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 96 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....
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.
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc.
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.
To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note about this wine that has been written by the team at Kaiken, please click on the blue link below.
Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of South American Icon Wines (see blue link below).
Founded in 2003, Andeluna is a small boutique winery specialising in premium Bordeaux varietals of world class recognition. The vineyard covers 70 hectares in the beautiful Uco Valley near Tupungato, one of the best subregions of Mendoza. By night you can often see the moon illuminating the magnificent Andes Mountains nearby and the winery has been named after this stunning scene. Situated at an altitude of 1,300 metres, the vineyard produces some of the best fruit in Argentina. Winemaker, Manuel Gonzalez (previously Head Winemaker at Pulenta Estate and Chief Oenologist at Trivento) works alongside Andeluna's wine consultant Hans Vinding Diers to make outstanding wines which have propelled this producer into the global spotlight in a very short space of time. Their Pasionado range is only made in exceptional vintages and rivals some of the great wines of the world.
A warm winter was followed by a perfectly cool summer and between 10 to 50 per cent more rain than usual in the early autumn harvest months. In the Andeluna vineyards, the sloped stony soils and phenomenal drainage allowed the rain to have a mostly destressing effect on the vines, resulting in an incredible balance of flavours. The Malbec in parcels with stony and limestone soils were undisputed superstars. Due to the warm winter, the 2015 harvest was between 10 and 15 days earlier than usual.
The grapes come from vineyards located in Gualtallary in Tupungato at an altitude of 1,300 metres above sea level. The vines are irrigated by a drip-water system that regulates and supplies the exact amount of water that the plant needs. The vineyard soils are alluvial, sandy and permeable.
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc.
The grapes were hand-picked in the cool of dawn in April, when they had reached full polyphenolic maturity. The berries were manually selected and the best berries underwent cold pre- fermentation maceration. Fermentation took place with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures of 26°C. The wine was aged in used French oak barrels ( 60% second passage, 40% third passage) for a period of 12 months and then cellared in bottles for a minimum of eight months prior to its release.
Intense aromas fill the glass, with deep red fruits and a remarkable presence of red bell pepper, fennel, mint, anise, eucalyptus and basil. A structured, full bodied wine, with rounded tannins which result in a pleasant and persistent finish.
Serve with full bodied meats as steak or lamb. Decant and serve at 16°C.
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of Premium Californian Chardonnay (see blue link below).
See also the techical note from the producer (click blue link below).
Far Niente, one of the earliest stone wineries, derives its name from the Italian phrase "Dolce Far Niente" (how sweet it is to do nothing). It was founded in 1885 and flourished until prohibition. Abandoned for over 60 years, the winery was purchased in 1979 by Gil Nickel. He started the long process of restoring it. Far Niente's quest to produce outstanding wines of distinctive character has led them to a philosophy that requires vineyard ownership. Today, they own 200 acres (3 different vineyard sites) of what many regard as some of the finest vineyard land in the Napa Valley.
2017 began with a wonderfully cold and much needed wet winter. Spring followed with mild weather for budbreak and some April showers, resulting in average vine growth. Early May brought the first of several intense heat waves, with additional hot spells in mid-June and mid-July. Finally, an especially intense heat event at the beginning of September started the Chardonnay harvest. Cooler weather followed allowing later ripening parcels to be harvested during September.
Far Niente Chardonnay is a blend of superlative Napa Valley vineyards, many of which are located in a little-known area called Coombsville, a cool growing region nestled in the rolling countryside and protected by the hills east of the city of Napa. Coombsville offers the characteristic climate of Carneros, with less wind, along with deeper, well-drained gravelly loam and volcanic ash soils. The combination of these spectacular vineyards results in the subtle, tropical flavours, complex aromas and uncommon richness that we have long associated with Far Niente Chardonnay.
The hand-harvested grapes were brought to the winery in small bins and sorted by hand to assure the finest quality. Fermentation began in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and 95% was racked into French oak barrels to complete fermentation in the caves and old stone cellars. The wine did not go through malolactic fermentation and was aged for 10 months on its fine lees for additional depth, complexity and texture. The maturation took place in French oak barrels (54% new, 46% used once).
