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Decanter May 2019

May’s Decanter (www.decanter.com) has just been released and looks like this:

And in this very Italian edition, we offer the Outstanding panel toppers from the Amarone (della Valpolicella) panel review (the month’s leading panel, we would suggest). These score 96 and 95 points respectively, are two very contrasting specimens and represent a very interesting pair indeed.

We have now also managed to source one of the Outstanding (95 points) wines from the Chianti Classico 2010 review.

With the number of committed Italian wine fans – and of Amarone and Chianti in particular – from whom we hear, this is a doubly exciting review and magazine.

There’s a lot more detail on a separate page we've created on the Amarone review, the two wines and how you get hold of them.

The 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 (although they may still be being uploaded as you read!).

 -

The two main panel reviews this month are Premium Amarone (as above) and Chianti Classico 2010.

If you've not followed the links to the Amarone by now, you're looking for the other items this month... :

- Chianti Classico (CC) is a wonderful thing. In fact, it's this Exel staff member's favourite red category (along with Cahors). Decanter's interesting idea in the last few months has been to revisit the great vintage of 2010 - in many regions: Bordeaux, Rioja, California, now Tuscany - and see just how good the wines are now. Which is great for the first two categories there - there's plenty of those wines still about. Sadly, it seems that most 2010 CC has already been consumed. However, we have managed to source one of them (arriving by end of April); although most of the bottles available have now been sold to pre-order, we have ~30 bottles remaining.

- Brunello di Montalcino gets a feature by Andrew Jefford: we have (or can obtain) the amazing (but £300+) classic that is Biondi-Santi's Riserva 2011 and the more-attainable Barbi 'standard' Brunello 2013 at £36. We've also recently been able to source the 2017 DWWA Best in Show Brunello (95 points) at a very reasonable (for Brunello) £31.50, the Villa al Cortile Brunello 2012.

- Donnafugata are one of the greats of Italian wine production, and all the more unusual for being Sicilian (with other Med island outposts, most notably Pantellaria). They get a special feature this month, with their Vigna di Gabri Bianco 2017 and wonderful Mille e Una Notte Rosso 2015 landing 94 and 96 points respectively. These are stunning wines indeed, as are all of those from this producer.

- We've a couple of the featured value Barolo alternatives - which is to say, really, Langhe Nebbiolo, from the superb Massolino and GD Vajra. Drinking young Nebbiolo may come as anathema to many, but, based on a recent bottle of the former, these two wines make it surprisingly palatable (with food...).

- We always seem to feature well in Sicily: this month we've:

- No Italian review would be complete without an appearance from one of Pieropan's 'standard' Soave Classico or the luxury versions of La Rocca or Calvarino: this month, the last of these makes the cut (but all are brilliant and consistent high-scorers).

- And beyond Italy, we've just one major inclusion in this issue: the Croatian Matosevic Grimalda, which picks up 92 points in Steven Spurrier's round-up (NB: this is a surprisingly affordable bottle for him). 

Stop press: excellent and affordable late inclusions from De LoachEsporao and Alma Atlantica in Weekday Wines (see below).

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Castello di Cacchiano, Millennio, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their May 2019 panel tasting of 2010 Chianti Classico (see blue link below).

Castello Di Cacchiano, Millennio, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 - May 2019 Decanter review

Castello di Cacchiano was founded in the 10th century and has been in the Ricasoli family for over 1,000 years. The estate is situated near Gaiole in Chianti, some 20km north-east of Siena.

Winemaking at the estate dates back to the 12th century. Today, this estate consists of ~200 hectares with some 32 hectares dedicated to vineyards (with the remainder dedicated to olive oil production). The vineyards are situated some 400m above sea level with most slopes south-facing, being ideal for hard-to-ripen Sangiovese. The soil composition, which is made of calcareous clay with substantial portions of crumbled limestone and sandstone - Chianti's famous albarese soil - provides an excellent substratum for the cultivation of vines. Thanks to the soil and to the ideal microclimate, the vines are able to develop to their full potential.

Castello di Cacchiano produce about 120,000 bottles of wine annually. This wine saw production of ~6,400 bottles in 2010; now only ~300 remain at the castello.

This is the estate flagship and standard-bearer. It has been produced for many years since its inception (to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the estate), previously as a Riserva; however, its strictly estate-based production and extended ageing qualify it for the more stringent criteria of Chianti Classico's Gran Selezione (GS) classification, which was introduced in 2010 (this is the first vintage of the Millennio to bear the GS label). 

