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Decanter June 18



Is it Decanter Friday again, Exel?

It certainly is. And it’s a good one.

You always say that. How so this time?

There’s plenty of great reviews in Decanter (www.decanter.com) this month, as ever, and some amazing wines. But often, we know, some of those great wines are a bit 'price-inaccessible'. We know that many customers, most all all, love 95-point wines for under £20 (or a bit over for something a bit more Champagne or Burgundy etc).

This June edition has a fair whack of just those, selected from:

  • a review of World’s Best Grenache Buys by Oz Clarke; this is dominated at the very top by very pricey Priorat/Montsant and Chateauneuf-du-Pape but we have a wonderful 94-point Côtes du Roussillon at just over £17 that shouldn’t be missed;
  • an expert review of Portuguese whites - always hugely under-rated and under-priced - which features two superb 95-point blends, one at just ~£15;
  • an expert review of Chile’s Colchagua Valley, where we lay claim to two excellent, high-scoring and very affordable ‘big’ reds at around the £20 mark; and
  • a panel review of Californian Pinot Noir – not one of our great fortés or sellers, we freely admit (given the typically very high prices) – but we have 3 excellently-priced (in Californian terms) higher-scorers if West Coast Pinot is your thing.

All the featured wines we stock appear at the foot of this page.

I understand your entirely-understated excitement now. I do like a nice Pouilly-Fumé, so I do.

Stop right there. Pouilly-Fuissé, not Pouilly-Fumé. Burgundy, not Loire. Chardonnay, not Sauvignon Blanc. Apricots, not elderflowers. Are we clear?

Just testing. I wanted to check you knew the difference.

Look, we’re wine specialists. It’s what we do.

So, this Pouilly-Fuissé. It's nice, is it?

Oh yes. Very much so. We’d argue that Pouilly-Fuissé is one of the great three or four Burgundy white appellations, and is much acclaimed as the finest away from the Cote d’Or. Pouilly-Fuissé is all about/famed for its richness, opulence and body: it’s at the very southern end of the vineyards of Burgundy proper, and its better ones sit in a sun-drenched, limestone amphitheatre that brings about a ripeness rare in Burgundy. Yet – and this is the beauty of P-F – it maintains good acidity and great minerality in its best examples (which is to say, it doesn’t go all a bit too “hot” and “flabby” for traditional white Burgundy fans). And our top-scorer is no exception.

Whose is it?

It’s ours. Exclusively in the UK, in fact.

Nicely marketed. What I meant was: who’s the producer?

Ah. You did rather set that up for us. That’ll be Domaine Trouillet, whose base sits below the famous Roche Solutré: that big white cliff that appears in photos all the time (like the one below) <and that isn’t High Tor in Matlock, Derbyshire>).

The other Mâcon village appellations of St-Véran, Pouilly-Loché, Pouilly-Vinzelles and Viré-Clessé also appear in the review, and Trouillet produce all but the last of those (and also at the Macon-Villages and named Macon village levels). It’s telling (but perhaps unsurprising) that Pouilly-Fuissés dominate the review's upper order (more than 70% of the top 25, and all three Outstandings).

(map from Decanter, www.decanter.com)

Trouillet are very proud of all three of their P-Fs – all made from different terroirs among their vineyards near Solutré-Pouilly - but it is their Cœur de Pouilly - their ‘warmest‘ version - that has captured the cœurs of the Decanter tasting panel. Rather than occupy you too much here, you’ll find plenty of snaps of Domaine Trouillet hereabouts and a little more detail on them as producers on the Cœur de Pouilly product page (click here and/or the bottle below).

You said something about the price, I think?

We certainly did. We’re lucky/determined enough to be doing this one on a direct import from Trouillet. Which means we can offer a daftly good price for a P-F of this quality, acclaim and provenance: that is, £24.50. Really, this should clear £30 (somewhat evidenced by the one other Outstanding that reaches these shores)… but that’s not what we do at Exel.

