in the blend, which do vary in this wine as its reserve wines pass from vintage to vintage) from the winemakers themselves.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV - fiche technique

Residual sugar = 10g/litre (ie Brut).

Nyetimer Classic Cuvée is a lovely pale gold colour with gentle and fine bubbles.  The aromas are toasty, spicy and complex, showing wonderful development after spending more than three years on its lees in the cellar. The palate supports the complex aromas and is enriched with the flavours of honey, almond, pastry and baked apples.  This sparkling wine is very elegant with a great combination of intensity, delicacy and length.

ABV = 12.0%.

£31.25

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee half bottle (1x37.5cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 95 points and Gold status at the 2019 IWC (International Wine Challenge) in May 2019 (see blue link below for review and their tasting note).

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV - IWC 2019 award and review

For 30 years Nyetimber has had a single aim: to make the finest English sparkling wine, one to rival the very best in the world. A true pioneer, Nyetimber was the first producer of English sparkling wine to craft wines made exclusively from Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. In 1988, Nyetimber planted its first vines and today, the House is regarded as one of England's finest wine producers. Owner and Chief Executive Eric Heerema and winemaker Cherie Spriggs are committed to producing wines of a Grande Marque standard. Each bottle of Nyetimber is crafted from one hundred percent estate-grown grapes. Winemaker, Cherie Spriggs, is central to every decision that gets made at Nyetimber. She assesses each and every handpicked vineyard individually. This means choosing the optimal time to harvest the grapes, supervising their gentle pressing and their eventual vinification in stainless steel tanks. This level of knowledge allows her to make informed decisions about blending wines the following spring.

Southern England is perfect for the production of sparkling wine. The chalk seam that supplies Champagne grapes with the perfect green sand and chalky soil to flourish is the very same that runs under the lee of the South Downs. This is where, sheltered from the coastal winds, Nyetimber's vines are planted across eight separate sites. The climate here allows for the slow ripening of their grapes, allowing them to achieve the optimum level of acidity for the wine, as well as the complexity and finesse that they strive for. At Nyetimber they only use grapes from their own vineyards. Prior to harvest, the grapes are tasted to ensure the best flavour development before picking. And if they aren’t up to standard? They simply won’t use them.

Each vineyard parcel was processed separately. The grapes were pressed in shallow Coquard presses (which come from Champagne) and vinified in stainless steel. All wines underwent malolactic fermentation. These were blended with 30% reserve wines, which were on average four years old. Once in bottle, the wine was aged on lees for 36 months before disgorgement and dosage, following the traditional method. After disgorgement, they were aged for a further 6 months' before release.

See the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note (including grape variety proportions in the blend, which do vary in this wine as its reserve wines pass from vintage to vintage) from the winemakers themselves.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV - fiche technique

Residual sugar = 10g/litre (ie Brut).

Nyetimer Classic Cuvée is a lovely pale gold colour with gentle and fine bubbles.  The aromas are toasty, spicy and complex, showing wonderful development after spending more than three years on its lees in the cellar. The palate supports the complex aromas and is enriched with the flavours of honey, almond, pastry and baked apples.  This sparkling wine is very elegant with a great combination of intensity, delicacy and length.

ABV = 12.0%.

£21.15

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc de Blancs Family Release NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc De Blancs Family Release NV - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc De Blancs Family Release NV - September 2019 Decanter review

Dermot Sugrue is not exactly a new name in the English wine industry, but he is certainly a winemaker at the top of his game. Born in Ireland in 1974, he studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton Agricultural College before completing two seasons working at Château l'Eglise-Clinet and Château Leoville-Barton. In 2003, he joined Nyetimber and was appointed winemaker in 2004. From Nyetimber he moved to the beautiful, family-run Wiston Estate in 2006, nestled in the heart of England’s rolling South Downs in West Sussex, to work with the Goring Family who has owned the estate since 1743. The Goring Brut, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs are made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue and take their name from the Goring family.

The fruit comes from two vineyards situated on the South Downs in West Sussex, which are above the 50th parallel and are influenced by a cool, coastal climate. The cool winters, moderate rainfall and temperate summers, combined with cooling sea breezes encourage the grapes to ripen slowly, retaining the natural acidity crucial for producing freshness in high quality sparkling wine. The vines are grown on a chalk escarpment, which is not dissimilar to the soils found in the vineyards of the Côtes de Blancs in Champagne. These chalky soils provide excellent drainage for the vines, as well as imparting great elegance and finesse to the wines. The vines are planted at a density of 4,000 vines per hectare and are trained according to the Vertical Shoot Positioning method, with Guyot pruning. The vines are tended by hand, with careful canopy management ensuring maximum sunlight exposure in this capricious climate. The Wiston vineyard is run according to a strict philosophy of sustainability. Manually harvested at optimum maturity.

The grapes were pressed in whole bunches using a traditional, gentle Coquard basket press in order to preserve the delicate fruit flavours and aromas in the juice. Vinified using the traditional method, the juice was fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts. Each component of the final assemblage wine went through malolactic fermentation and was allowed to rest on its lees for nine months imparting structure and complexity. After blending, cold stabilisation and bottling, the wine underwent a slow secondary fermentation. It was then kept on its side, under crown cap at cool temperatures of 9 to 11°C for almost three years on its fine lees, while it matured and took on flavour and structure through the process of autolysis. To preserve the natural poise and balance a dosage of 9g/l was added (ie Brut).

Chardonnay 100%.

An elegant and complex expression of the exceptional chalky terroir from which it hails, it has delicious notes of grapefruit, lemon zest, orange blossom and crushed oyster shells complemented by a racy acidity. 

ABV = 12.0%.

£30.75

Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015 - January 2020 Decanter review

For a full description of this wine, we would direct you to the data sheet/fiche technique from Gusbourne themselves (click blue link below)

Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015 - fiche technique

See also the release notes from the producer here.

53% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 7% Pinot Meunier.

Dosage = 8g/litre.

Bright gold in colour, this blend highlights red fruit aromas of cherry and strawberry, which then develop into attractive fresh pastry notes with a touch of cinnamon and spice. With a bright streak of citrus fruit, the palate is clean and fresh whilst giving tones of soft stone fruit and a long, refreshing finish. It is the flexible partner for contemporary and classic English food pairings; from seared scallops and smoked eels to fish & chips (seriously: try it!)