100% Sangiovese.

The wine underwent a warm fermentation and was macerated on its skins for a period of 4 weeks to maximise tannin extraction. It was aged in a mixture of small oak barriques and larger tonneaux - both of French oak - for a total of 30 months. Total ageing before release was 5 years.

Tasting note: we would refer you to the Decanter review link above. We take Andrew Jefford's comments here:

"Very refined, mature aromas of meat stock, laurel and a touch of cream unveil a poised and graceful palate with bright-eyed acidity and deft tannins, contriving to give a sense of balletic energy. Enticing and mouthwatering, as well as very classic".

ABV = 15.0%.

£32.00

Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their May 2019 panel tasting of premium Amarone (see blue link below).

Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2015 - May 2019 Decanter review

Click here to read our blog on this wine, the review above and Amarone more generally.

The Brigaldara winery is located just outside the town of San Floriano, in the heart of the Valpolicella region, north of Verona. It is at the entrance of the Marano valley, one of the four valleys that make up Valpolicella's classical area, the original and oldest wine production area of the region. The estate covers 50 ha, planted with vineyards and olive groves. In 1929, the Cesari family acquired the villa and surrounding land. During the 1960s and 70s the land was reconfigured to specialize in the cultivation of vines and olives. Brigaldara is a founder member of the Families of Amarone – a group of 12 wine producing families dedicated to maintaining high quality Amarone.

This wine has been made using Corvina 45%, Corvinone 45%, Rondinella 10%.

To see an information sheet and tasting notes for this wine that have been put together by the team at Brigaldara, please click on the blue link below.

Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - fiche technique

ABV = 16.5%.

£31.95

Nicolis Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Ambrosan 2009 (1x75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 panel tasting of premium Amarone (see blue link below).

Nicolis Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Ambrosan 2009 - May 2019 Decanter review

The history of the family behind the Nicolis winery has always been intrinsicly bound to the art of winegrowing. They are based at San Pietro in Cariano, in the heart of this classic region. Caring for the land has always been an important part of their daily life. It was the father of the current generation running the winery, Angelo, who transformed his passion for his land into a consummate skill for making wine. Since1951, they have committed all of their efforts into producing world-class wines. The Nicolis name sums up the history of an entire family. Each member has a mission that revolves around the earth and wine. Giancarlo meticulously focuses his attention on the vineyards, while Giuseppe ensures that the winemaking is refined and natural.

This wine is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara.

To see an information sheet and tasting note for this wine from the team at Nicolis, please click on the blue link below.

Nicolis Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Ambrosan - fiche technique

£46.25

Sartori Amarone Classico Corte Bra 2011 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 panel tasting of premium Amarone (see blue link below).

Sartori Amarone Classico Corte Bra 2011 - May 2019 Decanter review

To Juliet’s question “What’s in a name?” the Sartori family would answer “Everything!” For over a century, Sartori, a leading name in fine wines from northeast Italy’s Veneto region, has stood for traditional values elevated by innovation, a dedication to quality and — above all — a boundless passion for quality winemaking. A constant theme over the last century has been the Sartori family’s bond with their land: it is a heritage that has evolved and is reflected in their new interpretations of the great classical Veronese wines, as well as in their innovative expressions of traditional varietals.

This wine is a blend of 50% Corvina Veronese, 30% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta.

To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine that has been produced by the team at Sartori, please click on the blue link below.

Sartori Amarone Classico Corte Brà - fiche technique

£30.20

La Giuva Amarone della Valpolicella 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 edition panel tasting of premium Amarone. "Very much a crowd-pleaser: soft and satisfying, with plenty of plump sweet fruit amid a light twist of vanilla oak."

The estate was founded by Alberto Malesani, famous in Italy as a former manager of both Fiorentina and Parma. While at Parma, he won the UEFA cup in 1999. His passion and intelligence is now channelled into this estate, where he is helped by consultant winemaker Lorenzo Caramazza, formerly of Cantina Valpantena. The name La Giuva is an acronym of his daughters’ initials, Giulia and Valentina, who are heavily involved in the business. The balance, concentration and aromatic intensity marks the wines out from the crowd in Valpolicella, and makes La Giuva one of the region’s rising stars. Production is tiny, and won’t get that much higher than its current level of 18,000 bottles until the new vineyards come into production.