Sounds too good to be true…

It almost is. However, move quickly, and it’s yours. The too-good-to-be-true bit is that - as so often happens with wines of this calibre - there’s not much to go round. We have ‘just’ 300 bottles of this (arriving May 11th) - once that’s gone, there’s no more coming. We’re not rationing, but we are quite sure that it’ll soon vanish.


Domaine de Trouillet 

Cœur de Pouilly Pouilly-Fuissé 2016




<frantic and fevered ordering noises>

You’re down to 294. Now, something red, please.

Certainly. That Roussillon-Villages from Domaine Cazes is wonderful ... doubly so for the money. And, should you be a bit unsure about Grenache, Oz Clarke has been a wee bit naughty putting that in his 'Best Grenaches' when it is only 40% Grenache. Honestly, it’s really the 40% Syrah and the 20% Mourvèdre that make this quite so good. Moreover, Maison Cazes never leave anything to chance in the quality of their wines, even with their more affordable specimens.

(We know that we don't have the 2014 vintage that Decanter tested and rated - it's alas long since gone at the domaine and UK importers (quite why Decanter do this, we don't know). What we do know is that the 2015 is quite excellent and from a vintage that, for Languedoc-Roussillon as a whole, is generally rated far more highly. And, very hot years here aside (which neither 2014 nor 2015 were), vintages in Roussillon tend to be very consistent).

Domaine Cazes

'Ego' Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2015


This is classic Roussillon-Villages with absolutely masses of flavour, richness and body and - dare we say it, even with the extra elegance and freshness you get with Cazes - that classic rusticity of the Deep South.

Not one for fish, then?

<squints slightly>

Probably not, unless you’re looking at some sort of bouillabaisse-y number, and even then…  Ah, you’re joking. 

<pauses, sees link possibility>

But if fish is/are on your radar (must check: do fish show up on radar?), you should investigate the two highly-rated Portuguese whites. If price is less a barrier, the amazing, 96-point Quinta dos Carvailhas blend – a non-vintage (NV), mixed-age (and already old!) assemblage of Portuguese varieties (plus a decent helping of Semillon) is quite exquisite.  

For superior (and frankly amazing) value at £15.25, the Vale da Capucha white blend from the very edge of Lisbon is not to be missed. Despite being wine merchants <see above>, we didn’t know much about the grapes of Fernao Pires or Arinto either, but we can see just how good this is. Like Rias Baixas from further north, this one has a vivid Taste Of The Ocean about it.

Vale da Capucha Branco Blend 2015


Now then... I’ve still a few spaces left in my case.

And more than you think perhaps – we can do cases of 15, you know...

Oooh. Noted. Pray continue...

Then maybe you should try the affordable West Coast Pinot Noirs ... as bang-for-your-(Californian)-buck goes, all of the Truchard, Rodney Strong and (particularly) the MacMurray (at <£16) deserve serious respect, even if they didn’t fully top Decanter's pops (you’d be needing £50 a bottle to do that).

Still got some space and wanting some more big red flavours? The 2 Chilean (Colchagua) reds – one a CGM (Carignan/Grenache/Mourvedre) from Montes, the other a very chichi Carignan from Villolobos – are quite something for the money.

Quite an eclectic bunch, this month …

That they are. Never let it be said that we don’t bring together the New World and Old World for you.

Still looking? We’ve still many of our other Decanter Headliners from previous months (including the ultra-popular Pierre Bertrand Champagne) and try our searchable/filterable compendium of all our Decanter Recommended wines.

We’ve also just taken new stock of some more Paulett’s Clare Valley (Polish Hill River) Rieslings (the new vintages of the 98/96-point scorers of the April Decanter).

We also now have the seriously-classy Whispering Angel rosé at an incredible price and are finding our Il Palagio di Panzano Chiantis (and Super-Tuscans) in high demand.

We'll see you in a month.

I'll be sure to have some questions ready...