ABV = 12.0%.

£35.20

Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 87 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV - January 2020 Decanter review

Hattingley Valley is a family owned business located in Hampshire specialising in premium English sparkling wines. Simon Robinson established Hattingley Valley in 2008. Following in-depth feasibility studies, the first 28-acre, south-facing site was planted in May of that year with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Alongside Emma Rice, he planned the modern, eco-friendly winery in Wield that was completed in 2010. It uses the latest technology and equipment from continental Europe, has sophisticated waste disposal facilities and was the first UK winery to adopt solar power.

The estate currently manages over 24 hectares (60 acres) of vines across two, well-situated sites under the watchful eyes of its vineyard managers. The vines are nurtured throughout the growing year with an environmentally-sensitive approach to viticulture ensuring optimum ripeness, yield and quality of fruit.

At Hattingley Valley, the traditional method (method champenoise) is used for winemaking. A key element of the house style is the subtle use of oak barrels to ferment a small proportion of the wines each year, as well as ageing on lees in stainless steel tanks. This helps to soften the wines before they go into bottles for the second fermentation. 

The butterfly you see across Hattingley’s branding is the Silver-washed Fritillary, a rare butterfly often found in the chalk-based vineyard. The presence of this special butterfly shows that the vineyard is a thriving environment with a rich biodiversity.

Since launching its first release in August 2013, Hattingley Valley has been recognised in competitions across the globe and developed into one of the most respected producers of English sparkling wines in the country. Hattingley was awarded the ‘World Champion’ trophy for its 2011 Blanc de Blancs in the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships 2017.

Chardonnay 50%, Pinot Noir 30%, Pinot Meunier 19%, Pinot Gris 1%.

Dosage = 7g/litre (ie at the low end of Brut).

Here's Hattingley Valley's own data sheet/fiche technique on this wine.

Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV - fiche technique

Pale gold in colour with an abundance of fine bubbles, the Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve has vibrant baked apple, creamy nougat and brioche notes on the nose, supported by a hint of toast and fresh red fruit representative of the 2014 vintage. With notes of soft lemon sherbet on the palate, the wine has a beautiful weight from partial oak fermentation of the base wine. Refreshing and perfectly balanced, this wine has a delightful long finish.

ABV = 12.0%.

£28.70

Balfour - Hush Heath Estate, Leslie's Reserve NV

Awarded 87 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Balfour-Hush Heath Estate, Leslie's Reserve NV - January 2020 Decanter review

Balfour - Hush Heath Estate, situated in Kent, dates back to 1503. At the heart of the property is a Tudor manor surrounded by 162 hectares of perfectly manicured oak forests, vineyards, and apple orchards. Forward-thinking Richard Balfour-Lynn first planted vineyards on the property in 2002, with the aim of making England's finest sparkling rosé. Today, the 25 hectares of vineyards and eight hectares of apple trees are meticulously and sustainably managed by a family of viticulturists. The wines and cider, some named after Richard’s family, are made from estate grown fruit by winemakers Owen Elias and Victoria Ash. Owen is a four-time UK Vineyards Association 'Winemaker of the Year' winner and has nearly 20 years of experience making English wines. In the summer of 2018, Balfour - Hush Heath Estate opened their new state-of-the-art winery and cellar door tasting room.

The flagship Brut Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, which spends over three years on its lees. The result is a crisp rosé with balanced red berry fruit, richness from the lees ageing and elegance from the restrained dosage. The non-vintage 'Leslie's Reserve' offers great value for an English sparkling wine. It is made from the same three grape varieties as Brut Rosé and is aged on its lees for 15 months. It is fruity and appealing, with lovely roundness on the palate and a refreshing acidity on the finish. The Blanc de Blancs is only produced in very small quantities and only in the finest vintages. The wine spends 30 months on its lees which adds depth and complexity. It is a clean vibrant style with crisp acidity and a wonderful lightness.

The Estate’s still wines, known as the ‘Family Collection’, are a real discovery. ‘Skye's English White’, a blend based on 55% Chardonnay, has a lively citrus fruit character on the palate and racy acidity that is balanced by good depth on the mid-palate. The beautifully pale ‘Nanette's English Rose’ is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Meunier, which gives it a citrus edge. ‘Luke’s Pinot Noir’ is an elegant red, with ripe and soft tannins, beautifully balanced acidity and juicy red fruit and spice notes. ‘Liberty’s Bacchus’ is a new addition to the list, made from grapes from the Foxwood vineyard, the highest point on the estate. A proportion of the wine underwent fermentation in barrel with wild yeasts, resulting in a lovely toasty complexity balanced by zesty acidity. The Springfield Chardonnay is the first still Chardonnay that Balfour has made since 2015. Made exclusively from fruit from the marvellous 2018 vintage, with careful use of new French and American oak, this wine showcases the huge potential of English still wines. With a bright straw complexion and a fresh palate of grapefruit and green apple, this wine is drinking beautifully now but also has the capacity to age elegantly.

All vineyards are located on the 400 acre estate in the heart of Kent. Wealden clay soils overlay Tunbridge Wells sand. Vines are trellised using the double guyot method with vertical shot positioning. Planting density is 3300 vines per hectare and the whole estate is managed sustainably.

The grapes for this non-vintage (NV) wine are usually harvested in October.

The grapes were whole bunch pressed and then fermented at 16°C in stainless steel. Secondary fermentation took place in bottle and the wine aged on its lees for 15 months. The grapes are all grown, fermented and bottled on the Estate.

Residual sugar = 19g/l (ie this is just a Sec).

55% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier.

A golden colour with pink highlights, Leslie's Reserve is a fresh and vibrant style with an expressive and fruity character of citrus, green apple and a creamy mousse. It has a lovely roundness on the palate, refreshing acidity on the finish and complexity derived from the lees ageing.

ABV = 12.0%.

£27.75

Sugrue Pierre The Trouble with Dreams Cuvée Brut 2014 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 87 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Sugrue Pierre The Trouble With Dreams Cuvée Brut 2014 - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 95 points and Gold status at the 2019 IWC (International Wine Challenge) in May 2019 (see blue link below for review and their tasting note).

Sugrue Pierre The Trouble With Dreams Cuvée Brut 2014 - IWC 2019 award and review

The 2013 vintage was awarded 97 points and rare Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2017 edition review of English Sparkliing (see blue link below).

