It was obviously hot enough recently to precipitate the June edition of Decanter (www.decanter.com). Here it is...
In an edition featuring a bundle of different nations (in contrast to last month's Italian extravaganza), but particularly South America, the biggest news here is that we offer two of the four Outstanding panel-toppers from the panel review of South American Icons (or Premium red blends, if you prefer).
This is very much the month’s leading panel, we would suggest, with the month's other panel (see below) failing to expose a wine above 92 points. These two Outstandings both score score 95 points respectively, and, just as with last month's two top-scoring Amarones, are quite different in terms of grape varieties, price and provenance.
But this is also a month with a wealth of other high-scoring wines across many features, many at attractive prices and 94 points - see below.
There’s a lot more detail on a separate page we've created on that South American Icons review, those two wines and a really good crop of other Highly Recommendeds - some at very affordable prices - to which end, click this link.
The 25 wines featured this month in Decanter - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. The reviews for each wine from this current Decanter appear on each product page.
But those South American Icons are far from the only wines of interest this month, and there's a bundle of excellently-priced 94-pointers and other top-flighters in the month's other features:
<We'll get to the other panel review in a moment>.
1) There's an excellent early-page and chunky article: Top 30 Chilean Wines Under £25, in which the author, Peter Richards MW is quite emphatic in stating, "There are some beautiful wines here, outstanding value for money in the global context".
We're delighted to offer the #1 and #3 wines in that list, both of which score 94 points and we've featured before with quite some praise.
- The Corralillo Carmènere 2016 topped Decanter's Carmenère Decanter panel 2 months ago (scoring 95 points then), and is as sumptuous, velvety and attractive a Carmenère as we've ever tried (eclipsing, in our view, both of the much-requested Fevres of late 2017). And that at a brilliant £15.50. We've had the Corralillo on a waiting list from the time of last review (as initial stocks sold through very quickly) but a big block arrives here in the next fortnight and stock not already booked is now available to buy. (NB: those already on the list: your wine is safe, but if you wish to include it in a new order of the wines on this page, please do go ahead and buy now).
- The Viña Leyda La Neblina Riesling 2015 is also among our favourite Rieslings (see our article) and stunning value at £13.60. There's a lot going on in this Riesling - it fully ticks the complexity box - and whilst one might be tempted to look askance at it (compared with say German, Austrian, Alsace or Australian Rieslings) because of its price, that would be to do it a great disservice. This is a serious, single-vineyard Riesling made to impeccably high standards and with 12-15 years of ageing ahead of it (for the strong-willed).
2) So what's with the other panel review? 'Tis a good question. It's of Californian Chardonnay: no holds barred, any vintage, any area, any price point. So you'd expect some pretty amazing scores... wouldn't you? I know I would. In the line-up, you've Ridge's Monte Bello, Far Niente, Kesner, Mount Eden, Au Bon Climat, Patz & Hall. So it's a real surprise that nothing exceeds 92 points and Highly Recommended: a fine performance, yes, but from £100/bottle world-beaters?
We're not sure what to make of it: we do offer the 90-point Far Niente 2017 (a stunning wine, in my book), the Morgan Double L (albeit the year after reviewed vintage, which can't be sourced now) and the brilliant-value De Loach Russian River 2015. There's been some stringent marking here.
3) Australia features in an expert review by Sarah Ahmed... of multi-regional blends, rather bucking the single vineyard/terroir trend. Two very different wines attract 94 points here:
- Penfolds' (for it is they) Bin 311 Chardonnay 2017 (drawn from three different cool-climate regions and quite delicious) ...
- ... and the ever-excellent SC Pannell's Tempranillo/Touriga Nacional 2016 (this wine is really quite 'out there, man'), drawn from both McLaren Vale (the Tempranillo) and Barossa (the Touriga). <There's even a little Tinto Cao for even more Iberian sparkle>.
The latter wine, at £17.85, is especially good value and truly fascinating in a Portugal-meets-Spain-in-South-Australia kinda-way (see also this wine for more in this vein).