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Saumaize-Michelin Pouilly-Fuisse 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2018 edition review of the 2016 vintage of the Maconnais village appellations (see blue link below).

Saumaize-Michelin Pouilly-Fuisse 2016 - June 2018 Decanter review

Domaine Saumaize-Michelin produces wonderful white Burgundies from the best terrains of both Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Véran. It comprises 9 hectares and is a family-run domaine, managed by Christine (née Michelin) and Roger Saumaize. The domaine is centred in Vergisson, generally famed for its lighter style of Pouilly-Fuissé (although those of Saumaize Michelin tend to buck this trend).

In the vineyard, there is a focus on maintaining the special characteristics and the soil microbes of the particular terroir. Yields are controlled through winter pruning and debudding in spring. Maturity is optimized by manual intervention in the summer (stripping) to improve sunlight and the strength of the grapes

The harvest is undertaken totally by hand and the grapes were harvested in excellent condition. After a gentle pressing in a pneumatic press, the wines are left to settle before both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. The lees are stirred regularly (bâtonnage), which adds to the overall complexity of the finished wine.

Succulent, ripe nose of creamy vanilla and pineapples. Rounded and generous palate, offering ripe grapefruits and lemon rind. A judicious use of oak brings depth, texture and nutty characters and helps with the soft finish.

The wine is produced organically and biodynamically, but these are not (yet) certified.


Domaine Ferrand Pouilly-Fuisse Prestige 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2018 edition review of the 2016 vintage of the Maconnais village appellations (see blue link below)

Domaine Ferrand Pouilly-Fuissé Prestige 2016 - June 2018 Decanter review

Domaine Ferrand is run by Nadine Ferrand who has managed the estate since 1984. Through her courage, determination and intuition she has developed and transformed the vineyard into 10.5 hectares in the heart of the Pouilly Fuissé. In 2012, Nadine was joined by her eldest daughter Marine, the fourth generation to work in the family business. Having worked in sales and marketing in the wine industry in the United States, Marine has brought with her innovative ideas while continuing the family philosophy of “expressing Chardonnay with a feminine touch”. Their wines are characterised by lovely balance and elegant flavours of fresh butter combined with a typical minerality.

The vineyard sits in the heart of the appellation, on sunny slopes at an altitude of 250 to 300 metres above sea level. Home to 60 year old vines, which are Cordon trained and grown in chalky, limestone and heavy clay soils from the Jurassic period.2017 was a great vintage in the Mâconnais. The summer weather was mainly sunny and warm, interspersed with cooler, rainy days, which allowed the vegetative cycle to develop and the grapes to reach excellent maturity levels. The resulting wines are aromatic and full of varietal character with the cooler nights producing slightly higher acidity levels.

The grapes were pneumatically pressed, before being decanted to temperature controlled stainless steel vats, where fermentation took place. 30% of the wine was then aged on its lees in new French oak casks, with a weekly bâtonnage for additional weight, texture and creaminess in the final wine. The wine was racked, blended and lightly filtered prior to being bottled.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay.

A rich, complex wine with aromas of exotic fruit complemented by subtle hints of vanilla. The palate is round and buttery with ripe apricot flavours enveloped in delicate oak nuances through to a long finish. A delicious accompaniment to paté, lobster, monkfish and chicken dishes served in a delicate cream sauce.

ABV = 13.5%.


Chateau de Chaintre Pouilly-Fuisse 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2018 edition review of the 2016 vintage of the Maconnais village appellations (see blue link below)

Chateau De Chaintre Pouilly-Fuisse 2016 - June 2018 Decanter review

Château de Chaintré is run by young winemaker Yannick Paquet. Yannick is the son of Jean-Paul and Monique Paquet, who established themselves in Pouilly Fuissé in 1959. Together the family owns three Pouilly Fuissé domaines and have been making wines since 1971.