Sugrue Pierre Trouble With Dreams 2013 - August 2017 Decanter review

Sugrue Pierre is the personal project of celebrated English sparkling winemaker, Dermot Sugrue. Sugrue has been the winemaker behind many of England's best sparkling wines over the last 10 years. Previously the winemaker at Nyetimber, he left in 2006 to establish the Wiston Estate Winery. The same year he also planted a one-hectare vineyard in Storrington Priory which has been in full production since 2009, producing the highly-acclaimed and multi-award-winning sparkling wine, ‘The Trouble with Dreams’. In 2017, this, the truly exceptional and very limited ‘The Trouble with Dreams’ 2013, took the top spot in the Independent English Wine Awards.

A portion of the fruit for this vintage was sourced from the Storrington Priory Vineyard. The majority of grapes came from the exceptional Mount Harry Vineyard near Lewes, in East Sussex. Both of the vineyards are located in Sussex, sitting above the 50th parallel and are influenced by a cool coastal climate. The vineyards have east and south-easterly aspects respectively, encouraging the maximum exposure to the sun, assisting ripening in this capricious climate. The soils are dominated by South Downs chalk which provides superior drainage for the vines, as well as imparting great elegance and finesse to the wines.

This is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The grapes were harvested at optimal ripeness and pressed in a traditional Coquard basket press. 50% of the juice was fermented in a combination of old oak barriques and 500-litre puncheons, while the remaining 50% was fermented in stainless steel tanks, where malolactic fermentation was encouraged, softening the resulting wine. This sparkling wine was made using the traditional method, with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. 

Dosage = 6g/litre (ie the low end of Brut).

This boasts great purity and elegance, with lemon and apple aromas leading to a palate of delicate stone fruit and refreshingly crisp acidity. This is long, complex and absolutely delicious. Served chilled, this is a stunning apéritif. It also accompanies seafood magnificently. The structure and finesse of this wine give it the versatility to match with a variety of dishes.

ABV = 12.0%.

£38.45

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 2004 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Most Exciting Wines of 2019 (see blue link below).

Charles Heidsieck Blanc Des Millenaires 2004 - January 2020 Decanter review

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

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2018 edition producer profile of Charles Heidsieck (see blue link below)...

Charles Heidsieck Blanc Des Millenaires 2004 - Sept 2018 Decanter review

Charles Heidsieck is one of the most admired Champagne houses thanks to the unrivalled and consistently high quality of its wines. Founded in 1851 by the man who would become known as ‘Champagne Charlie’, this family-owned house is the smallest of the Grandes Marques. Their size, and commitment to excellence, has been underpinned by a winemaking team that between them have been named 'Sparkling Winemaker of the Year' at the International Wine Challenge 15 times.

Only Chardonnay is used in the blend of this exceptionally textured cuvée. The grapes are grown on vineyards found with five major Crus from the Côte des Blancs, meticulously chosen for their ability to evolve as well as for their ability to express their full richness once fully mature: Oger for its unctuousness and structure, Mesnil-sur-Oger for balance, Avize for its minerality, Cramant for its complexity and Vertus for its freshness and floral notes.

2004 was an exceptional vintage for quality and quantity. Wines from this vintage are structured, well-balanced and have exceeded all expectations.

In the 19th century, convinced that they would be an ideal place to age wine, Charles Heidsieck decided to purchase chalk cellars dating back to Gallo-Roman times, located in the historic heart of Reims. This audacious decision turned out to be a stroke of genius since these cellars proved to be a peaceful haven where the humidity and 10°C temperature remain constant. An extraordinary ageing period of almost 11 years, gives this 100% Chardonnay cuvée an unparallelled complexity and texture.

Residual sugar = 9g/litre (ie Brut).

On the nose, the Blanc des Millénaires 2004 opens with elegant notes of lemon, apple blossoms, salted butter and almonds along with a toasted, buttery nuance of crème anglaise. The palate is full of fresh citrus flavours giving the wine a taut crispness. Still youthful and taut with an elegant mousse.

ABV = 12.0%.

£150.15

Xanadu (Estate) Chardonnay 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, The Most Exciting Wines of 2019 (see blue link below).

 

Xanadu (Estate) Chardonnay 2017 - January 2020 Decanter review

NB: previously called the Xanadu Estate Chardonnay, recently renamed by the producer!

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2019 edition article: Decanter buyer's guide: Australian Chardonnay (see blue link below).

Xanadu Chardonnay 2017 - April 2019 Decanter review

See the link below for the full set of awards the Xanadu Estate Chardonnay 2017 has (so far) received (it has only just reached the UK!).

Xanadu (Estate) Chardonnay 2017 - awards

Xanadu was established by Dr John Lagan, an Irishman, who arrived in Margaret River in 1968 and was inspired by the pioneering spirit of the region. At the time, the potential of Margaret River as one of the world’s finest wine-producing regions was only just being considered. So less than a decade on, Dr Lagan with his wife Eithne established one of the region’s earlier vineyards, planting his first vines in 1977. Lovers of literature will remember Xanadu as Samuel Coleridge’s mysterious, idyllic, exotic city; home of Kubla Khan. Dr Lagan, himself a great literature enthusiast, drew parallels between Coleridge’s visions of utopia and his newly adopted home, and thus the name Xanadu was born.

100% Chardonnay.

To see Xanadu's excellent information sheet for this wine, please click on the blue link below.

Xanadu (Estate) Chardonnay 2017 - fiche technique

ABV = 13.0%.

£18.40

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 (1x50cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Ten New World Sweet Wines (see blue link below).

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Most Exciting Wines of 2019 (see blue link below).

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded a Gold medal and 96 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details)

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Awarded 98 points and Exceptional status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their January 2019 edition review of Dessert Wines and Ports (see blue link below).

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 - January 2019 Decanter review

Even better than the 2014 release - and that was a spectacular sweet wine - the 2015 Vin de Constance is one of the greatest ever vintages of this iconic sticky. More Barsac than Sauternes in terms of weight, it’s fresh and refined, a bit like the 2012, with citrus and orange zest balancing the 172 grams of sugar. The oak is perfectly judged; the length and freshness, things of wonder". 98 points, Tim Atkin, South Africa Report 2018

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note...

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 - fiche technique ...

... and this detailed information pack on the wine and this vintage ...

... and (perhaps best of all) this video for more details on the wine.