4) Australia again: Italian grape varieties this time, and another 94 pointer in the form of Mount Horrocks' Nero d'Avola from the Clare Valley. Yes, you read that correctly. Further proof, this, if such were needed (it is for many traditionalists) that we may need to take serious note of Iberia and Italian grapes grown and vinified elsewhere in the near future.
5) Savennières - we don't see much Loire demand beyond Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre, all told/alas, so it's great to offer this most revered and enigmatic of appellations. A well-deserved 92 points for Château Pierre-Bise's Clos de Coulaine 2016 - and at under £20 (ultra-rare in this AOP) - makes for a very interesting glass or two.
6) Weekday Wines - as ever, we've a a bundle here: fizz (Cantina di Gambellara's unusual Monopolio Durello Spumante), red (the mouth-filling Cazes 'Ego' Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2017) and whites (many: more from Mount Horrocks (superb Semillon), Fontanafredda's Arneis and a whole host of unusual Greeks. Check out the list below....
The 2015 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of South American Icon Wines (see blue link below).
Kaikenes are wild geese, native to Patagonia, that fly across the Andes between Chile and Argentina. Montes, the Chilean winery, crossed the Andes in the same way to set up in Mendoza. Their vineyards are situated in the heart of Mendoza and further to the south in Valle de Uco, where many of the premium producers are now sourcing their fruit. The focus is primarily on Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, a variety that has been somewhat forgotten as Malbec has surfed one wave of success after another in the past decade. Kaiken's own vineyards supply 70% of their production requirements and 30% is from vineyards that they control.
The grapes are sourced from Valle de Uco, one of Mendoza’s most prestigious sub-regions. Kaiken’s vineyard, located in Vista Flores, sits at 1,350 metres above sea level. Here, sunny days are followed by cool nights – this slows the growing season and allows Kaiken to obtain excellent grapes with wonderful freshness. The soils are mostly alluvial and are largely made up of pebbles and rocks.
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc.
This Cabernet Franc is deep ruby red in colour with elegant purple shades. The nose is complex, with ripe redcurrants, fresh plums and red pepper combined with spicy notes of black pepper. On the palate, it has beautiful fruit concentration balanced by fresh acidity and minerality, reflecting the high-altitude location of Vista Flores. The long, elegant finish displays red fruit and spicy aromas.
ABV = 14.5%.
** VERY LIMITED UK STOCK. ABOUT TO BE USED IN OUR FORTHCOMING VALDIVIESO/CABALLO LOCO TASTING, SO LIMITED TO TWO BOTTLES PER CUSTOMER UNTIL AFTER THE TASTING! **
Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of South American Icon Wines (see blue link below).
The winemaker's own technical sheets appear below (click blue links) - the Spanish inclusion may seem a little leftfield, but includes regional and other info that have yet to be put onto the English version.
Valdivieso's top wine and stable star, the Caballo Loco is known around the world and each year changes merely its edition and, technically, not its vintage. It brings together every Cabollo Loco made since 1992 (the year of version 1), in what is, effectively, a solera system (as used for sherry and brandy de Jerez).
The idea for Caballo Loco was inspired by the legendary Ribera de Duero, Vega Sicilia Único Gran Reserva, which is produced using the solera method. This is the winemaking technique used for sherry and brandy de Jerez production, in which barrel-aged wines from different years are progressively and fractionally blended for reasons of both complexity and consistency.
The first Caballo Loco was produced in 1994 (Caballo Loco 1) and made from a blend of 50% of that year’s vintage with an aged blend from 1992.
The resulting wine is bottle-aged for at least 18 months before release onto the market, and being a blend of wines from different years, there is, of course, no vintage on the label.
The grapes for the premium Caballo Loco come from four different vineyards in central Chile. The blend of the new wine varies each time it is made. Number 1 for example was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir, whilst later editions have contained varieties as diverse as Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère. Only Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are ever-present, these being blended with the best grapes from the other varieties that were most successful in the particular year (and best suited to create the intended balance of the Caballo Loco).
Each bottle of this version 17 therefore comprises:
- 50% version 16 and
- 50% of grapes from harvests from 2012 and 2013. New for version 17 was Carignan from Melozal (a sub-region of Maule) and Syrah from Limarí. This variety brings to the Caballo Loco another dimension of complexity, with balanced freshness and acidity.