Yannick's domaine, Château de Chaintré, consists of four hectares of Pouilly-Fuissé vines with an average age of 35 years. It is located in Chaintré, with the altitude of the vineyard at 200-300 metres above sea level, providing lifted perfumes and crisp acidity. The south and south west exposure on the limestone and clay soils gives the wine the ripeness and weight that is characteristic of Pouilly-Fuissé. The Paquets practice sustainable viticulture or 'la lutte raisonnée'; they apply organic fertiliser annually according to the needs of every plot. Meticulous leaf plucking to increase airflow and exposure to sunlight is employed to combat fungal diseases instead of using sprays.

After the grapes were hand-harvested, they were sorted to ensure only the healthiest and ripest grapes were vinified. The grapes were pressed gently with a pneumatic press before being put into stainless steel tanks to settle and ferment using indigenous yeasts. The wines was then aged in 90% stainless steel and 10% oak barrels (50% new and 50% second- and third-fill) for 11 months on their fine lees to add depth and complexity.

100% Chardonnay.

Fresh and fruity, the 2018 vintage has a fine balance between ripe stone fruit aromas and delicate mineral characters from the limestone clay soil.

ABV = 13.0%.


Domaine Ferrand Saint-Veran 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2018 edition review of the 2016 vintage of the Maconnais village appellations (see blue link below)

Domaine Ferrand Saint-Veran 2016 - June 2018 Decanter review

Domaine Ferrand is run by Nadine Ferrand who has managed the estate since 1984. Through her courage, determination and intuition she has developed and transformed the vineyard into 10.5 hectares in the heart of the Pouilly Fuissé. In 2012, Nadine was joined by her eldest daughter Marine, the fourth generation to work in the family business. Having worked in sales and marketing in the wine industry in the United States, Marine has brought with her innovative ideas while continuing the family philosophy of “expressing Chardonnay with a feminine touch”. Their wines are characterised by lovely balance and elegant flavours of fresh butter combined with a typical minerality.

Saint Véran is an appellation for dry white wines made from Chardonnay, which is situated in southern half of the Mâconnais subregion of Burgundy. The Domaine Ferrand vineyard is situated in the village of Solutré-Pouilly, on eastern and south-eastern-facing sunny slopes at an altitude of 250 to 300 metres above sea level. The vines have an average age of 50 years, with deep root systems penetrating the layers of soil, imparting complexity to the resulting wine. The soils are clay and chalk from the Jurassic period.

2018 was a good quality vintage with yields significantly up in the Mâconnais region. Despite the warm conditions during the summer months and the early start to the harvest, three months of heavy rain from February to April ensured there were plenty of soil water reserves and no hydric stress. The wines have delicate acidity, complexity and finesse.

The grapes were harvested by hand and carefully sorted. Traditional vinification followed: the grapes were pneumatically pressed and fermented in stainless steel at controlled low temperatures. The wine was made in an unoaked style to express the terroir and purity of fruit. Once fermentation was complete, the wine was racked, blended and bottled between April and September, in order to retain the fresh style.

100% Chardonnay.

A refreshing and velvety white with juicy white pear and delicate notes of zesty lemon and pineapple: this is refreshing, complex and velvety. Ripe fruit flavours of juicy white pear combine with delicate notes of zesty lemon. Softly textured, with a harmonious balancebetween refreshing acidity and fruitiness, this shows great finesse on the finish. 

This wine is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

ABV = 13.5%.


MacMurray Central Coast Pinot Noir 2016 (1x 75cl)

The 2014 vintage was awarded 88 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2018 edition review of California Pinot Noirs (see blue link below)

MacMurray Central Coast Pinot Noir 2014 - June 2018 Decanter review

With estate vineyards in some of the world's most sought after wine regions, MacMurray Estate Vineyards craft an award winning collection of Pinot Noir from Sonoma County and the Central Coast. Their winemaker oversees everything from rootstock selection to barrel ageing, to create a portfolio of wines that illuminate the unique flavours of each eastate vineyard.

