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Decanter Jan 19

The last Decanter ( of 2018 (to you and me; it's officially the first one of 2019) is out. And we rather like it.

The wines featured this month - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. For our full compendium of over 400 Decanter-rated wines from the last two years, please click here.

The big article of the month - as you can see - is "The Most Exciting Wines of 2018". We'll be coming back to that in just a moment.

We're most excited about a 98-point super-favourite of ours that features in an excellent feature: "The Top 20 Sweet and Fortified Wines for Christmas". It's a niche category for some, we know, but an essential for others.

That 98-pointer: the legend (an over-used term, we realise, but it's truly applicable here) that is South Africa's - and Klein Constantia's - Vin de Constance, now into its 2015 vintage. For many, it needs no introduction. For others: it's a raisined (rather than botrytised) dessert wine/sticky of the very highest order - favoured by Napoleon, aristocracy, famous writers alike (see this excellent video) - where it stands among the true greats of dessert wines. Indeed, article author/taster Andy Howard MW judges this vintage to be "as impressive as Chateau d'Yquem"... that's serious praise indeed. The 2014 vintage (96 points, and one that itself broke many records) is also available from Exel.

It may be an extravagance, but rest assured you are seeing this at a UK-best price (bonded prices aside). See the product pages on each vintage (esp the 2015) for heaps more information, including of all the gongs won.

Klein Constantia

Vin de Constance 2015



But that's far from all in this sweet-toothed feature. Another long-term Exel NZ stalwart, the Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2015 (already a Best In Show/Platinum at the DWWAs 2018) clocks in with 93 points, while Clare Valley's Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling lands 94 (alas, the rated 2017 vintage is all gone in the UK - we offer the 2018).

Among the Ports, our stand-out number is the recently-released Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2004: their blisteringly good, single-quinta Port at an excellent £27, which (we get asked this next bit frequently) is drinking beautifully now.

But what of these Most Exciting Wines? Decanter drew together a broad panel of experts and a good many of the high-scoring wines of 2018 (many seen also on these pages) and re-tasted them. The pick of the bunch made the cut for the article... and we offer 6 of the 50-strong line-up (some, as ever and annoyingly, are no longer available and many others are infernally hard to source). In the mix are:

  • Rioja's Roda 1 2011 (95 points) - a luxury/boutique Rioja of great class, from a vintage we adore, drinking superbly at the moment (it wowed us at a recent tasting here) but with many happy years ahead;
  • Ata Rangi's Lismore Pinot Gris 2017 (94 points) - this also scored brilliantly in September's NZ whites review, but there was virtually none available in the UK. A new shipment arrives in 10 days: wade in for this sumptuous NZ PG!
  • still in New Zealand, the hard-to-get-hold-of (be warned) Blank Canvas Pinot Noir 2015 (93 points) from much-acclaimed winemaker Matt Thomson. NZPNs always sell like the hottest of cakes when they pop up in reviews like these, so (to mix baking and skating metaphors in the same sentence), we politely suggest the donning of ice-related footwear;
  • the Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013 (94 points) - an Exel shop favourite and one of the most higly-acclaimed English Fizzes (how we hate that term, but what can you do? .... suggestions welcome) of recent years;
  • Arras are one of the great names of Tasmania; their Grand Vintage Brut 2007 has scored highly in the past and lands 93 points again here; it's a seriously clasy alternative to Champagne; and

Beyond, the panel reviews of the month are for

  • Quality Prosecco (this is more exciting - we've seven rated wines here, pick of the bunch for scores and quality being the 91-point Bisol Crede and the 91-point Ruggeri Giall'Oro; all seven wines are shown below).

There are also features on

  • changes in the chefs de cave of some at the great Champagne producers (two wines here from Bruno Paillard); and

Finally, the Wines of the Month/Weekday Wines look rather festive and feature an old favourite from Greywacke, the month's Must-Try Red from Donnafugata (94 points) and a glorious Austrian Blaufrankisch from Heinrich.

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Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2016 (1x 37.5cl Half)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter ( 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.

Also awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Category (Best New Zealand Sweet) at the Decanter World Wine Awards ( 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.

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

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 = 175g/litre - this is seriously sweet.

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

Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2016 - fiche technique

ABV = 10.5%.