100% Muscat de Frontignan.

Residual sugar = 172g/litre.

Golden hued, deep amber in appearance. First nose is of freshly dried pineapples with hints of vanilla and roasted almonds. Heady woodspice scents intermingle with fresh mandarin, lemongrass and mango. The seamless palate is elegantly structured, with ripe tropical flavours of mango. and pineapple. Raisined Muscat flavours provide concentrated acidity and a piercing lift to the seemingly endless finish. Will mature for at least a further 25 years.

ABV = 14.0%.

£49.95

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Pasada Pastrana Manzanilla NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Most Exciting Wines of 2019 (see blue link below).

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Pasada Pastrana Manzanilla - January 2020 Decanter review

“I have said this before and I will say it again – this is the best value 20/20 wine I have ever tasted. I only hand out a few 20s each year in my notes and Pasada Pastrana with its pinpoint accurate nose and flavour is a truly celestial star wine. Manzanilla at its apogee – you must taste this epic dry Sherry.”

Matthew Jukes, The Daily Mail, 1st December 2016

Established in 1792, Bodegas Hidalgo is one of the oldest Sherry producers in existence, it is widely regarded as the definitive Manzanilla house. Passing down from generation to generation, continuity and quality have always been the most important themes for the company, which today uses only grapes from their own vineyards in Jérez Superior.

Pastrana is a single vineyard, on the crest of a hill near the sea, therefore cooled by the sea breezes. These grapes have great intensity of flavour. The wines are aged for longer in American oak casks than La Gitana Manzanilla. Pasada Pastrana is deeper coloured as a result, and is savoury, refreshing and hugely complex. Produced according to the traditional methods as stipulated by the controlling body of the Denomination of Origin ‘Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda’, the vines are planted in Albariza soil in the area ‘Balbaina’ and ‘Miraflores’ in the Jerez Superior District. The wine is produced from only free run juice, fermentation is controlled in water-cooled stainless steel tanks, using the natural yeast on the grape and it is fortified from 11.5% approx to 15% ABV using grape alcohol. The wine is then matured in ‘solera’ or ‘fractional blending’ system in casks of American oak in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Andalucia. The maturation is under a veil of yeast or ‘flor’ thereby ensuring a light dry taste. Only in Sanlúcar de Barrameda can the flor grow on the wine 12 months of the year to give Manzanilla its unique style.

100% Palomino Fino.

Residual sugar = 0.03 g/litre (= utterly bone dry!).

Clean, delicate and faintly yeasty on the nose. Dry, light, crisp but tremendously complex on the palate. Classic notes of salted almonds and orange peel. Power and refreshment combine to create the most complex and cerebral Manzanilla. Serve slightly chilled. The ultimate tapas or light meal accompaniment.

ABV = 15.5%.

£14.95

Gusbourne Blanc De Blancs 2013 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their January 2019 edition article: The Most Exciting Wines of 2018 (see blue link below)

Gusbourne Blanc De Blancs 2013 - January 2019 Decanter review

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com(see blue link below) in their Summer 2018 review of English sparkling wine.

Gusbourne Blanc De Blancs 2013 - Decanter review

For a full description of this wine, we would direct you to the data sheet/fiche technique from Gusbourne themselves (click blue link below)

Gusbourne Blanc De Blancs 2013 - fiche technique

A bright golden colour with a delicate mousse, the Blanc De Blancs has classic Chardonnay aromas of green apple, citrus and mineral notes combined with buttered toast and tarte tatin richness from extended lees ageing. This wine is a great accompaniment to seafood in general, but is perfect with freshly shucked oysters.

£45.00

Zorah Karasi Areni Noir 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Most Exciting Wines of 2019 (see blue link below).

Zorah Karasi Areni Noir 2017 - January 2020 Decanter review

The 2016 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition article The Joy of Clay on amphora-produced wines (see blue link below).

Zorah Karasì Areni Noir 2016 - September 2019 Decanter review

Zorik Gharibian, an Armenian based in Italy, worked with Attilio Scienza to find precisely the right location for this exciting project. After three years of research and detailed analysis of every aspect of the region, he finally bought the land in Vayotz Dzor. This is historically known as the most prestigious wine region in Armenia. The intention was to create a wine of the highest international quality. Winemaker Alberto Antonini and viticulturalist Stefano Bartolomei brought a great deal of passion and planning to the project, as well as a profound understanding of how to make it a success.

Zorah has 15 hectares of vineyards, surrounded by mountains at 1,400 metres above sea level and only steps away from a 6,100 year old winery. The vineyards are situated in the small rural village of Rind in the heart of Vayotz Dzor, Armenia's quintessential grape growing region for quality wines. Long dry summers, with good sunlight and high daytime temperatures contrast with cool nights, encouraging a lengthy growing season. The soils are rocky and rich in limestone, helping maintain moisture for the vines during the intense summer heat. The indigenous vines are grown on ungrafted rootstock as the area is unaffected by Phylloxera.

The grapes were harvested by hand into small 15-kilo crates. After destemming, the grapes were gently crushed. Fermentation and maceration on the skins took place in concrete tanks with no epoxy lining. Malolactic fermentation occurred naturally. The wine was aged partially in concrete tanks, partially in large untoasted wooden casks in order to soften tannins, but mainly in traditional Armenian amphorae (karas) of varying sizes which were sealed with wax and buried partially below ground to maintain a constant temperature. The wine was very lightly filtered before bottling, and spent a further six months ageing in bottle before release.

100% Areni Noir.

Bright ruby red in colour, this wine has complex aromas of red fruits, lightly spiced with an elegant toasted note. The palate reflects the exotic nose with hints of soft red fruits, dried mountain herbs and wild earth. Generous and soft with balanced, full-bodied structure and mature tannins before a long, evolved mineral finish.

ABV = 13.5%.

£25.55

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla NV (1x 75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Most Exciting Wines of 2019 (see blue link below).

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla NV - January 2020 Decanter review

Established in 1792, Bodegas Hidalgo is one of the oldest Sherry producers in existence, it is widely regarded as the definitive Manzanilla house. Passing down from generation to generation, continuity and quality have always been the most important themes for the company, which today uses only grapes from their own vineyards in Jérez Superior.