This Pinot Noir was crafted almost entirely with fruit from the Olson Ranch , a spectacular vineyard in the Central Coast’ s Santa Lucia Highlands appellation known for producing elegant, nuanced Pinot Noir. This phenomenal site is heavily influenced by the nearby Pacific Ocean, making this a cool and windy site characterized by clay lo am soils over fractured limestone. Pinot Noir grapes grown here deliver classic, cool climate Pinot flavours of red cherry and raspberry.

The grapes were destemmed , but not crushed, and cold soaked for up to five days to enhance the extraction of colour and flavour. They fermented mostly free-run juice in upright stainless steel tanks at a maximum temperature o f 28°C using yeast selections RC212, RB2 and D254. This wine underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged on its lees for 8 – 9 months to develop a smooth and rich mouth feel. French oak barrels were used.

100% Pinot Noir.

Deep ruby in colour, the MacMurray Estate Vineyards Central Coast Pinot Noir opens with delicate notes of black cherry, raspberry and pomegranate, accented by a distinct spice character that typifies Olson Ranch. Velvety soft tannins meld with ripe red fruit flavours to create a smooth mouth feel and long finish.

ABV = 14.5%.


Villalobos Carignan Reserva 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2014 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2018 edition article on Chile's Colchagua Valley (see blue link below)

Villalobos Carignan Reserva 2014 - June 2018 Decanter review

The Villalobos family consists of the mother, Rita Encina, a professional ceramicist, the father Enrique Villalobos, a sculptor, and their sons: Martin and Renaldo are both civil engineers and Alejandro is a philosophy professor. Each has their own profession, but they unite around their vineyards and viticulture.

They started making wine in 2007 with a small production from the family. It was only to be a small production for the family and friends made by their friend Martin Rousseau. They persevered, and began to make some of the most celebrated wines in Chile. The first commercial harvest in 2009 was awarded best Carignan in Chile from Descorchados.

This 60-year-old, non-industrial, organic vineyard continues to be in its wild state, without any pruning, irrigation or the use of chemical products such as pesticides or herbicides. The vineyard’s distinguishing feature is its untouched wilderness where for over the last 40 years Carignan vines have grown side-by-side native vegetation. This vineyard is bio-diverse, hosting a wide variety of native flora and fauna, including culen, maiten, quillai, hawthorn and rosehip, among others. The vineyard’s unique surroundings are instrumental in keeping the vines pest and disease-free. The vines grow freely among the trees climbing them for structural support. In fact, one comes across vines making their way up four metre trees alongside shrub-like vines three meters thick. Horses are used in the vineyard to prune by gently nibbling the vines and their droppings have the benefit of fertilising the vines. Indeed, they do not use any machinery that involves the use of fossil fuels.

The vineyard is located 30 km from the Pacific coast, settled in a warm, temperate climate with six to eight months of dry season yearly and up to 20-degree temperature differences. Particularly in the summer months, daily temperatures can range from 30°C to 10°C.

100% Carignan from old vines planted in the 1950s and 1960s. Total production is just 6,000 bottles, some evidence of the tight (and quality-inducing) yields pursued. 

Fermented and macerated for 10 days with natural yests in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation is carried out in barrels, followed by 18 months of ageing in French oak barrels (these used 3 times previously, ie limited oak flavour is deliberately imparted to the Carignan to preserve maximum fruit flavour/integrity whilst allowing tannis to soften).

Bright and intense ruby-red. Nose with a hint of wild blackberry and elegantly defined maqui berry.  Delicate, soft and round tannins on the palate with a food-friendly acidity bearing traces of cherry and strawberry.