Lustau Almacenista Palo Cortado NV (1x 50cl)

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter ( in their January 2019 edition article: The Most Exciting Wines of 2018 (see blue link below)

Lustau Almacenista Palo Cortado NV - January 2019 Decanter review

Almacenistas are independent professionals or entrepreneurs who have been historically producing and ageing Sherry. The love and care of the Almacenista for their activity is shown in their limited soleras of the finest and rarest sherries. These soleras are still operated by the original artisanal methods. Lustau was founded in 1896 by an Almacenista itself and has wanted to pay a tribute to this anonymous role in the Sherry trade by creating this very special range of Sherries.

To see an extensive fiche technique / information sheet on this sherry by Lustau, please click on the blue link below.

Lustau Almacenista Palo Cortado - fiche technique

Bright gold in colour with amber reflections. A delicate yet pungent nose, with nutty aromas. Velvety and smooth on the palate. Its endless length has a comforting bitterness that leaves the palate refreshed and ready for more.


Gusbourne Blanc De Blancs 2013 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter ( 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 ( 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.

ABV = 12.0%. 


Ruggeri Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Quartese (1x 75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter ( in their January 2019 edition panel tasting  review of Prosecco Superiore/Conegliano Valdobbiadene (see blue link below). 

Ruggeri Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Quartese - January 2019 Decanter review

See here for a review of the Quartese and a mention of the differences of higher-quality Prosecco.

"Ruggeri - hands down, this is one of the top five Prosecco producers", Decanter, July 2013

The Ruggeri winery was established in 1950 by Giustino Bisol, whose family boasts a deeply rooted, centuries-old tradition in viticulture in the Valdobbiadene area.  The winery was established in Santo Stefano di Valdobbiadene to produce and promote the sparkling Prosecco Superiore and Cartizze wines. It was originally housed in small premises in the village of Santo Stefano di Valdobbiadene. After a temporary move to a larger site in the centre of the village, in the early Nineties it was relocated to new, larger and more rational premises which can receive and process almost 3,000 tons of grapes which are brought there every harvest. Today the winery is run by Paolo Bisol, who is assisted by his children Giustino and Isabella.

The Prosecco Superiore DOCG grapes are usually delivered by over a hundred vine-growers. Nearly all of them have their vineyards in the municipality of Valdobbiadene, while 25 also grow Cartizze grapes. It should be noted that many of the superior vineyards lie in the historic districts of San Pietro di Barbozza. Santo Stefano and Saccol, which have always been renowned for producing the best in terms of quality. Ruggeri owns a small vineyard of Cartizze and 20 hectares on the nearby Montello, 12 of them are cultivated with Pinot Grigio and Glera (traditionally called Prosecco). About 1 hectare is dedicated to the growing of Recantina, an ancient and authochtonous red grape variety which was recovered thanks to the hard work of cooperation with the Istituto Sperimentale Per la Viticoltura di Conegliano (School of Viticulture of Conegliano).

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Ruggeri (English at the bottom).

Ruggeri Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Quartese DOCG - fiche technique


Chateau Bernadotte, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Medoc 2010 (1x75cl)



Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter ( in their January 2019 edition panel tasting review of Haut-Medoc Bordeaux 2010 (see blue link below). 

Chateau Bernadotte Cru Bourgeois 2010 - January 2019 Decanter review


"Strong new-wood aromas lead to a palate that is layered with firm tannins, a polished toast character and a sufficient ripe blackberry flavour to balance. This 2010 bottling shows that this is a chateau to watch. 92 points." Wine Enthusiast

It has also received strong reviews from Wine Spectator (90 points) and James Suckling (90 points).


Formerly known as Chateau Fournas, this estate was renamed Bernadotte in 1997 after a past owner, Marshal Bernadotte, who was the Sovereign Prince under the rule of Napoleon I.  Madame de Lencquesaing, owner of Chateau Pichon Lalande at the time, acquired Chateau Bernadotte in 1997 and proceeded to renovate every aspect of the estate.  

The breakdown of the grapes used in Chateau Bernadotte (in 2010) was as follows: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Their vines are on average 25 years old. 

Vinification takes place in stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks. Malolactic fermentation is then allowed to take place in tank before the wine is aged for 12-18 months in French oak barrels (30% new wood).

This wine will be drinking well between 2018 and 2025.

ABV = 14.0%.