This wine is 100% Chardonnay.
Delicate aromas of melon, sweet citrus and white floral notes are layered with nuances of flint, yeast and sweetly toasted oak. A smooth, focused and silky palate delivers ripe flavours of honeydew and lemon, supported by just of touch of wet stone, yeast and toasted hazelnuts. The finish is deliciously mouthwatering and long. Ideal with pan fried scallops or Lobster Thermidor.
Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 expert review tasting of Australian multi-regional blends (see blue link below).
With imposing, rugged cliff faces casting shadows across ancient vine plantings, Mount Langi Ghiran is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Great Dividing Range in the Grampians region of Victoria. The Mount Langi Ghiran (Aboriginal for home of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo) vineyard is one of the most isolated and unique sites in Australian viticulture. In mid-2018 Adam Louder took the helm as Head Winemaker at Langi. Together with Damien Sheehan, Langi’s Viticulturalist, Adam and the winemaking team share a passion and vision for Langi. This is a dedicated team who are on the same page; all aiming to make some of the best wines in the country.
Open fermenters are used for this wine. The grapes are plunged and undergo a short cold soak pre-maceration. The 2015 Billi Billi Shiraz is sourced from a selection of premium cool climate vineyards throughout Victoria; predominantly the Grampians including a portion from the Mount Langi Ghiran vineyards, home of the iconic Langi Shiraz. Throughout Victoria, the 2015 vintage provided near perfect conditions for grape growing. A temperate Summer without extremes followed by classic Autumn weather of warm days and cool nights. This resulted in slow and steady ripening, ideal for producing Shiraz of distinctive character. This Billi Billi beautifully reflects its cool climate origins.
The Billi Billi Shiraz 2015 is a deep garnet colour with a bright red rim. The aromas are intense and rich, of red and black fruits, with dried florals and spicy highlights. This is a generous wine with flavours of luscious red and black fruits paired with finely structured tannins and mouth-watering acidity. The spice and floral notes follow on from the bouquet to enliven the drive of fruit and mark the wine’s cool climate origins.
Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 expert review tasting of Australian multi-regional blends (see blue link below).
Stephen Pannell is one of the best and brightest of the new generation of Australian winemakers, having spent a decade working as chief red wine maker at Hardys before striking out on his own in 2004. Steve has worked all over the world, including in Italy with Aldo Vajra in Barolo and in France for Domaine Dujac and Pousse d'Or. His broad experience has helped shape his approach to winemaking and his wines are true expressions of the grapes and vineyards of McLaren Vale. In October 2015, Steve was named Winemaker of the Year by the consumer wine magazine, Gourmet Traveller Wine.
The Tempranillo grapes are grown on mature McLaren Vale vines. The Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao are sourced from McLaren Vale and Barossa.
The 2016 vintage was a vintage of two distinct halves. Winter and spring were exceptionally dry and warm and the vines required additional irrigation to avoid heat stress. Thankfully, a number of rainstorms turned 2016 into one of the wettest and mildest ripening periods. This cool, wet period saved the harvest and allowed for a long maturation period, which resulted in wines with incredible structure and ageing potential.
The parcels were hand-harvested, crushed and traditionally vinified in small open-top fermenters, with no additions other than yeast. Temperatures were maintained between a minimum of 15°C and a maximum of 34°C. Fermentation lasted 10-11 days and during this time the cap was hand plunged and pumped over. The wine spent seven months in 500 litre French oak puncheons, 80% in mature (five to six years old) oak and 20% in new oak.
57% Tempranillo, 29% Touriga Nacional, 14% Tinto Cão.
On the nose, abundant black fruits, cherry, fruit bread and red liquorice are overlaid with jasmine, nutmeg and cinnamon spices. The palate is long, with integrated and granular tannins with a balanced finish. An excellent food wine perfect with grilled sausages or charcuterie and cheese.
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.
Once again, beautiful fruit from the cool and later 2017 vintage, this is an outstanding example of wood-aged semillon. Its fine, lemony fruit is enhanced by the oak maturation which provides structure and spice notes.