La Giuva's estate covers ten hectares (only five hectares of which are in production) in a cool site in the Val Squaranto, a small valley between the Valpantena and the valley of Mezzane. The vineyards are planted on the top of the hill, at an altitude of 350-400 metres above sea level, and are picked later than most sites in the hills east of Verona.

2015 overall climate and weather pattern was particularly beneficial for the physiological equilibrium of the vines. The high temperatures recorded throughout the Valpolicella in July did not prevent the different varieties from ripening in perfect health. The harvest, which began on 10th September, took place in ideal conditions due to the total absence of rain. Vintage 2015 promises wines with great personality, intense aromas and good balance of acidity and extracts.

The grapes for the Amarone were dried until the beginning of January, before being crushed and fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation took place before the wine was aged in new oak barrels for 24 months.

70% Corvina/Corvinone, 25% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta.

With a complex and ethereal nose, the wine has aromatic notes of cherries, blueberries and chocolate, combined with hints of sweet spice. Smooth and powerful, the palate is remarkably fresh and finishes with ripe fruit.

ABV = 16.0%.

£48.45

Pieropan Amarone Vigna Garzon 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 edition panel tasting of premium Amarone. "A fluid, immediate, lighter style with soft raspberry fruit topped off by some new vanilla oak. Populist for sure, but well executed."

Pieropan's estate covers 58 hectares of vineyard which are situated on the stony hills of Soave Classico. The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1890s. Indeed, they were the first producer to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label in the early 1930s. Nino Pieropan took over from his father in 1970 and was the first producer in Soave to make a single vineyard wine, 'Calvarino', in 1971. Nino's two sons, Andrea and Dario, took over the running of the estate in 2017 when Nino fell ill and before he passed away in April 2018. From the 2015 vintage onwards, all Pieropan wines are organically certified.

In 1999, The Pieropan family bought uncultivated land on the hill of Garzon, which is 400 metres above sea level in Cellore Illasi. The Illasi valley is to the west of Soave and has long been known for the quality of its Valpolicella. Pieropan planted vines here in 2000. The vineyard is south-facing with good exposure that ensures excellent ripening of the Valpolicella varieties (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina). The limestone and clay soil and the windy and dry micro-climate are all ideal conditions for the production of rich yet elegant wines. The vines are trained using the Guyot system, with 5,800 vines per hectare. The vineyard is certified organic.

Mild temperatures and moderate rains accompanied the winter season. The beginning of the vines’ growth cycle saw abundant rain, but was thankfully followed by a hot and dry period. This allowed for perfect health and organoleptic qualities in the grapes, making this 2015 vintage one of the best, if not the best, of the last 20 years.

The grapes were hand-picked and dried naturally, then pressed and de-stemmed. The must was fermented at 23-24ºC for approximately 30 days during which time pumping over and punching down the cap took place every day. The wine was aged in 500 litre barrels for 36 months followed by a year in bottle before release.

This wine is made using 60% Corvina, 15% Croatina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Other Native Red Varietals.

To see an excellent technical sheet for this wine with a tasting note from the winemakers, please click on the blue link below.

Pieropan Amarone Vigna Garzon - fiche technique

Brilliant and intense ruby red in colour, this is a wine with a heady perfume of black cherries and red summer fruits with notes of pepper and sweet spice. On the palate it is complex and rounded, with a powerful structure supporting the fruit and a lovely freshness on the finish. A wine with plenty of character with the potential to age well.

ABV = 16.5%.

£47.05

Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2014 (1x75cl)

The 2013 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 review - Brunello: Tuscany's treasure plus top wines worth seeking out (see blue link below).

Fattoria di Barbi Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - May 2019 Decanter review

The Colombini family traces its roots back to the middle ages when, among other things, it had a hand in governing the city-state of Siena. During the twentieth century, the Fattoria dei Barbi was headed by Pio Colombini, then by Giovanni, and then by Francesca. It is currently run by Stefano Cinelli Colombini. Each of these family members helped to develop the estate as part of a long-standing family tradition. The Cinelli Colombini family’s philosophy has always been that of marrying state-of-the-art technology with tradition in order to improve their wines without ever altering their classic character.

This red wine has been produced since 1892 and has received many awards for its quality. This wine is the heart of Barbi's production and it is made with 100% Sangiovese grapes from their best vineyards in Montalcino.

