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....
Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) at their February 2019 Catena tasting (see blue link below).
The inaugural 1997 vintage of this Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec blend set a new standard of quality for wines from South America when it won a series of blind tastings against first growths and other prestigious cuvées from around the world. Indeed, it featured as one of Decanter's Wine Legends in Octover 2018 (see blue link below).
“The 2015 Nicolás has the highest ever percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, with 17% Malbec for company and is a stunning blend that’s right up there with some of the best vintages of the wine. Floral, minty and refined, it has subtle, spicy oak, notes of green herbs and red fruits, tangy acidity and remarkable palate length. One for the cellar.” Tim Atkin MW, 96 points, 5th Jan 2018.
In 1902, Nicola Catena, an Italian immigrant, planted his first vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina. The winery has remained under family control — now in its fourth generation — and is one of the few family-owned wine companies in Argentina that remains in Argentine hands. Owned today by Nicolás Catena and his daughter Laura, Bodega Catena Zapata is known as the pioneer of fine wine from Argentina, and Nicolás is recognized as the vintner who revolutionized wine quality in Argentina. A trained economist, Nicolás began this revolution in the early 1980s and continues to challenge himself and his team to make wines that can be counted among the best in the world. His measured approach to viticulture has taken its place in wine history as the pioneer of Malbec and high-altitude viticulture.
Catena wines, first launched in 1992, set a new standard for quality in South America. The wines immediately proved the quality potential of Argentina and garnered the first outstanding reviews for Argentine wines from worldwide media. After more than 20 years, the wines of Catena continue to lead the way in Argentine viticulture and winemaking. The family and the winery’s employees take great pride in carrying on the tradition that began over a century ago.
Nicolás Catena Zapata has an intense, deep purple color with bluish-black tones. On the nose, aromas of black fruits – blackberries, black cherries, black plums – predominate with subtle notes of vanilla and dark chocolate intermingled with savory hints of green olive and a stony minerality. On the palate, the wine is tremendously complex, unfolding layer upon layer of red currant, eucalyptus, and black pepper flavours. Black cherries and blackberries give way to cassis followed by a hint of saline minerality. The wine is remarkably concentrated with a firm tannic structure providing the backbone for the lush fruit. The finish is long, giving some idea of the very long aging potential of this Argentine masterpiece.
This wine is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Malbec.
See/click the link below for more data from the winemakers themselves.
The yet-to-arrive-in-the-UK 2013 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of South American Icon Wines (see blue link below).
The history of Trapiche begins in 1883, in a small vineyard called El Trapiche, in the district of Godoy Cruz, Mendoza, where the grapes for the first fine wines were grown. With more than 130 years of experience, Trapiche has now earned its place as a pioneering brand in the introduction of French vines, the production of varietal wines, the import of French oak barrels and the use of stainless steel tanks. True to its origins, today Trapiche is in a continuous quest for the latest best practices. Led by Daniel Pi, Director of Winemaking, Trapiche's winemaking team permanently strives to improve winemaking practices by exchanging experience and knowledge with winemakers from other wine producing countries such as France, the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Iscay originates from Trapiche's own vineyards which are situated in Russell, Maipú and Los Arboles, Uco Valley, Mendoza.
This wine is 70% Malbec and 30% Cabernet Franc.
The Malbec delivers its deep purple-red colour, with aromas of violets, ripe red fruits, a slight touch of spice and generous tannins. The Cabernet Franc contributes black fruit, a balsamic hint and tannins that structure the middle of the mouth. A perfect combination that results in a flavorful wine with great concentration, elegance, complexity and a pure finish. Serve with roasted lamb, game or stews. Also combines beautifully with mushroom dishes and hard cheeses.
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.
The now-depleted 2015 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of Premium Californian Chardonnay (see blue link below).
With more than thirty years’ experience, Dan Lee and the Morgan label have been synonymous with artisan, vineyard-centric wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey. In 1982, Dan and Donna Lee opened the doors of Morgan Winery. Their very first Monterey Chardonnay earned a Gold Medal at the LA County Fair and a Platinum Medal from Wine & Spirits Magazine. Able to pick and choose fruit sources from around the state, Dan eventually turned more of his attention to the Santa Lucia Highlands and single vineyard releases. Dan and Donna invested in their belief in the Highlands with the purchase of the Double L Vineyard in 1996. Today the Double L is one of the best known vineyards in California.
Conscientious, innovative farming regimens allied with traditional, “minimalist” winemaking techniques craft wines of balance, elegance and distinction. For Morgan Winery, this single-minded focus has produced a record of consistent, category leading, award winning wines. Dan’s goal is to produce wines that are “true” - true to the variety and vineyard source and show true balance and complexity, while being enjoyable upon release. Morgan delivers consistency from bottle to bottle, vintage to vintage by nurturing sustainable, long-term relationships with their own vineyard and cellar crews, top-notch growers, and the finest French barrel coopers.
This wine is 100% Chardonnay.
To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine that has been produced by the team at Morgan, please click on the blue link below.
** THIS WINE IS BOUGHT IN TO ORDER AND UK STOCKS OF THIS WINE ARE VERY LOW. WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND CALLING US BEFORE ORDERING TO CHECK AVAILABILITY TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT. **
Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 expert review tasting of Savennières (see blue link below).