Manzanilla La Gitana is produced according to the traditional methods as stipulated by the controlling body of the Denomination of Origin ‘ManzanillaSanlúcar de Barrameda’. Vines are planted in Albariza soil in ‘Balbaina’ and ‘Miraflores’ in the Jerez Superior District (200 ha approx). Produced from only free run juice and using only the natural yeast found on the grapes, controlled fermentation takes place in water-cooled stainless steel tanks. The Wine is then fortified to 15% ABV using grape alcohol. It is then matured in ‘solera’ or ‘fractional blending’ systems using American oak casks, in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Maturation occurs under a veil of yeast or ‘flor’, ensuring a light dry taste. It is only in Sanlúcar de Barrameda that flor can grow 12 months of the year, giving Manzanilla its unique style. La Gitana is bottled exclusively by Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana S.A. Under the original brand label ‘La Gitana’, one of Spain’s oldest wine brands and today, one of the country’s most popular.

100% Palomino Fino.

The La Gitana is dry and refreshing, with apple, straw and nutty flavours all underscored by a salty tanginess. Lightweight, subtle and balanced. A perfect introduction to sherry. One of the best aperitifs served chilled in a wine glass. Ideal as an accompaniment to tapas, sea food, white meats, mild cheeses and nuts.

ABV = 15.0%.

£11.30

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu 2016 (1x 75cl)

** TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE, WE REMAIN THE ONLY SUPPLIER OF THIS WINE IN THE UK. BEWARE THE STOCKIST ON winesearcher.com WHERE THIS WINE SHOWS AS 2016 BUT IS, IN FACT, 2015!! **

** WE HAVE NOW SOLD ALL OUR IMMEDIATE STOCKS, AND MORE SUPPLIES ARE ON THEIR WAY FROM NEW ZEALAND. HOWEVER, THESE WILL NOT ARRIVE UNTIL EARLY FEBRUARY. AT THIS RANGE, WE WOULD PREFER NOT TO TAKE PAYMENT FROM INTENDING CUSTOMERS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ORDER SOME, PLEASE EMAIL YOUR REQUIREMENTS TO US ON communications@exelwines.co.uk. WE WILL ADD YOU TO OUR WAITING LIST, CONFIRM THAT REQUEST BY EMAIL AND WILL CONTACT YOU WHEN THE WINE LANDS IN EARLY 2020 FOR PAYMENT. **

** 12 BOTTLES PER CUSTOMER ONLY (NB: the 2015 is also available without limits) **

Awarded a Platinum & Best in Show medal and 97 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

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.

Te Kahu means 'the cloak' in Maori and refers to the mist that envelops Giants Winery in the Tukituki Valley. Legend has it that this mist was used to protect a mythical Maori maiden from the sun as she visited her lover Te Mata.

The grapes are completely destemmed before fermentation begins in closed top stainless steel tanks with the yeast being innoculated into the must. The wine then spends 10 months maturing in oak barriques (28% are new) before being fined, filtered and released for sale.  

63% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec.

The Te Kahu is a deep crimson red. It has complex aromatics of ripe plum, a touch of cassis, fresh rosemary and roasted meats. The palate is generous and approachable but also has a high level of sophistication with fine grained tannins enveloping a dense body of succulent black fruits. This wine has the ability to age for around 12 years from vintage.

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

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu 2016 - fiche technique

ABV = 13.4%.

£21.50

Framingham Marlborough Noble Riesling 2018 (1x37.5cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Ten New World Sweet Wines (see blue link below).

Framingham Marlborough Noble Riesling 2018 - January 2020 Decanter review

The Framingham label was launched in 1994 with one Riesling, and has since expanded to include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Framingham produces wines from their 19.5 hectare estate vineyard (certified organic since 2014) and other selected sites. Their Riesling vines, planted in 1981, are among the oldest in Marlborough. Winemaker Dr Andrew Hedley joined Framingham in 2001, bringing with him an obsession with – and a reputation for – making great Riesling. Indeed, Jancis Robinson MW hails Andrew as “one of the most skilled practitioners of Riesling anywhere in the world”.

Grapes for the 2018 Noble Riesling were selected from the old, organically-grown vines on the Framingham estate vineyard. Soils there are of the old river bed type; fist-sized stones composed of greywacke (a hard, dark type of sandstone streaked with quartz and feldspar), mixed alluvial gravel and silt. Vineyard practice for this wine is geared to produce ripe grapes that have had maximum 'hang time' on the vine.

Spring was wet and mild with no frost in any of the vineyards. Summer temperatures stepped up with December being the second warmest on record, while January saw the highest temperatures since records began. By February it was looking like an early harvest, with superb flowering conditions and a sizeable crop necessitating thinning in almost all vineyards. However, two ex-tropical cyclones brought considerable rainfall in February. Harvest started mid-March with grapes at a good level of physiological ripeness but needing careful hand-sorting to eliminate botrytis. Despite the rain, fruit was able to hang on the vine to achieve very good ripeness levels.

Selective tris/hand harvest took place between 1st and 12th April and 3rd May with a net Brix of 37 (163 Öchsle). The wine was blended from eight Auslese picks. Bunches were selected with largely 100% botrytis-affected berries, though most were in the relatively early stages of dehydration and not yet fully raisined; the remainder were just turning in colour with early botrytis bloom. The wine was fermented in stainless-steel tanks (60%) and oak barrels (40%) before the final blend was composed.

100% Riesling.

Residual sugar = 220g/litre.

A sweet, botrytis-affected wine inspired by the classic German Beerenauslese style. The wine is deeply concentrated, yet elegant and not cloying as a result of its vibrant acidity and naturally low alcohol. On the nose, there are aromas of orange citrus, apricot, marmalade and cream with a rich mouthfeel and extract, lots of stone fruit and zesty flavours, all held together with the bright acidity.

ABV = 9.0%.

£16.75

Greywacke Marlborough Botrytis Pinot Gris 2015 (1x37.5cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Ten New World Sweet Wines (see blue link below).

Greywacke Marlborough Botrytis Pinot Gris 2015 - January 2020 Decanter review

Greywacke was created in 2009 by Kevin Judd, chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay from its inception for 25 years and instrumental in the international recognition which Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc enjoys now. The name 'Greywacke' was adopted by Kevin for his first Marlborough vineyard located in Rapaura in recognition of the high prevalence of rounded greywacke river stones in the soils of the vineyard, a sedimentary rock which is widely found in Marlborough. Kevin Judd is also New Zealand's finest wine photographer and has recently published a book 'The Landscape of New Zealand Wine'.