Before fermentation, the grapes were subjected to a cold pre-fermentative maceration which consists of cooling the grapes at a temperature of 16° C in an environment protected by CO². This process increases the extraction of polyphenols and aroma compounds. The regular alcoholic fermentation followed and lasted 16/17 days at a controlled temperature of 27°- 28°C. After the racking and the malolactic fermentation, the wine aged in small-medium size oak barrels (2,25 – 15 hl) for several months. Later it completed the ageing process in larger oak barrels, for a total period of two years and then is bottled at least 4 months before being released for sale.

Powerfully structured, this is an austere, warm, amply flavoured wine with a deep ruby to brick-red colour and a richly complex, dry, full and soft palate. A muscular, full-bodied wine with great richness.

£36.70

Donnafugata Vigna Di Gabri 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 producer profile of Donnafugata (see blue link below).

Donnafugata Vigna di Gabri 2017 - May 2019 Decanter review

The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region's native varieties. Today, Donnafugata has four estates in Sicily: a modern winery and 283 hectares at Contessa Entellina in the hills east of Marsala; 36 hectares in Vittoria to the south eastern point of the island; 68 hectares on the island of Pantelleria; and 18 hectares on the slopes of Etna. Donnafugata means 'fleeing woman' and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon's troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the 'Mille e una Notte' label. 

The terrain on the Contessa Entellina estate in south-west Sicily is situated at an altitude of between 200-300 metres above sea level. Soils are clay with a sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.5 to 7.9). Total limestone content is from 20 to 35% and soils are rich in nutritive elements (potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc). The vines are trained on a vertical shoot positioned system and cordon spur pruned. Average planting density is 4,500 - 6,000 vines per hectare and yields are approximately six tonnes per hectare. 

The 2017 vintage was characterised by relatively low rainfall, which was mainly concentrated in the autumn and winter months. The lack of rain in June and July meant Donnafugata had to intervene with emergency irrigation to ensure the vineyards remained healthy. Higher than average temperatures in July and August caused the grapes to ripen 1- 2 weeks earlier than usual. However, despite the high temperatures, the good diurnal temperature range gave rise to healthy grapes with good aromatic and phenolic ripeness.

The grapes were soft-pressed and the must was fermented at a controlled temperature in stainless steel. 85% of the wine matured in stainless steel vats and 15% in second use French oak barriques. The wine was aged for at least three months in bottle before release. 

This wine is a blend of Ansonica, Catarratto, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier.

Vigna di Gabri is a brilliant straw yellow colour with light green reflections. Classic white peach aromas combine with a citrus note of grapefruit, and floral notes of elderflower and wild flowers. The palate reflects the nose, enlivened by a fresh savoury streak. This is a fine and elegant white, with an intriguing personality and surprising longevity.

ABV = 13.0%.

£22.00

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their May 2019 producer profile of Donnafugata (see blue link below).

Donnafugata Mille e Una Notte 2015 - May 2019 Decanter review

The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region's native varieties. Today, Donnafugata has four estates in Sicily: a modern winery and 283 hectares at Contessa Entellina in the hills east of Marsala; 36 hectares in Vittoria to the south eastern point of the island; 68 hectares on the island of Pantelleria; and 18 hectares on the slopes of Etna. Donnafugata means 'fleeing woman' and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon's troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the 'Mille e una Notte' label.

We'd love to tell you the blend % of the 4 grape varieties, but Donnafugata guard this closely. See their technical sheet.

Intense and inviting on the nose, Mille e una Notte opens with an ample bouquet of fruit notes of plums and red cherries, and fine spicy hints of black pepper and chocolate. The palate perfectly reflects the nose, with soft and elegant tannins and a lingering finish.

ABV = 13.5%.

£58.20

Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2017 - half bottle (1x37.5cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded a Platinum medal and 98 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details)

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

The 2016 vintage was also awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 article  on producer Donnafugata (see blue link below).

Donnafugata, Ben Rye 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

The 2015 vintage was awarded a Platinum Medal, 97 points and Best in Show status at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

The 2017, we might point out, has yet to be rated!!

The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region's native varieties. Today, Donnafugata has three estates in Sicily. Donnafugata means 'fleeing woman' and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th Century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon's troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the 'Mille e Una Notte' label.

100% Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria).