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.
Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
The Monemvasia Winery was founded in 1997 with a clear objective: to revive the production of Malvasia wine in its birth place. The Frankish name for Monemvasia is Malvasia, which originally lent its name to the wine. In the 12th century and for the subsequent 300 years, this wine ruled the European world. It is still produced in many countries, but until recently was not being produced in the country of its origin - Greece. The Monemvasia Winery created the first privately owned 121 hectares of vineyard, planted with local varieties. It is committed to producing quality wines which showcase the characteristics of the indigenous varieties and the terroir of the peninsula of Maleus.
2017 was very hot, with a major heatwave taking place in June. It was also very dry with no rainfall from the middle of May, which resulted in disturbances in the growth cycle. Nevertheless, the grapes were healthy and ripe at harvest with a high concentration of sugars, relatively high alcohol and full concentrated flavours.
Kydonitsa ( pronounced Ki-do-NI-tsa) is a rare, old local variety and one of the components of the legendary wine Malvasia. The vineyard is located on the peninsula of Maleus at the foothills of the Parnonas Mountain range at an altitude of 80 metres above sea level. Surrounded by the Myrtoo Sea to the North West and by the Laconian Gulf to the South West, the vineyard is influenced by a Mediterranean climate with high sunshine hours and coastal sea breezes. The soils are clay loam and rich in minerals. All these factors contribute in creating a unique terroir and the climatic conditions present an ideal environment for healthy vines, which are cultivated with minimal intervention.
The grapes were carefully selected, destemmed and crushed. The free run juice was extracted by crushing, while the press wines were gently extracted at pressures of a maximum of one bar. The juice was settled at 13°C. Fermentation took place with selected yeasts, in stainless steel at 16°C lasting between 15 to 20 days. The wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation resulting in a wine with a fresh, pure style. It was matured on the lees for five months, with regular bâtonnage (lees stirring) imparting texture and complexity.
Kydonitsa is Greek for quince and this wine is true to its name showing ripe quince, elegant aromas of tropical fruits and a hint of pistachio complexity. Creamy and full flavoured on the palate with a balancing mouthwatering freshness and a long aromatic finish. Perfect with seafood, especially fresh lobster or grilled fish.
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
The Kozlović family have been making wine in the Istrian region of Croatia since 1904. The region borders Friuli and the wines, food and people have a real connection with their Italian neighbours. The winery is run by Gianfranco and Antonella Kozlović and they currently cultivate 25 hectares of vineyard. Gianfranco is a perfectionist and he is constantly striving to improve his wine. He takes a modern approach to winemaking and produces seriously good wines.
2017 was an unusual vintage in that it was both rainy and dry. In less than two weeks, 200 millilitres of rain fell, which required vigilance in the vineyard. Green harvesting and leaf thinning helped to avoid disease. The harvest period was dry and the grapes had reached excellent maturity, with very good varietal character in Malvazija and Muscat and the reds are exquisite.
The vineyard is located in Santa Lucia in Western Istria at altitudes of between 200 to 240 metres above sea level. The age of the vines varies from nine to 54 years, but all are planted with a south to south-westerly orientation to maximise their exposure to the sun. The soils are made up of flysch, limestone and clay.
The grapes were manually harvested and carefully selected by hand. The berries were then cold macerated for 24 hours in stainless steel, extracting the aromas and flavours from the Malvazija berries. The grapes were then pressed and the must was fermented in stainless steel, preserving the freshness and the integrity of the primary aromas, followed by maturation for a minimum of seven months in stainless steel prior to bottling.
100% Malvazija Istriana.
A crisp, zesty, mineral rich wine with a complex nose of lemon, apple with apricot, peach, pineapple and delicate hints of spice. Dry and opulent on the palate with the fruit characters from the nose echoed on the palate, combined with a mineral complexity. The finish has a touch of characteristic saltiness and spice making it very food-friendly. A versatile wine, this makes the perfect pairing with risottos, fresh scallops, delicate white fish, poultry dishes served in a creamy sauce and grilled vegetables.