Montes Outer Limits Wild Slopes CGM 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2018 edition article on Chile's Colchagua Valley (see blue link below)

Montes Outer Limits Wild Slopes CGM 2016 - June 2018 Decanter review

Montes was established in 1988 by Aurelio Montes, Douglas Murray, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand, with the aim to produce the best wines in Chile from the best regions. We have long admired Montes and what they have done for Chilean wine over the past three decades. Their wines are consistently good because they are meticulous throughout the entire production process. The Outer Limits wines were born out of Aurelio Montes' desire to push Chilean viticulture in a new direction. The 45-hectare Zapallar Vineyard in the Aconcagua Valley was Montes' first venture into the 'outer limits'. Due to the balance and concentration in the Outer Limits wines, they can be enjoyed now or allowed to age for a few years, rewarding with a wonderfully complex bouquet.

All the grapes come from Montes' own single vineyard, 'La Finca Apalta', in Apalta, arguably one of the finest sites for red wine grape growing in Chile. Vines in Apalta are planted on 45° slopes providing good exposure which helps achieve ripeness. Even at 60km away, the ocean has an influence, with cool breezes moderating this warm area. In addition, low night-time temperatures prolong ripening, allowing for the slow development and retention of varietal aromas and acidity. All grapes were hand-harvested.

The 2015-2016 season began with a normal winter in terms of precipitation, followed by a cool spring that enabled optimal budbreak and foliage development. Rainfall in October meant soils had correct levels of moisture to support growth throughout the rest of the season. The summer also began very cool, but February was one of the hottest in recent years. March was colder, which slowed ripening by 2 or 3 weeks, although the weather conditions were favourable up until harvest.

The grapes were cold-soaked at 10°c for 7 days to extract aroma and colour. Fermentation occurred in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for 10 days following which the juice was kept on its skins for a further 20 days. After malolactic fermentation, the final blend was aged in French oak barrels (20% new) for 12 months to add complexity and roundness.

This wine is suitable for vegans.

50% Carignano/Carignan, 30% Grenache/Garnacha, 20% Mourvedre.

The nose offers red fruit such as plums and wild berries, notes of herbs, dried figs and liquorice, accompanied by subtle chocolate and cinnamon touches from the French oak ageing. The palate is refreshing, with good acidity and fruit expression and smooth, juicy tannins. Black and red fruit emerges here, with an elegant and persistent finish.

ABV = 14.0%.


Domaine Richaud Terre De Galets Cotes du Rhone 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recomended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) - in their December 2017 edition - in their Weekday Wines column (see blue link below)

Domaine Richaud Terre De Galets Cotes du Rhone 2016 - June 2018 Decanter review

Domaine Richaud might be situated closer to the Languedoc than Burgundy, but stylistically Marcel Richaud sees himself as having more in common with the Côte d'Or. He is dismissive of what he describes as the over-extracted styles of the south. The key, he says, is balance and this begins in the meticulously tended vineyards. His new winery has a range of smaller tanks, giving greater flexibility for blending smaller parcels of wine.

The vineyards cover 55 hectares outside the village of Cairanne, on the road to Rasteau in the Côtes du Rhône. The vines are bush trained and low yielding and are 30 years old on average. Yields are approximately 38-45 hectolitres per hectare. The grapes for this wine are grown in Les Garrigues, Paligot and Beauchières vineyards. The soil consists of ancient sandy, gravelly and stony soils in the valleys of Algues and Ouveze. The vineyards are certified organic by Ecocert.

2016 was a classic vintage. Drought conditions produced smaller berries with less juice meaning lower yields, but other than that there was little to be concerned. The growing season got off to an early start, without the excessive humidity. Summer arrived earlier as well, and flowering occurred in nearly ideal conditions. The second half of the season was warm and very dry. While the hot and dry conditions persisted, the cool nights helped mitigate the effects of the heat.

Traditional vinification took place in concrete tanks where the wine remained until bottling, after which it was stored in temperature-controlled underground cellars until release.

35% Carignano/Carignan , 25% Grenache/Garnacha, 25% Syrah/Shiraz, 10% Counoise , 5% Mourvèdre.

This wine is light garnet in colour, with notes of red fruits and black olive. Fresh and balanced on the palate, with hints of violets, it has good structure, rounded tannins and a long finish.

ABV = 15.0%.

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