The result is a wine of great concentration, quite unlike any other on the market. There is intense mature berry fruit on the nose and richness on the palate with velvety tannins, and so many layers of flavours that the wine is almost impossible to describe in detail. The secret blend of grapes from different vintages create intense aromas of dark cherry, coffee, and rich fruitcake. Full bodied on the palate with a beautiful lingering structure.
It is a unique - some say crazy - wine, which is quite incomparable. It has great aromatic complexity and in the mouth, and an ageing potential of at least 10 years.
ABV = 14.5%.
The 2018 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2019 edition panel tasting of Alternative South American Whites (see blue link below).
The 2015 vintage (long since sold out in the UK) was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in that same panel (blue link below).
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).
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.
Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
Mount Horrocks Wines is run by proprietor/winemaker Stephanie Toole. Stephanie restricts production to approximately 3,500 cases per annum in order to achieve her aims of quality and single vineyard expression. Stephanie describes her wines as 'essentially hand made food wines with an emphasis on structure as well as generous fruit flavours'. All grapes are 100% estate grown from three separate vineyard sites totalling nearly 10 hectares which, in 2014, were 'A grade certified' by Australian Certified Organic (ACO). Her persistence with classic, no-compromise winemaking and a fully integrated organic approach to growing and making sets Mount Horrocks wines apart from the mainstream.
The 2017 harvest was later than previous years, after a cool and slightly wetter summer and growing period. The grapes were hand harvested in the cool of the morning, when the grapes were in pristine condition.
100% estate-grown and certified organic, the grapes are carefully hand-harvested in the cool of the morning and sent straight to the winery where they are destemmed, crushed and gently pressed. The free-run juice is isolated and settled prior to fermenting in French oak barriques, one-third of which are new.
Each barrel is stirred weekly for three months then left on gross lees for a total of nine months when Stephanie conducts a series of tastings to determine the final blend. Once assembled it is bottled without fining.
Very pale white gold. Dried wildflower and lightly stewed apple over nuanced spicy oak. Crisp, lightly savoury, lemony Semillon with texture and length. Layered and flavoursome yet relatively light and bright for what is a wood-aged white, the pristine fruit shining through on the finish, balanced by chalky acidity. Sips nicely on its own but truly shines with grilled white fish or poultry. Worth cellaring through to 2028.
ABV = 12.5%.
The 2017 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
Domaine Cazes is situated in Rivesaltes in the Roussillon. With 220 hectares of vines planted, Domaine Cazes is the largest certified organic and biodynamic estate in France. It was founded in 1895 by Michel Cazes and the wines are made by the fourth generation of winemakers, headed up by Emmanuel Cazes. The family makes a range of interesting dry wines alongside the regional specialities, Vin Doux Naturels. They took the decision to move to organic and biodynamic viticulture in 1997. Based on their view that the natural environment needs natural preparation, they plough the soils and use only natural ingredients as treatments, arranging their work according to the lunar calendar.
Maison Cazes is set in the sunniest French region. Since the family started farming biodynamically, they have found that the vineyards are healthier and the vines are stronger, with longer roots. Vines grow on clay and limestone soils, covered by 'galets roulés' (the 'pudding stones' also found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape). The low yielding vines are about 30 years old, and produce 30 hectolitres per hectare.
40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre. The three varieties were 100% de-stemmed and before being put in separate stainless steel vats. Only naturally occurring yeasts were used; no yeast was added to the must. Fermentation was temperature controlled at 28°C. The residual matter was circulated by pump-overs and the sediment was broken up by hand twice a day to extract the best qualities. The wine was macerated for four weeks before pressing after which it underwent malolactic fermentation.
As well as being biodynamic and organic, this wine is suitable for vegans.
The palate is bright with ripe red and black fruit aromas and rich liquorice notes, balanced by delicate tannins. This wine has a remarkable balance, thanks to its good acidity and freshness. Long finish with white pepper flavours.
ABV = 15.0%.