The fruit for this wine was grown near Renwick at the vineyard surrounding Greywacke HQ on young alluvial soils containing high proportions of New Zealand’s ubiquitous greywacke river stones. This 18- year-old vineyard is planted with the Berry-Smith clone and trained on a two-cane VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) trellis.

Warm spring weather created early flowering and early ripening. The vines were very low yielding, with smaller berries than usual, which led to increased concentration and quality in the 2015 wines. The vineyard was hand-harvested on 8th June.

The shrivelled grapes were whole bunch pressed using very long, low maceration press cycles. The juices were cold-settled and then racked to old barrels for fermentation. 40% of the barrels were inoculated with cultured yeast and the others were allowed to undergo spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation. The fermentation was eventually stopped in September retaining 105 g/l residual sugar. The wine remained in barrel on lees for a further nine months, and was bottled in July 2016.

100% Pinot Gris.

A patisserie-like mélange conjuring notions of dark orange marmalade, tarte tatin and honey crème brûlée infused with hints of lapsang souchong. A decadent and voluptuous interpretation of Pinot Gris that is richly flavoured with poached quince and dried fruits – a luscious sweet wine with elegant structure and a clean lingering finish.

ABV = 13.5%.

£19.30

Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2018 (1x37.5cl Half)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Ten New World Sweet Wines (see blue link below).

Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2018 - January 2020 Decanter review

Click this link for an excellent video (4'20") on Seifried.

The 2016 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their January 2019 edition review of Dessert Wines and Ports (see blue link below).

Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2016 - January 2019 Decanter review

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.

The 2016 was also awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Category (Best New Zealand Sweet) at the Decanter World Wine Awards (www.decanter.com): see their August 2017 DWWA supplement (see blue link below).

Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2016 - August 2017 Decanter review

When Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes first planted grapes in the Moutere Valley near Nelson, Seifried has grown to become one of New Zealand’s most sustainable family-owned wineries. With 14 vinifera varieties, on two hectares of land, they began the South Island’s modern commercial wine industry. Hermann and Agnes were true pioneers, experimenting with what classical European varieties may do well in this untested climate and terroir. Today it has grown from very modest beginnings to become one of New Zealand’s most sustainable wineries, producing the very best Nelson has to offer. The site that Herman and Agnes chose for their new vineyards was perfect in terms of location. It is surrounded by mountains to the east, west and south (Richmond and Western Ranges) and the Tasman Sea to the north, which moderates the temperate climate throughout the year. The sunshine here was also a real drawcard, with an average of over 2,400 hours of sunshine a year, earning Nelson its reputation as the ‘Sunshine Capital of New Zealand’. 1976 was the first harvest with five distinctive varietal wines being made - Riesling, Sylvaner, Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau and Refosco.

This, the Sweet Agnes, is special stuff. Made with extreme care by Seifried in NZ’s South Island, the Sweet Agnes is pure, late-harvested Riesling: left on the vine, the grapes gain even greater ripeness, lose moisture and so become incredibly sweet (the wine’s sugar content is ~180g/litre). It’s almost amber in colour, and its flavours include lemon sherbet, marmalade, tropical fruits and butterscotch. It’s quite irresistible on its own and delicious with fruity puddings or tangy cheeses (particularly blue cheeses: it really is amazing with these).

100% Riesling.

Residual sugar = 153g/litre - this is seriously sweet.

To see the winemakers notes on this wine, please click on the blue link below.

Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2018 - fiche technique

ABV = 10.5%.

£20.40

Peller Family Estates Vidal Icewine half bottle 2017 (1x37.5cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Ten New World Sweet Wines (see blue link below).

Peller Family Estates Vidal Icewine half bottle 2017 - January 2020 Decanter review

It all began in 1927, when Andrew Peller first arrived in Canada from Hungary. Having owned a series of successful businesses, he wanted to finally pursue his dream. He envisioned a day when Canadians, like Europeans, would come to appreciate premium-quality wines and enjoy sharing them with family and friends. The family proudly carries on Andrew's tradition of crafting wine with an uncommon commitment to quality.

Naturally frozen Vidal grapes are hand harvested from Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyards at -10°C. Grapes are pressed frozen, releasing only one drop of pure extract from each grape. Fermentation is performed at a cool temperature of 15ºC to preserve pure fruit expression and freshness, then aged in stainless steel.

100% Vidal.

Residual sugar = 185g/litre.

This is an exceptionally well-balanced icewine exhibiting sophistication and elegance. The clean fruit flavours of peach, pear juice, tangerine and a drizzle of honey excite the palate. Lemon drops, apricot and candied citrus peel linger through on the finish. Best enjoyed through 2019 and early 2020.

Serve chilled at 8 to 10°C in small white wine glasses. Enjoy before a meal, chilled with your favourite vodka and a couple of frozen grapes for an amazing Icewine Martini. During a meal with pâté for a mouth sensation. Also a wonderful companion to Indian curry dishes and spicy Asian cuisine. Serve with the cheese course which may include cheddar or creamy blue cheeses. After a meal with fruit based desserts of mango, pear, quince, sweet citrus and tropical fruits; crème caramel; crème brûlée; custards; and syllabubs.

ABV = 11.0%.

£32.80

Eroica Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Washington (State) Buys (see blue link below).

Eroica Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle 2017 - January 2020 Decanter review

Eroica is a labour of love for two of the world's great Riesling producers, Germany's Dr Loosen and Washington State's Chateau Ste. Michelle. Named after Beethoven's Third Symphony, Eroica reflects not only its variety and site, but also its heritage: bold and forward from its Washington roots, elegant and refined from German inspiration. This Riesling offers sweet lime and tangerine aromas with subtle mineral notes, and a mouth-watering acidity that is beautifully balanced by the generously fruity Washington grapes.

Click this link for a (characterful) video tasting note with the winemakers (2016 vintage).

100% Riesling.

Residual sugar = 1.6 g/litre (ie bone-dry!)

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

Eroica Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle 2017 - fiche technique

Eroica Riesling offers sweet lime and mandarin orange aromas with subtle mineral notes. The mouth-watering acidity is beautifully balanced by flavourful Washington Riesling fruit. Eroica is a blended statement of the finest Riesling vineyards in Washington state.

ABV =  11.5%.

£21.10

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Washington (State) Buys (see blue link below).