Claude Papin, winemaker and owner of Chateau Pierre-Bise, is a leading light in the Loire and a thoroughly engaging conversationalist to boot. Andrew Jefford calls him a ‘poet of Chenin Blanc,’ and Jancis Robinson MW refers to him as ‘one of the most talented wine growers in this part of the world, a true vine technician.’ His approach to Chenin Blanc can be summed up in his own words: "The Chenin is made by botrytization. If there isn’t any, it always makes hard wine. Even my dry wines are made with about 50% botrytization. This translates in the wine as honeyed notes."
The presence of some botrytis in a dry wine and the slightly oxidative winemaking style produces complex wines that often require time, food and thought. They are well worth the effort though, as any true fan of Loire wine will tell you.
This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc.
Here are Joanna Simons' thoughts on this wine which was listed on her website as 'Wine of the Week' in April 2019.
"Savennières from a favoured vintage and good producer is an absolute treasure – dry and mineral, yet honeyed, especially after a couple of years' age, and always carried by pivotal acidity. The appellation is just west of Angers on schist hills on the north bank of the Loire and 2016 was a year in which frost wreaked havoc, but for the vineyards that were spared it closed on a high with a sunny, warm late summer. The result is intensity of flavour, silky texture, laser-precise acidity (although lower than in some vintages) and signature Loire Chenin Blanc notes of apricot, sweet apple, hay and minerals. It's a riveting aperitif, but the combination of rich fruit and good acidity makes it a match for creamy fish dishes such as fish pie, shellfish such as scallops with, say, lardons or a purée of sweetcorn or petit pois, roast pork belly, including with apple, and with Beaufort, Comté and similar firm, mountain cheeses. It could also handle some trickier dishes."
Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 article on Italian grape varieties in Australia (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 were 'A grade certified' by Australian Certified Organic (ACO). In 2014, her persistence with classic, nocompromise winemaking and a fully integrated organic approach to growing and making sets Mount Horrocks wines apart from the mainstream.
The Mount Horrocks Nero d'Avola was produced from low yielding vines planted in 2007 on the estate owned single vineyard in Watervale, Clare Valley, which has a northerly aspect. Soils are red clay over limestone and the vines are trained to vertical shoot position.
The fruit was hand-picked and fermented to dryness on skins to improve structure, and pumped over five times a day with maximum temperatures reaching 28-30°C. It was racked into barriques and aged for 18 months in French oak, 30% of which was new. Just 300 cases were produced.
100% Nero d'Avola.
A bright cherry/plum red. Vibrant fruity scents, perfumed, and lightly floral. Deliciously juicy with freshness and crisp tannin to match. Savoury dark cherry, raspberry and plummy fruit with appealing spice accents. Lovely mid-weight, with a cleansing palate and intense cherries on the finish.
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).
The success of Penfolds has been driven by the generations of visionaries and innovators. From the beginning in 1844 to today, the merging of science, art and innovation has driven Penfolds to become one of Australia’s most famed and respected winemakers.
Penfolds vineyards are located primarily in South Australia on prime land throughout the state’s renowned viticultural regions. Throughout its history, Penfolds has owned and leased vineyards in addition to sourcing grapes from independent growers. This strategy reflects the tradition of multi-vineyard and multi-regional sourcing first introduced in the 1860s. This allows for a consistency of style and quality across vintages, of which Penfolds is renowned for.
Bin 311 Chardonnay truly reflects the winemakers’ mantra "we always go where the fruit grows best and where it best suits style". In 2017, the fruit sourcing for this wine has moved to cool-climate multi-regional; Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and Tumbarumba. In true Bin 311 style, it exhibits lemon/lime aromas and a mineral acid backbone, complemented by barrel fermentation and maturation in French oak.
This wine is 100% Chardonnay.
to see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine that has been put together by the team at Penfolds, please click on the blue link below.
The 2017 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
The Cantina di Gambellara was founded in 1947 and has nearly 300 members who farm 600 hectares. The co-op is based in a small denomination on the border between the provinces of Vicenza and Verona only a few miles east of Soave. Last year, this cantina merged with the Cantina dei Colli Vicentini (from whom we buy the Ca’ di Alte wines) and Alberto Marchisio is now responsible for winemaking.
The Durella grapes are an ancient autochthon variety grown in the Lessinia area. The vineyards are mainly located on high hills with a south sun-exposure. The soils here are of volcanic origin.
Mild temperatures and moderate rains accompanied the winter season. The beginning of the growth cycle in the vineyards was characterised by abundant rain, followed by a hot and dry period. A little bit of rain in the second half of August helped, as did a drop in temperatures. This allowed for perfect health in the grapes, making this 2018 vintage one of the best, if not the best, of the last 20 years.
First fermentation took place in steel autoclaves under controlled temperature. Second fermentation then took place at low temperatures in steel autoclaves with selected yeasts, according to the Charmat (tank) method.
This wine is pale yellow in colour with delicate aromas of papaya and plums. On the nose, there are fresh notes of minerality and apple. The finish is fine and long.
The 2017 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).
Exotic fruits, mature pears, hawthorn and acacia honey on the nose. The palate offers warmth, velvet, and with balanced acidity. Fresh and lingering. Excellent as an aperitif, great for starters and fish and shellfish dishes.
See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Fontanafredda.
ABV = 13.0%.
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.
2017 was a very early vintage thanks to the good water reserves in the soil and the mild temperature from February. The warmer temperatures in July and August aided the vegetative cycle. The grapes were picked early, when the optimal sugar and acidity levels had been obtained.
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.