Brilliant amber in colour, Ben Ryé is wonderfully fresh and complex. The bouquet is intense and fragrant - aromas of apricots and candied citrus zest combine with notes of Mediterranean thyme and rosemary. The palate is well-defined and intense, with pleasant sweetness well balanced by fresh acidity and great minerality. The finish is long and persistent - a captivating Passito di Pantelleria.

To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine produced by the team at Donnafugata, please click on the blue link below.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2017 - fiche technique

£33.00

Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito Di Pantelleria 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded a Platinum medal and 98 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details)

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

The 2016 vintage was also awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 article  on producer Donnafugata (see blue link below).

Donnafugata, Ben Rye 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

The 2015 vintage was awarded a Platinum Medal, 97 points and Best in Show status at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

The 2017, we might point out, has yet to be rated!!

The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region's native varieties. Today, Donnafugata has three estates in Sicily. Donnafugata means 'fleeing woman' and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th Century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon's troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the 'Mille e Una Notte' label.

100% Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria).

Brilliant amber in colour, Ben Ryé is wonderfully fresh and complex. The bouquet is intense and fragrant - aromas of apricots and candied citrus zest combine with notes of Mediterranean thyme and rosemary. The palate is well-defined and intense, with pleasant sweetness well balanced by fresh acidity and great minerality. The finish is long and persistent - a captivating Passito di Pantelleria.

To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine produced by the team at Donnafugata, please click on the blue link below.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2017 - fiche technique

£61.90

Angelo Negro, Serra Lupini, Roero Arneis 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2017 vintage was Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 review - Italy's best whites for food (see blue link below).

Angelo Negro, Serra Lupini, Roero Arneis 2017 - May 2019 Decanter review

"We have been cultivating vineyards on the Roero hills since 1670, and we work to fully interpret the potential of this corner of Piedmont, dedicating our wines to prestigious native grape varieties, enhancing the identity of each one." 

Everything at the Angelo Negro winery is run at family level: Giovanni Negro is flanked by his wife Maria Elisa and their four children, Gabriele, Angelo, Emanuela and Giuseppe, who have all enthusiastically adopted the same philosophy. The estate now includes almost 70 hectares of vineyard, distributed among the historical Cascina Perdaudin in Monteu Roero, Cascina San Vittore in Canale and Cascina Basarin in Neive. Recently acquired the Cascina Baudana, in the municipality of Serralunga. The excellent position, different soils and micro-climates, and the meticulous work in the vineyards and in the cellar, produce very well-defined wines full of character, known and appreciated all over the world.

This wine is 100% Arneis.

To see an information sheet and tasting note for this wine which has been produced by the team at Angelo Negro, please click on the blue link below.

Angelo Negro 'Serra Lupini' Roero Arneis 2017 - fiche technique

£15.80

Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded Tre Bicchieri -2020 by Gambero Rosso.

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2019 Weekday Wines feature (see blue link below). (NB: it most definitely isn't available from the mentioned outlet (or anywhere else we can find) at the stated price there!)

Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico 2017 - Nov 2019 Decanter review

Pieropan's estate covers 58 hectares of vineyard which are situated on the stony hills of Soave Classico. The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1890s. Indeed, they were the first producer to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label in the early 1930s. Nino Pieropan took over from his father in 1970 and was the first producer in Soave to make a single vineyard wine, 'Calvarino', in 1971. Nino's two sons, Andrea and Dario, took over the running of the estate in 2017 when Nino fell ill and before he passed away in April 2018. From the 2015 vintage onwards, all Pieropan wines are organically certified.

Calvarino takes its name, 'little Calvary', from the steepness of the slope and the difficulty this presents in working the vineyard. It has basalt soil that is classic in this part of Soave and is planted with Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave. The Garganega gives structure and acidity to the wines; the Trebbiano di Soave gives perfume and richness of flavour. There are usually at least two passes through the vineyard to ensure the grapes are picked at the best possible stage of ripeness. The vineyards are farmed organically. The vines are between 30 and 60 years old and are planted 200 to 300 metres above sea level, at a density of 3,000 vines per hectare.

The 2017 vintage began with a mild and dry autumn and winter. This dry weather meant that, by March, there were some drought worries. Spring continued to be relatively warm, until a sudden frost at the end of April struck and caused a lot of damage to the first buds in many areas of northern Italy. Fortunately, the hillside location of the Calvarino vineyard meant that it was not so badly affected by the frost. High temperatures and dry weather continued through the summer and meant that some irrigation was necessary. The Trebbiano grapes were harvested in at the end of August, two weeks earlier than usual. Pieropan decided to delay the Garganega harvest so that the grapes could reach full maturity, aided by some September rains. Despite the hot temperatures, the grapes have retained freshness and flavour.