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2017 - January 2020 Decanter review

As the maker puts it: "It takes an unconventional winemaker to make a totally unexpected dry Riesling. One night, Charles was eating Chinese takeout and watching a fight scene in a notorious martial arts film when he had an idea: a killer white wine made to be paired with Asian food. Just like that, Kung Fu Girl was born. And it’s been kicking ass and taking names ever since".

More traditionally put: This wine is made by Charles Smith, a self–taught winemaker who brings his rock and roll spirit to the vineyards of Walla Walla, Washington. As a romantic young man, Charles Smith moved across the world to Denmark to follow his love for his girlfriend at the time. In Scandinavia, he became a recognized manager for rock bands such as The Raveonettes. While travelling on the road with these bands, he developed his passion for wine. In 1999, he moved back to Washington, opened a wine store and became friendly with a French winemaker, later convincing him to move to Walla Walla to make wine together.

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling grapes comes from Evergreen Vineyard vines, where they stretch across the steep cliffs overlooking the Colombia River. This makes for ideal Riesling growing conditions that rival those in Germany. This wine is made from 100% Riesling grapes, carefully cultivated and pressed at the winery. The wine is barrel-aged for only 2 months (using the sur lie method, ie leaving the wine on its fine lees). Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling is crafted to be approachable and ready to drink the day you buy it.

The wine is a party in a glass. Young and fun, bright balance and tropical fruit notes make this an easy introduction to the world of Riesling. White stone fruit, apricot and white peach aromas with honeysuckle undertones make it a stand out. These flavours are balanced with elements of lime zest, citrus blossom and a floral hint of jasmine.

This wine would pair well with any number of foods. It can very easily be enjoyed on its own but Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling is a match made in heaven with Korean BBQ, spicy curry any kind of Thai food and sushi. Snow crab, lobster, prawns, roasted chicken or grilled salmon would also pair well.

100% Riesling.

Residual sugar = 1.4g/litre (ie bone dry).

To see an information sheet and tasting note for this wine from the team at Charles Smith Wines, please click on the blue link below.

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2017 - fiche technique

ABV = 12.0%.

£14.75

Betz Family Besoleil Columbia Valley 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Washington (State) Buys (see blue link below).

Betz Family Besoleil Columbia Valley 2014 - January 2020 Decanter review

Betz is a family run winery in Woodinville, Washington, headed up by Bob Betz MW. Their first vintage was in 1998, and today they have an annual production of 5,000 cases, of which two thirds goes to their domestic mailing list customers. The vineyards are located in the Columbia Valley, specifically in the Red Mountain, Horse Haven Hills, Yakima Valley and Snipes Mountain AVAs. Betz works very closely with long term growers that allow them to select specific rows and vines. The climate is sunny and dry, with the Cascade Mountain range acting as a cloud barrier, ensuring cloudless skies 300 days of the year. The vines are planted on their own roots, rather than on rootstocks, because phylloxera is not a problem in Washington State.

Fruit for this wine was grown on the eastern and Mid Yakima Valley, primarily in the ancient riverbed site of Upland Vineyard. This site has the oldest Grenache planting in WA and the oldest own-rooted Grenache planting in North America. At 325 to 450 metres above sea level, the sites are mostly windy with excellent drainage and steep slopes. Soils include Hezel sandy loam, silt loam, Scooteney, some ancient riverbed, volanic pumice and calcite deposits. The area is very dry, with 12 to 16cm of rain annually.

In the vineyards, 2014 marked the third year in a row for an early start for vine growth. Flowering took place under ideal weather conditions. The warm, calm weather resulted in one of the most compressed flowering periods in recent years, and very even berry size. This also meant that a large crop was hanging in the vineyards, which allowed growers to ‘green harvest’, a mid-season dropping of any bunches that were uneven or lagging behind in development. Steady heat continued through July and August, leading to the earliest harvest ever for Betz Family Winery with the first grapes picked on 3rd September. The wines reflect the steady weather and even grape ripeness.

33% Grenache/Garnacha, 24% Counoise, 20% Syrah/Shiraz, 17% Cinsault, 6% Mourvèdre.

The fruit was placed into open top fermenters where it remained for six to eight days. The must then went into a basket press before the wine went into barrel for malolactic fermentation. It was allowed to age for 12 months, primarily in concrete with a small percentage of neutral, large format barrels.

A finely layered yet deep and brooding blend, with creamy black raspberry, wild dried strawberry, dried herbs and floral notes. This year’s blend represents the highest proportion of Counoise in Bésoleil to date (24%) and reflects the success of the variety in 2014. The typical ruby-red colour of Bésoleil is deepened by the vibrant blue of Counoise, which also imparts notes of white and black pepper alongside an earthy, dusty expression reminiscent of the southern Rhône

ABV = 14.0%.

£45.85

Betz Family La Cote Rousse Syrah 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Washington (State) Buys (see blue link below).

Betz Family La Cote Rousse Syrah 2014 - January 2020 Decanter review

Betz is a family run winery in Woodinville, Washington, headed up by Bob Betz MW. Their first vintage was in 1998, and today they have an annual production of 5,000 cases, of which two thirds goes to their domestic mailing list customers. The vineyards are located in the Columbia Valley, specifically in the Red Mountain, Horse Haven Hills, Yakima Valley and Snipes Mountain AVAs. Betz works very closely with long term growers that allow them to select specific rows and vines. The climate is sunny and dry, with the Cascade Mountain range acting as a cloud barrier, ensuring cloudless skies 300 days of the year. The vines are planted on their own roots, rather than on rootstocks, because phylloxera is not a problem in Washington State.

Fruit for this wine comes from the Red Mountain site in the Eastern Yakima Valley, planted at 325 to 420 metres, receiving an average of 12cm of rainfall per year. Soils are composed of Hezel sandy loam, shallow warden loam over scooteney, and some ancient riverbeds. This is the hottest of the three Betz Family Winery Syrah sites.

In the vineyards, 2014 marked the third year in a row for an early start for vine growth. Flowering took place under ideal weather conditions. The warm, calm weather resulted in one of the most compressed flowering periods in recent years, and very even berry size. This also meant that a large crop was hanging in the vineyards, which allowed growers to ‘green harvest’, a mid-season dropping of any bunches that were uneven or lagging behind in development. Steady heat continued through July and August, leading to the earliest harvest ever for Betz Family Winery with the first grapes picked on 3rd September. The wines reflect the steady weather and even grape ripeness.