Vina Leyda La Neblina Riesling 2019 (1x75cl)

The 2018 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter ( in their October 2019 edition panel tasting of Alternative South American Whites (see blue link below).

Viña Leyda La Neblina Riesling 2018  - October 2019 Decanter review

The 2015 vintage (long since sold out in the UK) was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter ( in that same panel (blue link below).

Viña Leyda La Neblina Riesling 2015  - October 2019 Decanter review

The 2015 vintage was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 tasting/article of/on Top 30 Chilean Wines Under £25 (see blue link below).

Viña Leyda La Neblina Riesling 2015 - June 2019 Decanter review

Few wineries encapsulate the development of coolclimate winemaking in Chile as well as pioneering Viña Leyda. The first producer to explore this coastal area, a rising star of New World winemaking, it took its name from the local railway station and later lent it to the entire DO of Leyda Valley. If Casablanca Valley represents Chile’s first tentative steps into cool-climate production, Leyda is a series of determined, confident strides: just 14km from the Pacific, the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah planted here express a crispness, minerality and fine-boned structure not found elsewhere in Chile’s viticultural paradise. Viña Leyda now has more than 200 hectares under vine, but the approach remains one of micromanagement, with detailed mapping of each vineyard and individual lot, and constant experimentation with clonal selection and viticultural techniques.

This 100% Riesling wine comes from vineyards located in the fairly-recently-discovered Leyda Valley, located 12 km from the Pacific Ocean. Its closeness to the sea makes it a unique spot for viticulture. Its cool conditions during spring and summer due to maritime influence and summer breezes makes it an extraordinary area for the development of white varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling.

These grapes were carefully transported to the winery in 400 kg bins and then, selected on a stainless steel sorting table, leaving only the best fruit. Then the clusters were pressed as whole bunches, in pneumatic press at low bars, separating the best quality juice. The juice was chilled down to 8º C and gravity clarified. The fermentation, carried out 100% in stainless steel tank, was at low temperatures (13-14°C, finishing at 16°C) for 18-20 days. After reaching dryness, the wine was left on its lees for 6 months to achieve roundness and improve the texture in the palate.

The pureness of this Riesling is shown in its floral, fruity and delightful flavours. They are elegant, mineral, expressive, with papaya, tangy, mandarin fruit and floral hints. It has a creamy texture on the palate, with sweet honey suckle, white fruit, crisp acidity and juicy-lingering ending.

ABV = 12.5%. 


Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (1x75cl)

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'.

Fruit was sourced from various prime vineyard sites in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys, the central Wairau Plains (specifically in Woodbourne, Renwick and Rapaura) and a spectacular river terrace site in the upper Awatere Valley. Soil types vary from the young alluvial soils of Rapaura, Renwick and the upper Awatere, which contain high proportions of greywacke river stones, to the older and denser clay-loams of the Southern Valleys.

A wet, mild spring ensured soil moisture levels were topped up and the growing season raced off to a frost-free start. Intermittent rain in late spring brought ideal growing conditions, but cool periods during December resulted in variable fruit set. Sauvignon Blanc set with small, open bunches, leading to modest yields. The new year brought sunny, settled weather with no significant rain for the first two months. In typical Marlborough fashion the hills to the south became parched and the dry conditions necessitated careful management of water resources. The drought was partially quenched by a brief period of rain in early March just after harvest had commenced, evoking considerable anxiety, but thankfully was followed by more settled weather. All varieties were harvested at optimum ripeness, albeit lower yields than expected. In all an excellent, dry season that provided superb quality grapes, with great concentration.

Harvested largely by machine during cool (often cold) night-time conditions, the Sauvignon Blanc grapes were picked into half-tonne bins, tipped directly into the tank press and lightly pressed. The resulting juice was cold-settled prior to fermentation in stainless steel, primarily using cultured yeast for cool, slow fermentation. A portion was allowed to undergo spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation. All individual vineyard batches were left on lees and kept separate until late July, when the blend was assembled.

100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Yellow- fleshed peaches, rock melon and blackcurrant alongside lemon icing, chamomile and hints of rose petal – this is a delicately perfumed and deliciously ripe-fruited interpretation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is both subtle and textural, showing considerable ripeness and concentration, with a crisp and long, juicy finish.

ABV = 13.5%.

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