The grapes were destemmed and crushed, the free-run juice was fermented at controlled temperatures between 16 and 18°C. The Calvarino was not aged in oak but remained on its lees in glass-lined cement tanks for a year, adding complexity and depth to the final wine. It remained in bottle for a few months before release.

70% Garganega, 30% Trebbiano di Soave.

The ‘Calvarino’ is pale straw yellow in colour, with youthful hues turning golden with age. Fresh, floral aromas with elderflower, lemon and cherry. The palate is dry, well balanced and elegant, with tremendous length and finesse.

ABV = 12.5%.

£19.90

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition regional feature on Etna (see blue link below).

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante 2017 - September 2019 Decanter review

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 review - Italy's best whites for food (see blue link below).

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante 2017 - May 2019 Decanter review

As sampled at Exel Wines' November 2018 tasting. See here for the report of that evening.

In Planeta’s early years, expertise came from a surprising source: Australia. The winemaker brought in by Diego Planeta was an Italian – Carlo Corino – but one who had soaked in the latest warm-climate winemaking secrets during a stint in New South Wales. Ever since, Planeta has managed to captured the intrinsic perfume and fresh flavours of Sicily’s grapes in their wines.  The island estate pursued an unconventional approach to winemaking, with Planeta establishing a cult following for its barrel-aged Chardonnay, at a time when most other Italian whites were typically consumed straight out of the fermenter. This early success gave Planeta the credibility it needed to open the world’s eyes to the charms of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, ushering in a broad range of wines that today owes as much to Grecanico and Nero d’Avola as it does to the winery’s signature Chardonnay.

This wine is made using 90% Carricante, 10% Riesling.

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2017 - fiche technique

In this case, the pale golden colour gives little warning of the explosion of aromas of ripe fruit and the aromatic content of white flowers which magically transport the taster to the slopes of Etna. On the palate as well the wine manages to combine softness and strength with a drinkable richness, with fruit flavours of lemon peel and green apple linked to an endearing mineral power which prolongs the finish.

ABV = 13.0%.

£22.75

G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 review of affordable Barolo alternatives (see blue link below).

GD Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

Aldo Vajra's wines are characterised by pristine flavours and clearly defined perfumes. These characters are attributable to the position of his vineyards at about 400 metres above sea level in the village of Vergne in the commune of Barolo. G.D. Vajra was established in 1972 and named after Aldo's father, Giuseppe Domenico Vajra. Aldo has been gradually increasing the area under vine to 60 hectares, of which 10 are Nebbiolo for Barolo, located in such strategic spots as Bricco delle Viole, Fossati, La Volta and Coste di Vergne. A traditionalist, Aldo adheres to old-style winemaking methods, though blends these with new techniques, such as temperature-controlled fermentation, to produce such superbly elegant wines.

These grapes come from young Nebbiolo vines in Vajra's own vineyards in the communes of Barolo and Novello. The vines are four to seven years old and will produce Barolo DOCG in several vintages time. This Nebbiolo is also enriched by grapes from the wonderful Roccabella vineyard in the commune of Sinio, planted on steep south-facing terraces.

The 2017 vintage saw a dry winter and freezing temperatures in April. The rest of spring and summer were very dry. Harvest started one week earlier than in 2016. Despite dry weather, which led to a 20% reduction in yield, the grapes were very healthy and rich in flavours and aromas.

Fermentation lasted 15-20 days, at temperatures no higher than 29-30ºC with indigenous yeast strains and traditional daily punch downs. Malolactic fermentation followed and the wine was then aged for six months largely in stainless steel tanks, with a small portion in neutral wood, before bottling.

This wine is made using 100% Nebbiolo.

The wine is bright ruby red in colour with intense notes of violet and rose, accompanied by the freshness of ripe red berry fruits on the nose. This is an elegant Nebbiolo with herbaceous notes and perfumes of roses and red berries complemented by silky tannins and delicate acidity.

ABV = 14.0%.