The fruit was placed into open top fermenters where it remained for six to eight days. It was then transferred into a basket press before the wine went into barrel for malolactic fermentation. It was allowed to age for 12 months in 50% new French oak.

100% Syrah.

The 2014 La Côte Rousse displays the youthful, brooding, dark character expected from these Red Mountain sites. The superb ripening conditions are evident in its deep core of blue and black fruits. The use of whole cluster fermentation has added additional spicy aromatics along with smoked meats, crushed herbs and wood spice.

ABV = 14.2%.

£52.60

Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Washington (State) Buys (see blue link below).

Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - January 2020 Decanter review

"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.

Planted in 1973, the south-facing Cold Creek Vineyard is a warm, dry site with high heat accumulation. The low yielding old vines produce small clusters and small berries, resulting in intense varietal flavors and deep color. The site’s weak, loamy sand and gravel soils with low-water holding capacity produce moderate crops and concentrated grapes. Cold Creek vineyard is LIVE and Salmon Safe certified.

Ripe grapes were destemmed and sorted with a cutting-edge grape receiving and sorting system designed to gently remove any green material from the grapes, allowing for pure varietal expression and soft mouthfeel. Daily gentle pumpovers were used to extract optimal flavor and color and minimize harsh tannins. Frequent airative racking takes place during barrel aging to soften tannins and enhance mouthfeel. Aged for 22 months in 25% new French oak, 17% new American oak and 58% neutral oak.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet from this iconic 45-year-old vineyard consistently delivers structure, power and richly concentrated black fruit. The wine offers black cherry flavours and chocolate notes with typical Cold Creek density and user friendly power.

ABV = 14.5%.

£29.20

Yealands Estate State of Flux Chardonnay 2018 (1x75cl)

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Spurrier's Fine Wine World (see blue link below).

Yealands Estate State Of Flux Chardonnay 2018 - January 2020 Decanter review

This is one of two exciting new premium wines - the State of Flux wines - from New Zealand's Yealands. They have just arrived into the UK (13th Nov 2019).

This is very much a lean/Chablis-style Chardonnay; Napa-style, this is not!

When Peter Yealands shared his vision to become the world’s most sustainable wine producer, he already knew that the only way to craft truly beautiful, award-winning wines was in partnership with nature, and that compromising his deeply-rooted sustainability values was simply not an option. Today his philosophy holds true and forms the basis of Yealands' approach to winemaking. Peter’s trademark “can do” attitude is the stuff of legend. Happiest working the land at the controls of a bulldozer or digger, Peter has a track record of making pioneering, innovative plans come to fruition.

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

Yealands Estate State Of Flux Chardonnay 2018 - fiche technique

100% Chardonnay.

The nose is complex and layered. Concentrated baked yellow apple, peach, dried apricots and graphite with hints of almond and spices. Full-bodied with complex depth of flavours. Highly layered with a persistent creamy spiced apricot finish.

ABV = 12.5%.

£23.10

Alvear Palacio Quemado La Zarcita 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article/feature on Spain's Extremadura region (see blue link below).

Alvear Palacio Quemado La Zarcita 2017 - January 2020 Decanter review

Palacio Quemado is located in Extremadura, DO Ribera del Guadiana, in south-western Spain. The winery has 230 acres of 16-year old vines: 50% are Tempranillo and the rest are other varieties well adapted to the area: Garnacha, Syrah, Petit Verdot and local grapes.

In January 2015, Palacio Quemado became part of Grandes Pagos de España, an association of Spanish wine producers dedicated to upholding and promoting very high quality single estate wines. These are wines that faithfully reflect the soils, subsoils and climate from which they hail, each offering an unmistakable personality that can only be drawn from a specific terroir.

Founded in 1999 by the eighth Generation of the Alvear family, this is an estate steeped in tradition, experience, know-how and passion. Since 2010, the Envinate group, a winemaking company that focuses on exploring distinctive parcels mainly in the Atlantic-influenced regions of Ribeira Sacra, Extremadura and the Canary Islands are in charge of Palacio Quemado’s winemaking. Their aim is to make pure and authentic wines that express the terroir of each parcel in a clear and concise manner.

Since 2013, no pesticides are used, only small doses of sulphur and copper, as well as natural plants such as sage, wormwood and cinnamon. 

The winery has different types of soils, calcareous, clay, sandy and rocky, leanding to an exhaustive field work. Each plot of vines is managed and vinified separately, based on its different soils and orientation. Minimum intervention is made in the winery, and only with great care: the grapes enter the winery and tanks almost without crushing, prevented from breaking to preserve the personality of each plot (and of each variety) and the nature of the vintage. Ageing/elevage is carried in second use 500-litres 'super-barriques' to respect the work in the vineyard. This is almost exclusively sourced from France, from different coopers and forests: Allier, Nevers and Vosges.

La Zarcita is one of two wines that Alvear produces in conjunction with Envinate at the Palacio Quemado estate, where the team of Envinate has produced their own label for quite some time. The philosophy of La Zarcita is to blend different indigenous varieties from the single Palacio Quemado estate to produce a young and fresh expression of the terroir of Extremadura. (The philosophy of the second wine - Los Acilates - is to produce an honest and fresh expression of a single plot within the estate, planted with heritage indigenous varieties). La Zarcita is named after a small stream that runs through the vineyards of Palacio Quemado. Ultimately, La Zarcita is a single vineyard wine, and reflects the terroir of the soils and appellation through the use of indigenous Portuguese and Spanish varieties. 

The vineyards for Palacio Quemado extend over 100 hectares, surrounding the bodega. La Zarcita is sourced from sub-plots of this larger vineyard which were selected for their orientation, quality of soil, and grape varieties.

Trincadeira Prieta, Touriga Nacional, Garnacha Tintorera and Syrah are all used, but proportions are not specified by the maker.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. 75% of the wine is aged for eight months in second and third use 500-litre barrels from Allier, Vosges, and Nevers forests. The other 25% is aged in uncoated, concrete tanks.

Cherry red in colour, with nicely balanced floral and fruit notes on the nose and palate. It's very floral and perfumed, with a captivating nose. It's still a straightforward red but with good depth and great freshness. The palate is approachable and soft, with very good acidity.

ABV = 14.0%

£18.20
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