£24.50

Massolino Langhe Nebbiolo 2017 (1x75cl)

This 23-hectare estate has been in the Massolino family since 1896. Since 1994 the style of the wines has undergone a subtle transformation. Winemaker Franco Massolino has done a wonderful job of marrying change with a respect for tradition, something that sets him apart from most of the younger producers in Barolo today. This is in part dictated by the nature of the vineyards that the Massolino family owns in the commune of Serralunga d'Alba - the source of some of the greatest, most structured, robust and long-lived Barolo wines.

The grapes for this wine came from several vineyards in Serralunga d'Alba, situated at 340 metres above sea level and covering 2.1 hectares. The vines are Guyot-trained and are approximately 10-12 years old, planted at a density of 5,500 vines per hectare. Soils are mixed but predominantly limestone.

The 2017 growing season was short. Summer was hot and dry, however vines showed extraordinary resistance to the drought thanks to good reserves of water formed during the heavy rains which fell in late autumn 2016. The Nebbiolo harvest ended two weeks earlier than usual. The grapes had outstanding concentration when they came to be harvested and excellent levels of acidity that balance the high levels of alcohol.

After 8-10 days of temperature-controlled fermentation (31-34ºC) in stainless-steel tanks, the wine was aged in traditional botti or large casks for more than a year. Massolino's aim was to make an approachable style of Nebbiolo which can be enjoyed without overwhelming the drinker. 

100% Nebbiolo.

In the glass, this Nebbiolo has a ruby colour with a hint of purple. Notes of rose, raspberry and redcurrant are supported by cherry liqueur and subtle spices. On the palate, this wine shows gentle and elegant tannins, well balanced by bright acidity.

ABV = 14.5%.

£26.40

Matosevic Grimalda Red 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2019 edition supplement on Croatia (see blue link below).

Matosevic Grimalda Red 2016 - August 2019 Decanter review

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 "Spurrier's Fine Winer World(see blue link below).

Matosevic Grimalda Red 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

Described by Steven Spurrier as “Croatia’s best winemaker”, Ivica Matošević has established himself as a force of nature in the country’s burgeoning wine industry. This is due to his unbridled passion, which led him to divert his career from a PhD in agriculture, to winemaking. This passion is reflected both in his wines, which are exuberant, fresh and true to their nature, and in what he has achieved for the reputation of Croatian wine. Widely recognised as one of the leaders of the quality revolution amongst his peers, he was instrumental in setting up the Istrian appellation and establishing the wildly popular annual wine fair which takes place there to promote the wines. We believe that Ivica’s view on his personal journey is reflected in his wine: “[I am a] better man today, more honest and common, more natural and more savage, all due to changes in my life circumstances.”

The grapes are sourced from the Brdo vineyard in Central Istria. The vineyard is afforded exceptional conditions – a Mediterranean climate, close proximity to Lake Butoniga and lots of sun. The steep southern slopes, at altitudes of 260-300 metres above sea level, are elevated away from the threat of frost. The soil composition of the vineyards is pseudogley on flysch. It is Matošević’s goal to slowly cut off the use of any chemicals by using a minimum of pesticides and no herbicides. Instead, mechanical cultivation is applied, as well as mulching between the rows. Only organic fertiliser is used to restore the soil’s balance. Strict pruning maintains low yields.

The 2016 vintage saw favourable weather conditions and temperatures within the seasonable norm. There was a healthy amount of rainfall which helped replenish the deep water reserves and prevented hydric distress. The good weather allowed the grapes to mature and allowed the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time as the vineyard, which was planted in 2010, started to reach optimal maturity.The grapes were harvested between16th and 27th September. 

Before processing, the grapes were manually sorted before destemming, crushing and fermentation on the skins for up to two weeks. This was followed by a period of 15 months of ageing in French oak barrels. The wine was then further blended and aged in stainless steel vats prior to bottle ageing.  

This wine has been made using 60% Merlot, 30% Teran, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine has a lovely ruby complexion with hints of spice, black fruit and oak aromas on the nose. On the palate, it is dry with medium acidity and a full body. The flavours of red berries, sour cherries and chocolate bring this wine to life.

ABV = 13.0%.

£24.25

Tornatore Etna Bianco 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2018 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended  status by Decanter in their May 2019 expert review of Sicilian whites (see blue link below).

Tornatore Etna Bianco 2018 - May 2019 Decanter review

One of the largest – and oldest – producers in the region, Tornatore owns 46ha of vineyards on the north side of active volcano Mount Etna, 1,000m above sea level. Established in 1865, the estate is still run by the same family. The focus at Tornatore is on native grape varieties including Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante and Catarratto. While the varietals used are traditional, their winemaking style is more modern in approach, with lower alcohol and more emphasis on fruit. These wines have quickly become some of our favourites and offer incredible complexity and intrigue at a very affordable price.

This wine is 100% Carricante.

To see an information sheet and tasting note for this wine that has been written by the team at Tornatore, please click on the blue link below.

Tornatore Etna Bianco - fiche technique

£15.65

De Loach Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 "Weekday Wines(see blue link below).

De Loach Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

The winery and vineyards were originally owned and run by the Cecil and Christine De Loach. In 2003, the family run Burgundian estate Jean-Claude Boisset purchased De Loach and brought the focus back to the estate's original high quality winemaking philosophy, with specific emphasis on small lot winemaking, particularly of Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. The winery's 17-acre estate vineyard has been completely restored and converted to organic and biodynamic viticulture, a tradition upheld by many foremost Burgundian vineyards. The De Loach estate vineyards are certified organic by CCOF.

The cool, foggy Russian River Valley climate allows for slow ripening, ideal for Chardonnay to develop full flavour maturation. The fruit was hand harvested from select sites in the heart of the valley including the Boriolo and BCD vineyards, as well as from the Norris and Wallace vineyards nestled in the Chalk Hill region.

In the autumn of 2016 California suffered from frost, hail and very heavy rainfall. This partially relieved the drought but also caused some flood damage. Cooler than normal temperatures in August allowed for steady ripening, which produced high levels of natural acidity in the fruit.

The juice was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks (40%) and French oak barrels (60%), of which 10% were new. The barrel-fermented portion of wine was aged for nine months and achieved full malolactic conversion. These techniques contributed to a wellbalanced wine with bright acidity and a rich, round mouthfeel.

100% Chardonnay.

This wine is pale straw yellow in colour, the nose of this Chardonnay immediately entices you with its rich aromas of vanilla and baked apple pie. It is lively with vibrant acidity that supports a medium-bodied frame of lemon marmalade and plenty of length, with touches of nutmeg.

ABV = 14.5%.

£19.70

Esporao Reserva White 2018 (1x 75cl)

The 2017 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 "Weekday Wines(see blue link below).

Esporao Reserva White 2017 - May 2019 Decanter review

The Esporão project began in the Alentejo from an irrepressible desire to make the finest wines. This is the basis of everything they do. Part of the Alentejo’s montado ecosystem (cork oak forests), in Portugal, Herdade do Esporão has extraordinary conditions for agriculture – large thermal amplitudes, poor and various soils and extraordinary biodiversity that helps them produce in balance with the environment. With 691.9 hectares of vineyards, olive groves and other crops, they grow using organic methods .

Please click the blue link below to see an excellent and informative tasting note / information sheet about this wine from the winemakers at Esporao.

Esporão Reserva White 2018 - fiche technique 

ABV = 13.5%.

£15.10

Mara Martin Godello Do Monterrei 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2017 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their May 2019 "Weekday Wines(see blue link below).

Alma Atlantica Mara Martin Godello 2017 - May 2019 Decanter review

Alma Atlántica means 'Atlantic Soul' in English and is inspired by wines made in proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The aim of Alma Atlántica is to create fresh and lively whites with lots of personality and boldness of flavour. The Mara Martin Godello comes from DO Monterrei (meaning king's mountain) and is further inland in comparison to DO Rías Baixas. It is warmer here, but still sees some Atlantic influence, with the average rainfall at 683mm per year.

The vines are grown on the sides of the valleys around the river Tamega, at 400-450 metres above sea level. The climate here is Mediterranean, influenced by the Altantic ocean. Soils are a mixture of granite, slate, clay and sand.

The grapes were hand picked into 20 kilogram crates, destemmed, crushed and pressed. The must was settled for 24-36 hours. Alcoholic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks at 16-18ºC for 15 days. The wine was aged for two months on its lees before bottling, to give it a full and complex mouthfeel.

100% Godello.

Clean and vivid straw-yellow in colour, this wine has typical aromas of hay, apple and pear with intense notes of wild flowers and subtle nuances of lime citrus, which continue through to the palate. The wine has good definition, depth and structure that are derived from lees contact. The finish is long and lingering.

£11.80
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